The women were sitting near the ocean, enjoying a rare moment of serenity in their tumultuous lives. It was early spring, and a brisk breeze rippled the face of the water, an endless field of deep blue stretching far beyond the horizon. Many of them were in remission, or had just finished a stint in the hospital caring for their seriously ill children, and all were living in a constant state of dread.
Now, at their daylong retreat at Ocean Place in New Jersey, they let their defenses down, allowing themselves to relax, to be in the moment, to forget whatever was awaiting them.
One of the women noticed a small bottle bobbing near the shore. She reached out and grabbed it with curiosity. “Look! It’s a message in a bottle!” she exclaimed. The other women gathered around her as she popped off the cork and withdrew a cheerfully decorated letter, seemingly written by a young woman.
Happy birthday in Heaven.
I love you and miss you so much. When I went to the beach, I found a sand dollar and I knew it was from you. I think of you all the time, and I remember all of the great memories we had. You’re a class act, someone incredible and talented and kind and special. Heaven is even more beautiful because you are a part of it.
I know you’re watching over me because I can feel it, and I love knowing that, even from heaven, you have my back. I miss your smile, your laugh, your hugs, your stories and phone calls and letters and your art and just everything about you. I couldn’t be happier that I got you for a dad. I’m the luckiest girl in the whole world.
So I want to tell you about my plans for the future. Right now, I’m looking for work and I’m trying to find my passion, chase my dreams, be independent and be a good person. I want to travel the world, Dad, just like we talked about. And I promise I will! I want you to be proud of me, Dad, but I know you always are my best friend. You love me in a way that is unconditional, and your love for me inspired me to love myself, to value myself, to take pride in who I am and where I come from. You did that, Dad. You gave me that confidence. I will never stop missing you, but you are always in my heart and in my thoughts.
Your one and only little girl, Heather.
The women read it once, and then again, with awe and wonder, wiping away the moisture from their eyes. Who knew as well as they did how precious are the gifts of life and health, and how grateful we need to be for each moment we have our loved ones with us, safe and sound?
Mrs. Henny Isaacs, the soft-spoken founder of Project HOPE, explains: “Finding this bottle at the seashore, at exactly the right time, was a tremendous validation, both for the women who are dealing with these very same emotions, and for the event’s organizers. In fact, I marvel at how each time we organize an event or get-together, we get a special pat from Above.
“Just a few months ago, we hired a woman to do a special program with the ladies. Our budget for these indulgences is never enough, but it’s so important to give these exhausted mothers a break. The instructor named her price, giving us a significant discount. When we wanted to pay her after the event, she refused to take even a dollar, saying she was so inspired and that she should be paying us! We have experiences like these nearly every day.”