This week saw my last (official) visit to that cosy little nursing home along the road from my church. One of my regulars is a dear little lady who has attended our church for more years than most people can remember. Marion (not her real name) is 93 and sadly, over the last couple of years has begun to fade. She is moving much more slowly, even with the help of her walking frame, and she barely talks any more. Her hair has become thin and wispy as it straggles around her face. Marion barely answers questions with much more than a slowly drawn-out “Yeees”, or “Alright…”
When I arrived at the nursing home, Marion was seated in her usual chair in the dining room. Seeing she was slowly sipping on a cup of coffee, I took myself off to see my other folk at that nursing home ahead of her, as the others were sitting in the lounge area. Later, when I approached Marion, she was still struggling to balance that coffee cup, while wordlessly acknowledging my greeting. I sat with her for a while and after a few of her usual responses, I read part of the Christmas story from Luke’s gospel and offered her my usual prayer. Leaving her a Christmas card and some chocolate Christmas trees, I made to leave.
I called by the office to greet the manager there, when much to our surprise, Marion appeared at the door. At once, the manager sprang to her feet to see what Marion needed, but this gentle little lady indicated slowly it was me she wanted, and I was to follow her back to her room. Immediately I went with Marion’s summons, through to the back corridor and into her room. Still Marion did not speak until we entered her room, when she indicated I should turn around to see what she wanted me to see. Sitting along the front shelf of a tall dresser and cabinet, all in a neat row sat a bright, colourful and quite elderly-looking set of nativity figures. I gasped aloud with pleasure as I exclaimed how wonderful they were to Marion. And then that little Christmas miracle happened (for me, anyway); Marion spoke. Yes, Marion uttered more words than I have ever heard her say at once in all the time I have known her: “Yes, I made them. I taught Sunday school. I made them for Sunday school. There were no pictures to show so I made them…” And in that moment, Marion’s face lit up like a Christmas tree and smiled brightly before becoming quiet again.
As for me, I just looked and looked at those figures, as I continued to verbally admire them. The Wise Men certainly were bright and colourfully dressed in reds, royal blues, purples, greens and yellow golds; Mary wore traditional blue, with Joseph and the shepherds dressed in fabrics of brown and grey. I think their heads had been crafted into papier-mache pieces, with facial features painted on and these were attached to bodies framed from pipe cleaners. Around these figures, their clothing had been lovingly sewn and embroidered – right down to everyone’s shoes and the Magis’ gifts. Two wee white woolly sheep and a little brown donkey completed the montage. I can’t imagine how old those figures must be; maybe fifty, sixty years old? Or more? That Nativity scene – and Marion’s words – just took my breath away. It was a truly special moment; one I will never forget. It was a moment that made my heart sing and will make my Christmas of 2017 utterly memorable. Thank you Marion.
Glynis Dickins is the Pastoral Care Pastor at Rosanna Baptist Church, in the North-Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. She is passionate for writing about the wonderful people she has connected with throughout many years of ministry. She also writes short stories and published her first novel in 2014 through Ark House, who have just published her next novel.