Letter from Wayne Peterson


Dear Editors,

The Christmas of 1944 was the first holiday I can remember. As a child of three, the preparations for Christmas all appeared so extravagant, but very welcome in an otherwise bleak, cold Wisconsin winter. On Christmas Eve I remember asking my mother what purpose this all served. I remember not understanding why so much effort was being made for someone's birthday. However, while my mother arranged the small Italian statues of the holy family with figures for the manger scene under the Christmas tree, she explained, as best she could to a three-year-old, that the Christchild's birth was to remember how God came to earth as a human. When I asked if Christ would come and visit us by Christmas day, she pointed to the stars and explained that Christ had died and gone to His father in the sky.

This explanation made me curious as to the nature of God and I pondered as best a child could this theme while playing with the little statues and occasionally biting the head off a lamb or shepherd. Little did I know at that time that the lovely statue of Mary in blue and white would come to life for me on the Easter that followed.

I remember being taken to the doctor located in the nearby city of Shawano on several occasions after Christmas, since I had not been well. Each time the family doctor found nothing unusual. It was not until Good Friday, a week after my fourth birthday, that I began to have a pain in my stomach and complained to my mother. She placed me on the living room sofa and went into our large country kitchen to serve supper to my older sister and father. I could hear them talking as I lay looking at the ceiling, but soon I heard another unique sound on the second floor. It was not footsteps, but rather the swishing sound that a silk or satin fabric makes as it is rubbed against itself. Each measured step with the swishing sound came closer to the open stair-well that descended along the far wall of the living room. As the swishing of the fabric came nearer and louder, I wondered how I could not have known we had a house guest. My parents said nothing of a visitor. Yet, clearly there was someone about to descend the stairs.

From my position on the sofa I had a clear view of the entire stairway. Near the ceiling where the uppermost step entered the second floor hall came a white slipper, shimmering like silk. Around it came the same white silken dress that covered everything but the slipper. Step by step this unusual flowing gown descended the stairs until I could see everything to just above the waist. At that point the young lady bent forward until she could face me directly. Strangely, she knew exactly where I was in the room and looked directly at me with a warm friendly smile while continuing down the stairs. I was fascinated by the clothing she wore. It was so different from what my mother or her friends wore. Half way down the stairs I became aware that the blue veil covering the back of the head and flowing down to the hem of the dress was identical to the one worn by the Christmas statue of Mary. In fact it was identical in all ways that I could remember.

As she walked across the living room toward me I began to sense that this was no ordinary house guest but in fact must be the real Mary, mother of the Christ child, the baby Jesus of the Christmas decorations. She kneeled beside me and asked why I was so sad. I was thinking about the things I could say when She replied that She understood. I realized that She could hear my thoughts and I was told that I could hear Hers. She immediately proceeded to tell me that I was in grave danger. I was told that I must visit the doctor before the night was over or it would be too late and She would have to return for me. She asked if I understood what this meant. I understood that I would not be able to come home again. She confirmed I was correct. She said the choice was mine. She was so beautiful, so loving and understanding that after a moment's thought I declared it was my intention to go with her. She laughed softly and explained that my parents and sister loved me and they would be very sad to have me taken away. I nevertheless persisted in my intention to go with Her later that night.

I noted something like frustration on Her part at my decision. Her eyes rolled toward the ceiling and She was quiet for a moment. As She looked back down toward me Her expression appeared more serious. She said: "I am going to tell you a secret that few now know. If you stay with your family, you will see the Christ because He will come to live with the people of the world." Excitedly, I attempted to sit up as I asked: "When, when will He come?" Again She laughed and carefully pushed me back down on my pillow and said: "You must remain still." She told me that I would be older, an adult perhaps, but He would come and I would be one of the first to see Him and recognize Him. I was now convinced that my life could be interesting beyond my immediate understanding.

Her work with me now began. She told me how I had to go to the hospital as soon as possible. I would have to convince my parents that it was an emergency. I knew the doctor and his office but I did not know a hospital. Knowing my ignorance, She told me exactly what to say to my parents and in addition told me what they would say in reply. For each of their statements on this topic She had a ready reply that I had to memorize. I had to repeat to Her each sentence She taught me three times. Eventually She appeared satisfied that I was prepared for my encounter with my parents. She promised to have the family doctor at the hospital waiting. She made it clear that I should have no fear, all would be well. She kissed my forehead and pulled the blanket up around my neck, reminding me to stay warm. As She departed, She walked in front of the open door to the kitchen where my family was eating yet they did not notice Her. She then passed through the green curtains that closed off the living room from the adjacent room. When I saw that, even as a child of four, I knew She was exceptional.

My parents did exactly what She said they would do and said what She said they would say. It was like living the same moment twice. My father finally agreed to call the doctor at his office even though it was late afternoon on Good Friday and almost everything in our small town was closed. Much to my father's surprise, the doctor was in and requested that we go directly to the hospital since he had an emergency case there. My swollen appendix was removed just as it was about to rupture. I awoke at the first sign of light on Easter Sunday morning. Not only did Mary save my life, She also kept Her promise that I would see the Christ when He reappeared among the people on earth. For this I am grateful.

Wayne Peterson, Henderson, Nevada, USA.

( Share International, October 1997 )








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