Updated: Apr 25, 2022
By George Smith
The week of December 5 was hectic. The Christmas rush was beginning to crowd a busy work week with too few hours spent chasing too many tasks. My blood pressure was up, and my Christmas spirit was down.
My work calendar for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) included an all- day meeting of the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, two evening meetings of SAM’s Fishing Initiative Committee and Board of Directors, final paste-up of SAM News, taping three Wildfire television shows, a morning’s discussion with GrowSmart and the Brookings Institution, several out-of-town meetings, five thousand words to write, and much more.
Christmas was just twenty-one days away and I had a couple of Christmas parties that week, plus church choir practice and good intentions to get my shopping done. The pressure was building.
And then, on Tuesday, my father-in-law died. Lewis Hillier of Winthrop was eighty- five, a quiet and modest World War II veteran who earned a Purple Heart on the front lines at the Battle of the Bulge, a man whose legacy is his family. He and his wife Ivy raised seven great children, the youngest of whom is my wife Linda.
With this news, the tasks that once seemed important vanished from my schedule. I had a new job to complete: I had the privilege of writing and delivering Lew’s eulogy.
The change in plans caused me to think about life and to contemplate Christmas in a different light—not the bright lights that dominate this season, but the soft lights that illuminate the soul. It was time to look inward, and Lew’s death provided that luxury.
During an afternoon hike, I found Christmas in my woodlot. The spruce trees sported snowy blankets and a deer grazed among acorns, scarcely noticing my presence. Hop- kins Stream, with shoulders of frozen ice reflecting a brilliant sun, was barely moving along.
As I gazed north, I noticed a beaver in midstream, heading in my direction. I hunkered down behind a tree and he swam by me, intent on completing his own chores. If I had been in my canoe, he would have slapped his tail on the water, angered by my presence. On this day, however, I was simply a part of his world, not a threat to it. After the beaver passed, I sat entranced by the ice, calm and content.