the heaviness of missing

“how anxiously I yearned for those I had forsaken.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Dream of a Ridiculous Man


(crab/ Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2019)

I have always wrestled with the notion of “good-byes”.
I don’t like them.
Never have.
Most likely never will.

There is an odd finality to it all…this business of good-byes…
or so it surely seems at the time of parting.

Perhaps it is the continuity of constancy and consistency that seem threatened
during the action of good-byes.

More times than not, I readily comprehend the cognizant reality–
meaning that my mind is well aware that I will indeed be seeing or be with whomever it is
that might be momentarily leaving my physical presence…

So in some regards, I feel almost silly for getting so worked up or sad.
My brain screams at me, telling me to suck it up, you’ll see them–again– soon–
For crying out loud!

Yet the pain in the spirit, soul, and heart is still very real
as I know that there are those good-byes that are temporary and those that are more permanent.
And it is the permanence of those good-byes that are indeed most bitter…
As all of us will eventually experience such on a very personal level.

I don’t know but I often think adopted folks feel partings perhaps a bit more deeply than others…

I am more than aware of the effects that a mother-to-be has upon her unborn baby in the womb—

There is a transference of emotions, hormones, sounds, senses…even down to the very things
the mother eats or drinks.

Throw in anger, sorrow, stress, fatigue, resentment…
all of that passes through to the one she carries.

A baby who is destined to be “left behind” following its birth…be that for adoption,
knows most pointedly on a deep subconscious level, for a lifetime, the pain of both
rejection and good-byes…

Be they simple, short and fleeting or be they bitter, lasting and full of forever loss…
a good-bye is deeply felt and understood.

And so it was with the parting of our grandchildren today, after having been with them
for the past three days, that my heart was weighed down by the stinging tears
associated with such a parting and loss…

Picking up the left-behind toys and the topsy turvy disarray of a house that only babies
and toddlers bring…
all the while battling with a personal heaviness of heart and stinging tears.

Silly emotions really, but the depth of sudden stillness can be physically unsettling
when just moments before, just before the fully loaded car pulled out of the driveway,
the level of endless energy had been deliriously exhausting as it filled the entire house.

In my particular case of loss, as my brain works tirelessly to tell me, will be blessedly short.
Yet all the while, I know that for others, some good-byes will be sadly lasting and difficult.

So I was reminded of all of this notion of partings and good-byes today when I read
my friend Salvageable’s blog post regarding his missing of a fellow blogger friend.

https://salvageable04.wordpress.com/2019/06/28/the-fading-and-disappearance-of-aurora/

Often in our lives, our experiences of missing and loss come because of the one we
long for, for whatever reason, opts to move on or perhaps move away…

There comes frustration in such losses because they are really out of our control,
as are most losses—and they come with no real explanation or reasoning.

One day they’re here, the next day they are not.
No words, no contact, no good-bye.

An open-ended loss.

Just as we experience with a death…
equally as difficult and hard to wrap one’s head and heart around…
for there is no control with the loss.

Most often, there is also no opportunity for farewell.

Either way, the after effects affect our whole being.

I offered my empathy to Salvageable as I expressed just how much I’ve missed my blogging
friend Natalie.

Much the same way that I miss my aunt.
Both became sick and yet I never saw either one of them during their illness.
In Natalie’s case, we had never met face to face.

One minute, we spoke over the phone, then there’s an illness that occurred, and then poof,
they were gone.

Just the other day, my daughter-n-law and I both lamented how much we missed “Aunt Maaaaaathhaaa”
It’s just weird that she’s no longer a physical part of our family.
We spoke on the phone on a Tuesday evening as I shared that she was to soon be a great aunt.
I had no visible bearing as to how sick she was as we chatted about my becoming a grandmother.
Her voice raspy but her mind was focused as she talked about getting some strength back.
A day later… on Wednesday, she was gone.

Similar to my friend Natalie, but our’s was communication via texts and emails while she was
in the hospital.
I told her that I was going to fly out to see her…a day later her daughter actually text back
that her mom was in ICU and for me to wait.
Four day’s later she was gone.

I liked what Salvageable had to say in his post about there being a designated place in Heaven for
Wordpress bloggers to finally meet…because there are so many of you I love dearly,
yet we have never sat together at a kitchen table and shared a face to face laugh or tear.

And such is this life of ours…perhaps it’s akin to being something like pen-pals.
One day, for whatever reason, the letters just stop coming.
Leaving us to always wonder as to what happened.

Yet thankfully there is a takeaway in all of this melancholy chatter and that is actually
the of good news in all of this heaviness.

For it is here, where many of us join and come together, that we are brought together
by our shared love for Jesus Christ.

Even those who come here to counter our words and our posts…those ardent disbelievers and atheists
who come to argue, fuss, cuss and discuss our seemingly “disillusionment”–
all come because of Jesus.

And for those of us who believe, it is that love of Jesus that sustains all of our losses,
be they great or small, temporary or seemingly neverending.

Therein resides our Hope and our Grace.

For those of you who come to fuss, cuss, discuss or for those who come simply with their loss and sorrow…
blessedly and thankfully, we all have Hope.

For He is indeed the great I AM…

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:4

Something about that date…

“But no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.”

James 3:8-10


one of the side chapels in Santa Maria sopra Minerva / Rome, Italy / Julie Cook / 2018

I don’t know about your phone, but my phone displays, on the home screen, a banner
notification alert to emails, breaking news, missed calls, texts…etc…
One notification kept reoccurring, despite my having already opened and read the email—
weeks ago.

Day after day, the same notification kept showing up.
Despite my having opened it, read it, and closed it.

Glitch?
Power the phone off.
Power on.

The problem was that it kept happening, again and again.

But first, let’s back up a tad…

I subscribe to The Catholic Company’s Morning Offering.
Each morning, bright and early, I receive an email with the day’s quotes, daily office readings,
the saint of the day meditation of the day…etc.

It’s where I find many of the quotes and meditation (observations and writings) excerpts that I use.

I usually save them, only sending them to the trash once I’ve accumulated about a month’s allotment–
making certain I’ve read, savored and pulled out what is needed in my sharing.

Well, I did such for December 18th’s offering…
I didn’t use it that exact day but the following day…I used it when I felt “called” to do so.
I had used the morning of the 18th’s quote by Archbishop Fulton Sheen,
as well as the meditation excerpt from Fr. Basil Maturin.

“There are two ways of knowing how good God is:
one is never to lose Him, and the other is to lose Him and then to find Him.”

— Archbishop Fulton Sheen

It is, then, in following the will of God,
in spite of all the difficulties that may arise both from within and from without,
in the constant offering of ourselves to God as the creatures of His hand to do and to be what
He would have us,
in the surrender of one thing after another that comes between us and Him and holds us back—–
it is in such acts that we unite ourselves with those glorious beings who cast their crowns
before the throne and with those unfallen creatures who have never known what it is to have
a wish or thought apart from the will of God.
Amongst those glorified saints there are, indeed,
many whose wills were for a long time in revolt against God’s will and who brought themselves
at last into subjection, many to whom the will of God here on earth meant the sacrifice of
everything the heart most loved, many to whom it meant the sacrifice of life itself.
But all that is past and over, and its fruits remain—the eternal life of oblation and union
with God, where one will rules those countless multitudes and binds them together and to God,
where each one of those countless millions lives his own complete and perfect life yet never
jars on any other, where each is perfect in itself and all together compose one perfect whole—
the Body of Christ.”

Fr. Basil Maturin, p. 47
An Excerpt From
Spiritual Guidelines for Souls Seeking God

My godfather, who passed away 3 years ago December 29, 2016, was the Episcopal priest
who I often reference in many of my posts.
He was instrumental in my life…
especially during my youthful Christian journey…
as he watched and silently prayed as I ebbed and flowed when beginning a life of my own.
He was the Dean of the Cathedral of St Philip in Atlanta from 1966-1984…
His birthday was December 18th.

And so ironically, oddly or divinely I kept having that errant notification on my phone from the
Catholic Morning Offering for the day of December 18th.

(and you know I don’t believe in coincidence…only prompting by The Spirit)

Day after day the notification was showing up on my phone despite my having read the email.

After powering down the phone multiple times, closing all apps, yada yada, yada…
it would keep popping up.
So I went back to the original email and moved it to the trash…
of which removed it from all of my devices…
I was suspecting my migrating of old to new computers might be to blame but doubted it.

So that was that.
The email was trashed and I hoped the popup notification would leave me alone.

So then out of the blue on December 17th, I received an errant text message from a dear old friend
from out in Billings, Montana.

He was a former priest at the Cathedral when I was in high school and was our priest for youth.
He and I were always very close friends even following our taking separate paths in life.
He moved back home to a small Montana town in order to pastor a small Episcopal Church
while I went off to college.

We’ve stayed in touch sporadically throughout the years…my husband and I even stopped in Billings
a few years back when we were on a driving adventure to Glacier National Park and met up for a bit of
face to face catch up.

But our contact is usually relegated to the yearly Christmas card…

And so I was really surprised when his text popped up out of the blue.

My friend wrote that He and David (Dean Collins) had had a good conversation the evening prior while
my friend was driving back home from church.

I wrote back a tongue and cheek response that their conversation must have been of the divine…
I then asked how he was besides being delusional…

He told me that sometimes he finds that he still needs to run a few things past the Dean, his former
boss, and mentor, as only the Dean would understand.

I get that…as I wholeheartedly agree.

I can’t count how many conversations I still have with my godpoppa…
I deeply miss that twinkling eye and sly smile and rich melodic soothing voice of his
as he’d take me in his arms offering my angst-filled heart comfort or lovingly place those
gentle hands upon my head calling for prayers of healing.

My friend in Montana has since retired as the rector of the Episcopal Chruch there in Billings
and now enjoys fishing as well as keeping up with the families of all of his now grown foster boys.

I told him that it was funny that he text me out of the blue regarding Dean Collins the day before the
Dean’s birthday which would have fallen on the 18th.

So fast forward to earlier this week.

I’ve written about my crazy dreams before.

I don’t always sleep well due to the vivid dreams I often have.

Some are slap crazy.
Some are weird as hell.
Some are troubling.
Some have me walking up my husband as I’m mumbling loudly while thrashing about as I seem to be
struggling in my sleep.
Some are so vivid that I can actually wake with tears rolling down my cheeks.

Well, the other night I had a dream that seemed to last most of the night…going on and on.
And of course, it made absolutely no sense and it was crazy… but…
the Dean was in the dream.

He was as he was when I was in college, but I was as I am now.
We were seated at a large table or maybe it was a long bench but we were seated side by side.

He was right by my side.
And despite the dream making no sense, there was however a sense of peace having him right by my side.

So when I woke up… I figured I needed to go back in and pull up that Morning Offering from Dec. 18th
that kept nagging me.
I wanted–needed–to see if I was missing something.

Or was I simply suppose to repost the quote and excerpts again…maybe someone esle needed to read
them…maybe again.

The bible verse is listed above—James 3:8-10

The quote was by Archbishop Sheen which is listed above along with the same
meditation by Fr. Basil Maturin.

And the saint for the day was–
ST. WINEBALD
St. Winebald (701-761 A.D.) was a Saxon prince born into a holy and royal family in England.
His father, St. Richard the King, and his mother, St. Wunna of Wessex, are both saints, as well as his brother,
St. Willibald, his sister, St. Walburga, and his uncle, St. Boniface.
After making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with his father and brother,
and then spending many years in Rome, Winebald was recruited by his uncle, Boniface,
to join him in evangelizing Germany.
Winebald was ordained a priest and worked as a missionary across Germany, Holland, France, Austria,
Belgium, and Luxembourg, leaving behind many flourishing churches and monasteries
under the Rule of St. Benedict. St. Winebald was an important figure in laying the
foundations of Christianity across much of Europe.
After his death, his tomb became a pilgrimage shrine. His feast day is December 18.

So now let’s look back at today’s picture I posted up above.

Back in October when I was spending a reflective afternoon exploring the beautiful church of
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, the Chruch of Sanit Mary over Minerva,
I was slowly walking from side chapel to chapel taking in the paintings, and the statuary—
all of the man-created beauty complimenting the Divine offering of peace.
When I found myself stopping, noting an odd little sight.

Something that I don’t think many of the passing tourists even noticed let alone understood the significance.

Someone had tied a scallop shell to the gate in front of the chapel.

Some of the chapels have gates and are locked most days as many of them contain priceless works of art.
These churches are open to the public with little to no security, so given our day and time,
some areas are simply locked off to a wandering public.

The shell is a symbol of St. James and is associated with Christian pilgrims…
Of which you may read here:
https://followthecamino.com/blog/scallop-shell-camino-de-santiago/
(Lynda I hope you have your shell)

And so I knew that a pilgrim had been here before I had been.

Our paths had crossed…unbeknownst to either of us…all but for the breadcrumb of a simple shell left behind.

And so since I feel as if my blog is often a pilgrimage of sorts, I also believe that my blog is
in turn a place for pilgrims to visit.

And thus since there was obviously something about the day’s devotion from Dec. 18th that
needed for, or rather longed for, me to revisit and reshare. I have done so.
It is for whoever may find themselves stopping by for a bit of a respite during their pilgrimage.

“And he began, “What chance or destiny
has brought you here before your final day?
And who is he who leads your pilgrimage?”
“Up there in life beneath the quiet stars
I lost my way,” I answered, “in a valley,
before I’d reached the fullness of my age.
I turned my shoulders on it yesterday:
this soul appeared as I was falling back,
and by the road through Hell he leads me home.”
“Follow your star and you will never fail
to find your glorious port,” he said to me”

Dante Alighieri

the Grace of Thankfulness

“There is so much in the world for us if we only have the eyes to see it,
and the heart to love it, and the hand to gather it ourselves-
so much in men and women, so much in art and literature,
so much everywhere in which to delight, and for which to be thankful for.”

L.M. Montgomery

“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies;
but the thankful heart will find, in every hour,
some heavenly blessings.”

Henry Ward Beecher


(Aunt Martha’s prized antique bronze turkey / Julie Cook / 2017)

As we gather together around this table of ours, to offer up our grateful hearts…
I am keenly, poignantly and even sadly aware as I take notice as to who is not
physically with us this year at our table….

Yet despite our losses and our sufferings, we continue to offer up our thankfulness
and gratitude to our Heavenly Father for all that was,
for all that is and for all that will be…

For it is from Grace that we have each received so very much…
that which far exceeds what we have ever deserved….

May each of you, despite life’s current circumstance, find time to whisper or shout
your words of thanks…..
for each of us, despite this current moment in time, can indeed find
something in which to be grateful…..

Blessings and Peace to all who read these words….

Give thanks to the God of heaven,
For His lovingkindness (graciousness, mercy, compassion)
endures forever.

Psalm 136:26

Be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and hymns
and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord;
giving thanks always for all things in the name of our
Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.

Ephesians 5:18-20

layers

“Wherever you come near the human race
there’s layers and layers of nonsense.”

Thornton Wilder

DSCN3520 (1)
(cliff wall at Little River Canyon State Park / Alabama / Julie Cook / 2015)

Upon first glance the casual observer is greeted by an unassuming rock cliff,
gently embraced by summer’s lush growth…
The rich sensuous greens of life enveloping the hard unmoving foundation of a planet.

But upon closer inspection one is met with the…
complexity of striation,
the melding of coloration,
the confusion of abstraction
and the frustration of complication.

DSCN3520

And then after scrutinizing what was initially the obvious,
which has now emerged into something more along the lines of the miraculous…
we see the wonderment of the unique individual fingerprints of an Omnipotent Creator…

And yet sadly…
some observers simply continue to see a bunch of rocks…..

DSCN3521

“I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God I will gird you, though you have not known Me; That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other…
Isaiah 45:5-6

mishappen and now missing

Beware the politically obsessed.
They are often bright and interesting, but they have something missing in their natures;
there is a hole, an empty place, and they use politics to fill it up.
It leaves them somehow misshapen.

Peggy Noonan

DSCN3485
(something has been nibbling / Julie Cook / 2016)

I don’t know about you, but something seems to be not only a little misshapen, but now, totally missing….

A couple of weeks ago I bought a pretty healthy new little shrub, from the local nursery, in hopes of filling in a gap in one of the shrub beds.

I don’t know, but something doesn’t look right.
It looks shorter to me…
Less full…
lopsided…
depleted…
as in, something seems to be missing…

I had my suspicions.

Walking over the yard, to survey the crime scene, I found a couple of telling signs…
as in indicators as to perhaps the reason for the shrubs lack of vigor…

DSCN3481

DSCN3487
(the telling signs of deer in the yard / Julie Cook / 2016)

Obviously there are visitors to my little corner of the world,
late at night,
when no one is watching.

All of which now has me wondering about the other things in life where I see things misshapen and oddly missing…

I wonder what it was that went missing in our hearts and minds to have turned us so far from God’s direction for our lives.

This desire we seem to now have to fill our cups to the brim with all things satiating as we have total disregard for Him, His word, His believers….forget God, it’s a free for all of self…

I wonder what it was that went missing from our leaders with regard to this
once great Nation Under God…
What of their charge to keep and protect that which is sacred to a Nation…
it’s nucleus, the family.

I wonder what it was that went missing when we decided it was ok for abortions to be used readily as a means of birth control…with total disregard to human life—which was once considered a miracle and a gift.
Now it’s a bother and a burden.

I wonder what went missing when we decided that the union of a man and a man or a woman and a woman was equally as good to that of a man and a woman.
No longer is life clearcut, but blurred and gray…
Leaving nothing but confusion in its wake for the future…

I wonder what went missing when we decided that we could throw caution to the wind as changing ones sex has become as simple as changing shoes.
You aren’t feeling very manly today?
No problem.
Try being a woman…
as we continue to lose ourselves to the current identity crises and delusion…

I wonder what went missing, which in turn has transformed us into sponges of all things tolerant…
while we readily forget and happily rewrite the consequences of actions and proclaim total acceptance in the name of all things happy. Who needs consequences, which gives way to the notion, who needs laws…
So then everything goes..keeping everybody happy…right??

I wonder what went missing which has made us so lazy and whiny as a people…as we scour for the easy way out and the getting everything for nothing… by hook or crook…as we’ve decide that however we get “it,” whatever we want the it to be, is ok just as long as we get it…

I wonder what went missing we we decided the Judaeo / Christian foundation of this country was now passé and obsolete….banning it’s laws, The Ten Commandments, from sight—maybe it’s an out of sight out of mind kind of thing…

And whereas it’s easy to walk through the yard to figure out what’s happening to the shrubbery, it’s not so easy walking through this current world of ours, figuring out what went wrong…since most folks don’t see anything wrong with us who are now terribly misshapen and even missing….

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness,
but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish,
but that all should reach repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

Homesick

“I felt a pang — a strange and inexplicable pang that I had never felt before.
It was homesickness.
Now, even more than I had earlier when I’d first glimpsed it, I longed to be transported into that quiet little landscape, to walk up the path, to take a key from my pocket and open the cottage door, to sit down by the fireplace, to wrap my arms around myself, and to stay there forever and ever.”

Alan Bradley

“Give me the waters of Lethe that numb the heart,
if they exist,
I will still not have the power to forget you.”

Ovid

God is at home, it’s we who have gone out for a walk.

Meister Eckhart

DSCN0881
(sheep on a teaching farm / County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

A fitful night…
dreams seemingly more real than not…
To wake…
On and off, over and over…
as the dream simply picks up where it left off.
A continuous movie playing out inside my head, all night long…

Trying desperately hard to find you, to call you…
Yet I can’t reach you.
I am there, not here…
but I am lost…
I need for you to come find me…
for it is only you who can help me….

Yet why is that?
Why do I seek you and your help?
Are there not others…?
Others even more capable…
Those who are more near and not so far away…?

Waking….
Perplexed, exhausted, wondering…
What ever does it mean…
or not mean…?
As the thought,
the memory,
the utter physical uneasiness…
hangs heavy over the day.

Homesick, yet here at home.
Missing and longing…
Aching for something else…
someplace else…
something more…
Yet what could it be…and why…?

You are there and I am here.
A melancholy heaviness clouds my thoughts.
It was all but a mere brief crossing of paths.
Yet with a lasting effect.
There was a change.
Deep and profound…
And I am the better for it…
Yet there remains a yearning, a hunger, an aching…
for more…

So very much more.
For hearing,
for seeing,
for feeling,
for learning.

Yet frustration is found in the simple being…
of so very far away…

My soul yearns for you in the night;
in the morning my spirit longs for you.
When your judgments come upon the earth,
the people of the world learn righteousness.

Isaiah 26:9

Dear Parents. . .

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:13

DSCN8751
(presents under the tree / Julie Cook / 2014)

When asked, I suppose most, if not all of us, could tell anyone asking what the best gift was we ever received. Maybe it was a shiny new bike, a much sought after doll, maybe it was a new baby brother or sister, maybe a pair of skates, maybe a car, a smartphone, a precious and greatly anticipated birth of a child, maybe it was a hot meal, a worn but loved coat, maybe it was shelter from a cold and icy night, maybe it was the returning of a loved one who had been gone far too long. . . .

As we find ourselves, at this particular time of the year, with time running out and patience running short. . .
As we dash about here and there in search of the “perfect” gift for those special someones in our lives. . .
As we find ourselves up to our elbows in wrapping paper, ribbons, tape and bows. . .
As we spend entirely too much time and money searching and buying things that folks could most likely do and live without. . .

I was deeply touched by something I read this morning.
It was a letter written to a set of parents. . .

Dear Parents. . .I don’t need to tell you how much I long for freedom and for you all. But over the decades you have provided for us such incomparably beautiful Christmases that my thankful remembrance of them is strong enough to light up one dark Christmas.
Only such times can really reveal what it means to have a past and an inner heritage that is independent of chance and the changing of the times. The awareness of a spiritual tradition that reaches through the centuries gives one a certain feeling of security in the face of all transitory difficulties. I believe that those who know they possess such reserves of strength do not need to be ashamed even of softer feelings—which in my opinion are still among the better and nobler feelings of humankind–when remembrance of a good and rich past calls them forth. Such feelings will not overwhelm those who hold fast to the values that no one can take from them.

These words and this message is not only timely but most current as this letter could be written by anyone who may be finding themselves far away from those dearly loved and cherished individuals of one’s life, especially during this time of year. As it always seems to be during the holidays, the certain times of the year which pulls at our hearts more so than any other time of year, when being away and “missing” intensifies to a near maddening unstoppable pain, our thoughts inevitably seem to return to matters of the heart and of cherished memories of times long and not so long past.

The letter was written just before Christmas in 1944 from a Gestapo prison in Berlin. It was written by the young Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was soon to be transferred to the notorious Buchenwald Concentration Camp. He spent two Christmases interred by the Nazis before ultimately being hanged two weeks before the Allies liberated the Nazi death camps.

The greatest gift Bonhoeffer’s parents had given him was not a toy or a ball. . .for their gift was not something tangible or of material merit, but rather their gift was a gift of great intrinsic value.

Their greatest gift was actually somewhat multilayered.

Firstly the gift consisted of the deep and abiding love his parents first held for one another and then for each of their children–of which created and fostered a deep sense of security in each child.

A second layer of the gift consisted of time—of both time and energy of which his parents extended to the entire family making certain that each Christmas and holiday season was indeed special for their eight children—Not by showering the children with extravagant gifts and presents, as buying such for 8 children would have been nearly impossible, but by providing their family with the knowledge of the importance of the true meaning of Christmas—the enduring message of Hope and Grace–of doing undo others as they would hope would be done for them, and ultimately the gift and knowledge of Salvation. A gift that would weave its way throughout the year and not merely just at Christmas—for this was a gift which would be carried in each of their children throughout a lifetime which witnessed not only contentment and happiness but that of hardship, sorrow and suffering topped off with the ultimate ending of Joy.

It was to this gift given long ago by his parents which would help to sustain Bonhoeffer during his lowest and darkest days as a Nazi prisoner. Isolated and never knowing if each new day would bring freedom or death, Bonhoeffer lived out the last two years of his relatively young life in a small cell very much alone.

I spent a good bit of time this morning pondering over Bonhoeffer’s letter to his parents and I found myself thinking about what it is to be a “gift giver” and to what constitutes the best gift we can give–especially to our children.

I pray that I may give my child, as well as those I love, the gift which will sustain them all during, not the easy times of joy and happiness, but rather a gift which will help to carry them through the darkness, sorrow, pain and isolation which most often finds all of us at some point in life when we least expect it.

Which brings us back to the initial query at hand. . .indeed, what is the greatest gift you’ve ever received. . .