It was Christmastime. In a home with my parents, five brothers and me, it was a busy time. My mother had received a beautiful handmade porcelain nativity from my Grandmother Lloyd. The pieces were delicate and my mother would place them on her mantle as a reminder of the reason for the season, the Savior’s birth. Under each piece, my mother would place a small light that was attached to a string of lights. They would light up the mantle and make it glow, seeming to a young child like a piece of heaven.
One night, close to Christmas, the house got a little rowdy. My younger brother, David, who must have only been about 4-years-old at the time, was running around, perhaps being chased by an older sibling. In the midst of the chase, David ran behind the chair next to the mantle and caught the cord of the string of lights with his foot. Suddenly, there was a crash, and the delicate nativity pieces shot down from the mantle onto the brick below, many shattering into tiny pieces. My mother, hearing the sound, and seeing the seemingly irreparable damage, went to her room in tears where she stayed for the rest of the night. She knew it was an accident. She knew that her young son had no ill intent, but the damage was done.
Unbeknownst to her, after the children had gone to bed, my father stayed up. He gathered all the pieces, and painstakingly glued them back together, as best he could. He stayed up all night putting the broken pieces back in place, some of them merely splinters of glass. There are still some scars on the nativity as a reminder of that night. The cow is missing an ear. One wise man has a piece missing in his face. One shepherd was nearly splintered apart. But, miraculously, the broken pieces were mended.
My Grandmother, who was still living at the time, offered to make my mother a new set: a new, perfect nativity. But, my mother refused. Now the gift given by Grandmother meant even more: it was a symbol of the innocence of childhood, and the devotion of one loving husband.
This year, my mother let me put up the nativity in her home. We put it in a safer place, and didn’t put the lights underneath each piece. As I put up the set, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the lessons learned from that night decades ago. I remembered my own Grandmother, her kind and giving heart. I remembered the innocence of childhood, symbolized by a 4-year-old boy. I remembered my father, who out of love, not only mended some broken porcelain pieces, but also my mother’s broken heart.
The final piece that my mother places in the nativity is the statue of the resurrected Savior, His hands outreaching over the imperfect, yet irreplaceable porcelain pieces. So, this year, I realized there is a greater message in the story. For me, it has now become a reminder of a loving Savior. Through this life, each of us becomes broken in some way. Sometimes we feel our hearts will fail us (D&C 88:91). We feel down, depressed, and overwhelmed by the tasks set before us. Sometimes we feel shattered to irreparable pieces. Perhaps, it seems, that there is nothing left to do but melt to tears. But, there is our Savior, His hands outreaching to each of us, staying up on those seemingly never ending dark nights. He can put us back together. We can become whole through Him.
In 3 Nephi, we hear the Savior’s words:
And he said unto them: “Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you. Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them…” 3 Nephi 17:6-7
So today is my mother’s birthday. In honor of her, I am sharing this story. She has promised me this nativity one day. It has taught me much. I will never forget what I learned about the love of my father for her. And now, every Christmas, I will be reminded of the ability we all have to become whole again, from the hands of a loving Father, through the hands of His perfect Son.
I love you, Mom. Happy birthday.