She Dreaded the First Christmas After Her Husband’s Death. Then, an Unexpected Guest Changed Everything.

"An incredible peace came over me, and I felt the love of God and family in a new way."

01-she-dreaded-the-first-christmas-frlFarm and Ranch Living Magazine

I didn’t feel like celebrating. My husband had died not long before, and even the significance of Christmas failed to bring peace to my broken heart. Memories flooded over me; we’d shared 50 years of holidays together. A few days before Christmas, my son, Jeff, said, “Let’s do something different this year—let’s have Christmas in the barn.”

On Christmas Eve, I loaded a few presents into my car and drove to Jeff’s house, near Mount Vernon, Ohio. Farmhouses along the way were decorated with lights; evergreen trees were heavy with snow.

Standing on the town squares were handmade nativity scenes of varying degrees of craftsmanship, reminders of the true meaning of Christmas. I turned onto a dirt road, then onto the long driveway leading to the Amish-built log house perched high on a hill. The yard was cluttered with vehicles; the rest of the family had already arrived.

I was greeted with hugs and quickly noticed the fresh tree in the living room, the smell of cinnamon, and treats on a red tablecloth. I silently thanked God for sending a daughter-in-law who could cook.

Our normally noisy family was somber this Christmas. It was the first time we’d been together since my husband’s funeral.

03-she-dreaded-the-first-christmas-frlFarm and Ranch Living Magazine

My son pulled on his jacket and gloves, ready to leave. “I’m going to get Tom,” he said.

Puzzled, one of my grandsons asked, “Tom who?”

“Tom Floyd,” Jeff said. “He’s at the truck stop.”

None of us were in the mood for company. I’d met Tom before, but I had little recollection of the great-nephew who was about to intrude on our gathering.

“Tom’s been on the road a long time,” Jeff said. “He’d hoped to get home to Texas but ran out of time. He remembered that we lived around here, so he got our number from the kinfolks. I can’t let him sleep in his truck on Christmas Eve.”

When they returned, Tom looked a bit embarrassed to have barged in on our holiday. I gave him a hug, introducing myself as his grandfather’s sister. Soon, Tom’s down-home manner and clever storytelling had us feeling as if we’d known him forever. Merriment settled upon us, and we truly enjoyed our newfound relative.

After supper, we climbed onto a flatbed trailer attached to a big tractor and wrapped our blankets around us. Laughter echoed down the bumpy drive. Moonlight on the snow illuminated horses and cows as they watched from across the fence. At the bottom of the hill, we made our way into the barn, where a charming scene greeted us.

02-she-dreaded-the-first-christmas-frlFarm and Ranch Living Magazine

Bales of hay sat in a semicircle, in front of which were a stack of three hay bales, a lantern and an open Bible. The room was cozy and the smell of hay was sweet. We sat on the bales and my son walked to the front. “Dad always read the Christmas story to us on Christmas Eve,” he said. “I want to continue that tradition.”

He picked up the Bible, and in the warm glow of the lantern light, he read from the book of Luke.

The sound of my son reading that beloved Scripture in our humble setting transported me to the stable in Bethlehem. Two horses whose curiosity led them into the paddock broke my reverie. A fence separated them from us, but they watched and made gentle sounds while shaking their massive heads. Jeff said a prayer of thanksgiving, and his wife poured hot chocolate for each of us. An incredible peace came over me, and I felt the love of God and family in a new way.

04-she-dreaded-the-first-christmas-frlFarm and Ranch Living Magazine

The next morning, we went to church, and afterward we enjoyed the meal my daughter-in-law had prepared. We’d not had a chance to buy anything for Tom, but each of us wrangled up gifts for him despite his protests. He visited awhile, then said he’d better get going; he still had a long way to travel.

My daughter-in-law packed leftovers for him, which he happily accepted. He struggled to thank us, saying it was the best Christmas he had ever had. We told him truthfully that the pleasure had been ours.

Every Christmas, we hope Tom will show up again. So far, he hasn’t, but the Bible says we may entertain angels unaware. Our angel was a stranded long-distance truck driver wearing a scruffy coat and bill cap, cheering us with homespun stories in a soft Texas drawl.

Popular Videos

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest