A Bittersweet Joy

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
~1 Corinthians 13:12

The famed writer Rudyard Kipling wrote a deeply touching story of only six pages entitled “The Gift of the Magi.” Published in 1905, it tells of a young couple’s love for each other and, most significantly, their willingness to sacrifice their most prized possessions due to that love. For they each wanted to purchase a Christmas gift for the other in secret, but they had no money to do so.

We will post a link below for you to read this story, but first a bit about why we are doing so. In early December of 2003, we lost our eighteen-year-old son Brian in an accident. The funeral was held five days later. During those five days, we had dozens of Brian’s friends share their stories of what Brian’s life had meant to them. These stories, and the emotion behind them, brought us both joy and sadness.

During the middle of the night after the funeral which had been held in the afternoon, Cindy and I were awake in bed. I believe it was around 3:00 am. We were talking and there were many tears. Yet amazingly, we were feeling joy in the midst of our greatest sadness. We know this was God’s loving hand and His Holy Spirit giving us comfort. It was at that moment when the little story of “The Gift of the Magi” came to my mind.

After remembering the story, I explained to Cindy that I felt bittersweet joy and sadness at the very same time, mixed together and flooding through me. I reminded her of Kipling’s story. Then, I explained that there was a strong correlation between what I was feeling and what the young couple must have felt. “Imagine,’ I said, ‘when they saw the gift that the other had sacrificed so very much in order to give them!”

We would encourage you to read the story as it is quite short. We believe that Kipling was able to tell stories with such powerful emotion due to the intense highs and lows of his own life, some of which is explained below.

About Rudyard Kipling

Perhaps, in this day and age, Kipling is better known for having written children’s books such as “The Jungle Books”. As this is being written, “Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle” is playing in movie theaters across America and it is based on his stories. He wrote the famous book “Kim” in 1901. He would win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907, at the age of 42. However, he also suffered great personal loss.

In 1899, on a trip to the United States, both he and his daughter Josephine developed pneumonia. It would take his daughter’s life. During World War I, his son John was killed at the age of 18. Kipling was devastated by both losses and felt personal guilt at having helped his son get accepted into the Irish Guard through personal connections.

Read “The Gift of the Magi” by Rudyard Kipling

Photograph by John J O’Leary

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