Every year, just before Christmas, our former boss used to play John Lennon's song "War is Over" -- also known as "So this is Christmas." He would play it over and over.

I found the tune depressing and now I find myself repeating the lyrics -- "So this is Christmas and what have you done, another year over and a new one just begun."

My sister Stephanie Peel, the most wonderful person in this world, probably won't be with us in the new year. At this moment she is in the hospital in palliative care.

This incredible woman has battled a debilitating disease for more than a decade with the courage and faith of 10. After being diagnosed with a horrible liver disease that has attacked her body in so many awful ways, she went to school, earned a bachelor's degree and then a master's degree and went on to become a Christian counselor.

I would have pulled the covers over my head and never risen from my bed. It's hard to believe we came from the same family.

Stephanie has always, always, put others welfare before her own. She is kind, loving and thoughtful. If there was a way for her to make your life easier or more pleasant she would do it. Wherever there was a need, she was there to assist.

She has lived her life with faith and determination. She has been a good and faithful servant.

I know if everyone she helped along the way, even before she became a certified counselor, stepped forward, we couldn't find a hall big enough for all of them.

So Christmas this year is very painful for me and my family.

It's hard to think about the normal trappings of Christmas -- gifts, parties, decorating, baking, shopping -- but it makes it so much easier, as a Christian, to focus on the reason for the season: the birth of Christ and the hope of eternal life.

Have a blessed Christmas.

Email: dmarkulis@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9436