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  • Writer's pictureBill Petrie

The Best Worst Christmas

Perspective in times of crisis

The six days leading up to Christmas this year have been some of the most difficult I can remember. During the first few days of the week, I was much busier at work than I either wanted or anticipated, but that is the life of an entrepreneur. I maintained my focus as best I could as the smells of cookies baking and the sounds of Hallmark Christmas movies worked diligently to distract me. Honestly, I thought it was just going to be busier than I wanted before a much-needed break over the weekend, but it ended up being much more than that.

As I write this on Christmas morning, I’m dumbfounded by the parade of events that brought our family to where we are today. To give you a bit of a peek, here is a brief summation of the week:

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

  • My father-in-law, Gene, who had been battling a bacterial infection for two months, started feeling ill again

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

  • Gene went to the hospital for what must’ve been the 10th time since October for tests to see if doctors could finally get a handle on his health. He was released, sent home, and seemed in good spirits.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

  • Gene was rushed to the hospital and was put on morphine as the family was told he would not make it.

  • We rushed to get Sandy to Texas to say goodbye, but, unfortunately, he passed away at 11:30 AM – about an hour before Sandy was to board her plane.

Friday, December 23, 2022

  • A deep freeze hit Nashville, causing icy roads, wind chill around -15F, and, at least in our case, some frozen pipes.

  • On his way to work, Drew slid into a curb which dislodged his front tire from the rim. To make a long story short, he and I spent the better part of two hours in that cold, changing and fixing his tire.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

  • As Sandy and her family were in Texas meeting with the funeral home to begin planning Gene’s memorial service, I was in Tennessee writing his obituary – both challenging tasks exacerbated by the fact we are separated by 600 miles.

  • Around noon, I heard a loud sound in the ceiling of our family room that meant only one thing: a pipe had burst. I scrambled to shut off the water and was able to limit the damage, but a plumber can’t get out until Tuesday, so there is no water in the Petrie house for Christmas.

As the week progressed, it was clear that we would not be together for Christmas – a first for us. Frankly, it isn’t easy to feel much joy as we process so much from many directions. However, I find that in times like these, you have a choice: you can either turtle up and feel sorry for yourself and the situation, or you can live life and make the best of it.

We’ve chosen the latter.

On Christmas Eve, Drew, Mitch, and I went to our church service as planned. Afterward, we went out to eat as is our family tradition – this year, we enjoyed not only the food but also the indoor plumbing. When we got home, Mitch read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and we had a toast in honor of their grandfather. We laughed as we filled toilets with water so we could use them, and we have already termed this holiday our “Hobo Christmas.”

As good and bad things happen to us, we control our reactions which, in turn, will form the memories of the events for years to come. I hope that after the memorial service, the pipes are flowing, and the ceiling is fixed, we will all have more fond memories of this time than negative ones.

Sandy will return on Thursday, and we will carve out time to open gifts and celebrate our “Hobo Christmas” before we head back to Texas to put her father to final rest. There will be many tears and tough moments in the coming weeks, but they will be tempered with the joy we’ve found in each other – even if we are not all together.

For the Petrie’s, we’ve decided to make 2022 the Best Worst Christmas we can possibly have. It’s all about choices and perspective. If you look at things differently, you really can take the worst possible situation and find happiness, joy, peace, and understanding.

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