Written by Emilia Julian | December 13, 2018
The following article was written with permission from Sheila Haynes.
Sheila Haynes, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, lost her husband Ivan to an illness that he was battling for a few years. He expressed his love to her minutes before he died in her arms. Ivan was her childhood love and together they raised 4 children, who all have families of their own now. Sheila has 11 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren, many of which live about an hour away from her.
When Ivan passed away in the summer of 2015, Sheila found herself feeling especially lonely in her apartment. Tears of sadness filled her eyes on a regular basis, and as her visiting teacher and friend, I was on my knees praying for her to find some normalcy, peace, and joy again. After much thought, I couldn’t help wondering if encouraging her to make a move to a retirement home would help with her loneliness, so I called Sheila one day and off we went, touring a retirement home nearby. She went with very little expectations but found that once we were there, she felt the comfort and peace of the Spirit and knew this was the place for her. Within a couple of months, we had her packed and moved into her new home.
It’s been only about two months since she moved in and Sheila appears to have bounced back and has found happiness in her heart again. She’s made new friends, is socializing and keeping busy and wears the beautiful smile on her face that I had been so familiar with not so long ago.
Sheila is old enough to be my grandmother. We come from different worlds and are so different in various ways, but somehow it feels like we are family. She calls me “Baby Girl” and we never leave a phone conversation without uttering “I love you” to one another. For this reason and more, I wanted to do something special for her this Christmas. I didn’t want it to be something monetary. She lives in a small room now and doesn’t need anything tangible. Rather, I wanted to leave her a gift that would help her to feel the light of the Saviour during this Christmas season. She was expecting me to visit her on Tuesday night along with my husband. Instead, I gathered some of my wonderful friends from our ward, and together we put on a small Christmas concert in the foyer of her retirement home, a welcomed surprise I’m sure she will not soon forget.
The #LightTheWorld campaign is such a wonderful opportunity for us all to seek after doing that which exemplifies Jesus Christ. When we put our hearts and our minds to serving and giving the way Jesus has counseled us to do, the gift we give also becomes a gift we receive. The sole purpose for us to gather around Sheila and share beautiful Christmas hymns, stories and scriptures with her was to invite the Spirit of Christmas and help her to feel the joy and love from all of us, but more importantly, by the Saviour, who was born to bring us life. By the time we left the retirement home that night, we too felt the same Spirit of Christmas and the joy, love, and peace that comes with it. We were there for Sheila, but many lives were touched that night, including those who were there to witness our performance.
I encourage everyone to #LightTheWorld this Christmas to bring a smile to someone’s face, some joy to someone who is feeling lonely, some peace to those who are consumed with worry, and some love to those who are not feeling it at this time.
Here is the video that was taken this Tuesday night. I hope it will be the spark you need to turn on your light so that the rest of the world can see it.
Merry Christmas everyone!