This is an opinion piece.

I’ve always admired writers who seemingly could churn out columns by the bushel. That’s something I’ve never been able to do, as evidenced by my lack of new columns during November and December of 2020.

My mother, Shelba Allen, died last January, and my father, Edwin Allen, died in July, just six months and eight days after Mom. I’ve never stopped missing them, but the month-long holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas made their passing seem new again.

I wasn’t the best husband, father, brother or friend during December, because I didn’t handle the grieving well. The grief also prevented me from being able to focus on column writing.

Mother and Daddy were the first ones to teach me the true meaning of Christmas and celebrate the holiday with me, and for the first time in my life, they were missing at what should be the most joyous time of the year.

My beautiful bride, Malarie, and our precious children, James (6), Brady (4) and Maggie Jo (2), did their best to cheer me up and lift my spirits. I felt like the Grinch at times, but I didn’t steal my family’s Christmas joy.

In early December, James David started counting down the days to Santa Claus’ arrival. And at 4:48 on Christmas morning, Brady came in our bedroom and said, “Mommy and Daddy, Santa Claus came. Come and see!”

As I watched our children’s boundless energy Christmas Day, it reminded me of something Daddy said about his grandchildren: “If I had their energy, I’d get in trouble.”

I’m sorry that many of you experienced a holiday season similar to mine, because 2020 seemed to be the year of death. COVID-19 joined the list of other killers we already know — like heart attacks, strokes, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, dementia, accidents and others. The coronavirus disrupted life as we knew it, and I wonder if the old normal will ever return.

I’m sure all of us know someone who died with, or because of, COVID-19. Malarie lost a co-worker, Sharon Parker, and a high school friend, Jessica Burgett Aaron, to it in the same week.

Time and time again during the first pandemic of my lifetime, I’ve been reminded of the words of James 4:14: “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

I believe the only thing we can be certain of is where we will spend eternity, and it’s a choice we must make on our own. As 2021 begins, I hope you’ve made the choice to spend eternity with Jesus Christ. 

Shannon J. Allen is publisher for The Reporter. He can be reached at

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