Well, we made it through another holiday season. We always give a little sigh of relief realizing that next Christmas is thankfully 12 months away. We, like you, receive cards and letters at Christmas time from friends and family that we haven't seen for many years. I think it is one of the best things about Christmas. I haven't always felt that way though. In our earlier days as we would receive cards and letters from friends and read about all the wonderful achievements our friends' children were making, we would stare at each other and wonder out loud why our kids were such slugs -- well, so very extraordinarily ordinary. As Jo Anne, in particular, would read about what other mothers were accomplishing, both within and without the home, she would almost wring her hands in despair and weep bitter tears because she felt she just wasn't measuring up to the lofty standards depicted in these Yuletide missives.
One year we were tempted to write a letter about all the things our children almost accomplished. One child was almost valedictorian; there were only 100 students who had a better GPA in her high school graduating class. One child had straight A's on his report card except for three C's. Another child almost became a starter on the varsity football team, but he went out and broke his leg, and etc. We never sent it out -- probably should have.
As the years have gone by however, we have mellowed and matured a little bit, and now just simply enjoy hearing how well our family and friends are doing, especially that they are still alive, and having fond memories of years gone by rekindled in our minds and hearts. As Jo Anne reads these Christmas letters to me I feel somewhat like Alma felt upon meeting his friends, the sons of Mosiah, after they had been separated from each other for many years serving their missions: "...Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see [hear from] his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord...." [Alma 17:2]
Of the many cards and letters we received this Christmas -- and we enjoyed them all -- there were two that truly touched our hearts. The first one I will mention was from my Uncle Clyde Rushton, who celebrated his 90th birthday this past year. Clyde is one of 17 children born to my grandfather, Frederick John Rushton. My grandfather's first wife, Annie Francis Matinson, was the mother of the first seven children, and when she passed away at a very young age, he married Mabel Leavitt, who was the mother of the next ten. Of the last ten children, Clyde is second to the oldest. All of the first seven children have passed on, including my father, Jack, as well as a number of the "younger children."
In his Christmas letter, among other things, uncle Clyde wrote: "I'm so blessed to have good health. When people ask me how I do it, this is what I tell them: I make the bed when I get out of it, so I’m not tempted to get back in it. Have a project -- for me that is quilting. It keeps my hands busy and I can listen to a ballgame while I’m working. I get a good hot meal at the senior center 5 days a week. I drive myself, enjoy the social hour, the folks there look for me. Attend church every Sunday. Go to funerals, pay my respects. Keep in touch-just a phone call away. I have Sunday dinner with family."
Uncle Clyde went on to say that at his 90th birthday party held in Salt Lake City in May last year that 108 of a possible 141 of his immediate family -- posterity -- were in attendance (his first wife, the mother of his eight children, has passed away and his second wife has also passed on). He then concluded by writing: "Last year I made 38 quilts for humanitarian aid and 13 Eagle Scout quilts. My posterity has a total of 47 returned missionaries and now I am helping the missionary effort by housing the Elders in my little home."
I wish you all could meet uncle Clyde -- you would love him and the wonderful spirit and personality that are his. He is an inspiration to me of someone who is enduring well to the end by forgetting self and serving others.
The second letter came from my uncle Howard and his wife Renee. Howard, the youngest brother of Clyde, is the youngest son of the 17 children in his family. He has two younger sisters. Howard is now 80 years old and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's three years ago. Renee wrote: "We do see subtle signs of the slow progress this disease is making in our lives but they aren't nearly as bad or as swift as we anticipated. Howard is still himself. Most people don't notice any change. He ... does numerous volunteer acts of service for our neighbors. When there is nothing else to do he rakes leaves, picks up trash and keeps our street clean. The knowledge that his time is limited has given him a renewed sense of the beauty of this world, and a deepening gratitude for the blessings with which we are surrounded. He wakes up each day glad to be alive and eager to make the most of every minute.... Our life continues much as it always has. With these exceptions: our daily prayers are taking on new depth, sincerity and meaning for us; we go to the temple more often; we express our love and appreciation for each other more; we are keenly conscious of the fleetness with which time is passing and realize more fully the importance of staying close to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
I love and respect these two great men. I am grateful for Christmas letters that keep me updated regarding them. I rejoice in their goodness and love for the Lord. They have always been true and faithful and their quiet goodness has blessed the lives of so many through the years. They are the kind of Saints described by one general authority as "low maintenance and high yield!"
They have internalized the eternal truth taught by Nephi regarding those who have set their feet on the straight and narrow path that leads to eternal life through the ordinance of baptism: "Wherefore, ye must press forward with a asteadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of bhope, and a clove of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and dendure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eeternal life." [2 Nephi 31:20]
I do believe Nephi very accurately described Clyde and Howard Rushton -- pressing forward, steadfast, having a perfect brightness of hope and a love of God and of all men, feasting upon the word of Christ and enduring to the end. They are great examples to us all, and surely at some point in time will receive the greatest gift a loving Heavenly Father can give to his children -- even the gift of eternal life.