Today I attended my parents' ward for church (my ward has disbanded until next year), which was actually pretty fun. It's been nearly four years since we've all been together like that--P.S. Carolyn is here!--so it was neat. We sang one of my favorites, I HEARD THE BELLS ON CHRISTMAS DAY, and Stephanie Nielson shared her thoughts about it (yes Stephanie is in our ward), which was really unique, because Stephanie has gone through a similar tragedy, except that she is still here to share her love and testimony with all of us.
Although I haven't always been the biggest fan of the hymn itself (like Gladys Knight I struggle with LDS hymns at times), I have always absolutely LOVED the words--Longfellow is a freakin' genius in my opinion--and I love any words accompanied by a story, especially the very sad stories that some how end on a peaceful note.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow rocks because he was a family man and loved his wife, Fanny, more than anything in the world. One day when Fanny was putting locks of her children's into an envelope (they did that back in the Romantic days), she tried to seal the envelope with hot wax and somehow her dress caught on fire. Longfellow threw a rug over her and tried to save her, but she was too badly burned and died the next morning. Longfellow was also burned, so badly that he could not even attend her funeral. Losing Fanny was heartbreaking, as Longfellow described that his marriage to her was nearly perfect and after her death he was "inwardly bleeding to death." (I'm horrible, but how beautiful is that! I want a love like that, just sayin'). That Christmas Longfellow's journal read: "A merry Christmas' say the children, but that is no more for me."
Not long after losing Fanny, Longfellow's oldest son, Charles, ran away to join the Union during the Civil War; as if Longfellow wasn't worried enough--his son having left without his blessing--he soon received word that Charles had been fatally wounded. Basically, his life sucked at this point, but instead of cursing God or becoming angry and bitter, Longfellow simply expressed his grief through his beautiful words: "God is not dead nor doth he sleep. The wrong shall fail the right prevail--with peace on earth good will to men."
This is one of my favorite versions of this lovely song. Merry Christmas. <3