I snuggle into the perfect spot on my sofa so I can see the beautiful view of the rolling hills, with brown, rust and tan grasses blowing in the wind and trees of all colors out my front windows. My vanilla-hazelnut coffee warms my hands and gives my inner being comfort and peace. I think about how long it’s been since I have really enjoyed this time of the year. You see, my favorite time of the year starts in fall when all the leaves and grasses are changing colors. As I am sitting on my sofa, I am reminded how beautiful the colors are, how peaceful it is and how amazing our God is to provide it for us. It makes me sad that I have lost the childlike excitement for the fall I once had. It doesn’t stop there because right after fall it leads into my next favorite time of year: Christmas. I love the giving spirit, the laughter, the family time and the faith filled holiday.

I think it’s been ten years or so since I really have enjoyed those two holidays. I would always bake and give goodies to friends. I used to decorate and hang lights all over and then sit in the living room only with the Christmas lights on and enjoy. I think some of the change has to do with our society making us want more, hurry through the fall and many times I feel like we skip Thanksgiving altogether. Then, when we get to December people are in such a rush to find the perfect gifts that we go in debt overbuying and forget what Christmas is about.

Unfortunately, for me right now I can tell you I have lost the love for my favorite times of year because we are missing a piece to our family puzzle. It’s our son Tyler. He lost his life in a car accident on August 23, 2013.

He was just going to be gone 30 minutes to hang out with friends, but he never made it home. This will mark the fifth Thanksgiving and Christmas we have had without him. It is very different without Tyler, but we have made a promise to not stop talking about him. I know some people feel awkward when we bring him up or we remind them of what he did or would say. But for us, he was a part of our family for 15 years. He is still a part of our family, just in a different way. He is now tucked away in our memories and hearts forever. I have made a point of always finding something special that reminds me of Tyler to stuff in our stockings. It’s like our little angel is leaving us a gift.

What I miss the most is the laugher, the smiles, all of us being together talking and having fun. Don’t get me wrong, we are still together as a family, but it feels different. The kinds of different only a person who has lost a child can know. However, I have found that laughter is “good medicine” for grief (Proverbs 17:22). I know some people may not feel that they can be happy and laugh after a loss. I am learning after four plus years that laughter sooths the soul, it gives us peace and it also makes a sad time more manageable. I have found that my body feels so much better after I have had a good laugh. The kind that makes ever part of your body jiggle, snort uncontrollably and smile so big that your mouth hurts. I have been told our body releases feel-good chemicals when we laugh. God has designed us to laugh, cry, be happy, sad and benefit from all of it.

So this year I will embrace and savor the changing of seasons, I will sit and soak up the goodness God created. I will slow down to enjoy what I think is important to my family and not follow the crowd. I will laugh, cry and remember­­ Tyler. Knowing that he is always smiling down from Heaven and laughing with us no matter what. “There is a time for everything . . . a time to weep and a time to laugh.” (Eccl.3:1-4). I pray God fills your heart with hope, joy and laughter this holiday season.

Missy Hillmer

My name is Missy Hillmer. I’m married, live in a small town named Palmer, NE and have 3 children. Jake is our oldest who is 19 years old and Gracie is 11 who lives here with us. Tyler which was 15 years on August 20, 2013 is now in Heaven. He was killed in a car accident just 3 short days after his 15th birthday. I am very honest, very real sometimes to the point of not being fun, I guess that’s because I’m a black and white kind of girl. I like to look at the positive in every situation. I really believe there are two ways to look at things. Look for the bad or the good. The “bad” does me no justice and can spiral out of control in a heartbeat. The “good” however gives me hope and it connects with my belief that God is with me through everything. I believe my faith has gotten me through life and especially since my son’s accident. I pray a lot more, watch for the signs that God gives me, listen to my inner gut feeling, as my husband calls it and really focus on living a simple life. Family means everything to me, I love to laugh and think it’s the best medicine for any problem. Music soothes my sole and being outside in the sun brings me great joy! I have learned that many times you cannot control the storm in your life but, you can learn to dance in the rain. I really mean it when I say DANCE in the RAIN! The summer before Tyler’s accident, Tyler, Gracie & I danced in the rain. This memory I will never forget! Since Tyler’s accident I am passionate about telling my story with the hope that it will help or inspire at least one person.