It was happening again. No matter how hard I tried to avoid it, change it, deter the circumstances from occurring, it was happening again. They were going to ask THAT question, the one that I had smiled and shrugged my shoulders at so often throughout my life, the same inquiry you get from friends, family members, neighbors, coworkers, teachers, the grocery store clerk, your mailman, strangers on the street and visiting aliens from outer space: "Why are you single?" Even Facebook, that beloved social network/big brother, asks our status. "Single"; thanks for pointing that out, Mark Zuckerberg.
It's a question that has no great answer. We may say, "Oh, I'm focusing on me (or my family or career or education) right now", but even those are not satisfying responses for others (plus, President Spencer W. Kimball was pretty direct about marriage-avoiding rationalizations). Others may smile and nod, yet the look in their eyes belies continued concern, as if we may actually be "menaces to society". It's as if our single-hood is a problem to be solved, a disease to be cured. In all seriousness, these loving parties usually ask because they care and want us to be happy and we should demonstrate gratitude and humility for their desires to see us blessed with love.
Yes, we can live a happy, productive, and satisfying life as singles. And yet, not a week passes that I do not hear about midsingles' plights when it comes to dating and relationships (or think of my own). There are tears, anger, frustration, disappointment, discouragement, plenty of wisecracks, some depression and far too often a resignation to living the single life because "dating is too hard" and "I'll never get married (or re-married)." So yes, we throw ourselves into careers, educations, service projects, the kids, talents, hobbies, and so on. We tell ourselves that we are doing OK because we still attend the midsingle wards and trips, the cruises or the dances, not to mention the fantastic conferences; we like the "fun" stuff of our single-life culture, but if we were being truly honest with ourselves, they may be good activities we partake in without really wanting the potentially-there solution to our single status. As my friend who visited from out of town asked at a recent midsingles activity, "How are all the beautiful and handsome people not married? My ward has sixty people. This valley has thousands of potential dates for them to pick from."
We enjoy our incredible friendships and the good memories we share along the way, but my friend was hinting at a hidden truth that many singles do not want to look at: we could be avoiding the level of dating that has the specific intention of finding someone to marry. We play the game without a committed desire for the game to end, like neighborhood kids playing ball on Summer's last night before school starts.
On December 25, 1944 a long line of ragged American paratroopers of the 11th Airborne "Angels" Division made their way down a slippery jungle trail. They had been fighting non-stop since November 22 and estimates state that the Angels destroyed over 5,700 of the enemy. They were hungry, tired, and ready for rest. They had buried their dead by the trail-side, marking graves the best they could, and all were suffering from undernourishment with ulcers on their feet and legs.
They slowly, yet carefully, plodded along the trail, ready to put the demands and dangers of combat behind them. As each trooper moved forward, lost in his own thoughts, a quite whisper slowly made its way down the line.
My dear brothers and sisters, my grandfather was one of those inspiring paratroopers who put his life on the line for others without regard to his own safety (the arrow is pointing to him in the photo). As many of you know, he was a hero to me and his loss this year tugged at my heartstrings. I do miss him, although I am grateful for the knowledge that now he can watch over me both as a literal angel and an 11th Airborne Angel.
As I think about what he and his comrades went through in the South Pacific, I am in awe of their bravery, honor and respect for those they were fighting for.
And yet, that phrase "It's Christmas" always stops me in my tracks when I read Grandpa's story. I think of the stark contrast between what they needed to do for duty and what Christmas means. They were far from home in a strange land, a brutal land where every step could have been their last. While they were fighting for a cause they believed in, surrounded by brothers in arms, yet there must have been a deep sense of longing for home, for family, for the joys and peace that Christmas calls for.
My grandfather and his fellow paratroopers were some of the best of the best, yet they were all subject to heartaches, fears, loneliness and yes, were daily exposed to the ultimate sacrifice, the loss of this gift of life. And when I look around me, I see many of my brothers and sisters who share a similar longing in their hearts. A longing for connection, for family, for loved ones gathered around the fireplace or the tree or even a tiny basement apartment table.
It IS Christmas, but there are those around us who are praying for comfort, for peace, for a measure of joy and relief from the hurts of their bodies, hearts and minds. Those who are unexpectedly single parents or lack the children they pray will come to share in the excitement of Christmas morning. Those who have an empty chair at the table and too much space in the bed where loving arms should be.
We as LDS midsingles have been blessed to join the Lord's restored church and to enjoy many of the promises and truths of the Gospel. And yet, we, too, as mortal beings are vulnerable to hurts, to fears, to wounds of the heart and spirit that can, if not healed, lead to a darkening of the spark for life.
My friends, it IS Christmas and I believe that we all have within us the power to effect a Christmas miracle.
As many of you know I have been less than secret about my own battles with anxiety and depression. Despite publishing two books, competing in and coaching in the sport of bobsled, speaking across the nation, etc., as I mentioned above none of us are immune to the trials of this life. So much so that yes, there was one night where I told God that if He didn't give me a reason to live, I was going to end my life.
And I believe that right now, someone reading this is contemplating the same thing. Maybe it is someone you know. Maybe it is someone I know. And their soul is so unbelievably precious, their eyes so incredibly miraculous, their mind so breath-takingly intelligent and their talents so world-changingly unique that the reason we celebrate Christmas, even Jesus Christ, came to this earth to save them.
My grandfather left his home, his family, his job, his complete lifestyle behind and went halfway around the world to save others. Yet the Lord, in his great condescension, came down to this earth to save us all. That means that He came down to save our friend who is silently hurting, our sibling who is struggling, our neighbor who is lonely or our child who is afraid.
Sariah Simmons, ever inspired by the Spirit as she is about the mid singles community, felt a deep prompting that we as singles need to do something. And I agree. This time of the year can be extremely difficult for those who have no family to celebrate with or who have no children to play Santa for. The mistletoe hangs unused, the dinner is set for one (or one less), the tree has a few less presents and the romantic Christmas songs grate rather than sooth.
That is why we are asking you to take part in what I believe to be a Heaven-sent (or at least Heaven-supported) campaign this month to #PhoneaFriend. Don't text, don't email, don't instant message, pick up the phone (like we ever put them down) and CALL. Let them hear your voice. Say hello with a smile. Pray for the pure love of Christ to flow through you and into the heart of the person you are calling. And if you can, get together. Invite them to participate in some activity with you or to visit. Hug them. The reassuring embrace can cure many of life's aches.
It is said that when a movement MOVES it is not because of the leaders but the members. So please feel free to make this YOUR movement and your own personalized message. We are just barely organizing, but know it's important to share a message this holiday season about suicide awareness and need your help.
President Dieter F. Uchdorf recently recounted a story that I have loved since I first heard it as a teenager. He said:
"A story is told that during the bombing of a city in World War II, a large statue of Jesus Christ was severely damaged. When the townspeople found the statue among the rubble, they mourned because it had been a beloved symbol of their faith and of God’s presence in their lives.
"Experts were able to repair most of the statue, but its hands had been damaged so severely that they could not be restored. Some suggested that they hire a sculptor to make new hands, but others wanted to leave it as it was—a permanent reminder of the tragedy of war. Ultimately, the statue remained without hands. However, the people of the city added on the base of the statue of Jesus Christ a sign with these words: 'You are my hands.'"
You are my hands. As LDS midsingles we have by default covenanted "to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;...Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort,..." (Mosiah 18:8-9). There are so many around us that are carrying such heavy burdens, whose mourning while secret is not silent and who stand in need of great comforting.
So what do we look for? How do we recognize the less-than-apparent warning signs that someone in our life is in need of rescue, of lifting, or help?
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention provides the following:
"Social isolation has been shown to be a larger predictor of suicide than any other factor. 'the sense of social belonging and inclusion, the love, care, and concern that can flow (or not flow) from social ties. Well integrated groups…enjoy stable, durable, and cohesive ties. Individuals in such groups are supported in their lives, particularly during times of personal crises, thereby reducing their vulnerability to suicide.'”
Therefore while the holidays don't necessarily increase overall suicide rates, they have been shown to increase depression for individuals not being socially fulfilled. Social isolation is one of the biggest predictors of depression, especially during the holidays. And it is one the issues many singles, especially those single for a prolonged time or divorced report experiencing during the holidays.
"Single people, in this theory, are susceptible to what Durkheim called 'egoistic suicide,' which results from low levels of social integration. 'Anomic suicide' can be triggered by too little social regulation or 'a sudden and unexpected change in a person’s social standing, for example, a shift from being married to being divorced or widowed.'"
The National Institute for Healthcare Research indicates that #divorced people are three times as likely to commit suicide as people who are married. The Institute says that divorce now ranks as the number one factor linked with suicide rates in major U.S. cities, ranking above all other physical, financial, and psychological factors. Divorced men being the highest rate only because women attempt 3x as often but don't complete it.
Social interactions are at the heart of the factors listed above. It concludes then that if social isolation and disruption of social interactions are culprits for suicide that social connection and feeling of belonging are the answer. Again, not everyone has family to celebrate this year or even children to enjoy the spirit of the season with. Some ache for interaction, for the connection that fuels us as human beings.
That is why a dear group of friends, who have suffered the loss of a friend who was single to suicide are starting the movement #PhoneAFriend. And we cannot do it without you. Pray for guidance and seek to be sensitive to the whisperings of the Spirit. I was someone that NO ONE worried about, yet I was a mere heartbeat away from taking my own life. Do NOT assume that because someone is smiling when you are together that they are not crying in agony when they are alone. That goes for men and women.
And brethren, let me offer you a very strong word of caution: do NOT bury your feelings behind a mask of stoic socially accepted masks. That is a disservice to your own spirit and is actually one of the most dangerous moves that men make. It leads to deeper feelings of isolation and loneliness. Please, have the courage to open up.
As LDS midsingles we have tremendous power to reach out, to lift, to salve and to save. As we do so, I cannot think of a greater gift that we could give the Savior this holiday season than to love the lonely, befriend the isolated, heal a wounded heart and bring a smile to eyes that have shed too many tears.
Through this I believe we will be living Paul's words when he said, "For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister." (Hebrews 6:10).
And I cannot think of a greater miracle than this: to share love, to feel love, to be love.
Heaven gained another angel on October 13, 2016 at 11:04pm, Eastern Standard Time. Please consider reading his official obituary here, but first let me tell you a little about that angel, my hero, 1st Lieutenant Andrew J. Carrico III, who would have turned 99 this Halloween had God not called his servant home.
He was not my biological grandfather, but that never mattered to him. Nor me. He was the man who taught me to swim in the ocean off the South Carolina coast. He taught me to dive off the diving board on Hilton Head Island and took us on bike rides around the gold courses when they lived there. He stole our silverware during dinner and hid it when we weren't watching. He allowed us to sit on the back screened porch during their terrific thunder storms and he used to transport the squirrels he caught to the other side of the island and let them go. He taught us how to dig for sand dollars and squirt water jets out of our hands. He taught us to watch for different birds in their kitchen and he loved his tuna sandwiches. He was kind, loving, and strong. Grandy (never Grandpa to us) was courage embodied and taught me so much about what it means to be a husband, a father, a grand father and a hero.
Grandy would never accept that term, "hero", but a hero he was, to me, to you and to the world. Like so many others during World War II he answered the call to serve, to defend liberty, to fight for what is right through the jungles of the Pacific. When I asked him how he felt on his first jump as a paratrooper, one of the United States' most elite soldiers, he said, "Scared; but you had to go." He fought the forces of Imperial Japan through the jungles of Leyte, he fought through the streets of Manila, on beaches and in the hills. He was wounded by a Japanese machine gunner and lost his ring finger and the bullet lodged in his shoulder. Grandpa was tough, brave, efficient, and a natural born leader. From everything I have studied about his military experience he was concerned for his men, calculated each mission carefully and never shrank from his duty in the line of fire. You can read more about his war experience in this article or at the bottom of this post you'll find an audio interview I did with him a few years ago. Please take a moment and listen to it in his honor.
He had seen so much in war that during a hurricane one time on the East Coast Grandy fell asleep while everyone else in the house stayed awake terrified. Grinny woke him up and said, "Andy, if we have to go through this storm you're going to be awake with me!"
There were many times in my life when I was afraid I was facing, when I was not sure how to proceed. Times when I felt lonely or even perhaps unloved. But Grandy and Grinny (my grandma) would send a card or call. I hope this does not sound cliche, but sometimes I would ask myself what Grandy would do. I know he wasn't perfect, but he was the perfect grandfather to me. I wish I had told him that more. I wish I had called more, written more emails or letters, even done video chats which I meant to teach Grinny how to do, but just never made it happen.
I believe that tonight he is being greeted by his comrades in arms, by all his friends from over the years, and by his family who went before him. I imagine he is receiving a hero's welcome down the streets of Heaven in a way no earthly parade could ever match. Most of all, I believe he is being embraced by our Savior, Jesus Christ, who we both have strong faith in, and by our Father in Heaven who watches over us all.
Grandy belonged to the 11th Airborne Division, the Angels. As such, Heaven has gained another Angel to give the forces of evil as much Hell as possible. I love you, Grandy. Please watch over us and be my own personal Guardian Angel. Don't forget to polish your boots, Lieutenant. We need you to fight for us now. Until I make the "final jump" as see you again, God be with us both.
When Grandpa Reports to Heaven
by Jeremy C. Holm
There are people who believe
that angels don't fall.
But let me tell you of one angel,
who always stood tall.
We knew him as "Grandy,"
our grandpa was he.
1st Lieutenant Andrew J. Carrico.
he was our hero, you see.
He defended the world,
from the forces of evil.
As U.S. Army paratroopers,
these angels fought like devils.
Across the Pacific,
they fell from the skies.
They fought in streets and on beaches
and in jungles full of flies.
With two purple hearts
and two bronze stars,
he was a leader of heroes,
and commanded them far.
After the war ended,
he lived a long life.
And my beloved grandma,
he made her his wife.
He taught me to swim,
and dive in the pool.
He called every birthday,
Grandpa was amazingly cool.
He always stood firm,
he always stood tall.
in my eyes, then and now,
He never could fall.
No matter the storm,
Grandy never did break nor bend.
But this life is fleeing,
and we all know it will end.
on this beautiful earth!
Now his spirit's in Heaven,
and rest his eternal berth.
He's reported to St. Peter, Sir,
his former comrades saluted and embraced.
And in God's loving care,
there's a smile on the Lord's face.
A hero's welcome he was given,
a crown of glory he has earned.
his spirit is with us always,
our hearts within us burn.
Heaven gained another angel,
a warrior of truth and light.
And now in his God's service,
for each of us he'll fight.
He's taken his final jump,
on the final flight he can be seen.
And while we say goodbye to grandpa,
he enjoys Heaven's canteen!
So throw one back for me, Grandy,
although I do not drink.
Until I die, a day won't go by,
that of you I do not think.
*Note: This essay is the seventh of seven authored by Jeremy for the LDS Midsingle (31-45+) community. The opinions and thoughts shared therein are his own and unless otherwise noted all names and circumstances of stories have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.
My dear friends, I know it has been a few weeks (months?) since my last post and for that I apologize. This Summer has been, well, shall we say a little hectic. In fact, I'm not sure I have ever faced a period as difficult as this one has been. In a way, I understand what Rocky felt like when he was fighting Drago in "Rocky IV"; it was just punch after punch after punch.
At the risk of sounding like a whiny baby, there have been days, even weeks, where I was not sure I could keep going. I wanted to throw in the towel in moments, moments when the fears or tears were almost too much. Despite my attempts to dig deep into faith and optimism and trust in God,...life has almost felt like it was repeating Drago's words to Rocky when he said, "I must break you."
Maybe I'm not as strong as the world thinks, or as I thought. Despite training for the Olympics, publishing books, speaking on stage, graduating college and all the "great works" that I've tried to do...I'm still 100% human. And as the punches kept coming, as the adversities kept growing, as the fears rolled over me like waves, as the dark nights grew darker... I guess I felt like the prophet Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail when he cried out, "Oh, God, where art thou?" And while I know that God was helping me make changes, to grow, to leave old ways behind, and that for that I should drop to my knees in gratitude (which I have), there is also the truth that my soul, my heart, even my body and mind have felt pushed beyond their limits.
I also know that many strong, beautiful souls in this world can relate. Maybe you can. Maybe it is your coworker or roommate or friend or a family member who feels the weight of some burden on their shoulders. And that is ok; we are in this life to be tested, and to be tested you have to have resistance and opposition. But that does not mean that we have to do it alone. Ever.