Growing up in a small town in southwest Arkansas, I knew everyone and they knew me. You may think Berryville is small, but I grew up in a town with a population of 815. Now thatís small. You knew the cashier at the only grocery store in town. You knew the old man playing checkers outside and the little girl cradling chocolate milk behind you.
It was certainly a blessing and a curse. This weekend, I experienced a little bit of both. On Sunday morning, I woke up to the news that a young woman from my hometown died in a car accident. She was just 24 years old. She married her high school sweetheart four years ago, and they were together for nine years until her untimely passing.
The news hit me like a train. I grew up in the same neighborhood as her. Her brother was in my graduating class. We never spent much time together, but we knew each other. I saw how vibrant she was. I saw the love she had for her husband long before they were married. Their love story is the kind you read about in books. But it doesnít usually end this way in books.
Knowing sheís gone fills me with sadness. I canít imagine how her husband feels. I canít imagine that Christmas will ever be the same for the people who loved her. That was what kept running through my head Sunday morning. And right before Christmas. How could this happen right before Christmas?
It was a real wake-up call to me, because I spent the entire weekend stressing out about my upcoming vacation. Thereís so much to do before we go. Thatís all I could focus on ó the laundry and the packing and the long drive. I fixated on our lodging for a bit, convinced it wonít be what I thought it would. All of that mattered to me, deeply, before I realized what happened in my hometown.
I couldíve slapped myself. Here I was worrying about taking a vacation, something many people never get to experience, while my hometown community was mourning. I was ashamed of myself. We can all get caught up in our own head sometimes, but I never want to be so wrapped around my own ďproblemsĒ that I forget about the people who are truly in pain.
Next week, itís going to be Christmas and Iíll be spending it with my loved ones. Iím grateful for that. I know the holidays are painful for many people, and I am especially aware of that today. To those of you who have lost a loved one around the holidays, I am so sorry for your loss. I hope you can keep going to the best of your ability. I hope you know you are in my thoughts.
And for those people like me who spend too much time taking their loved ones for granted, letís try to cherish what we have a little more. If you have someone to love, you are lucky. You are blessed. Say it with me: I have someone to love, I am lucky and I am blessed. Say it every day. Donít forget it.
Life is short, but it doesnít feel like it when you are thankful for what you have.
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Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com