Catholic Free Press

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  • Nov
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Mother, daughter share special bond

Posted By November 14, 2014 | 3:40 pm | Featured Article #2
Photo courtesy of Martha Liddy
Tammi Novia, center, shares her 40th birthday with her Aunt Mo and Aunt Deb and many friends at the St. Mary Parish Center.
Photo courtesy of Martha Liddy Tammi Novia, center, shares her 40th birthday with her Aunt Mo and Aunt Deb and many friends at the St. Mary Parish Center.

By Christina Galeone
CFP Correspondent

Tammi Novia joyfully carries the cross for many Masses at St. Mary Parish in Jefferson. Her mom, Anna Nelson, said that someone once asked her daughter if she was afraid of carrying the cross so high. Mrs. Nelson said, “She turns and looks at them. She said, ‘I’m not carrying it alone.’ She said ‘Jesus is walking right next to me …’”
On All Saints’ Day, Miss Novia – a Jefferson resident with Down syndrome – celebrated 40 years of walking with, dancing for and honoring Jesus. More than 100 family members and friends shared in the birthday celebration of the inspiring young woman whose life nearly ended when it was just beginning.
Although Mrs. Nelson was only 16 years old when she became pregnant with her daughter, she was blessed with wisdom and faith. When she was encouraged to have an abortion, she said “No.” When a doctor tried to intimidate her and her teenage husband into abandoning their baby to an institution, she again said “No.” But when her daughter had heart failure when she was about one month old, and her heart stopped beating for about 45 seconds, Mrs. Nelson didn’t say “No” to God. Instead, she prayed: “She’s yours. You gave her to me. Please let me try. Let me have her back for a while. I know that she’s yours. I know that she will always belong to you.”
She said, “And I honestly believe, you know, during that conversation that … I was having with the Lord, that’s when she came back.”
Nourished by faith, that bond between mother and daughter has grown stronger through the years. Mrs. Nelson said she treats her daughter the same way she treats her 36-year-old son Steven (who doesn’t have Down syndrome). She also encourages others to give her daughter the respect she deserves.
Her daughter, who adores her entire family, is grateful. Miss Novia said, “I just, I just love my mom so much. And being with my mother is like … she’s my best, best friend that I can ever imagine. … She’s wonderful. She’s a hard worker.”
She added, “Between Our Lady, Mary and my mother, [they] are the best mothers I can ever imagine.”
Miss Novia said there is a song that describes how she feels about her mom. She tells the story about it. “One time, we went to this party … and I played ‘our song.’ And I connect with that song to her.” She continued, “It was by Celine Dion – ‘Because You Loved Me.’ I request that song to remember my 40 years with my mom. And I am so thrilled to be with her.”
As much as she is devoted to her mom, Miss Novia is also devoted to her faith. She serves as a eucharistic minister, an altar server and a master of ceremonies (setting up the altar). She said, “If it wasn’t for God, I wouldn’t be in this world. I connect with God and Our Lady, Mary, because they’ve been with me for years, always helping me to do things right.”
Father Timothy M. Brewer, the pastor at St. Mary’s, said, “Tammi is a parish treasure. She just brings joy to everyone she comes into contact with.” He added, “Her love for God and the Blessed Mother is unfiltered in everything she does and says.”
In addition to volunteering at her parish, Miss Novia goes to confession and adoration regularly. In regards to adoration, Miss Novia said, “I need God’s love right now, and that’s what I need. I need to be with him. He died on the cross to save us. And the only way I can save him [is] if I go to adoration – to show me his love.”
Another way Miss Novia honors Jesus is through dance, something she says is “a gift of God’s love” and something she was born to do. She enjoys using that gift in a variety of ways. Besides dancing for nursing home patients to lift their spirits, she also does what she calls “impassioned” liturgical dances that allow her to “feel God’s pain” and connect with him.
Her talent recently brought her an opportunity many dancers dream of. She will be performing as a Chestnut Girl in the 2014 Hanover Theatre production of “The Nutcracker,” presented by Ballet Arts Worcester and the Massachusetts Symphony Orchestra, Nov. 28-30. Miss Novia gushed, “I cannot wait for this big event, so I can dance with the other girls up on stage, and we’ll all do it together as a team!”
But as wonderful as it will be, dancing in “The Nutcracker” isn’t the only thing Miss Novia looks forward to. She said, “I love my life!” With unabashed enthusiasm, she added, “The day of my party, I’m going to the next chapter in my life. And I can’t wait for that.”
From the tenderness Miss Novia and her mom exuded as they danced together to “Because You Loved Me” at her birthday celebration, it was clear that Mrs. Nelson is just as enthusiastic. She said, “I feel totally blessed because she’s my daughter. I do. I feel totally, totally blessed that the Lord has given me to her.” She warmly added, “I just love her.”