Gilbert leaned on one of his two walking sticks and motioned to me. On a table in front of the 99-year-old gentleman was his copy of the book, “Sticks, Stones & Songs—The Corey Story, purchased less than ½ hour earlier. “I want to show you something,” he whispered, as his arthritic fingers fumbled through the first pages.

“Has he discovered an error that I haven’t even found yet?” I wondered.

I moved closer and searched his face, for no sound escaped but the voiceless whispers of his lips. (I learned later that he had lost his vocal chords in a throat surgery.) 

With moisture forming in his eyes, he continued, “I just finished the first chapter and want you to know that I lived for many years within strolling distance of Hart’s Lake and the Wilcox Farms. I can almost picture the place where your dad received his call from God to ‘Feed my sheep.’ Your story has rekindled so many memories of my youth.”

Gilbert straightened his back, and I was again distracted by my thoughts, “He must have been a very tall man in his youth.” And “Oh my goodness, I wonder if I’ll remember anything at all at ninety-nine, if by some miracle I live that long.” He continued. “In fact, when your parents bought the Grange Hall in 1937, I was a freshman at the University of Washington.

After hearing Gilbert (well, reading his lips), I was reminded of the comments of my crippled 91-year-old cousin Barbara just a few weeks earlier. Though we had never known each other, she had purchased Sticks, Stones for each of her family and then traveled more than five hours from Portland to attend my September book reading. “I didn’t know if I would be able to get to your presentation in Port Angeles on Nov. 1, so I had to come now. I needed to tell you in person how much your book has meant to me.”

After the other attendees left, my cousin shared tales of my parents—not-yet-heard tales that left me in stitches. One week later, Barb unexpectedly passed away. How deeply my heart was warmed to have finally known Barbara, and to realize that her gifts would give other distant relatives a glimpse into our shared history.