How Holly Changed Everything: How Tragedy Taught Me The True Meaning of Christmas (Guest Post by Derek)

(Completely unprompted, Derek started writing this sweet tribute to his sister and decided he wanted to post it on the blog. I was all for it. I'm so proud of him for his bravery in sharing his testimony. I hope this story touches your heart like it has mine and so many others. All other writing in this post is by Derek. )

21 years ago today our lives, my life, was changed forever. On December 4, 1997 my four-year-old sister Holly died in a car accident. It was an unexpected event that had unexpected results. The pain that I felt and still feel today through the loss of a loved one is hard to describe unless you have lost someone yourself. It makes it even harder when I don’t like to talk/write about my emotions. However, there are things I learned about myself and my family in the midst of our trial which may help others in their time of need.

For those of you that didn’t know Holly, you missed out. I wish you would’ve had a chance to know her. She was the most outgoing little girl that you could ever meet. She could change your bad day into a good day with just a smile and a quick hello. She had an innocent personality that loved everyone, no matter what. My dad owns an auto parts store and at four years old she would be in the store welcoming people cheerfully. If she was in the store there was no way you walked out without a smile on your face or your day being uplifted. I am almost positive that people would come into the store just to see if Holly was there to give them a pick me up.

Even though she was happy and cheerful all the time, she was also very stubborn. One time for a family picture she wanted the bow on her dress tied in the front. Either my mom or the photographer wouldn’t allow it and made her tie the bow behind her. She didn’t like that very much, so she protested by putting her hands on her hips while the photo was taken. One of my favorite stories about Holly actually happened the night before she died. We were watching Georg of the Jungle before dinner. George had just gotten caught and was put into a cage. Before anything else happened, we had to pause the movie so we could pray and eat dinner. It was Holly’s turn to pray. In her prayer she prayed that Heavenly Father would help George get out of the cage. She was only four years old and was already showing great faith. She was kind, sweet, and protective. I could go on and on about how special Holly was, but truth is, the world isn’t the same without her in it.

I don’t remember very much from my childhood, but I do remember the morning of the accident well. I was in class and got called to the counselor’s office. We were pulled out of school and taken with my brother and sisters to my grandparent’s house. While there we were told that my mom, Tasheena (my older sister), and Holly had been in an accident. It was a rollercoaster of emotions. At one moment I’m ok telling myself that Holly would be ok. The next I’m upset because maybe she would be hurt really bad. I was eight at the time so the thought of her not even coming back had not crossed my mind. I had finally been calmed down most likely with the help of my grandparents and siblings and was convinced that Holly would return to us just as jovial as before. My parents pulled up and I ran out to meet them, asking them where Holly was. They shared the horrible news: Holly had died in the accident that morning. Our family’s world was turned upside down; my world was turned upside down. Tears came instantly, and we all started hugging and crying without fully understanding what the accident meant. Once I had time to process (as much as I could) what I was feeling is when my true emotions came out.

I was angry at God. How could he take such a beautiful person from the earth? There were plenty of “older”, “terrible” people out there. Why take her? She was young and cheered up everyone that she met. I just couldn’t understand why this could happen to her, to me, or even my family. I was angry at myself for not treating her kinder the night before (you really never know if your interactions with someone will be your last).

This is where the unexpected result came for me. I had just recently been baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although I had been going my whole life, I had just turned eight and had the opportunity to get baptized. I had been taught the Plan of Salvation. Short and simple, we lived with God before we were born.  He sent us here to learn and grow through trials and mortal life experiences. We are given a family to help us through this life. After we die, we can live with our families again if we live the gospel of Jesus Christ. I had learned this my whole life and told others I knew it was true when reality, I didn’t know at the time if it was or not. This started my testimony of the Plan of Salvation and in my Savior, Jesus Christ.

It started as a hope. I hoped I could see my sister again. As I prayed and studied the scriptures, this hope grew to a belief that the Plan of Salvation was true. As I studied more and prayed more, over the course of time this belief grew into the knowledge that I have today. I KNOW that I can see my sister Holly again. I KNOW that the Plan of Salvation is real. I know these things because the Spirit of God has witnessed to me that these things are true. This knowledge is not something that eye has taught me but something that God has taught me. I mention this because this is all made possible by the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ. He lives. And because He died and was resurrected for me and you, it is possible to see our loved ones again.

In this time of year that is so hard for my family, in a time of year that some people would be resentful and bitter, I am grateful and full of hope. Christmas is a time of hope for me. Christmas is not about presents or food. It is about the baby born in Bethlehem thousands of years ago. Because He was born, because of His atonement, because He died, because He was resurrected, I can see my sister Holly again. So at this time of year, no matter what is going on in your life, I hope you can have hope and be of good cheer because there is a reason for hope. Christmas is about the greatest gift ever given to man: the gift of Jesus Christ.

Families can be together forever. Learn how here.

Below is a poem Brooke and I wrote to honor Holly. 

It hasn’t been that long ago
Since Holly passed away. 
And even though she’s not around
She’s near us every day. 
She was the sweetest little girl
That everybody loved. 
She has a smile that made your day
That was needed back above. 
One always got a cheerful “hi”
When coming to the shop. 
You couldn’t help but smile big
Making Rio's a regular stop. 
It sucks we didn’t get more time
We’ve missed her since that day. 
There is nobody that knew her
That had any bad to say. 
She taught us many simple things
To do for one another: 
smile, love, laugh, forgive
Just like our elder Brother. 
So every year around this time 
She's closer to my heart. 
Let’s try to live like Holly would. 
Let’s try to do our part. 
I know I’ll see her some day soon
I know we’ll reunite. 
Because thousands of years ago
A Babe was born that night. 
“Joy to the world!” the Shepherds sang, 
The wise men saw the star. 
"Joy to the world!" we sing, 
Because Holly isn’t far. 

Who is the kindest, happiest person you know? 

What do you believe about families? Feel free to ask if you have any questions about ours.