She never saw him again. Later she heard that he had died in a concentration camp.
“I have always felt that it was my fault—to leave without him,” she said. “Perhaps these years of wandering have been my punishment!”
The pastor tried to comfort her, urged her to take the cloth with her. She refused. Then she went away.
As the church began to fill on Christmas Eve, it was clear that the cloth was going to be a great success. It had been skillfully designed to look its best by candlelight.
After the service, the pastor stood at the doorway; many people told him that the church looked beautiful. One gentle-faced, middle-aged man—he was the local clock-and-watch repairman—looked rather puzzled.
“It is strange,” he said in his soft accent. “Many years ago, my wife—God rest her—and I owned such a cloth. In our home in Vienna, my wife put it on the table”—and here he smiled—“only when the bishop came to dinner!”
The pastor suddenly became very excited. He told the jeweler about the woman who had been in church earlier in the day.
The startled jeweler clutched the pastor’s arm. “Can it be? Does she live?”
Together the two got in touch with the family who had interviewed her. Then, in the pastor’s car, they started for the city. And as Christmas Day was born, this man and his wife—who had been separated through so many saddened Yuletides—were reunited.
To all who heard this story, the joyful purpose of the storm that had knocked a hole in the wall of the church was now quite clear. Of course, people said it was a miracle, but I think you will agree it was the season for it!
“The Gold & Ivory Tablecloth” is one of 38 uplifting tales in the Reader’s Digest Treasury of Joy and Inspiration. This collector’s item features editors’ selections of our most powerful true stories, miracles, and dramas in real life, including works by Christopher Reeve, James Michener, and Billy Crystal. To learn more or buy a copy, go to readersdigest.com/joy.