Over the last week, there were many stories that caused me to pause. Unfortunately, many of these stories were tragic. Each of them made me realize how lucky we all are, and how often we take what we have for granted.

While Thanksgiving might be about being thankful, I know that Christmas is about family, and this last editorial of 2013 is dedicated to many families who will celebrate Christmas this year without those they love.

On a local level, we lost one of our own over the weekend. Canyon Del Oro graduate Lezo Urreiztieta died due to complications from brain surgery. Urreiztieta was also a hurdler for the University of Arizona. He checked into the hospital to take care of a pre-existing brain condition, but died after complications. This, days before Christmas, will be tough on his family. As we all celebrate, taking a moment for Urreiztieta’s family is important.

Sometimes in the commercialization of Christmas, or the effort to find the perfect gift, or just buy our children too much – we forget the bigger picture. For me, I know this year how important family is more than ever. A new addition, our two daughters and so much more have me believing that Christmas is more than a gift under the tree. It’s about treasuring our families, and treasuring every moment we have with them because we never know when tragedy will strike.

Making national news on Saturday, it was announced that the lone victim of the Colorado shooting had died. A 17-year-old Colorado high school student who was shot in the face by a teenage gunman died after eight days on life support. Arapahoe High School student Karl Pierson, 18, shot Claire Davis point blank with a shotgun on Dec. 13. Pierson then turned the gun on himself, taking away any chance of understanding what his true motives are.

While the news of Davis’ passing is a tragedy, the way her parents have chosen to handle this loss is admirable. In a letter, Davis’ family said, “It is with unspeakable sadness that we write and say that Claire has passed away from the gunshot wound she received at Arapahoe High School on December 13, 2013. Although we have lost our precious daughter, we will always be grateful for the indelible journey she took us on over the last 17 years—we were truly blessed to be Claire’s parents. The grace, laughter and light she brought to this world will not be extinguished by her death; to the contrary, it will only get stronger.”

It takes a lot not to express anger and pure sadness. While these parents probably are going through those emotions on some level, they have chosen to celebrate what they had in a daughter for the past 17 years. They chose to tell the world that her memory, while tragic, was not for nothing. This family will celebrate her grace, laughter and light. 

For me, as a parent, I am going to work harder in the new year of valuing that just having each other – and knowing that being happy and healthy is more valuable that presents or money. While unwrapping those gifts is nice, I have told my infant, my 8-year-old and our 19-year-old that love and the strength of family is more important than anything purchased at a store.

And, finally, to any family who celebrated Christmas without the presence of a loved one – The Explorer’s thoughts and prayers are with you.

(1) comment

John Flanagan

The article is uplifting, and your perspective on life is what all people need, especially during these times in chaotic America. The importance of faith in God, love of family, loyalty to friends, kindness towards strangers, and being an encouragement to others are all worthwhile and positive virtues. When we consider the silly arguments, disagreements, passions, disputes and negativity which often directs our own emotions, how slights and perceived offenses rattle us, it is easy to forget that the years of our life on earth are relatively short, even tragically shorter for some. Thus, it is a good time, as the new year of 2014 is upon us, to improve our own individual attitudes, and focus on doing what is right in God's eyes to make our world a better place.

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