I received the following email in my inbox on Christmas Eve from a reader struggling to find the joy in Christmas this year. With their permission, I’m posting it here as a way for us all to reflect on the blessings each of us enjoys and to ask for prayers for those less fortunate.

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Reader K. Ward writes:

I am trying very hard to hold onto my Faith during this trying time in my life. My beloved brother passed away a few days ago from brain cancer. His birthday landed on Thanksgiving this year, which I thought was amazing, he turned 53. He held on and was very mobile and lucid till 2 days before he passed. He lived outside of Cleveland and I live in Clearwater, FL so getting to spend time with him was basically impossible. I went to visit him October 1-8 and one wouldn’t have even known he was dying. It was the first time I had seen him in over 7 years. We had a wonderful time laughing as we recounted our childhood memories of camping trips, making “forts” out of chairs & blankets and the “snow-days” spent sledding down any place we could find with a slope to it.

He was such a good, thoughtful and honest man. When he found out he was dying he would tell me not to be sad or cry. He stated that there were worse things going on than his impending death and it was O.K. Still trying to process that one. It is difficult to understand why God chose to take him so young. My brother was one of those old-fashioned solid types who didn’t want help from anyone. He worked hard All of his life, back-breaking pouring concrete most of his adult life. He advanced through the ranks went to school and became an engineer, just 3 years before he died. I miss him so much, he was always full of wise council.

On the day he died I discovered my only child is an alcoholic. I am feeling so lost. I have shut-down to the outside world in my depression. I am in very poor health and trying to remain calm so I don’t have another stroke. My parents both live in Indiana, but not together… This is without a doubt one of the most difficult Christmas time experiences I have ever had. I am asking for prayers for the healing of my daughter. We live alone in Florida, no family near to share Christmas with. We are so poor our Christmas dinner will either be hot-dogs or a $1.37 Totino’s pizza, again. Believe me when I say I am Not complaining about our choices for our Christmas dinner, at least we have that choice to make. Some people aren’t as fortunate as us to be able to have a selection. We are Catholic, so my plan is to try and pull myself out of this depression and attend Christmas midnight Mass. God, please give me the strength to carry on.