By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
Author’s Note: Grace Under Pressure is an on-going series of posts honoring everyday people who courageously make positive differences in their own lives and consequently in the lives of others. It is my own personal affirmation that unexpected heroes reside among us and that they serve as quiet but unshakable proof that virtue really is its own reward – and ours, too.
4-year-old Meredith was heartbroken over the loss of her dog, Abbey. The dog,a black lab, was a member of her family for a decade before Meredith was born and became a fixture in her young life. The day after the tragedy, Meredith’s mom came up with a wonderful way to console her daughter. She and Meredith decided to send a letter to Heaven announcing Abbey’s homecoming. Meredith wanted to make sure God recognized her friend amid all the new arrivals:
Will you please take care of my dog? Abbey died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I ‘m happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick. I hope you will play with her. She likes to swim and play with balls. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her you will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.
Meredith and her mom even enclosed a picture of Abbey with her tiny master to make sure God knew whom the little girl meant.
After addressing the envelope to “God in Heaven” and dutifully applying plenty of postage, the letter was deposited in the mailbox. A few days later, Meredith asked her mom if she believed that God had read the letter yet. Her mom assured her that it had been read and that Abbey was frolicking with all her new friends in Paradise.
The next day a package wrapped in gold paper arrived at Meredith’s home. It was addressed to Meredith and written in handwriting nobody recognized. Inside the box was the classic children’s book by Fred Rogers, When a Pet Dies. Alongside was the letter Meredith sent and the photograph. There was another letter, too. This one was from the Sender. It read:
Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help and I recognized her right away. Abbey isn’t sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don’t need our bodies in heaven, I don’t have any pockets to keep your picture in so I’m sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by. Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you. I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much. By the way, I’m easy to find. I am wherever there is love.
Some people say the letter was from a kindly soul in the dead letter office at the local post office. But more enlightened folks like Meredith and her mom know that the letter wouldn’t have arrived but for the intervention of a higher power — like the one that resides in the best of human hearts.
~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
47 thoughts on “Grace Under Pressure: The Letter From God”
Hear hear! Good post Mulebreath.
There are two words here being bandied about that simply do not belong in this conversation. The first is “lie”. If I used the word I will mea culpa right now, but I don’t think I have, and I wish other skeptics would cease using it too. The term I use most often is “myth”, which is perhaps a bit more accurate and at least a little less inflammatory.
The other word is “believe”, or “belief”. The word, although endemic in the English language, does not fit in this discussion except in the perspective of the lack of. The lack of belief in one thing does not imply belief in another… which is the point I was attempting to make in a previous comment. It is a common misconception that atheism is just another religion. It is not.
I was the first to raise the issue of an alternative to using myth as a means of comforting the child, even though I knew in advance that I would become a target for derogation by some of the faithful. Others joined me and have been subjected to similar. Skeptics (atheists, agnostics, secular humanists) are very familiar with the reaction we face when we offer a contrary voice, and we are just as familiar with the misconception that we lack compassion for events such as the topic of this post.
No such thing is true. We recognize that a majority of this planet hold some myth or another as sacred and that in an isolated geographic area there will be a majority holding beliefs in a basically similar myth. That someone or a multiple of these believers perpetuate this myth in an effort to comfort a child is fine with us. We understand and admire the common humanity of folks desirous of making the world a better place. Contrary to your various opinions we want to comfort the child as well. The difference is that we would do this sans myth.
Yes… it really is just that simple.
Why, if “belief” or “believe” have no place in the conversation, do you use it in describing those who you say believe in one myth or another as sacred?
I don’t belittle atheists, and I apologize from the bottom of my heart if any of my posts were offensive or perceived as attacking them specifically as a group when I was initially specifically aiming more at the cynical regardless of their feelings about religion, and then at those who would not allow other to have their beliefs – but would impose their own world view – regardless of what it is – on others when there is no actual, demonstrable physical harm being done (and I am talking about something worse than Mayor Bloomberg’s Extra Large Soda Pops!) It is wrong wrong wrong in the context of religion, and it it wrong outside of that context as well.
Tolerance in all of it’s forms is a universal virtue sorely lacking in this world at the moment, and it’s lack – solely IMNSHO (along with all of the mundane everyday baser motivations such as greed etc.) are at the root of so many of this world’s problems, from the huge geopolitical ones – to the simple interpersonal ones.
I think we are now going round and around in what is becoming a debate about one groups beliefs (and yes that word does belong here because that is what we are talking about) vs. another group’s. If you don’t like the word belief, feel free to substitute “point of view” or whatever suits your fancy.
This was a story of compassion. The fact that it fed upon, or perpetuated what you and other atheists see as a myth, likely did no permanent harm to this child, and more than her believing in Santa for a few years would. That it brought her some comfort – that was a good thing, a positive thing.
I never called Atheism a religion, though others did. I did say that anything or can assume the aspect (face) of a religion or it’s adherents can treat it as such if:
1) They are ardent and passionate if their beliefs
2) If they proselytize their beliefs
3) they belittle the beliefs of others
4) they persecute those with alternative beliefs
The specific example I used was Rock music vs. Rap music – as they both have very ardent fans on each side with religious like zeal, and there have been many occasions where this zeal has even (sadly) translated into violence (and there is even sectarian violence – does East Coast v West Coast remind anybody of Sunni vs. Shia?).
When Atheists,Agnostics & Secular Humanists go far beyond that and become the irreligious, reacting as if offended that religion even exists in their presence and belittling/persecuting the innocent believers in a religion – well, then I do have a problem with that sort of intolerance – but I have a problem with intolerance in general.
I hope you have many happy days & have no problems signing my name –
Butte County, CA
I believe that all are entitled to their beliefs, faith, and religion until they cross they boundary of hurting or affecting another person negatively with it – this of course includes those who have none.
I am a nonreligious believer in the possibility of a higher power, not a magic sky daddy, one of my sons is a devout atheist. Both were free (by me) to choose their beliefs.
You do not need a Deity to have many of the aspects of a religion; if you are a vehement believer, if you prostletize, if you argue and attempt to convert others – regardless of the subject (rock vs. rap, or atheism) you are treating it like a religion.
It is one thing to fight for your right to believe as you do, it is quite another when you try to make others believe as you do.
This is the United States of America – we are all endowed by our creator (even if they were Mom & Dad, God or a Test tube & Eye dropper) with the unwritten but unalienable right to be wrong. This is one right that SHOULD BE amended to the Constitution! It would save So very much grief!
I find this rather sad and creepy. I’m sure the intentions of the Dead Letter Angel were good, but what happened here is that a child was told a lie. To those who say the child’s age justifies the deception I say you have a very low opinion of children.
Of course it should have been explained at a level she understands. That doesn’t mean she deserves to be told fairy tales. It means the parents could have just let her know that of course she is going to be sad at losing her friend, but that she should be happy for all the good memories she has. They could have used this quote:
“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” –Theodore Seuss Geisel
In this nonbeliever’s view, the post office worker who responded so compassionately and lovingly to little Meredith is one of the angels walking this earth. Most of us have this capacity, if we so choose.
For mulebreath and Tony C. and others, I wonder if you guys have kids. This isn’t about some grand cosmic deception. It’s trying to help a young child cope with loss. Understanding will come with maturity, but you can’t expect her bear more than she’s capable of at her age.
The last sentence is most revealing and its truth overlooked. We are told that people are the real “higher power.” Sounds to me like the mother was simply telling her daughter a fairy tale like Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy and a kind soul in the Post Office was compassionate. Compassion is a wonderful humanist behavior. Like the bit about God couldn’t keep the photo because he doesn’t have any pockets. Makes me think of my son when he told me that he can only have one tennis ball at a time because his shorts didn’t have pockets.
The world needs more people with bigger hearts… Here is a prime example in both….
Saying that the mother is perpetuating a lie sounds an awful lot like an attack on her worldview (and by extension, the worldview of every believer who reads this blog). No one here has ridiculed the beliefs of atheists. How is it compassionate or respectful to call people’s beliefs a lie, particularly in response to a story about people dealing with grief?
“We are capable of comforting our children without using fairytales. There are ways of showing compassion without perpetuating myth and creating false expectation.”
Glad you found something that works for you and your family. This family’s beliefs are not a threat to your beliefs. Consider how sneering at people’s religious beliefs might reflect poorly on your character.
I believe in mortal angels, and moments of bliss. They both truly exist ephemerally. It is we human creatures that try to make them eternal.
Yes. Atheism is a religion. And bald is a hair color. Off is a television station. Abstinence is a sex position. Perhaps you get the point.
Truly it is a shame when the faithful cannot understand a simple difference in philosophy without making wild assumptions. There has not been a word uttered in disrespect or without compassion except by those attacking a contrary worldview.
for christ sake, it is a 4 year old child.
Atheism is a religion. Aint that the truth.
It is about respecting others. That simple. If being respectful of others is so painful, suggest you find someone else to annoy.
Humans are born atheist. The child’s only beliefs are those taught to her by adults. The lie is in the myth, which remains myth regardless of how many people choose to believe.
We of the secular humanist communities suffer loss at the same rate as those clinging to the supernatural. We are capable of comforting our children without using fairytales. There are ways of showing compassion without perpetuating myth and creating false expectation.
I regret that believers cannot accept simple commentary without anger and reprisal, but I’ve come to expect the reaction.
I believe they call the excuse to sway between compassion & selectively being an AH, Bipolar, these days, Darren Smith.
I’ll let people in on a little secret here: It might be a hard to grasp but it is called:
I have travelled to 19 countries and seen a number of different cultures. You know something that I learned, there are different methods to convey this concept called compassion.
Several Mosques I visited in Turkey I took off my shoes as a sign of respect for the parishoners and their customs. I wear orthotics and this is uncomfortable for me to walk on hard surfaces without shoes. I also don’t subscribe to their religion, but there is no reason to be disrespectful when they welcome you into their world.
A friend and I were sitting on the roof-top dining area of a mom-and-pop Pension in a small town on the Aegian Sea. We were the only guests staying there that night. We ordered from the menu but one of the items was not available. I selected something else but then the waiter said No, I get it for you. A couple minutes later I looked down and saw him running down the street and went four blocks away going from one store to the other and ran back to the hotel carrying a few bags. Twently minutes later (probably half an hour after we first ordered) I got what I originally wanted on the menu. Many customers surely would have been upset about a half hour wait for their dinner and would have complained. This man appreciated my business so much he went through all that. In my view he was the best waiter I saw in the country.
Several years ago I had to have major surgery to reconstruct my jaws. I had both jaws wired shut and I was in the ICU post surgery for two days. Sometime in the middle of the night I woke up choking on large blood clots that had formed and I was in trouble, worried I might choke out.
The nurse outside heard what was happening and ran into my room and began working with great expedience clearing out my mouth and troat. His hands were shaking considerably while he worked on me. Having shaky hands myself, I know how others sometimes get upset when people see this, especialy a nurse working with tools in my mouth. But I know what the shaky hands meant. He was so pumped up with adrenalyn because he valued me as his patient and was totally amped up to make me safe. He was so greatly concerned for me that his mind/body was totally focused on my health. It was a great compliment I thought.
You know, there are many ways to show gratitude or compassion for another person. Do not focus on the method, or criticize the delivery, have thanks that someone is giving it.
I am an atheist. The mother began the lie by writing the letter; even if she believed in God, she could not believe the Post Office could deliver a letter to God. If she believes in God and wanted her child to communicate with God, she could have taken the child to a Church (or holy place) and prayed with her for the safe passage of the Dog to Heaven.
The mother was engaging a bit of subterfuge with the child that did not know better than to believe the “letter ruse.” She knew full well the letter could not be delivered, she probably expected it to be thrown away or burnt. But like a prayer, perhaps she believed that making it would have a positive effect on the child and offer some closure.
In my opinion the person that answered the letter, at their own expense, had the implicit permission of the mother to perpetuate that ruse, that the Post Office could reach God, and that person could expect the mother to open the package and ditch the contents if they did not meet with her approval. The fact that the contents were shared with the child indicates the child’s guardian approved of the ruse a second time.
I personally think it is often harmful to teach children religion; but I also think it is the right of parents to teach their children their belief system as they see fit (as long as that does not involve breaking the law). I see nothing wrong here; the circumstances ensured the anonymous sender would only communicate with the child through the filter of the parent.
The child wrote a letter to God because the child believed in God (so obviously did the family & the respondant), It was not an unsolicited response and thus did not “perpetuate” anything undesired. The atheists amongst are entitled to your beliefs, but so is this little girl.
The pain you would like to cause her by sh!tting on her faith at a time of great emotional pain when she was simply looking for comfort – that is unconscionable. Shame on you.
May you be sentenced to have somebody pray for your recovery over your sick, sleeping or unconscious body the next time you happen to find yourself naturally in that condition, or to bless you when you sneeze.
I don’t care what you do or don’t believe in.
This was somebody’s beautifully compassionate act.
And yes, it did make me tear up like the child I hope we all still have inside of us. My child absolutely adores my dogs, and feels for everybody who loves their’s too. God Bless whoever did this – they make the World a better and more beautiful place.
And when we hear too much about Syria, Trayvon, Police brutality, President this or that – we just never hear enough about the small acts of small people who still care enough to try every day to do their part to make even just one persons life that much better. That’s really all it takes – is if we all just did that, so much could be solved.
We start with the small problems and then we move on.
Idealistic – meh,
might as well start somewhere, the journey of a thousand miles and all that…
The current approach of letting somebody else do it ?- how’s that working out???
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