Wrapped in My Mother’s Love
When I was about three or four years old, my mother was the ward Relief Society president. Part of her responsibility, it seemed, was to always have a quilt in progress in our home. Sisters would filter in and out of our basement at any given time to quilt for a while. Often my mother would thread a needle for me and let me “quilt” with the sisters (my clumsy stitches were patiently removed when I was not around). I relished these moments and learned at a young age to love the quilting bee and the Relief Society.
My mother suddenly died when I was only five. It wasn’t until years later that I found she had left me a great gift of love. The Christmas of my 19th year is one I will always remember, for that was when I received this most precious gift from my mother, although she had passed away 14 years before.
Unbeknownst to me, before my mother died she had pieced together two special quilts from swatches of fabric, one for my older brother and one for me. Unfortunately, she passed away before they could be completed.
When I turned 19, my older sister felt it was time to complete the quilts for my brother and me and asked a ward Relief Society to finish them. These sisters sewed the intricate stitches without knowing how much it would have pleased my mother.
When I received the quilt on Christmas Day, I loved the gift with all my heart, but I had no idea how much more it would yet come to mean to me.
Years went by, and I married and started a family of my own. I kept my quilt wrapped in a plastic bag in a drawer for fear something would happen to it. One day I took it out and was carefully admiring it when one of my little boys came into the room and asked me where I got the quilt. I explained to him that his Grandma Brown had made the quilt for me before she died.
“Who is Grandma Brown?” my young son asked.
How it pained me that my children had never known the mother whom I cherished, that she was not able to put her arms around them and tell them she loved them in her tender, gentle way. I explained to my son once again that Grandma Brown, my mother, was someone special in heaven who loved him.
“Why do you have that quilt, Mommy?” he asked.
Suddenly it came to me. I knew exactly why I had the quilt. I unfolded it and wrapped it around his little body.
“I have this quilt so Grandma Brown can give you hugs even though she is in heaven,” I said.
A big smile spread across his face, and I could see that this was the best answer I could have given him. Since that time the quilt has made its way out of the drawer much more often. Whenever a family member is hurt, sad, or in need of extra love, the quilt is a great source of comfort. To me, it is still the greatest gift I could ask for. I love touching the quilt, knowing my mother’s hands have touched it also.
Many years have passed, and I can now quilt correctly. My sisters and I have spent many hours around quilting frames talking about our mother. Since I am the youngest, my sisters tell me stories about her to help me know her better. Yet no matter how many stories I hear, nothing has helped me or my children turn our hearts to my mother more than the quilt I got for Christmas the year I turned 19.
The Gift My Father Gave Me
For many of us, one Christmas stands out above all the others. I am now a great-grandmother, but I shall never forget a particular Christmas when I was a young child.
I was one of 14 children in my family, and we lived in a farming town. We were very poor as far as worldly goods are concerned, though I didn’t know it then. A family in our town was even poorer than we were. Their mother had died, and the father was working away from home, leaving the older children to care for the younger ones.
On this particular Christmas, after we had opened our gifts, my father spoke to us of this motherless family and how they might not receive Christmas gifts as we had. He suggested that each of us choose one of our new gifts to be placed in a box, along with food and other goodies, to be taken to this family.
I had three presents—a doll, a necklace, and an article of clothing. What a hard decision it was for me! I needed the clothing and I wanted the doll badly, but the necklace was so pretty and sparkly. After a time, I reluctantly dropped the necklace into the box.
It was dark on Christmas night when Dad buttoned our coats and placed all of us in our horse-drawn sleigh. We left the box on the doorstep of this family, with no indication of the giver.
The next Sunday, I saw the necklace around the neck of a girl my age from that family. She excitedly told me that Santa had left a box of gifts for them on Christmas night. Of course, my parents had sworn us to secrecy. Dad had told us that giving anonymously was the best part of giving. But at my young age I can’t say it felt that good to see what had been my necklace on someone else’s neck.
Though it wasn’t an easy lesson then, I now realize the great impact this experience has had on my life. As a child I thought my father was asking me to give up a gift, but later I understood that he was actually giving me one of the most precious gifts I’ve ever received. I think of how much he must have loved me, to teach me that loving someone is far more important than having something. My father’s showing his love in this way has helped me understand the love of our Heavenly Father, who presented us the greatest gift of all when He gave His only begotten Son.
A White Christmas in Ecuador
As a new missionary experiencing my first Christmas away from home, I was anxious to see what the holiday would be like where I was serving in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Being so near the equator, I knew we would not be having a white Christmas like those I was accustomed to. As other thoughts of home, turkey, games, lights, and caroling flashed through my mind, I soon began to sense a need for the familiar feeling of Christmas in my unfamiliar surroundings.
My companion and I felt a renewed urgency and responsibility to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to make the Christmas season more meaningful. One day we were given a warm welcome at the humble home of Señor Torres. He told us he’d been waiting and praying for the truth for eight years. For two months, my companion and I had passed by his house daily without stopping. Brother Torres told us later, “I always wanted to stop you to ask about your church, but you were always walking so fast that I thought you were too busy for me.” Prayers had been answered. We began teaching Señor Torres and his family with great joy.
Christmas day drew nearer, and we could hardly wait to see this family as we quietly approached their home for our fourth visit. Before we knocked on the door, we saw through the window a scene that touched our hearts.
Beauty emanated from all around the family as their loving dark eyes, rosy cheeks, and soft innocent faces glowed in the dimly lit room. Beneath a two-foot artificial tree on a table in the corner of the room lay the miniature figures of a nativity scene, telling the story of a small family in a stable.
Now, centuries after the nativity, the Torres family, in similarly humble circumstances, sat around an old table. Two young girls leaned anxiously over their mother’s shoulder as she read the book we had given her, Gospel Principles. The eldest child, eight-year-old Victor, was seated across from his mother, watching attentively as his father played “Silent Night” on an old rusty xylophone.
Then Victor saw us and ran to greet us. The family seemed embarrassed until we joined in and sang along in their language. Next they asked us to sing “Silent Night” in English; then we all sang the hymn again in Spanish. That event marked the start of a precious Christmas memory I’ll never forget.
Sister Torres told us she hadn’t felt like celebrating Christmas until we started to share the gospel with her family in their home. Then pictures of Christ, Christmas music, and the nativity scene had been brought from their place in her cupboards, where they had been collecting dust for the past three years. The true Christmas spirit had been restored as we presented the gospel message. As servants of Jesus Christ, testifying in His name, we had helped to bring Him back into a family’s Christmas.
On the third week of December, Christmas seemed complete as I watched Brother and Sister Torres and Victor, all dressed in white, enter the waters of baptism and become members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My companion turned to me and whispered, “Looks like it’s a white Christmas after all.” I thought to myself, “What better Christmas could anyone ever ask for?”
She Brought Light
It has been many years since my husband, Ken, was released from the Air Force and we moved to Provo, Utah, so he could attend Brigham Young University. Prior to our move, Ken had traveled to Provo, purchased a mobile home, and arranged to have it set up on a lot and the utilities turned on when we moved in.
We arrived in Provo on a cold December night. All our belongings were packed in the back of a rental truck. Our nerves were on edge from the tiring trip. Six months pregnant, I was feeling the effects of cleaning, packing, and traveling; and our 15-month-old daughter, Shawna, was tired and crying.
A blast of cold air greeted us as we opened the door to our home. The electricity and water had been turned on, but for some reason the natural gas had not. Too exhausted to do anything else, we put a mattress on the floor with an electric blanket to keep us warm and tried to sleep with our daughter between us. She ended up crying most of the night, so when morning came we were almost as tired as when we had gone to bed.
After we unloaded the truck, Ken left to return it, check with the gas company, and arrange for a phone to be installed. I dressed Shawna in her snowsuit and placed her in her high chair with a few toys while I started to unpack the boxes.
When I unpacked our electric frying pan, I decided to heat water in it to wash out the cupboards. As I turned on the faucet of the kitchen sink, the faucet came off and water shot up into the air. I tried to turn off the water valve under the sink but could not get it to turn. Frantically, I searched for the water shutoff valve for the house. By the time I found it, the kitchen and living room were flooded.
As I desperately started moving boxes out of the water, Shawna sensed my panic and began to scream. Carrying her with one arm, I continued to try to lift boxes with the other.
It was then that I started into premature labor. Now I was truly panicked. I didn’t know anyone in the neighborhood, and I didn’t even have a phone to call for help. Desperately I prayed, “Heavenly Father, please help me!”
I’ll never forget answering a knock that soon came at the door. The woman standing there was shivering, with soap suds up to her elbows. She introduced herself as Amalia Van Tassel, the branch Relief Society president, and told me the Spirit had sent her.
I would later learn that Amalia had been standing at her sink washing dishes when she felt prompted to check on the new family who had just moved in. Sensing an urgency, she called to her oldest daughter to watch her other children and, without even stopping to dry her hands or grab her coat, ran to my door.
Amalia made me lie down, comforted Shawna, cleaned up all she could, and invited our family to dinner. She brought light, safety, and comfort into that dark December day. Rest stopped my premature labor, Ken returned with the gas man and fixed the sink, and portable electric heaters dried the soaked carpet.
I have always been grateful to Heavenly Father for answering my prayer that day and for the loving sister who quickly followed the promptings of the Holy Spirit.