When I was two years old, my mother put me in a day
care center. She tells the story of how I was terrified
to stay at this place until a two-year-old boy named
Bobby joined the group. As long as Bobby was there, I
was not afraid. Both of our mothers had to work
full-time, so Bobby and I were there every day together.
The staff reported to my mother that we were never far
from each otherís side. When nap time came we would
refuse to nap unless our blankets were side by side.
After three years in day care, it was time for public
school kindergarten. The day care staff tried to prepare
us for the fact that we wouldnít be together again.
That didnít make sense to my five-year-old mind. I
wanted to always be with Bobby.
Our mothers, acting independently of each other,
enrolled us in the districtís elementary school.
Imagine our surprise when I reluctantly went for my
first day of kindergarten and there was Bobby! We were
in the same class! Again, we played together every day.
Bobby was the bright spot in my life, since my home
life was anything but happy and secure. My father would
go out drinking and come home and hit my mother. My only
joy and security was my time with Bobby at school.
In first grade, the children started to tease us for
playing together so much. We didnít care. Our favorite
activity was swinging and telling each other jokes. We
would laugh for a long time over our jokes.
Meanwhile, life at home was growing more and more
unhappy. Lying in bed at night, I would hear my father
yelling at my mother and hear my mother crying. I felt
so sad I didnít know what to do. To comfort myself, I
thought of Bobby during those times and tried to
remember the jokes heíd told me that day.
In second and third grade the teasing grew intense.
The boys called Bobby a sissy for playing with me.
Sometimes heíd leave me and go off to play with the
boys. Those were very sad days. Usually, though, heíd
continue to play with me.
One night, when I was eight years old, my father came
home more drunk than ever and began hitting my mother
very hard. I tried to stop him and he struck at me. I
ran to my room crying. I wished I could sneak out of my
house and be with Bobby. In the middle of the night my
mother woke me saying, "Get up, pack some of your
favorite things. We are leaving here for good. Now
My motherís voice was urgent and I obeyed her. We
got in the car and drove west for seven days. All the
time we were driving I cried. I wanted to be with Bobby,
the one person that I felt secure and happy with.
I gradually adjusted to a new life in California. I
never saw my father again. I learned to make new
friends, yet every night for years I thought about Bobby
and missed him. My mother would not let me write to him.
She said my father could then find us and maybe kill
her. That sounded pretty scary to me. As I grew, she
refused to tell me about my past, what city we had lived
in, etc. In time, I forgot all about Bobby.
I became a rebellious teenager and left home when I
was sixteen. At seventeen, I married a man ten years
older than me. I thought I loved this man until, shortly
after we were married, I discovered he was an alcoholic.
I wanted to leave, but didnít know how. Just as with
my mother, my husband began beating me up after his
drinking binges. My mother and I werenít talking. I
had no idea where my father was and I didnít have any
close friends. I felt resigned to my fate.
One night, with two black eyes and a bruised body, I
got in my car and drove away. I ended up driving for
several days until I came to a coastal town in
Washington State. During the drive, I decided one thingóI
would never trust a man again! I concluded that,
since my own father was abusive and violent and my
husband turned out to be the same, then all men must be
Eventually I got a job as a waitress and began to
carve out a simple yet lonely life for myself. My mother
and I began talking every week on the phone. It felt
good to be in communication with her again.
One day, a customer brought in an ad for a workshop
on relationships. "Well thatís sure not for
me!", I remarked with much sarcasm. "I never
want to be with a man again. Iíve had it, Iím
That seemed like a strong statement for a
twenty-five-year old woman to be making, so she teased
me a little, then seriously urged me to go. "You
are too young to give up on relationships," she
said with a smile. She then ripped out the ad and placed
it in my pocket.
Returning to my lonely room in the boarding house, I
looked at the ad. Something about the possibility of a
loving relationship intrigued me. Then all my fears came
up and I ripped up the ad and threw the pieces in the
When I went to bed that night, I felt lonelier than I
had felt in years. Usually I was very good at holding in
all my feelings, yet that night I couldnít keep them
down. I felt the pain of having an abusive father, then
having the same experience repeated in my marriage. I
felt lonely, but so fearful of ever trusting again. I
hadnít given much attention to spiritual matters, yet
on that lonely night I prayed to be able to trust again.
After a while I slept peacefully.
When I awoke, I knew with a certainty that I must go
to the seminar on relationships. Something seemed to
have happened to me during the night. Then I remembered
my prayer. "Maybe this is the help Iím
needing," I thought as I rummaged through the
garbage to retrieve the ripped-up ad. Finding one piece
with the phone number intact, I called and registered. I
felt lighter and happier than I had felt since I was a
The day of the seminar came and I felt a strange
combination of fright and enthusiastic anticipation. I
quietly entered the room and saw that it was filled with
people. The frightened part of me grew and I almost ran
out of the room, but the enthusiastic part of me found
my way to a quiet corner where I awaited directions.
Right off the bat, a young man came over to sit next
to me. He said he felt a little overwhelmed by all the
people and needed to find a friend. He told me a joke
and made me laugh. Something about his manner made me
relax. I found myself opening to him. He told me he was
part American Indian and his name was Sun Bear. Sun Bear
and I spent the entire seminar together. At the end he
asked for my phone number and I gladly gave it to him.
We began dating. When Thanksgiving came, I asked if he
would come to my motherís house with me for the
weekend. He agreed.
My mother greeted us both with warm hugs. She began
to ask Sun Bear about his past. I was getting annoyed
with my mother for probing into Sun Bearís life so
deeply. Finally she stopped and a very strange
expression crossed her face. Abruptly she excused
herself and was gone a long time. I apologized to Sun
Bear for my motherís unusual behavior.
Finally, she came back, holding a photo album.
"Sun Bear," she asked with choking emotion,
"Did you have a different name in childhood?"
He looked uncomfortable with this question and I was
seriously annoyed, then he responded, "Yes, my
mother and friends called me Bobby."
My heart began to pound wildly. With that my mother
pulled out a picture of two little children on a swing.
"I believe this is you, Sun Bear, with my daughter
Love had guided us back together after seventeen
lonely years. We have now been married for thirty years
and feel so grateful to be together again. And oh -- I
still love to listen to his jokes.
ó Jennifer Walker
Heart Of Love
My brother, Danny, was born ten minutes before me.
Inseparable from the beginning, we could only sleep if
the other was close by. If one woke up, the other was
soon to follow. Our two younger siblings were born
within four years of our birth. Our parents were so busy
with them that Danny and I took care of each other. If
someone asked us what our names were, we would say in
unison, "Danny"óor maybe the next day we
would say, "Darlene." As far as we were
concerned, we were one and the same.
Throughout elementary school, junior and senior high,
we ate every lunch together. The friends we had were
always "our" friends. When we chose the same
college, our father finally put his foot down and would
not allow us to room together. We were assigned separate
rooms with roommates of the same sex. I guess our
parents hoped we would begin to operate more as
individuals, but Danny and I continued to spend as much
time together as possible. We began dating, but always
as double dates. The truth is, we both knew we couldnít
spend the rest of our lives together, as we both wanted
to have families of our own, but we were also so
fulfilled in each otherís presence. Danny was my
brother, my best friend, my main support, my confidant,
and the funniest person I knew.
Although I liked doing everything with Danny, the
pastime I enjoyed the most was painting. Danny was a
sensitive, trained artist, who drew heavenly landscapes,
with pictures of angels and little children. He could
draw the most beautiful faces. His weakness, or so he
said, was painting hands. In contrast, my strength was
painting hands in their infinitely different positions.
Often, Danny would ask me to paint hands on the angels
or children in his paintings. When Danny and I were
painting together, we felt exceptionally close to each
other and also to our Creator.
One evening, we stayed very late finishing our work
in the art classroom. Driving home, there was a special
feeling between us. Suddenly, there was a car in our
lane coming straight towards us. We were hit before I
could even scream.
The driver of the other car was a teenager who had
had too much to drink at a party. He was killed
instantly. Danny was seriously hurt and rushed to the
hospital. I was shaken, but not badly hurt. I rode in
the ambulance with Danny. The doctors were grave and
honest, Danny had sustained irreparable brain damage.
There wasnít anything that could be done. As his only
relative present at the time, a surgeon approached me
about the possibility of donating his heart for
transplant. I got my parents on the phone and we all
agreed to donate Dannyís heart so someone else might
live. As Danny lay in a coma, his heart was removed and
rushed to a waiting donor.
The two years that followed were black years for me.
I attempted suicide three times, was hospitalized and
given drugs I refused to take. I did not know how to
live without my beloved Danny. My parents and friends
tried, to no avail, to get me interested in life again.
A friend finally got through and convinced me one day
to go to a local art show with her. I was trying to
enjoy looking at the art, mostly for my friend, when
suddenly I stopped in my tracks. There were paintings
that were so similar to Dannyís I could hardly believe
it. I looked closely at the name just to be sure. I was
told the artist would return in an hour. I waited, just
mesmerized by the art work. An hour later, a young man
approached me and introduced himself as John. I felt a
strange affinity to him. We talked for the rest of the
day about art, then gave him my phone number and went
Back at my apartment, I could think of nothing else
but John. I wanted to see him again more than anything
else. I was angry at myself for not getting his phone
number. Two agonizing weeks went by before he finally
called me. We made a date to walk in the park. I could
not understand my feelings, but I felt as if I had
already fallen in love with him. I felt happy for the
first time since Dannyís death.
At the park, John and I walked and talked and it felt
as if time stood still. I told him about Danny and my
suffering of the past two years. John reached out and
held me and, for the first time since Danny died, I felt
comforted. While my tears flowed, I felt Dannyís arms
around me as well as Johnís, and I felt at home. I
knew in that moment that I wanted to spend the rest of
my life with John. He shared that he had never felt such
love for another person as he did for me.
John and I spent as much time as we could together.
One morning, I asked John to tell me how he happened to
begin painting. He shared the story of his life. He was
born with a congenital heart disease. He had always
dreamed of becoming an artist, but his health problem
occupied much of his attention and energy. He told me of
the years he was in and out of hospitals and finally he
was in the hospital for what looked like the last time.
He was dying of heart failure. His only hope was a heart
transplant but the doctors gave very little hope of one
coming his way in time.
One night, he was rushed to the operating room and
quickly told that a heart was on its way. He woke the
next day with a healthy heart pumping in his chest. The
transplant was a success and he soon left the hospital
to begin a new life. He immediately launched himself
into his art. He hadnít stopped painting since his
operation and concluded by saying, "Painting is my
lifeís passion, Darlene. I feel the most connected to
God when I paint."
I held my breath while he spoke, my arms covered with
goosebumps. I asked in a slow whisper, "Was your
operation in March two years ago?"
"Yes!" was his stunned response as we both
were realizing the possibility of what had happened. We
held each other for a long while, not daring to speak as
the growing truth was emerging.
Finally I spoke, "John, I never wanted to know
who Dannyís heart recipient was. We only learned that
it was a success." Soon after, I placed a call to
the hospital and asked them to research who received my
brotherís heart. While we waited for the research, we
studied Johnís paintings together. The faces on the
people were beautiful. It was only then that I noticed
and pointed out how he concealed hands behind objects.
"I have trouble painting hands, so I put them
behind flowers or animals or other people," John
The phone rang and we held each other as I received
the information from the hospital that I already knew.
Dannyís heart was successfully transplanted to John
John and I were married and, in a beautiful and
sacred way, Dannyís love is with us every moment.
© Copyright 2000
Barry and Joyce Vissel. All Rights Reserved.