By Natalie Q.
I met Rachelle Morris on my first day of college, when she and her roommate energetically marched into my dorm room to help me put my bed on its metal risers. Thereafter, we cemented our bond with late-night chips and salsa consumption, intramural flag football games, and a shared love for Josh Groban’s exceptional voice—especially his rendition of “O Holy Night.” It only took a semester for us to know we would be friends forever.
It has been over nine years since our friendship first formed. We only see each other once or twice a year these days—for weddings, or for dedicated visits to one another’s current cities. But this year, I saw Rachelle for a third time when I flew to Texas to attend the funeral of her eighteen-year-old sister, Madeline Rose. Two days before Thanksgiving, a tragic car accident claimed Madie’s life and seriously injured Taylor, one of Rachelle’s brothers. So it was that on December 1, instead of hanging stockings or trimming a tree, Rachelle started her Christmas season as the final speaker during Madie’s funeral services. At the conclusion of her moving and tender tribute to this beloved sister, Rachelle bore a beautiful witness that because of Jesus Christ’s Atonement, she knows death is not the end of life nor of family relationships, and she affirmed her belief that she will see Madie again.
Later that day, I stood next to Rachelle and another of our friends in a small cemetery on the outskirts of Houston. Together, we watched as Madie’s rose-tinted casket was gradually lowered into a freshly dug grave. After eleven days of being strong, Rachelle shook her head in grief and murmured, “I just can’t believe that she’s really gone! She was everything to me; I can’t imagine life without her.”
Opening my arms to pull Rachelle into a hug, I reminded her of what she had said earlier that day: “You will see her again. You get to have her forever.”
Like Rachelle, I take comfort in knowing that families are eternal units and that death is not the end of life. Nevertheless, I have thought anxiously about this dear friend and her family every day since I attended Madie’s funeral, and observing the Morris family’s faith-filled grief has changed how I have approached this year’s Christmas season. I have felt a deeper gratitude for my own family and loved ones, and I have found myself thinking more carefully about Jesus Christ, who is the source of all of the blessings, comfort, and peace in my life. With Rachelle in mind, I have listened to Josh Groban’s version of “O Holy Night” over and over again. As the lyrics in this beautiful song have filled my mind and penetrated my heart, they have also given me words to express my reasons for celebrating Christmas.
I celebrate Christmas because I know that Jesus Christ truly is my “dear Savior” who helps my soul to “[feel] its worth.”
I celebrate Christmas because as my Savior, Jesus Christ provides me with a “thrill of hope”—even when I am “in sin and error pining.”
I celebrate Christmas because I know Jesus Christ reaches out to us “in all our trials”: He was indeed “born to be our friend,” and He truly “knows our needs.”
I celebrate Christmas because I am certain that Jesus Christ is no stranger to loss; that He is no stranger to pain; and that He will be no stranger to Rachelle, to her family, or to me. I am grateful to know that because He is the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ can give Rachelle and her family the matchless gift of His healing and His hope.
At Christmas, we commemorate not only Christ’s birth but also everything that came thereafter: His life and ministry; His death and resurrection. We celebrate how He was, as another Christmas song tells us, “born that man no more may die” and is even now “ris’n with healing in His wings.”
This Christmas, I celebrate the beautiful witness of my friend, Rachelle, and add to it my own: truly, “Christ is the Lord.” And because He came to earth on that holiest of holy nights, we need not despair when life presents us with its most challenging moments.
I have learned from Rachelle that even in the midst of tragedy, all can be calm and all can be bright because of Jesus Christ.
That promise is my thrill of hope, and this Christmas, I celebrate it with a full heart.