Renewed hope for 2014

For our belated holiday lunch our writing group leader asked us to provide each other with the  “GIFT OF WORDS!!! – give everyone a gift of a short essay less than 1000 words that reads to the theme of New – as in Newness, New Year, new promises, memories of new years past, debauchery of new years past, hopes for the new year, new cars, new loves, anything that evokes the freshness & hope of something new!”

Here’s mine. About how my hope was renewed even in the face of deep sorrow.

2013 was a year with too much traveling, too many surgeries for my husband, and the deaths of two long-time cherished friends. Because those deaths happened in December   one funeral was on New Year’s Eve day, and Shiva took place in the first few days of the New Year I haven’t had much enthusiasm for writing about newness and the freshness and hope of something new.

However, while thinking about writing this piece I’ve realized how much children babies all the way up to adult children have put death into perspective for me.

My husband Bob and I were delighted to join my late brother’s family on a Caribbean cruise during Christmas week. There were sixteen of us: our  nieces and nephews and their spouses and our six greats five girls and one boy with ages ranging from fifteen to six months. We had such joy with the children coming into our stateroom and plopping on our bed to talk, wanting to sit next to us at dinner, going with me to the gym, laughing with us at a hypnotist’s antics on stage, and just giving us a spontaneous hug every once in a while. It was definitely hard to say goodbye when the cruise was over.

Oscar and Hugo

Oscar and Hugo

Another special gift in December was being asked to godparent the grandson of friends we’ve had since before we were married forty-three years ago. We bonded with their son and daughter-in-law over the last several years. She helped me revise my memoir when I was getting it ready for publication and then did some PR work after the book came out. However, our greatest pleasure was just being with them and their oldest son Oscar now three years old. We are thrilled and honored to be Oscar’s brother Hugo’s godparents.

Every year on New Year’s Eve day we write checks to our favorite charities. Several years ago I decided to give our adult nieces and nephews the opportunity to experience charitable giving as well. I thought that might be more meaningful than a check for a few bucks spent on some forgetful trinket. So on December 31 we sent each one of them their gift cards through an organization called TisBest, which sends out the cards and handles any correspondence relative to them. So far three of the recipients have responded. One gave to Girls on the Run International, one to St. Jude’s Children’s Research, and one to Big Brothers Big Sisters. Note that these donations all went to children-related charities.

However, I must share the thank you message we received from our youngest adult nephew. He wrote:

“Children are the future of America. There are far too many children in this world that aren’t even given a chance to succeed, be it a result of a lack of parenting, resources, education, or other. I look back on my childhood and adolescence with great fondness. My mentors, who were ultimately my parents and family, did an excellent job to give me everything I needed to be the person I am today- a person of success, confidence, and leadership. I have always had everything I’ve needed throughout life, and it sure has made things easier on me. Life will throw all kinds of challenges your way, and without guidance, many children will lead a depressed path filled with struggle. I’m hopeful that my generation will start to realize that they have a greater responsibility to the children on this earth. They can’t do it alone, and need the mentorship towards a truly happy existence. 

Thank you for the gift. I love you both. Happy holidays.”

This young man’s wise words give me renewed hope for this year and confidence that there’s always a gift to be had no matter how much adversity we go through.

Happy New Year to you all. I wish you well in 2014.


  1. Dear Madeline, the picture of Oscar and Hugo is precious and makes me smile. It truly reinforces your message of renewed hope when children touch our lives. And your nephew’s letter is eloquent and heartwarming. Such lovely thoughts to take into the new year. Thank you for sharing your hope.

  2. Madeline Sharples says:

    Dear Kathy, I just love that photo. We just were visiting the family and Oscar is such a life wire and brilliant.
    Yes, children are so important to us. I know, to you as well. Thank you for the card and the beautiful photo of your grands. I will send you a hand-written note this week.

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