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CHRISTMAS SPIRIT: Friends' generosity moves troubled Guyton mother
Santa Claus joins (from left) Tara Nance and her daughters, Hope, 14, Emma, 6 and Kala, 16, during a Dec. 11 visit.
Six-year-old Emma Nance gets a hug from Santa Claus (Mark Ahrens) at her home on Dec. 11.
It was a mighty, mighty blessing.
Tara Nance

GUYTON — The tears weren't unusual but their cause was different -- and welcome.

Tara Nance's perpetual heartache — she is still grieving the Oct. 12 death of her husband, Hugh — was interrupted by a visit from Santa Claus on Dec. 11. The fat man in the red suit delivered gifts for her and her three daughters in a show of good will that originated in the hearts of Crystal Higdon and her family.

"It was a mighty, mighty blessing," Nance said.

Nance and her girls were caught completely off guard when Santa and the Higdons showed up at their door bearing gifts.

 "It was quite a surprise," Nance said with a laugh. "Two of the kids were already dressed for bed and were in like t-shirts. We were like, 'We are not ready for this.'"

Among other items, six-year-old Emma Nance received Christmas socks and Byrd's cookies. 

"She was very happy and that is what I wanted to do," Higdon said. "She was so excited."

After receiving a notebook, Emma immediately wrote on the first page, "I love my daddy."

Emma's sisters Hope, 14, and Kala, 16, received baskets loaded with bath and body items.

Santa may have given the best gift in his bag to Nance.

"He gave me the best hug, and I needed it," she said, her voice quaking with emotion. "He whispered in my ear, 'God bless you. I am praying for you and your family. This is the least we could do.' "

The role of Santa was filled by Mark Ahrens. Nance considers his comforting words priceless.

"That will be a forever memory," she said. "He just blessed us tremendously and we are just so very thankful for the Higdons. They have embraced our family and been precious."

Nance appreciates the support of other area families, too. She and her husband moved here two years ago after spending the previous 15 years in Florida. He transferred here as a Benjamin Moore employee.

"Guyton has just been a blessing," she said. "For people to go out of their way for almost total strangers, it gives you hope. You know that the Lord is in control of all things and still mighty on the scene."

Nance has had much more on her mind lately than the loss of her husband. Hope had a brain tumor removed in January and recent tests indicate it might be returning.

"She's either going to have to undergo another brain surgery or go through eight to 10 weeks of radiation — or both," Nance said. "I'm praying that the next MRI (in January) will show that it's just scar tissue. It's awful — it really is — but I know God didn't bring her this far for nothing."

Higdon is thrilled that — through Santa's brief appearance — Nance was able to finally be on the receiving end of something other than bad news and anguish.

"It was wonderful," Higdon said. "It was a great experience."