“Time for Hope,” Ensign, Dec. 1991, 62
Hanging on the wall of my living room is a wooden clock. It is not an elaborate timepiece but a rather simple one, fashioned from an odd-shaped piece of wood. It has Roman numerals and delicate gold hands, and it is without a crystal or covering. This clock has dutifully tried to keep our family on schedule for the last dozen years. At Christmastime, however, the clock serves as more than a timepiece. Its perpetual, steady ticking summons to mind recollections of important lessons learned at Christmas thirteen years ago.
It was December 1978. My husband and I had just moved into a new home with our infant daughter. As the holidays approached, I was eagerly anticipating the Christmas celebrations, and I busied myself with the usual preparations.
The gaiety of the holiday season was marred, however, by my brother’s failing health. Alan was four and a half years older than I and had never been blessed with good health. Because of his lifelong health problems, he’d never married and was living with Mom and Dad. During that autumn, his condition had deteriorated, and Alan had spent a couple of months in and out of the hospital. We were encouraged by a spurt of energy he enjoyed early in December. He felt well enough to shop for gifts, attend his Sunday meetings, and go to a ward Christmas party. He had enough energy to visit the barber and have his shaggy hair trimmed, much to the delight of my mother.
Then, the week before Christmas, Alan had to be rehospitalized. The doctors summoned us to his bedside on December 20 and warned of his imminent death. I arrived at the hospital ahead of the other family members and entered his room alone. A small stream of sunlight shone between the curtains and danced across the darkened room. I straightened his bed covers and pulled a chair next to the bed.
Taking his fragile hand in mine, I held it close. The atmosphere was solemn, and even the skipping sunbeams could not chase away death’s shadow. I spoke to him. I wasn’t sure if Alan could hear or understand, but I was determined to speak to him anyway. As I whispered of my love, I prayed in my heart that somehow our spirits would be able to communicate. When a faint smile drew across his lips and he gently squeezed my hand, I thanked God for an answer to my prayer. I stroked his blond hair and softly kissed his forehead, savoring the moment, somehow knowing that it was our last.
Alan died in the early morning hours of December 21. The next day was filled with funeral and burial plans. We scheduled his funeral for December 23. As other families gathered for their holiday parties, our family gathered to bury my brother.
At the funeral, our family greeted friends and relatives, seeking solace in one another’s presence. I was standing next to my younger sister when someone commented that it was such a tragic time of year for a death. I took great comfort in my sister’s reply: “No, this is a beautiful time of year, reminding us that without our Savior’s birth, we would have no hope of ever seeing or being with Alan again.”
Christmas morning was bittersweet as our family gathered at my parents’ home. We nestled about the Christmas tree and exchanged gifts. We cried and laughed as we unwrapped our presents. Soon there were only a few gifts under the tree. My sister crawled beneath the tree boughs to read the tags. She whispered, “They’re from Alan.”
Weeks earlier, Alan must have selected and wrapped our gifts, placing them beneath the tree to wait for Christmas morning. The room was hushed, and I glanced around through tear-filled eyes. My sister placed a large, oddly shaped present in my lap. Tears splashed on the brightly colored wrapping paper as I slowly opened the gift. My heart was overflowing as I gazed down at the beautiful wooden clock. It seemed to be Alan’s way of reminding me that although his stay on earth was over, I still had time—time to love, time to serve, and time to learn. Yet the clock was also a beautiful reminder that our existence isn’t just for time, it is for eternity. The clock reminds me that I can be with Alan again someday.