When I was a teen, my father gave me a special Christmas gift. It was a little silver bell on a silver chain. The clapper in the bell moved and held a little diamond.
It was uncharacteristic of any gift I had ever received. I cherished this gift.
The next fall, two months before Christmas, my father passed away suddenly after a monthlong illness. It was a very difficult time for my mother and our family. We were alone.
My mother tried to carry on as she knew my father would desire. We endured Thanksgiving and then prepared for Christmas. We shopped and shopped, buying much more than we ever had.
We wanted more than anything else to make each other feel happy and to somehow fill the void that was left in our family by my father's passing.
On Christmas day we gathered in the living room and began to open the packages. Squeals of delight were replaced by tears. It was no use. We could not fill the void with things.
I did not want Christmas presents. I wanted my father's Christmas presence. I wanted things to be as they were when my father was alive.
It was at that time that I knew for a surety that the greatest gift was life itself and precious moments spent in a family circle. I also knew that I had taken that for granted and supposed it would last forever.
That Christmas, I came to know that the greatest gift of all was the little baby born in Bethlehem of goodly parents in a family. I also knew that the gift of His matchless life was the true Christmas present. It became clear somehow, through the tears, that my life must be one that followed His steps and emulated His ways.
It also became clear that little things matter. Kindness matters.
My hope rested upon the Savior and His life and on the blessings of the knowledge that I had that this life is not the end. I was grateful on that special Christmas day and ever will be for the temple ordinances that made my family an eternal family. The knowledge that I would see my father again gave me peace.
And I shall ever cherish the little silver bell given to me by my father. I didn't know it would be his last material gift to me on earth.
But his lasting gifts were his example, his love, and his sacrifice. He gave me an eternal family unit not separated by death, but bound by covenant.
I am grateful for my father, for his life of love and sacrifice and example. I am also grateful for the precious gift of a silver bell on our last Christmas together. This little bell always reminds me of that Christmas when I understood the importance in my life of our Heavenly Father's matchless gift of His holy Son whose life, mission and message provide the way for all to experience the peace and joy of His Light.
Each Christmas when I hear or see Christmas bells, I am reminded of the gift from my father and of the gift from our Heavenly Father of His beloved Son and I feel peace on earth and good will toward man in a very personal way.