Fresh grief ushers in different kind of Christmas for Debbie

December 15, 2020

Debbie (left) & Candy (Photo courtesy of Debbie Campbell)

Note from Editor Jennifer Davis Rash — So many of you have experienced the life and joy Debbie Campbell brings to everything she does. I’ve had the privilege of working beside her in a variety of roles at TAB for more than 20 years, and in recent years we’ve partnered as your TAB Trouble traveling duo (prior to the global pandemic).

While I never had the opportunity to meet Debbie’s sister Candy, I feel like I’ve always known her. Debbie has shared lots of fun stories through the years, and we all especially loved how Candy and her husband, Jim, would always show up for Christmas a day or two earlier than expected.

We even made it a competition some years to see who could guess which day Debbie would get a surprise call and then be seen running out of the office in a flash to do a quick touch-up on the house before Candy and Jim made their way in from the next town over.

We all will miss the special sister stories from Debbie, and we all hurt for her as she works through the grief and pain.

I wanted you to hear from her about how her Christmases have changed forever. 


By Debbie Campbell
Director of Communications

Christmas will be different for me this year. It all began like any other Christmas, getting boxes of Christmas lights and decorations down from the attic. But suddenly a wave of grief swept over me, and I didn’t want to open any of the boxes, much less decorate a tree.

Candy, my only sister and sibling, won’t be sharing Christmas with me anymore. She finished her earthly race Nov. 16 after struggling for almost four months with cancer.

It all seems like a blur. Candy seemed in great health when she came for a visit in mid-July, but by the end of that month, we were facing brain surgery with the shocking news that she had stage 4 glioblastoma and there was no known cure for it.

I can’t remember a Christmas celebration without my big sis. She was always there, smiling and laughing, helping me put together toys and reading my new books with me.

Our relationship grew closer through the years. In fact, people said we looked alike, thought alike and even could finish a sentence for each other. It freaked our kids out.

We did everything together, even crazy adventures, and became known as Lucy and Ethel (a reference to the “I Love Lucy” show from the late 50s for those of you too young to remember that far back).

But this Christmas isn’t shaping up too well for me. There are good days and bad days. Ups and downs. I am reminded of the words from the song by Mark Schultz:

“There’s one less place set at the table; one less gift under the tree …; I’m unwrapping all these memories; Fighting back the tears; It’s just a different kind of Christmas this year.”

Prayers, phone calls, cards and personal messages from friends are helping me cope as I walk with the Lord through this loss. I am trusting but it still hurts, and the emptiness remains.

Afternoons are the toughest for me right now. Candy and I talked most days, and when possible FaceTimed each other at 3 p.m., our special coffee time.  During those afternoon coffees we laughed and cried and solved all the world’s problems.

Now at 3 p.m. I find myself wishing I could give her a call and catch up with the latest news or share a new recipe I found. Yes, Christmas will be different this year.

And just when I think my heart will break over losing my big sis, I am gently reminded of the One who loves me and cares for me — the One who wasn’t surprised or caught off guard by this tragedy. My Lord is ever present, showering me with His love and comfort. He knows just when I need that special touch.

One morning as I sat in tears at my kitchen table a friend sent me a text saying that during her devotion she read a verse that “made me think of you.”

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18).

Wow. What encouragement! God knows when we are at the end of our rope, and He renews our spirit.

Another afternoon, I was sitting by the fire sinking into a depressed mood when I received a text to look on my front doorstep.

Once again, along with a beautiful plant and a card, God showed up with a promise that “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3).

I thank the Lord for giving me such a wonderful big sis and allowing me to have these years with her.

She always did everything first, showing me the right way or sometimes showing me what not to do from her mistakes.

Now in passing from this life, she has once again done a first, leading the way to our heavenly home. Running across that finish line of my life’s final race won’t be so difficult after all, because “Big Sis” has already done it, paving the way for me to follow.

I will be looking for her in the stands cheering me on to the finish line.

I love you, “Ethel.” Thank you for a life full of wonderful memories. Love, “Lucy.”

To read more about how to cope with grief during Christmas, click here.

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