Space Between Us – Lyrics

Space Between Us



It’s hard on you when he’s lost out there

lightyears away,

Past Saturn’s rings and earthly things

So how can you say

You love him

With stars in your eyes?

There’re stars in his too

But they’re meant for the skies.


He loves the moon, the midnight sky,

the rapture, the glow.

He loves the way the planets dance

as he stares from below.

But you will never join the dance;

He won’t even know.

Your heart will break, wide awake,

with nothing to show.


There’s no U in his universe,

But there’s U in ours. . .



Let’s gravitate a little more.

There’s space between us.

Can you feel it there, running through the floor,


Let the moment reel you in.

Close your eyes, pause, and then

try to let your heart begin

love again.


Let’s gravitate a little more

There’s space between us.

Open up this silent door

Oh oh.

Galileo got it wrong—

You’ve been my center all along.

But you won’t hear it in this song

’cause there’s still space between us.



You’re at the wrong end of his telescope,

the dark side of the moon.

I’m calling you like a satelite.

I hope you answer soon.

I hope my message gets to you,

I hope my heart’s in tune,

I hope and try to cage my pain

but nobody’s immune.


You’re the only U in my Universe,

Only you.



Let’s gravitate a little more.

There’s space between us.

Can you feel it there, running through the floor,


Let the moment reel you in.

Close your eyes, pause, and then

try to let your heart begin

love again.


Let’s gravitate a little more

There’s space between us.

Open up this silent door

Oh oh.

Galileo got it wrong—

You’ve been my center all along.

But you won’t hear it in this song

’cause there’s still space—



Let’s take one small step for mankind

and take two for love.

One for patience,

One for grace,

and take two for love.

And once we’re finally in our place

and once we finally embrace

We find that we are right where we belong.



Let’s gravitate a little more.

There’s space between us.

Can you feel it there, running through the floor,


Let the moment reel you in.

Close your eyes, pause, and then

try to let your heart begin

love again.


Let’s gravitate a little more

Oh, oh

Open up this silent door

Oh oh.

Galileo got it wrong—

You’ve been my center all along.

But you won’t hear it in this song

’cause there’s still space between us.






Bring us fire. Bring us light.

Bring us knowledge. Steer us right.

Good and evil, feed us fruit,

Tempt us with a parachute.

Crash and burn, burn and char,

scourge us hence, near and far.

We will curse thee. We will rage.

We will right upon the page.

We will open up the box

before Pandora even knocks.

Bring us fire. Bring us light.

Hide the garden in the night.

Fashion raincoats from a cloud.

Make the shyest rowboat proud.

Flood our knowledge. Soak the scars.

Wash away the idle stars.

Bring us fire. Bring us light.

Bring us wisdom in the fight.

Prometheus, attend the sky,

send the word as owls fly.

Feast the wolves upon our wrong

and save the dying Dodo’s song.

We may smile, we may sigh,

and though we may attempt to try,

this none can dodge until he die:

that learning, yearning, burning Why?


La Cathédrale Engloutie



One of my favorite composers is Claude Debussy. I recorded his piece “La cathédrale engloutie” [the swalowed/engulfed/sunken cathedral]. I hope you like it. Click the link below to listen to download the audio.

The piece tells the story of an ancient catheral that rises up out of the sea (or possibly a swamp or marsh). Debussy, in a truly impressionistic fashion, paints a picture of curch bells and an organ playing first above water, once the cathedral has emerged, and then underwater, once the cathedral has sunk back into the sea. It is a very beautiful piece.




Pennies {essay}




The tide rises, the tide falls,

The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;


Mommy holds my hand tightly as we clomp across the wooden planks. Every time we get close to a shadow I jump so my shoes will light up. Daddy stops us and points at a fisherman. He is unhooking a shiny fish from a hook, just like Great-grandpa did the time we went fishing at the lake. The fish flaps around. I think it wants to go home.

“Daddy, the fishy’s bleeding.”

“Yep. He has a little scrape, but he is going to be fine.”

“Is the man gonna eat him?”

“No. That fishy is too small to eat. The man will probably throw him back.”

“So he can go home?”

“So he can go home.”

The man carefully cuts the invisible fishing line and tosses the fish off the pier. Its scales shine. Maybe the fish wants to fly. A pelican with a big, wrinkly bill swoops out from under the pier and catches the fish. He’s gone.

Along the sea-sands damp and brown

The traveller hastens toward the town,


Mommy tugs on my hand.

“Come on. There’s a machine outside the restaurant at the end of the pier that sells candy for a penny.”

I know a penny is not very much money because I’ve tried to buy things with pennies from under the couch cushions. Not enough, Daddy said.

Most people do not care about pennies, but I do. I pick them up. Great-grandpa told me that if you pick up enough pennies and keep them in a jar, you’ll have one-hundred dollars. Daddy won’t say not enough to one-hundred dollars. That’s why I pick up pennies.

I haven’t found any today, so I watch the ground, waiting, but there are too many rusty rivets that aren’t pennies, too many gaps between planks—slits of ocean—where pennies fall, too many bird droppings that shine like metal. I am running out of time.


And the tide rises, the tide falls.


“Look. Here’s the machine.”

“But I haven’t found a penny yet.”

“That’s ok. You can have this one.”

Mommy presses a penny into my hand and helps me put it in the slot and turn the crank. She shows me how to cup my hands to catch the jellybeans when she opens the little silver door.

I keep the jellybeans on my tongue as long as I can, trying to make them last as we walk alongside the restaurant. We keep walking around the restaurant and I don’t pay attention to anything but the taste of jellybeans. I think how the jellybeans are like little fish who want to go home. They want to dive off my tongue and fly down my throat, but I won’t let them.

Then we walk off the pier and I realize the jellybeans have vanished from my mouth and we have appeared on the sand. It is like some sneaky pelican snatched the seconds from my memory—the ones where the beans dove and I walked—and now I have just snapped back into myself to continue from where I left off.

Maybe Daddy knows what happened.

“Did we ever turn around or did we walk across the whole ocean?”

“What do you think?”

“I think . . . maybe?”

“I’ll let you figure it out.”

Mommy and Daddy hold my hands until they help me into my car seat and I fall asleep as we rumble away from the jellybeans, the fish, the pelican, and the beach on the other side of the ocean.

Darkness settles on roofs and walls,

But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;


I remember Great-grandpa’s hands. You could see each vein like a river, each knuckle like a mountain, each wrinkle like a road—the way the earth looks from the windows of a plane. Once we took a plane to see Great-grandpa. That plane was fast—superfast—but not as fast as Great-grandpa’s hands. They were farming hands, hands of earthwork and sky-breathing. Living hands.

Great-grandpa taught me to play slap-hand. He would rest his elbows on the arms of his wheelchair and turn his palms upwards. It was an invitation, a prayer of sorts. I would stretch out my hands, soft and tiny, like stars above his earth-hands. I never knew when he was going to flip his hands, but he always got me, caught my star. I could never get my hands away fast enough, and when it was my turn to be underneath, to catch his stars, he always got away. It was infuriating, but I loved it. It was us time.


The little waves, with their soft, white hands

Efface the footprints in the sands,


            Why did Mommy button my new shirt all the way up to my throat? I don’t like it. I don’t think I could swallow anything wearing this. It wouldn’t fit. If the pelican yesterday was wearing this shirt, it couldn’t have swallowed that fish. Mommy slides me a piece of paper from the middle of the table.

“Write something to Great-grandpa.”

“Why, Mommy?”

“So he can read it when he wakes up.”

“What do I write?”

“Your cousins are writing him little notes.”

“But I don’t wanna do it.”

“Think how happy he will be when he reads it.”

“Ok. If it makes him happy.”

I choose a blue marker, my favorite color. Mommy helps me fold the paper up when I finish writing, and then I write my name in my best handwriting on the front.


And the tide rises, the tide falls.


We stand in line, Daddy, Mommy, and me. I never had to stand in line to see Great-grandpa before. Is everyone playing slap-hand today? I thought it was a special game for the kids. Adults not allowed. They should get out of line so the kids can play.

We move forward slowly and some of the adults are crying. I didn’t know slap-hand was so scary for them. Maybe it hurts them more than me.

“Daddy, where’s Great-grandpa?”

“He’s over there.”

“I can’t see. There’s too many flowers. Is he hiding?”

“No. I’ll show you when we get there.”


The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls

Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;

There is a big table with a white tablecloth, with a big wooden box on top. Mommy is crying. She slips a note into the box. Where is Great-grandpa? What about slap-hand?

Daddy lifts me up in his arms so I can see better.

“Put your note in the box.”

“But Daddy, why is Great-grandpa sleeping in a box?”

Daddy is crying. He whispers to me, because he can’t talk, just cry.

“Because he has gone to heaven.”


“They are going to bury him in the ground so he will be safe until Jesus comes to wake him up.”

“But Daddy, why are you crying? He’s going to be ok if Jesus can wake him up.”

Daddy doesn’t say anything—he just kisses the top of my head and holds me, even when we go outside to sit down on the grass. He holds me.


The day returns, but nevermore

Returns the traveller to the shore,


I didn’t cry until we got home. I was on my bed thinking about Great-grandpa. I thought about slap-hand and how fun it was. I thought about the funeral and the flowers. I thought about how sad I was that I would never get to see him again for a long time. That’s when I started to cry. I never got to say goodbye.

So I cried. The afternoon was quiet and I sat on my bed, looking out the window and cried.

Then it was finished.

I sat there for a minute, before I remembered my promise—the promise I wrote on the note to Great-grandpa. I dug through my closet where I stored a collection of odds-and-ends, things like empty toilet paper rolls, rubber bands, and empty tissue boxes that were useful for projects. I found the jar I was looking for and put it on my dresser. I pulled open the top dresser drawer to find the box where I kept all my money and sat on my bed, sorting. I scooped up all the pennies and tossed them into the jar. They shined like the scales of a fish as they fell. Then I found a blue marker and labeled the jar in my best handwriting.

Finally, I smiled.

Great-grandpa would be so proud.


And the tide rises, the tide falls.



Work Used:    “The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Pocket Lint


Pocket lint


Pocket lint is love:

cozy, secret, and inexplicable,

buried in every person’s pocket,

a puff of imagination.


Some do not care for it.

They flick it away,

emptying their pockets of feeling,

while others collect it,

stashing it close to their soul

where it can breathe and thrive.


It may not be beautiful, predictable, or welcome,

but I welcome pocket lint,

I welcome love.







Carry the world, Atlas.

Carry the world.


Jude was warned not to take it,

Hey Jude?


Michael offered to carry it upon his shoulders,

and you might have taken him up

if he wasn’t already engaged in rowing boats ashore.


So Atlas, it’s you.

Carry the world, Atlas.

Carry the world.


Go the Distance


I love the music in Disney’s Hercules. My favorite song from the film is “Go the Distance”. I love its message of perseverance and finding a place in the world. Here is an audio recording of a piano reduction of “Go the Distance”. Click the link below to download it.

The lyrics to “Go the Distance” go like this:

Go the Distance

I have often dreamed
Of a far-off place
Where a great warm welcome
Will be waiting for me
Where the crowds will cheer
When they see my face
And a voice keeps saying
This is where I’m meant to be

I will find my way
I can go the distance
I’ll be there someday
If I can be strong
I know ev’ry mile
Will be worth my while
I would go most anywhere
to feel like I belong

I am on my way
I can go the distance
I don’t care how far
Somehow I’ll be strong
I know ev’ry mile
Will be worth my while
I will go most anywhere
to find where I belong


I will beat the odds
I can go the distance
I will face the world
Fearless, proud and strong
I will please the gods
I can go the distance
Till I find my hero’s welcome
Right where I belong!

Lyric Credit: LetsSingIt

hi-jacked by a wild ukulelist


Smiles in the Sky has been Hi-jacked. By D.M.

Fear me.

I am considering changing the name of this blog to “Frowns in the Ground.” Or “Smirks in the Mirk.” Maybe “Furrows in the Burrows?”

We’ll see.

I am a wild ukulelist on a mission, seeking to convince the world that the Ukulele is a legitimate instrument destined for greater things than “Hey Soul Sister” and “I’m Yours” around a campfire.

Don’t try to find me. I’m fleeing the country in a few days. For a couple years.

But, for the past several months, I have been composing a work. For SOLO CLASSICAL UKULELE. That’s right. No cheesy lyrics. And it involves more than the four chords you likely know how to play. *gasp*

Mourning Breaks, my Suite for Classical Ukulele had its world-wide debut on SoundCloud today, December 23, 2015.

To the Gear at the Center of the Ferris Wheel



To the Gear at the Center of the Ferris Wheel


You are the sprocket at the center of the microverse.

You know-nothing North Star Nirvana.

The ferris wheel flung in flailing reverse

shouts swirling with sheer ‘mericana.


You know-nothing North Star, Nirvana,

the semblance of peace in your cogs,

shouts swirling with sheer ‘mericana

all lost to your doldrumming fogs.


The semblance of peace in your cogs

is terror to seated extremes.

All lost to your doldrumming fogs

are your passengers’ mortified screams.


Is terror to seated extremes

A turnstile carnival dirge?

Are your passengers’ mortified screams

where courage and quitting converge?


A turnstile carnival dirge

cannot defeat the rust

where courage and quitting converge.

Central, then suffering, then dust.


cannot defeat the rust

The ferris wheel flung in flailing reverse—

Central, then suffering, then dust.

You are the sprocket at the center of the microverse.


Ryan’s Courage {narrative essay}



Ryan’s Courage


Have I not commanded thee?

Be strong and of good courage;

be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed:

for the Lord thy God is with thee

withersoever thou goest.

—Joshua 1:9

“I am sorry that your father could not come to say goodbye. It would arouse the Russians’ suspicions if he did not arrive at work on time,” she said. The tears were already threatening to spill from her motherly, bright blue eyes.

“I understand,” her son said. “Give him my love.” He adjusted the rough satchel on his shoulder, the only possession he would take to America.

“Come here,” she said, wrapping him in her arms. As the two stood on the dusty road listening to the grass rustling in the predawn glow, they let the warmth of their embrace penetrate their woolen coats. The words that had been building up inside her came rushing out. “I wish the Russians would just leave.  I wish they would not conscript eighteen-year-olds to do their dirty work. I wish that Lithuania was free from their vile…”

“I know. I know, but there is nothing we can do,” her son said. The silence hung in the air as they continued holding each other, the son patting his mother’s back gently.

“Promise me this,” she whispered into his ear, “that you will never again try to contact us, that you will never again use your true name, and that you will never forget our love for you.”

“I promise.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”

After a time the two let go of each other. “Can we say a prayer?” his mother asked, her eyes wet.

“Of course.”

They bowed their heads and his mother spoke to the sky. “God in Heaven, I have tried to be a good mother. I have struggled at times, but I need you now, more than ever. Please bless my son, that angels will safeguard his journey and future. We love thee and thank thee. Amen.”

“Amen,” her son said.

They gazed at each other for a moment, letting the quiet speak the words their hearts could not.

“Be brave and trust God, that he will send His angels to be with you, my son. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye,” he said, turning. “Thank you, Mother.”

Before he had walked five steps his mother called out, “One last thing—” He turned back, taking in her sturdy confidence and love-worn silhouette one last time.

“Happy birthday.”

“Thank you, Mother.”

And then she watched her son walk down the road toward the docks. The docks where the ship that would take him far away from Lithuania forever waited patiently in the hopeful haze of dawn.


His small, cold hand slips into mine and I give it a little squeeze to let him know I am listening. Parents and teammates crowd the deck cheering Go! Go! Go! as the next heat of swimmers churns their way through the water, but my ears listen only for the uncertain voice of my youngest brother, Ryan.

“How do I be brave?” he asks. I turn to look down at his blue eyes and white-blond hair sticking up in a soggy porcupine crown. His name, Ryan, is a family name. It is Gaelic for ‘little king’, though, in that moment, he looks more ‘little’ than ‘kingly’ to me.

Barging into the conversation, my middle brother, Matthew, makes two fists. “You got to get mad. Angry. Like the Hulk.” Matthew flexes his stringy arms and swings at an invisible adversary. “And then you just do it. Nike-style. You feel the rage and DOMINATE.” In his best slow motion, Matthew punches his fist into his palm. “Ryan SMASH.”

Ryan grips my hand tightly, and I shake my head and raise an eyebrow at Matthew, whose name is Hebrew for “Gift of God.” Perhaps imagination is his gift.  I strain to picture Ryan as a meaty, green eight-year-old with domination on his agenda. Chuckling to myself, I feel a tug from Ryan’s hand.

“Why are you laughing?” Ryan’s eyes are searchingly honest and confused. I stop. Nearly choke, incredulous. He doesn’t actually believe Matthew, does he? He must know that bravery is not about compulsive rage, right? But the question in his eyes tells me otherwise.

I suppose it takes experience to understand where true courage comes from.


“Success comes with experience, Walter,” she said, taking his hand in hers. “Starting a new life here in Iowa, starting a tailoring shop in our garage,” she pulled his hand to the tiny heartbeat in her stomach, “and starting a new family with me—it seems like you are doing a whole lot of starting. That means the success and experience are still coming. Just be patient.”

“I am not the patient type and you know it,” her husband said, leaning in to whisper in her ear, “but since it’s you… well, I might be persuaded—just this once,” and he planted a quick kiss on her cheek, smiling.

She reached behind her back, grinning, and smoothly swiped an envelope from their tiny kitchen table. “This came in the post today, forwarded from the government,” she said. “It looks important, but I don’t recognize the recipient. It says ‘Wladislaus Roniceros’.”

The smile disappeared from his face. “How?” he muttered to himself grabbing the letter. “They knew better than to contact me. No one is supposed to know that name!”

His wife planted her hands on her hips. “What are you talking about, Walter?”

“That was the name I used coming to America. It was made up. Only my family and I knew it. Contact was a last resort because we couldn’t risk the Russians discovering that I had left.”

“What does this mean then?”

“It means something is wrong.” Walter’s hands were shaking as he held the letter.  “You should open it,” he said. He held it out to her.

“Are you sure, Walter?”

“Yes. Take it.”

Slipping the letter gently from his grasp she asked, “Do you want me to read it to you?”

“Yes,” Walter answered, making his way to the corner to sit in the old rocking chair. She opened the letter with a knife and he closed his eyes, eyes the same bright blue as his mother’s. She read:


Dear Mr. Roniceros,

I am sorry to inform you of your mother’s passing. She drowned when she fell off the docks on her way to return several sailors’ coats your father had tailored.





“Oh Walter! I’m so sorry. I didn’t know. It’s …” and her voice trailed off. The letter dropped back to the tabletop.

Walter just kept his eyes closed and rocked. And rocked. And rocked.

And rocked.


“What event are you racing today Ryan?” I ask.

“The 200-yard freestyle” he mumbles, shooting a glance at the pool where the older kids are confidently taking their mark.

“You want to know how to really be brave?” I ask. His eyes slowly rise to meet mine. “Let me tell you.” The starting blast sounds.

“In sixth grade I was terrified of butterflies,” I begin. Ryan giggles. “You know what I mean: swimming the 100-yard and 200-yard butterfly races.” As I continue, he begins shifting his weight from foot to foot.

“I spent all week praying that I would survive race day. When the school bell rang on Friday, everyone else celebrated the start of winter break; I didn’t want to leave school and have to face the butterflies.”

Ryan bounces from foot to foot.

“What’s the matter? Do you have butterflies in your stomach?” I ask. Ryan nods. “I know exactly what you are feeling.” I remember just how it felt as I stood on the icy pool deck that Saturday, the wind snaking around my knobbly knees and bare chest. My stomach felt full of boiling peanut butter—thick, goopy, and sick.

I remember focusing on one thought as I warmed up for my first race: Breathe. Just breathe. Then my coach was yelling at me, “Hey! Stop breathing so much! It’s slowing you down.”

“But I need air!” I yelled back.

‘You can breathe when you’re dead!’ he said and blew his whistle.

Ryan interrupts my thoughts with a question. “How do you get rid of butterflies in your stomach?”

“You swallow a butterfly net.” Ryan cocks his head to the side. “I’m just kidding. Anyway, the meet began and I swam the 100-yard butterfly. By the time I hit the finishing wall I felt like I might pass out. I did some quick mental math as I climbed from the pool.

100 yards x 2 = 200 yards

100 yard butterfly = me, breathless and near complete exhaustion

200 yard butterfly = me + 1 headstone reading:



The little joke does nothing to relieve Ryan’s nervous rocking. He asks, “So what did you do?”

“Well, I ran to my coach, sobbing, and told him, ‘I can’t do the 200-yard butterfly, Coach. I just can’t do it.’ In my head, I said a little prayer. Please God, all I want for Christmas is an angel to help me.

“My coach grabbed me by the shoulders and stooped down to look me in the eyes. ‘Ok. That’s fine,’ he told me, ‘You don’t have to swim.’ I felt a glorious moment of relief. ‘But you still have the choice,’ he continued. ‘You can either swim this race and leave knowing you had the courage to try your best, or you can not swim the race and leave knowing you never tried.’

“That did it for me. My coach was the angel I had prayed for. He stood at the end of my lane hollering Go! Go! Go! for all eight lengths of my race. To me, it was a miracle. I asked God for help and He delivered. It’s just like the scripture says: Ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

When I finish the story, I can tell that the gears in Ryan’s head are turning. Turning, turning, turning.



“Yes, Helen Marie?”

“Why don’t we celebrate your birthday?” The little girl in overalls and pigtails sat down on the bottom of the stepladder, resting her chin in her hands.

“Because I don’t know what day it is,” her papa said, carefully smoothing the pants he was ironing.

“That’s silly. Everyone has to have a birthday!” Helen said.

“Yes. You are right. I just cannot seem to remember which day is mine.” Her papa looked up from his work and knew by her face that she didn’t believe him; it was the same face his wife made when he told her he didn’t have too much work left to do. “How about this, princess: why don’t you choose a day to celebrate my birthday?”

“Me?” Helen’s eyes grew wide, “Ok.” She scrunched up her nose and stuck out her tongue in concentration. The two stayed like that for a minute or so, the father ironing clothes and the daughter pondering dates, as fleck-filled sunlight spilled through the garage’s open windows.

The girl’s head popped up off her hands. “How about March fourth?”

“Mama’s birthday?”

“Yes. So you can celebrate it together!”

“I like it,” Papa nodded.

“We can have the party here, in your tailoring shop!”

Amused, he said, “You better talk to your Mama about that one.”

“Yes sir!” little Helen said as she stood and skipped out of the garage into the Iowa spring air.

A few weeks later, Helen skipped back into the garage and handed her father a piece of paper. “What is this?” he asked.

“It’s an invitation to your birthday party tomorrow!” Helen nearly shouted.

Her papa held the paper at arm’s length. “Ah! Now I see it. Yes, indeed it is.”

“I made it all by m—” and then Helen let out a sudden shriek of terror and scrambled up the steps of the stepladder, clinging to the top. Quickly setting down his needle and thread, her Papa came around his desk. “What is it?”

“SPIDER!” she screamed, pointing, while her papa calmly planted one boot on top of the scurrying bug, no larger than a penny.

He lifted his daughter into his arms. “It is all right. The spider is gone. You are going to be fine.”

Wiping her eyes and nose with grubby hands, Helen began to calm down. “How were you not scared?”

“I’m not scared of spiders.”

“Oh,” she said in a small voice as he walked to the corner of the garage where the old rocking chair now rested. Propping her on one knee, they rocked together. “Are you scared of anything Papa?” she asked, laying her head against her papa’s shoulder.

“Yes. Of course I am. Everyone is scared of something.”

“What are you scared of?”


Helen sat up straight, bewildered. “Water? That’s silly.”

“Not to me. You see, I have seen a great deal more water in my time than you may ever see in your entire life.” She still looked skeptical. “When I came to this country, I came in a big boat. It took many days to travel the whole ocean, and all I had was a satchel with my tailoring supplies and some money, neither of which could help me with my fear—my fear of drowning. I did not know how to swim.”

Understanding seeped into the girl’s eyes. “How did you do it then? How were you brave enough to travel the whole ocean?”

He closed his eyes, gently rocking the chair, breathing in memories. “I remembered something my mother had said to me: Be brave and trust God, that he will send His angels to be with you. So I said a little prayer. I said, ‘God, I am scared. I do not want to be scared anymore. Help me.”

“What happened then?” Helen asked.

“Well, God answered me. He sent me an angel. A friend. The man’s name was Ryan.”

“Hey! That’s our last name!” Helen said, surprised.

“Yes, it is. Ryan was a Scottish sailor aboard the ship, and he knew the most wonderful stories I have ever heard. Throughout the trip, whenever Ryan could spare a moment, we would meet and he would tell me stories that would take my mind far away from my fear. That’s why, when I had to choose a new name in America, I chose ‘Ryan’. The name reminds me that I can always be brave when I have God on my side.”

“I like that story very much Papa,” she said, resting her pigtails once again on his shoulder. “Thank you for telling me.”

Together they rocked, enjoying the silence in the cozy garage, until Helen whispered something that her papa couldn’t quite hear.

“What was that?” he murmured out of the corner of his mouth.

“Happy birthday Papa.”

“Thank you, Helen. Thank you.”


“You know what words can be spelled with the letters of ‘courage’, Ryan?”


“The words ‘race’ and ‘grace’,” I say.

Matthew, who possesses the gift of eavesdropping as well as the gift of imagination, holds up a hand. “Wait. How do you spell ‘grace’ from ‘courage’? There isn’t even a ‘g’ in ‘courage’.” He screws up his nose. Then he smacks his forehead. “Oh. Never mind.”

Ignoring Matthew, I turn to Ryan. “You know the story about how God helped Great-great-grandpa Walter Ryan have courage when he came to America, right?”


“Well, we can have courage too. When I raced my first 200-yard butterfly I learned how to be brave—you say a little prayer, and God sends an angel. The angel can be a person, an inspiration, or even a feeling of peace. God’s grace is shown when he sends us angels to lift us to success, even when we fall or doubt. If God helped Great-great-grandpa and me, God can help you too, Ryan. Would you like to say a prayer now? I’ll help you if you’d like.” His soggy, blond porcupine crown bobs.

Off to the side we three brothers kneel together, a sanctuary amidst chaos, and I cannot help but smile as the little king asks the Great King to send him an angel to help him be brave.










Works Used

The Holy Bible, King James Version, Joshua 1:9. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979. Print.

The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Section 88:63. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979. Print



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