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‘Christmas I Remember Best’: How an owl pendant became a symbol of God’s love

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A simple gift of Christmas love touched the hearts of two strangers.

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By Barbara K Dutson

This is the eighth of 10 winners in the Deseret News annual Christmas writing contest, “Christmas I Remember Best.”

My husband and I serve a hosting service mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and by the Salt Lake Temple where brides have their pictures taken on Temple Square. We meet people from all over the world and locally. We have opportunity to tell them about the two buildings; take them on tours of the “Old Hotel Utah” and at times share our testimonies. We have made some very close friends.

I have been treasuring some mini-miracles I’ve been receiving as of late, and humbly requested of God on my mission day if he would please give me another sweet, tender experience.

He told me, “Watch carefully. Be aware of everything around you.” I met wonderful people outside by the temple, people coming to buy at the Giving Machines in the lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, and I visited with some of my co-hosts. Each were special and beautiful.

My third hour position was the Legacy Theater exit. When I was asked to replace a host on the entrance side to start the films the last hour, I thought, “Barb, it doesn’t appear that your ‘gift’ will happen today. You won’t have ‘people’ contact in the theater.”

On my way to the entrance side I greeted a woman loaded down with several bags. “How are you?” I asked. She said that she was tired. I said, “Is it from coming down here?” I chuckled.

“No, I’m a genealogist and I’ve been doing documents for the last two days. I love ‘Mr. Krueger’s Christmas.’ I watched that every Christmas growing up. I can rest in there.” Then she said, looking at the owl pendant on the crocheted vest my daughter had made me years ago, “Oh I love your owl. Would you mind if I got a closer look at it?

“It is so beautiful. It reminds me of something very special to me. I use to live in Virginia when my son died. We buried him in the cemetery by his brother a block from our house. Waking in the wee morning hours, I would open my window and could hear a hoot owl which brought me peace and tranquility. I went for walks in the cemetery trying to spot the owl. As I passed the boys’ graves I saw him! He was beautiful! I thanked him for watching over my boys and staying up all night to protect these children of mine. While staring at me, he blinked his big black eyes and looked right toward Luke’s grave and then back at me. I knew that he understood me.”

I tearfully told her, “I have lost two children also.” We walked to the theater.

As I watched these moving films about sharing, serving others, and comforting those who are sad, the Spirit whispered to me, “Give her your pendant.” I touched my owl and thought, ‘My daughter gave it to me. It means a lot.’” The Spirit whispered again. “She needs it more.”

I fumbled in the darkened theater to unpin it without snagging my crocheted vest. My heart was pounding. I only had a minute before needing to start the next film. I hurried to her and said, “Give me your hands.”

She looked inquisitively at me, and held her cupped hands out to me. I placed the owl in them. She stared in unbelief. “I can’t possibly take this from you!”

I held her head and kissed her and whispered, “I know, and yes you can take it. This owl means something very tender and special to you.” She cried. I kissed her head again. “Take it. Take care of it and hold it sacred to you as a memory. You were sent to me today.”

She whispered back, “I was drawn to you today in the lobby!” (Three hours prior!)

She stood and hugged me tightly. We both cried.

I knew inside that yes, God had given me the experience that I’d asked for and it had meant me giving to another. Just before the movie ended, the Spirit said, “Go get her contact information.” I did, and a picture with her, too!” 

She pointed to her chest where she had pinned the owl pendant. She hugged me so tightly. We felt the Savior’s arms around us. 

We have already contacted each other and she wrote me her version of our experience. These are her words:

“When you placed the owl in my hands, I knew my two sons were there and that God had given them permission to visit me, a humble mother, as a Christmas gift of love from them, and I felt God’s love for even such as I, through the act of an earthly angel.”

Barbara Dutson lives in West Jordan.