In the summer of 2008, Zeata Ruff decided it was time she acted on the prompting she had felt long ago.

While recovering from an illness at Mission Hospital in Asheville, around Christmas, she saw a life-sized Nativity scene created by students from UNC Asheville.

She and her husband, Jim, both artists, felt inspired by the beauty of the large-as-life Nativity, but didn’t know if they were up to the task of creating one themselves.

The following summer, Ruff felt a prompting from God to build a Nativity scene or else “It wouldn’t be done by Christmas,” she said.

The Mountaineer even published an article about the couple’s work of love and desire to share this beautiful piece of art with the community.

Fast forward to Nov. 22, 2020, where a small group of volunteers from Maggie Valley United Methodist Church were being directed by Ruff on how to assemble the more-than-10-foot-tall Nativity scene.

Her husband has since passed, but the work of putting up the Nativity for the whole community to appreciate continues.

After nearly two hours of hammering, sliding, adjusting and more, Ruff stood, hands clasped to her heart, adoring the work she and her husband began together a dozen years ago.

With volunteers gathered around, and tears in her eyes, Ruff warmly thanked everyone for taking the time to continue this work. She reminded those gathered that this was for the community of Maggie Valley, and she prayed they would be inspired by it like she was when she saw something similar from her hospital room.

She also noted that she does this in memory of Jim. It is an act of holding space, of remembering.

As Ruff continues to hold the space of her deceased husband each day, she does so by remembering and takes time to celebrate his life.

She tells the story of how they met after five years of sitting 5 feet apart every Sunday and never saying a word.

She gathers a group of friends each year and puts up something they worked on together — a Nativity scene for the whole community.

So this holiday season, light a candle, tell a story, go visit the life-size Nativity scene and remember loved ones — remember them well — something that ensures loved ones will never be forgotten.

The life-sized Nativity can be viewed at Maggie Valley United Methodist Church, 4192 Soco Road in Maggie Valley.

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