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I got your letter.

Last weekend I opened a letter, 37 years after it was mailed to me. I found it in a box of my mom’s special treasures – her diplomas, her athletic awards, and this:

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January 22, 1980

Dear Winifred:

You will probably read this letter a long time after I’ve written and mailed it to you. I wanted you to know that your mother and father, your grandparents and your aunts shared with you and with the congregation of Riverside Presbyterian Church in the sacrament of baptism.

It was a very special time for all of us and we were very happy to be together with you as we thanked God for the gift of your life and for your presence with us. You were beautiful and your eyes opened as your father handed you to me. I will always remember seeing your two bright eyes open so wide.

As you will know by the time you read this, your name means “friend of peace.” I pray that God will always help us to know you as a true friend of peace and I pray that peace in Christ will always be yours.

Thank you for giving to me the privilege of sharing in your baptism, and God bless you.

This is an astonishingly beautiful gift to receive during this season of my life. It is almost certain that by the end of the year, all my parents and grandparents will be gone. This fills me with a panicky dread. I don’t think there’s a word for an adult orphan, yet I am gripped by the fears of an orphan – that my side of the holiday dinner table will be empty, all the men and women who shaped me, gone.

But this letter describes a moment when my parents and my grandparents and hundreds of members of  my home church celebrated my tiny new life and promised to be my family. This letter assures me that I belong somewhere, that my tribe extends beyond the walls of my childhood home, that there are men and women who have walked quietly with me my whole life.

I am never alone.

Roland Perdue, thank you so much for taking the time to write me that note all those years ago. Your letter is a treasure.

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