We had a wonderful night 10 days ago when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Castle Valley sponsored the annual Christmas dinner for the community. Many people showed up to partake in delicious food, conversation and a visit by Santa Claus for the kids.
Four days ago the DayStar Adventist Academy hosted its 49th annual Christmas concert. The last three years the academy has added a dinner of soups, salads, breads, and desserts to precede the concert and that has been very popular with the community. The audience was entertained with an assortment of Christmas music by the choir, bell choir, quartets, and instrumental selections on the violins, cello, clarinet, piano, double bass and timpani.
Dave Seibert, a former pioneer staff member who arrived at the school in 1970, led the congregation in two Christmas carols. It was a very pleasant evening.
The academy’s early Christmas programs began in the basement of the chapel while the building was still under construction. Seibert recalled that they had to spread straw on the dirt floor of the basement for comfort and warmth similar to the original Christmas many years ago.
Two days ago the Castle Valley Fire Department held a Christmas dinner at the town hall for the members of the fire department and their families. This tradition has been going on for nearly 10 years as a way of thanking the volunteer fire personnel for their dedicated service and commitment to protecting the citizens of the valley. The fire district commissioners purchase pizzas and the members bring a dish to share. It is important to note that the party is funded by generous donations from individuals and not by tax money. At the last minute, the party was changed to the town hall from Station 1 this year because the department was already maintaining a command post at the town hall due to the unreliable phone service that day.
When the phone, Internet and 911 are out of service, a command center is set up to relay emergency radio traffic to the Grand County Sheriff’s dispatch center to get the appropriate emergency first responders to the emergency. Since someone from the fire department had to be at the town hall anyway, it was decided to move the party there.
Some of the things that I have been reflecting on lately includes our move to Castle Valley from Southern California over 40 years ago. One of the many reasons for the move was to experience winter weather, especially at Christmastime. I can remember Christmases in California where the temperature was in the 80s and 90s. It just wasn’t right. One year I even lit a fire in the fireplace using a manufactured three-hour fire log to help enhance the holiday spirit. It wasn’t long before we had to open all of the windows in the house because of the intense heat caused by the fire.
In contrast, our first winter in Castle Valley welcomed us with an overabundance of snow and low temperatures of minus 20 degrees; almost too much of a good thing, we thought at the time.
We have experienced extremes at Christmastime over the years. One year our former neighbors, Dennis and Phyllis Godwin, invited us to Hawaii where Dennis was working for a construction company. Neither of us had family at home that year so we spent an enjoyable week with them and on Christmas Day we were snorkeling in a clear and warm bay in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Oahu.
Another Christmas was spent with our son’s family in Roosevelt, where they had the distinction of being the coldest place in the United States that special day. It got down to a frigid -27 degrees. Again, too much of a good thing.
But wherever we were at Christmastime, we were with family and friends, which is what the season is supposed to be all about as we reflect on the birth of the Savior. But lately our children and grandchildren have busy lives of their own and we sometimes find ourselves celebrating alone on Christmas Day and usually get together a day or two later after the hustle and bustle is over.
Unfortunately, Christmastime is not always a pleasant experience for some. Every Christmas I think of our old friend. Dave Seibert who lost his daughter on Christmas Day in 1990. She died at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City of cystic fibrosis, that relentless genetic killer of children and young adults.
Laura Beth Seibert was a positive, vibrant and beautiful 14-year-old who lived life intensely but eventually slipped into the loving arms of the Savior, whose life we celebrate this time of the year.
And this season is not going to be easy for friends and family of our Castle Valley neighbor Jack Campbell, who lies critically ill at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction. He suffered a massive heart attack last Friday, Dec. 14, at his partner’s home in Moab. He was rushed to Moab Regional Hospital by Grand County EMS and then transferred to the Grand Junction hospital where he remains in critical condition.
The Christmas season brings a lot of different memories and emotions, but in the end it is a time of joy as we reflect on this special occasion of the birth of the Savior. Merry Christmas!