Sweet are the memories: fading floral arrangements, cards listing against each other on the dining room table, gift-wrappings torn apart—Whitman’s Sampler and Linden’s light chocolates and slippers—serenades on email and voicemail, phone and Face Time visits, and all the in-between wishes for my eighty-fifth birthday last week. Neighbors even left a variegated assortment of gourds for my front porch to complement the pumpkin and potted Alberta spruce. But most significant was my sister Martha’s two-day visit.

Such affection left me surprised, grateful, but dizzy with exhaustion. I felt like the Velveteen Rabbit, its stuffing reconstituted through hugs, but still grinning.

So what happened through the bestowal of these gifts, unique, powerful, colorful, and aromatic? In my perception, each carried the signature of Higher Power, imprinting love-traces upon my old heart, still in need of healing; its wounds of disbelief still smart: I couldn’t be loved that much, so assails the Mutterer in my depths. A hangover since childhood, I’ve spent years learning otherwise, but its nastiness is still there.

Practicing the Twelve Steps of CPA helps diffuse Muttterer’s assaults—It recoils in the face of unconditional love. Yet, I can only tolerate brief exposures as much as I cherish them.

With the psalmist, I continually cry out: Create, O God, a clean heart within me. On my own, this is impossible.