It was an unexpected gift, which made it even more special. Then the giver’s expressive heart was reflected as I opened the feather-weight square box.

It came after Christmas with a Christmas card signed with love from my sister-in-law. As I pulled the pillow from the tissue, I thought, How unique. Look at the little buttons going down the front.

Then I moved to the right to comment on the buttoned pocket and felt the tears well up as my breath was taken away.

“It’s my brother’s shirt,” I whispered.

My brother had passed away unexpectedly two years ago in March.

I looked for a note of explanation but there wasn’t any. She knew I would call.

My sister-in-law had one of my brother Danny’s favorite dress shirts creatively made into a pillow for me. He may not be able to hug me, but I can hug that pillow as though I was hugging him.

Each member of their immediate family selected a favorite shirt that her friend uniquely turned into a pillow.

As we spoke about Danny and their family, her growth and faith shone through. Of course, she misses him and wouldn’t have chosen this turn in the road.

Together they had endured through her cancer…he her constant companion and support. She contemplated how chemo had changed her. “One of the things I learned while going through it is that we have today, right now and we need to be grateful for it.”

Presently, one of the severest tests she has had to endure is watching her 6-year-old granddaughter, Raegan, going through cancer treatment for an inoperable terminal brain tumor. (Her story has been shared on social media and can be seen @ #RaeganStrong.)

Though heart wrenching, together we hold fast to hope and what God may do.

Debbie has wisely pulled from her life’s lessons to help answer questions from young cousins. When asked about Raegan’s future, she gently told her grandson to keep praying. “She is doing well now and so we are thankful. God has a purpose even when we don’t understand. We have now and now is good and God is with us. And because of that, we have hope.”

That hope is in Jesus Christ as it says in Romans 15: 13 NLT, “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Such tender contemplations through life’s deepest waters leave me speechless. Selah

Jan Merop, a columnist with the Highlands News-Sun for 30 years, resided in Sebring for 28 years; now living in North Carolina. Visit her blog Journeying with Jan @