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Through the Viewfinder: Natchez girl, doll attached at the hip through holidays

Sheldyn Cole, 10, holds her doll Lexi during church at Holy Family Catholic Church. According to Sheldyn’s mother Nikki Cole, having Lexi along helps her daughter calm down and focus on the Mass. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Sheldyn Cole, 10, holds her doll Lexi during church at Holy Family Catholic Church. According to Sheldyn’s mother Nikki Cole, having Lexi along helps her daughter calm down and focus on the Mass. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Editor’s note: The Viewfinder is a weekly feature in which a photographer tells a story through the lens of a camera.

NATCHEZ — The connection Sheldyn Cole has with her doll Lexi goes beyond that of child and toy.

Cole, 10, received Lexi from her parents on her tenth birthday, and Cole is scarcely without the doll.

Sheldyn Cole, 10, lifts her doll Lexi up while the congregation receives communion at Holy Family Catholic Church. Inset below, Cole plays with her doll during the service. Her mother says the doll keeps her daughter calm during church. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Sheldyn Cole, 10, lifts her doll Lexi up while the congregation receives communion at Holy Family Catholic Church. Inset below, Cole plays with her doll during the service. Her mother says the doll keeps her daughter calm during church. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

“She is more than a toy,” she said.

While Cole’s relationship with Lexi is still based on dress up and make believe, she confides in Lexi despite the doll’s inability to talk back.

“I feel like I can talk to her when I get sad,” Cole said. “So I pray with her, and it makes me feel better.

“She is my friend.”

The Coles live in Houston, Texas, but visit Natchez every year for Christmas to see family because both of her parents, Nikki and Robert Cole, are originally from Natchez.

Even though the Cole’s are practicing Methodists, as a tradition, they attended the Christmas Eve Mass at Holy Family Catholic Church.

This year, Cole was allowed to bring Lexi to the service.

“I put on her fancy church dress so she looked good,” Cole said.

While Cole see’s Lexi as an extra companion during church, her mother Nikki sees the doll a little differently.

“Sheldyn is my lively child, always the life of the party,” Nikki said. “Having the doll along during church helps her to calm down.”

Throughout the service, Cole and her older sister, Sydney, 14, braided Lexi’s hair. There was even a time that Lexi appeared to be worshipping along side the family.

“It is so funny, Sheldyn would raise the doll’s hands up as if she was praying with us,” Nikki said.

Nikki believes that having Lexi along during a church service helps her daughter to appreciate church.

“In the middle of braiding her baby’s hair, some of the message is sure to sink in, and that’s what is important,” she said.

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