How a couple who lost 9 family members will celebrate Christmas


Joe and Claryce Holcombe are preparing for Christmas in Sutherland Springs, Texas. However, there will be nine people missing from their home.

The Holcombes, age eighty-six and eight-five, lost family members spanning three generations when a gunman opened fire at First Baptist Church on November 5. Their son, Bryan, was killed. So was their daughter-in-law, Karla; their grandson, Danny; their granddaughter-in-law, Crystal, and her unborn child; and four great-grandchildren: Noah, Greg, Emily, and Megan.

How are they coping?

Joe Holcombe, who goes by “Papa Joe,” told a Time reporter: “Everybody always wants us to be whimpering and crying because we lost some of our family. That’s not the way we are. It happened and it hurt. But we don’t look at death as separation. We look at it as just another event in our life.”

How can “Papa Joe” face tragedy with such hope? Because he believes in heaven: “It won’t be long until we’ll be there with the rest of the family. I miss my family. We don’t see them coming down the sidewalk at the front door anymore. But I won’t miss them long.”

“Blue Christmas” services

My father died ten days before Christmas in 1979. I miss him all year, but especially at this time of year.

Many churches are holding “Blue Christmas” services for people like me. Such services provide those in grief at Christmas an opportunity to pray, worship, and seek comfort in Christ. “The most wonderful time of the year” is less wonderful for those who mourn loved ones or suffer in other ways. Watching others celebrate the holiday season makes people in pain feel even more alone.

According to Psychology Today, a high incidence of depression is associated with the Christmas season. Suicide rates go up. One survey reported that 45 percent of respondents dread the holidays.

Loneliness among older adults is such an epidemic that there is even a campaign to end it. But new research indicates that millennials are

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