A few days ago a friend in her early sixties was telling about her plans for Thanksgiving – her children were coming as well as her children’s children. She would have many to plan for and a house-full. “I can’t wait,” she said, “until I’m old enough for them to say ‘Mom, whose house are you going to this year?’” There is a season to be the matriarch and a time to pass the torch.

It’s November and family gatherings are bittersweet – it is good to see the folks we don’t see often enough; it is a reminder of the folks we sorely miss and won’t see again in this life.  It’s November and the church prays for the dead.   It’s November and I remember again that it was in November, 1992, that I saw my daughter Peggy for the last time before she was killed.

The death of a child is a pain like no other. How often have you listened to people who have undergone a terrible ordeal. They will say they would not wish such a thing on anyone but they would not undo it because it made them who they are today. Through their suffering they have become stronger, or more understanding, or wiser, or more compassionate, or more forgiving.

Peggy was my third child and I recall clearly taking her home from the hospital after she was born. When I took the first two babies home I had a scared feeling in my gut. Whatever could God be thinking to give the responsibility for the life and care of these tiny human beings to a young inexperienced twit like me? But when I took Peggy home she was lucky enough to have a mother with a some feeling of competence. The first two had somehow survived. I knew I could do the baby basics and that she wouldn’t starve at my breasts. There’s a lot to be said for experience.

I review in my mind that last November visit with Peggy — only Jay was home with her at the time. She had started making Christmas gifts – sewing Christmas wreaths for everyone in the family, and making a footstool for Ron. We drove to St. Augustine, looking for foam for the stool. As we worked together the love between Peg and Jay was obvious-–he was the adopted son that had grown not in her womb but in her heart.

When Peg died another Peg, a longtime friend, appeared at my back door. She sat at my kitchen table and proceeded to write a prayer from her heart. As we prepared for the memorial service I read her prayer to Jay. Something in that prayer, the gift of a caring stranger, reached him, touched him, and healing tears flowed.  (Peg Jones — that was her real name — has since gone to be with my Peggy.)

It is sixteen years later, and now Peggy’s Jay is about to become a Daddy. I know he knows about the importance of a Daddy who will be there for the long haul. He is in the process of making life-changing decisions. In the 58 years since Peggy’s birth there have been many people, many crossroads, many decisions. Each time someone steps left instead of right the whole trajectory is changed down through the ages. Each time a baby is accepted or refused, loved or not loved, it impacts many lives, many families, maybe even nations!   It is well said that God writes straight with crooked lines. He is somehow able to take our mistakes and our sins and weave them into his plan.  And each of us takes a road never travelled before.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

…Robert Frost, 1915

It is November and my Christmas cactus is budding. The cactus has received nothing but water for the past 15 years yet year after year it buds in November.   I see in it a miracle unfolding and the promise of blooms for Christmas. And then the hope of spring. God is still at work.

To everything – turn, turn, turn, there is a season – turn, turn, turn, and a time for every purpose under heaven.

November. December. And these few precious days, I’ll spend with you.

Peggy's Last Christmas

Peggy's Last Christmas


A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to sow and a time to reap  — Ecclesiastes 3:2