Monday, November 7, 2011

The Johnny Nesbitt Story

I have been thinking about my grandfather a lot lately. He passed away in 1999 from Parkinson's disease. I recently did a report on the disease for school and so my grandfather has been on my mind, and recently I was asked to do a presentation at our church for enrichment night about traditions during Christmastime. The main tradition that we did every year was on Christmas eve, we would listen to the Johnny Nesbitt Story. 
In 1991 my grandpa Welker told us a story, that was recorded on tape. We listened to that story every Christmas eve for as long as I could remember. And although I would love to have a copy of that tape, to hear his voice, and the conviction of his story, all I have is a copy of the story. 
The Johnny Nesbitt Story 
Told by Sherman R. Welker   
December 1991 
Whenever I hear the first Christmas carols of each Christmas season, my thoughts go back to the year 1933 to a small town in Idaho where I was a student in the second grade. We lived about a mile from the school and had the privilege of walking to and from as there were no buses at that time. 
The Nesbitt family lived in the same part of town, and consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Nesbitt and their two children, Delores age five and Johnny age seven, who was my classmate. Johnny and I were good friends and daily walked to school together. His sister Delores was usually there to meet us as we arrived home in the afternoon. I remember her as a very pretty little girl with long blonde hair, which her mother fixed in ringlets, and they bounced on her shoulders as skipped down the walk to greet us. During the early fall of that year Delores became sick and the Nesbitt’s worse fears were realized, when she diagnosed with Infantile Paralysis. Commonly known today as Poliomyelitis. This was a dreaded disease in those days that effected many children. It was usually fatal when it attacked the muscles of the respiratory system as it did in the case of Delores, and she passed away quietly just before Thanksgiving time. The Nesbitt family was devastated at the loss of Delores and Johnny was especially saddened for he loved her very much. 
           Johnny was an exceptional young boy, very intelligent and gifted in many ways. He was a class leader in school and well liked by all his classmates. He loved to sing and was blessed with a clear tenor voice. During music or singing practice, Miss Gifford, our teacher, allowed us to double up and sit together and I was privileged to sit with Johnny. I enjoyed hearing him sing and when he returned to school following Delores’ funeral we were beginning to sing Christmas carols. 
One morning, early in December, Johnny was not at his front gate to meet me as I walked to school. His mother came down the walk and told me Johnny would not be in school that day and as the days of December rolled on, Johnny did not return to school and the rumor spread that he was suffering from the same disease that took Delores. During Christmas vacation, a day or two prior to Christmas, Miss Gifford got a group of Johnny’s classmates together to visit the Newbitt house to sing carols and to cheer Johnny up. 
I remember the evening vividly. It was snowing lightly as gathered beneath Johnny’s upstairs bedroom window. We sang several songs before his window was opened, and his father propped him up so he could see us. I remember his pale little face as he smiled and greeted his classmates. The last carol we sang was Silent Night and as we did so I could hear Johnny’s sweet tenor voice as he joined in to sing with us. Late at night on Christmas Eve Johnny Newbitt joined his sister Delores. His last words to his father, in whose arms he died, were these, “Daddy, I can see Delores, she is coming to meet met. Please daddy remember my classmates at Christmastime.” There were about eighteen students in Johnny’s second grade class and each year until we finished high school we were each given a gift or sent a greeting from his parents in remembrance of Johnny Newbitt. 
Though fifty eight years have passed since that memorable Christmas I still ponder this in my heart. Here was a boy who had not yet reached the age of accountability, but had found the true spirit of Christmas in his heart. 
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

1 sweet thoughts:

Callie Stewart said...

Wow, I just read this and it made me cry. What a sweet story. Thanks for sharing.