In the shower this morning my eyes were damp. Not from the rain pouring from the shower head above me. But from the heart of compassion within me.
My wife, Dorothy, was born in Los Angeles. Her earliest memories are from the little house in the country down the hill from Ojai. She and her brother and sister loved playing among the large, old live oaks on the property near a small natural spring. Life was idyllic for them. Her mother’s relatives lived all over California. The weather was always wonderful and they loved it. When Dorothy was about five, the inconceivable happened. Her father announced they were all moving to Texas to be near his parents in the Rio Grande Valley. They asked when would they return to California. The answer was “Someday”. They were devastated and prayed (as a child would pray) for God to intervene in the move. Intervention did not come.
On the road trip to South Texas, Dorothy noticed that Dianne had a small Halo Shampoo bottle that she had filled with California water. It was for when she got too homesick for California, she could have a taste of their water.
Change was tough for them. They lost their beloved state, family, friends, and the magnificent beauty of a landscape to which no small South Texas town could compare. It became obvious to the children that they likely would not return to California any time soon, if at all. However, they continued to hope.
On each occasion Dianne was overcome with grief, she would take out the Halo bottle, place her quivering lips on the rim, and take a small sip of the California water, water which to her was as sacred and as holy as any blessed by a pastor or priest.
The family was poor. Life in Texas was never like California. After living in many small Texas towns, they settled in Port Lavaca and made a different life for themselves. Eventually, one without their father, as he moved on without them.
This morning, as Dorothy shared this heartbreaking story of Dianne’s Halo shampoo bottle with me, Dorothy cried. In many ways, the deep palpable longing for and grieving of the loss of their California home never left Dianne, Dorothy, her brother, or her mother. Time or taking a shower could never wash away the pain Dorothy experienced as a little girl. Even so, Dorothy is comforted in knowing that her departed mother, brother, and sister have moved to their heavenly home, a home more beautiful than any sunrise over Monterrey Bay.
For Dianne, the water in the Halo shampoo bottle might well have been drawn from a Saint’s well rather than a bathroom faucet in California. Dianne found strength, holiness, and healing in the water she sipped in her difficult pilgrimage to find a new home in Texas.
Over the next few years, Dorothy and her family settled in, found a new house, joined a church, and gained a host of friends in Port Lavaca. If not for their loss, and eventual move to Houston and joining St. Francis Episcopal Church, Dorothy and I would never have met, gotten married, and lived a life together so full of beauty and love.
As we shared tears today, I not only held a grown woman and wife in my arms. I embraced the unseen five-year-old California girl who still grieves, still dreams, and forever dwells in her.
God has spoken to us in Scripture about Holy water.
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
Let us pray together.
Dear God, I thank You for Your Spirit which You sprinkled over the Earth to inform the world with abundant life and love.
God, I praise Your Holy name for baptismal water which marked me as Yours forever.
God, as I live my life, I grieve for what once was and will never be. I want to go back in time and be with people, places, and experiences I treasure. May I be comforted in knowing that what awaits me in Your Heavenly home is more beautiful than what I will ever have on Earth. Amen
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Jack H. Emmott is a Senior Counsel of Gray, Reed & McGraw, LLP, a 145-lawyer full-service firm in Houston, Dallas, and Waco, Texas, a Board-Certified Family Law and Master Credentialed Collaborative Law Professional Divorce Attorney, Mediator, Author, Entrepreneur, and Inspirational Speaker. For more information about Jack or his latest book, Bending Angels: Living Messengers of God’s Love, go to the Bending Angel website.