Sunday, January 6, 2008

My Christmas Presents

So, it’s a little late, but I wanted to share a couple of Christmas presents I got this year that were out of the ordinary for me.  Three to be precise.

The first was a gorgeous chalice, paten and ciborium that my brother made from the wood of a tree that fell in his backyard.  They were tremendous, and I’ve been showing them off to anyone I could ever since.  When I was ordained nearly eighteen years ago, my sister made me two beautiful ceramic chalices and patens as a gift.  What a blessing to have such talented siblings.

By the way, if you don't know what they are, a chalice is an ornate cup for the wine in communion.  The picture to the left is his chalice.  A paten is a matching plate for the communion host.  A ciborium looks much like a chalice but has a lid and is used to hold consecrated host in reserve.  

The next two are books.

One came from Peg Finch, a former parishioner down in Peekskill, NY.  She’s 92 now but has written poetry since childhood.  They’re sweet poems, the type you might find in Inspirations.  I was tickled that she got her poems in print -- regardless of her age -- and that she thought of me after all these years.  I left Peekskill nearly fourteen years ago.

The second book came from my parents and is about Bill Requarth a friend of the family’s, a member of our congregation back home.  He died recently after a life most of us would be too exhausted to even consider.  I knew him as an older man even when I was at home in high school and college.  In those days he was in his seventies and had just started his second family.  That’s right, after his first wife died he remarried a much younger woman and had two more children.  In his late seventies, he retired from medicine so he could spend more time with the kids.

The book is based mostly on Bill’s diaries which focus on his medical school, residency and World War II experiences.  He was the country’s youngest Eagle Scout, earning it at 13 (you can’t do that anymore), he learned to fly as a kid, was present to see John Dillinger’s and Baby Face Nelson’s bodies at the hospital, suffered a terrible hand injury then had to track down a surgeon and convince him to operate on it.  He got drafted in 1940 and ended up in the Navy on Pearl Harbor when it was attacked -- he was given the job of extracting the dead Japanese sailor from the mini-sub that was sunk.

Bill went on to not only serve as a flight surgeon but also as a pilot.  He was checked out on fighter planes, making aircraft carrier landings.  Although he wasn’t supposed to, he occasionally went on missions with the other pilots.  

You get the idea.

The thing about these gifts is, they are all homemade.  My brother literally made his chalice by hand.  Both of the books are self-published.  Yet they help me know the givers more intimately.  And they bring joy while helping me remember that the best gifts are those that don’t come from a store but from the heart.