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Christmas Eve visit from mysterious stranger lifts sadness

Editor’s note: Salisbury resident Wilbur K. Boltz wrote this story about 30 years ago. It was inspired by a story his mother told about her baby brother, who died close to Christmas. Boltz has changed the age and sex of the child, but the rest he says is directly from his mother’s story.

By Wilbur K. Boltz

This is a Christmas story, a little different from the usual, but meant for Christmas anyway.

There was a little girl named Ann who was just 12 years old. Ann was a bright and cheerful girl, well-liked by her school friends and adored by her mother.

Her father had died in a train accident when Ann was just 5 years old, but she remembered a tall, strong man who could bring joy and laughter to the house and who could make the whole room smile.

Mary was Ann’s mother, and after her husband’s death, she had to go to work in order to support herself and Ann. She found a job with old Doctor King as a housekeeper. Dr. King was understanding and helpful during the years Mary worked for him, and Ann had learned to call him Uncle Matt.

Life was kind to all, for all the years were passing with untold swiftness and happiness. This year, however, everything changed. Ann came home from school one day with a fever and a pain in her arms and legs. Mary put Ann to bed at once and sent a message to Dr. King to come quickly. The look on Ann’s face indicated something more serious than a cold.

When Dr. King arrived, he went to Ann’s room and, pulling a chair next to the bed, he asked Ann how she felt. She smiled a little and explained to Uncle Matt about the pain in her arms and legs. Uncle Matt took her temperature, listened to her heart and tested the degree of pain in her arms. After a thorough check, he patted her arm, assured her everything was all right and left the room to talk to Ann’s mother.

In quiet conversation, he told Mary that Ann was a very sick girl and would require a long convalescence.

As Thanksgiving came and went, Ann grew progressively worse, and just two days before Christmas, Ann died.

Mary was heartbroken at the loss of Ann, and even Dr. King could do nothing to console her grief.

As was the custom of the time, Ann was laid to rest in an oaken casket. Then Ann was brought home, and the parlor was set up to receive friends and relatives.

The first day, there was an endless stream of people that came to pay their respects to Ann and say a silent prayer.

Mary felt as if her world had ended, and even though she received all the friends personally, her thoughts were not of the people around her but of her lost daughter.

The second day being the day before Christmas, the number of friends coming to visit was greatly reduced, and in the evening only a few remained.

Dr. King, the Rev. Fuller and a few more close friends had agreed to stay and try to ease the pain and loneliness in Mary’s heart.

Around 7 o’clock it started snowing, and by 8 the ground was completely covered with a blanket of white. The sky cleared, stars appeared and the moon radiated a light as bright as anyone could remember.

Everything was quiet in the room, then there was a quiet knock on the door. Dr. King, seeming a little startled at the noise, crossed the room and opened the door. A tall young man stood there with his hat in his hand. He spoke quietly with Dr. King a minute and then entered the room.

He spoke briefly with each person in the room except Mary. Removing his overcoat, he laid it on a chair, crossed the room and knelt before Ann. Closing his eyes and bowing his head, he remained there for about five minutes. He arose slowly and walked to the chair in which Mary was sitting. Taking her hand into both of his, he began to talk in a very low and calm voice. In fact, he spoke so low, nobody else in the room could hear what he was saying.

After a while, to everyone’s amazement, Mary began to smile and a look of complete tranquility came over her face.

The young man released her hand, said good night to Mary, put on his overcoat and left.

Dr. King, the Reverend Fuller and all the others were completely mystified at the change in Mary. One asked the other, and after exchanging their own thoughts, they found out that nobody in the room knew the young man.

Dr. King and Reverend Fuller decided that they would like to talk further to this man who could bring such contentment to a woman with such grief as Mary.

Grabbing their coats, they swung open the door and started out, but stopped suddenly. They looked first at the porch and then to the walkway. Although the snow had stopped before the young man’s visit, there were no footprints in the snow. Leaving the porch, they looked in all directions; nothing was to be seen. They started back toward the house, but something compelled them to look toward the heavens. There, directly above the house was the largest and brightest star that either had ever seen.

This is my Christmas story to you.

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