Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

December 16, 2007


A letter to my wife about the meaning of this Christmas


          My Dearest Dean,

Christmas means more to me this year than ever before. I hope I get to sit down with you in front of a nice fire, sip some hot apple cider together, and tell you why. But in case that occasion eludes us, you may have to settle for reading my thoughts in this newspaper column.

When you were struggling to breathe a few days ago, and we were making a mad dash to the emergency room, I thought I might lose you. Your breathing was so shallow. It hurt me so to see you struggling to breathe.

Yet I saw no panic in your eyes. That seemed impossible at the time though you told me later than you were “at peace” about dying.  I was touched to hear you say later that you felt no fear of dying if the Lord had decided to call you home. You said you felt your life was in God’s hands.

Of course dying is not a new subject for us. You and I have talked about death many times, realizing that death is a natural part of life. The death of our little boy made us keenly aware, as young parents, that life may have an abrupt ending at any point on the journey. I have felt for many years that David’s death in some way lessened our own fear of dying.

I hope that somehow I can be as calm as you were in the face of my own death. Though I am not eager to die, I sense a certain readiness in my own heart to step across the threshold into the hands of Jesus. I pray that I am ready to meet our Lord. Thank God we both know that salvation depends not on our merit but upon the mercy of the God we have trusted since we were children.

What makes this Christmas mean so much more is our awareness of the wonderful ways God has been at work in our lives. Fifty-five years of marriage gives us a rather long view of things. When we look backward we see God at work repeatedly. He was in every mess we made. Now we know that it was his grace that made the difference.

The first summer of our marriage we kept a Persian cat for a neighbor while she traveled to Europe. Remember? She gave us a dollar a day to keep that cat and for two months we swallowed cat hairs until I was ready to scream. That was the hardest money we ever earned.  But God was there and we made it.

When our boy was struggling with leukemia, we played the LP record of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” night after night. Only God could have put that music in our little rented house. We knew so little of the significance of Bach’s music back then. Yet unknowingly we drank the “joy of deathless springs” during those bewildering nights, waiting for Jesu to take our boy home. But God was there and we made it.

There were those times when our marriage was coming apart at the seams. When my career meant more to me than my family. You got so tired of being Dad and Mom to four boys without much help from me. Only God kept you from killing me. But once again God was there and somehow we made it.

Then finally we were grandparents and more recently great grandparents. We thought we had problems raising four sons. But God has shown us what real problems are as we have watched our grandchildren struggle with the demons of this world.

We made more than our share of mistakes raising our boys but God was there and we made it. What is more wonderful is that the boys made it. They survived their own struggles and chose finally to trust our Jesu.

In trying to persuade our grandchildren to embrace Jesu we have made even more mistakes. We have been slow to let God have his way with our children and grandchildren. Often we have tried to fix things ourselves and found we were wrong. But through it all, God was there and we made it.

As we see the shadows lengthening we realize that, like everybody else, our days are numbered. We too will slip away some morning or some evening and find ourselves on the other shore. But until God wills our departure I plan to celebrate every waking moment and to seize the joy of each new day. More than ever I find myself listening to you breathe while you are sleeping and I thank God for you. I thank him for the great gift he has given me – having you by my side for so many years.

This Christmas means so much more to me because I still have you, and we have each other, and we have our precious family. I look back not with regret but with gratitude because I know now better than I have ever known it that God was there, in every mess, and because he was with us, we made it.

That convinces me that Jesu is real and because he is with us, we can make it all the way to the end.  And the end after all is the beginning of all that awaits us on the other side. Until then, my prayer is that this will be the best Christmas we have ever shared.

Merry Christmas!

Your grateful husband, Walter, sjc + + +