Velma's Nativity lesson
While I was growing up, my godmother, Velma, and her husband, Bill, lived across the road from our family. No matter how busy she was, Velma was always available to help me with things like memorizing Martin Luther's Small Catechism and the 200-plus Bible verses I was required to know for confirmation. But the most important faith lesson Velma taught me didn't come from a book.
On a Saturday in December 1977, a few months after my brother was killed in a car accident, I walked over to Velma's house to see if she was baking Christmas cookies. In these two weeks before Christmas, I usually helped my mom with the Christmas preparations. But, as I told Velma, Mom said she wasn't getting out any decorations because she didn't feel like having Christmas this year.
With the words hardly out of my mouth, Velma stood up, grabbed my hand and said, 'Well! We'll just see about that.' We marched across the road; Velma was clearly on a mission. My mom was sitting in the living room and Velma said, 'Marilyn, how can you not have Christmas? Christmas is still something to celebrate whether you feel like it or not.'
Without taking 'no' for an answer, Velma offered to help Mom put up some of the decorations. One of the first they set up was the 25- to 30-piece cardboard Nativity scene. Though the mood was somber, there was something comforting in seeing the créche on top of the console TV where it had gone every year. And I'll never forget Velma and my mom standing and looking at the Nativity, then clasping each other and crying together.
In her own take-charge way, Velma helped my mom remember the true meaning of Christmas, even when her heart was breaking.
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