Sometimes a note from a friend sent to all during the holidays deserves to be read again all year long. Kevin Hogan, a well-known international public speaker, consultant, corporate trainer and author of 19 books (www.kevinhogan.com) went to high school in Cannon Falls. He wrote to remind us of the important things in life, in memory of his mother, Carol Swicker.
by guest columnist,
There were no terror "threats." Every single day was living terror. In World War II, 60 million people were killed. Each and every day, life was on the line for almost every family.
The battlefield in the harsh winter was unimaginable. Back home, the families of those fighting hoped that their kids would live to return, perhaps at Christmas, the time of year that families came together by tradition.
It was a time that represented hope. Hope that the person you loved would come home. For one young girl, that person she wanted to come home was her much older brother, Freddie.
There was no Christmas in her home when she was a kid...and she wanted to have Christmas. There was no money for a tree, gifts.
Christmas Eve 1944. My mom had just turned 10. She listened to the radio like most people, and she loved the music of Christmas. "I'll Be Home for Christmas" played. Bing Crosby recorded it the year before. It was pretty much a vocal Christmas card from a soldier to his family back home. It finishes, "I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams."
As it played, there was a knock at the door and as soon as they opened the door, they knew what was coming.
A family friend in the military brought the telegram with the news that her brother Freddie, 24, had been killed in action, days earlier, fighting for Europe's freedom. He took a bullet for another.
Back in the States, many families had the knock on the door...or a telegram...and of course for some, the news had to come at Christmas.
That moment changed my mom's life. Being 10 and finding out that your big brother had died has to be devastating.
From my earliest days, I can remember, when I would hear one specific song, there was a sort of reverence in the house. Everyone would be quiet...and we had a big family.
Mom would stop doing whatever. Sometimes she would cry. But she kept the "why" to herself until I was in my late teens, and to this day, that song means the world to me.
When Mom died 13 years ago, it was one of three songs at her funeral. I don't imagine many have had that song played in that setting. For her, it was perfect. She would have approved.
Mom was the mom that wanted to make Christmas magical for people for all the right reasons. Her spirit was unyielding in her desire to give people a special Christmas. Someone in town didn't have somewhere to go for Christmas, they came to our home. We didn't have stuff; we did have an overflow of love.
At Christmas there is often a spirit of giving and goodness that I see and feel. The spirit of good intention. The spirit of wanting others to be happier, to feel good, to find ways to give someone else a better life...a brighter day.
And as I think of these things this Christmas, I think of you. Maybe you'll be home for Christmas. Or maybe you'll be at someone else's home.
Sixty-eight years ago, those soldiers made certain you and I would always be at home.