Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

December 18, 2016


Christmas memories help us remember and rejoice


            I had a good time in Auburn Tuesday night sharing a meal with some old friends and making some new friends.  My friend Earl Norton invited me to speak at a Methodist dinner about my Christmas memories. Not having a message on that subject, I invited my wife Dean for help.

          She suggested I begin with our engagement which occurred while I was a student at Auburn University. So, with her incredible memory’s assistance, I went back in time. It was a journey down memory lane that began in Montgomery, Alabama on Christmas Eve, 1951.

Dean and I had met in the first grade in Wetumpka. She lived in town; I lived in the country. We became sweethearts during our teen years and finished high school together in 1950. We continued dating on weekends after I went off to Auburn and she began working in Montgomery.

 On Christmas Eve in 1951 our deepening commitment to each other led us to Klein & Son Jewelers in downtown Montgomery. Inside we asked to look at wedding rings. Dean was quite shy back then so she insisted on pretending to be my sister. As the jeweler showed us wedding rings, I would ask Dean, “Do you think she would like this one?” All the while the jeweler kept showing us some very expensive rings.

Finally, I admitted to the jeweler that I had only $200 to spend. My total assets at the moment amounted to less than $300. Surprisingly patient, the man pulled out a small solitaire diamond ring priced at $200. Dean smiled and said my sweetheart would love it. So I bought it and a twenty-dollar wedding band for myself.

Years later I discovered the story Jesus told of the poor woman who put all the money she had in the offering plate and Jesus said, “She has done what she could.” That night I did all I could; it was the best I could do. The good news is that the shy young lady did accept the ring and has now worn it for nearly 65 years! She has lost it twice but I found it both times – once in the trash and once in the yard. Convinced me that God wanted her to have this particular ring I decided not to replace it with a more expensive diamond. The truth is, Dean has always insisted that the original ring was all she wanted.

After buying the ring we celebrated with a great dinner – hamburgers and shakes at a drive-in – and then went to my home to show the ring to my parents. Dean remembers my Dad saying: “I hope you will always be as happy as you are tonight.”

Later that night we ran into our friends Annella Rowell and Johnnie Trobaugh at an ice cream parlor in Wetumpka. When Dean showed them her ring, Annella said, “I got one too – tonight!” Like me, Johnnie felt called to the ministry so we decided to go tell our pastor about our engagements. 

By now it was almost 11:00 o’clock but we knocked on the parsonage door anyway. The pastor, Griffin Lloyd, came to the door in his pajamas. When Dean and Annella showed him their rings, he said, without much enthusiasm, “That’s nice.” He finally did invite us in. We asked where his wife Kathleen was. He said, “In the bed,” but he woke her up so she too could share our joy.

Many years later, after Griffin had died too soon at age 45, Kathleen lived in Auburn and we lived in Opelika. Dean and I reached out to Kathleen in her last days as she suffered terribly, physically and emotionally. Her sadness was heartbreaking to us for it was Griffin who had married us in Wetumpka on June 1, 1952.

Griffin and Kathleen are gone now but we remember them and rejoice, giving thanks for their example, their love, and the difference they made in our lives.

Christmas is a grand time to let our memories prompt us to remember people who impacted our lives in helpful ways and rejoice that their love added meaning and joy to our lives.

Remember and rejoice. Two words that suggest a way to discover the deeper meaning of Christmas that can help us make it through the stress of this holiday season. + + +