Have you ever thought about what you might remember years from now about the Christmas we have just celebrated? I hope it will be something that makes you feel good as you recall the Christmas of 2014. Every year we spend hours looking for the perfect gift for friends and family. But most of the time it is not the gift that really matters. It is the spirit it is given in.
I was reminded of this as I helped pack up our Christmas decorations. One was a handmade model of a child’s rocking chair. In 1915, our state was in middle of a depression caused by the cotton market. The chair is a reminder of that Christmas when a chair, which my decoration is a model of, and a bag of oranges were all my father got for Christmas. The true value of a gift is the not the cost, but the sacrifice to give it and the thought behind it.
Nicole Little from the New Orleans area, visiting in Georgia had one wish for Christmas, which was to eat at the Mystic Grill here in Covington. She is a big fan of Vampire Diaries, particularly of the actor Ian Somerhalder who was born and raised in Covington, Louisiana. She also had heard great things about the Grill.
Nicole’s husband, Lance Corporal Corey Little died in 2012 in a tragic accident near Yuma Arizona. He and all but one of the crews involved were stationed at Camp Pendleton in California. On Feb. 22, 2012, during a drill at dusk, a Huey Helicopter and a Cora Helicopter collided and all aboard both died. One was about to be married, one was a former youth minister, one the son of minister and one, Corey Little, was expecting his first child in about six months.
The drill that night was a part of final preparation before deployment in Afghanistan. There is always risk when one is preparing under battle like conditions for combat. The danger they would face in a few weeks called for preparation. But no one expected this outcome. Nicole commented, “I thought I had to start worrying when he was deployed, not before.”
Six months later a precious little girl was born and was named Corey in honor of her Father. She is very much part of both Nicole’s family and late husband’s. Nicole and her daughter were visiting her in-laws, Wanda and Tim Little, in Fayetteville. When in Fayetteville there is always time for a visit to Covington. Nicole’s mother in law grew up in Covington, her parents, are Sylvia and Charles Conner.
Nicole’s one simple wish for Christmas was to eat at the Grill. It proved to be a delightful evening enjoyed by all. Nicole was given a complete tour of the Grill to see what all goes into running a restaurant. She said she defiantly planned to return each time she comes to Covington.
What proves to be the gift of greatest value is not always the one that is the most expensive nor is it the one that is more difficult to find. It can be as simple as a night out with family or a little rocking chair that has been prized for 100 years.
But without a doubt the greatest gift in this story is what the seven Marines did for us all. Because men and women are willing to risk their lives, and sadly at times lose their lives we are a strong and free nation. When we read stories like that tragedy of Feb. 12, 2012, let us remember the cost to all the families involved. We are also reminded how every day is a gift to be with those we love. Family becomes even more important at times like what happened that night in the desert. We wish Nicole and Cory many more blessed and happy Christmases with their family and friends.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.