How This Long-Lost Book Brought Divine Comfort

Inscribed with a cherished handwritten message, the book brought peace and strengthened a friendship.

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Posted in , Nov 24, 2021

Kathy and Lori; Photo credit: Lori Sciame

I stood in my office, surrounded by books. They were everywhere! Piled on my desk, stacked in cardboard boxes on the floor… There had to be hundreds of them. I had no idea that the children’s book drive I’d organized at work would be so successful, and I hoped I hadn’t taken on too much too soon.

Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised. My coworkers were kind, caring people. I’d experienced that kindness firsthand a few years ago, after my cancer diagnosis.

One morning, while getting ready for work, I’d found a lump in my breast. I scheduled an appointment with the doctor immediately. Cancer ran in my family, and I wasn’t going to take any chances. A mammogram found six tumors. I had Stage III breast cancer.

When I broke the news at the office, everyone offered their love and support. Especially Kathy. She pulled me aside. “Anything you need,” she said, “please don’t hesitate to ask. I don’t want you to feel alone during this.”

Kathy was true to her word. When chemo left me too drained to cook, Kathy organized a potluck and brought ready-made meals to my house. When the lifesaving radiation compromised my immune system, Kathy’s daughter sewed me a cloth face mask to wear to my doctor appointments—pink, for breast cancer. Kathy and I grew closer, and on the days when I was well enough to go into the office, we’d stop by each other’s desks to talk.

During one of our chats, I learned why Kathy knew exactly what I needed. Her mother had also had cancer. “She died when I was young,” she said. “I still miss her every day.”

I tried to reassure her that mother-daughter love endures even death, that her mother was always with her in spirit. But I knew words would never be enough. I wished there was something I could do to return even a fraction of the comfort Kathy had given to me, but how? Only the Lord could bring Kathy the peace she needed, and I prayed for that every day. It gave me something else to focus on.

After 13 rounds of chemo, I was healing from my surgeries, wrapping up the radiation treatments and able to go into work more often. I found my energy finally returning. Before I’d gotten sick, I’d loved to organize company fundraisers and community outreach. Now I was feeling up to it again.

That’s how the book drive came about. There were little free libraries all over town, drop-off points where people could give away books to those who needed them. I wanted to stock them with children’s books. And though I was overjoyed by the number of donations from my co-workers and their friends and families, sorting through the books was overwhelming. As I was moving some of them off my chair to take a breather, Shane, the building’s maintenance man, entered my office carrying even more books.

“She does, and we’ve already gotten a few copies of it.”

“Why don’t I put this one on her desk then?” he said. “As a little gift.”

I agreed. Caught up in going through box after box of books, I forgot all about it. Until the next day, when Kathy tracked me down, tears in her eyes. “Lori, did you leave this on my desk?” she asked, clutching the copy of Harry Potter.

“Shane found it in the donations. We thought you’d like it. Why? Is something wrong?”

Kathy opened the book to the title page, holding it out for me to see. There was a handwritten inscription: “To Donna, Love Sarah, Happy Birthday.” There was a heart drawn next to it.

“This is my mother’s handwriting!” Kathy said. “Donna and Sarah are my sisters. Sarah was too young to sign the book herself, so Mom did it for her.”

Kathy went on to explain that the book was one of the last gifts her mom had given. The three sisters had cherished the handwriting in it. Over the years, the book had been misplaced. None of them knew what had happened to it. Yet somehow, here it was. Out of hundreds of books donated from countless households in and around Phoenix, Arizona, this long-lost treasure had made it back into the right hands. Offering peace to the woman who’d comforted me through my journey. Reminding us both that there is no journey we travel alone.

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