Thoughts from Dr. Joe: A Christmas memory

I've always been a seeker, searching for meaning and asking that timeless question, "What makes life significant?" I've contemplated the perplexities of existence, trying to understand moments of euphoria as though they were the result of a simple mathematical equation easily reproduced. For me, two plus two has never been four.

Life should be lived, not analyzed. Regardless of understanding, the magical play continues; and it is up to us to contribute a verse. The question is not one of understanding, but "What will our verse be?" We make life significant.

Christmas evokes such musings, especially in an era where meaning is skewed toward triviality. As I search for deeper meaning, I ask, "Is that all there is?" The imagination, mysticism and fantasy of Christmas often hide behind one of three doors. If you follow the lead of the masses, you'll choose the wrong door.

A few years back, The Valley Sun published the following story during Christmas. I've tweaked it some, but the sentiments within are my connection to the miracle of the season. Simplicity is the conduit toward meaning. I am convinced that the miracle of Christmas is the joining of this world with the next.

Christmas 2005 was our last one with Rick Crocker. Rick was a man's man who could run with the wolves and then put two little girls to bed with a sweet lullaby. He was the consummate warrior, with battle ribbons from Panama, Somalia, Desert Storm and Iraq. He was poised for his third tour and was spending Christmas with us prior to shipping out.

The story begins on Christmas Eve with Kaitzer unwrapping our nativity set and meticulously placing it on the mantel. Rick was frolicking with the girls and being his usual menacing self. As Kaitzer placed the pieces in the manger, she began to tell the girls the story of the nativity.

She reached for a book called, "A Small Miracle." It had no words, just pictures. It depicted a poor, hungry, old woman who lived in a dilapidated cabin outside a village. She made the long trek to town through the snow to play her accordion in hopes of earning money for food. The hurried shoppers passed her by, leaving her with no alternative but to sell her priceless accordion to survive. As the old woman left the pawnshop, a man robbed her and took what little money she had. Despairingly, she made her way to the village church hoping to find solace with the crèche. As she approached the church, the same man confronted her. He was fleeing the church with the money for the village poor. A struggle ensued, and the old woman recovered the money. Entering the church to return the money, the woman found the nativity scene in shambles. Meticulously, she righted the statues of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the three kings. Then she left for home.

En route, she was overtaken by a snowstorm. Miraculously, the statues in the crèche came to life and rescued her. As she convalesced, they retrieved her accordion, decorated her cabin, and cooked a scrumptious meal. When the old woman awoke, she amazingly found the small miracles but saw not a sign of anyone.

Sabine and Simone were mesmerized. Rick stared at what was ensuing and, by happenstance, caught Kaitzer's eye. "This is the best," he said. He was overwhelmed by the moment, for he had connected to the miracle at hand and had found the meaning of Christmas.

Rick left Christmas morning. We never saw him again. Five months later, in the heat of battle, he was killed by a rocket blast. Since he's been gone, setting the nativity scene on Christmas Eve and reading "A Small Miracle" is now a simple Christmas memory.

Merry Christmas, Rick.

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