This evening my wife hosted dinner for some family and friends at our house to celebrate my completion of graduate school. After dinner, Honeybun gave me a graduation gift: the Michael Parkes stone lithograph “An Angel’s Touch.

I first saw Michael Parkes’ art on our honeymoon. The gift shop of the hotel we stayed at had a framed poster of his “The Juggler.” We ended up buying that print and it hangs in our house still.

Just over a year later I was taking a humanities class for my undergrad degree. I was assigned to write a report on a piece of art. Coincidentally, I had just bought a book on the art of Michael Parkes. That book included a picture of An Angel’s Touch. I choose that piece to write the report. It was my favorite of the book.

Perhaps it was because of thinking about the piece for so long and the work that went into the report, but having one of the original lithographs became a dream of mine. I took that class in January 1999.

Tonight was a complete surprise. In fact, I at first thought it couldn’t be one of the actual lithographs. Honeybun started working toward buying it more than a year ago. She has secretly been putting money aside to save up for it. During that time, she spoke with our family and friends about it and many of them contributed to the gift.

This piece of art is something I’ve thought of for the last ten years. To me the image represents our desire for holiness. The contrast between the purity of the angel and filthy sow is striking. The beautiful angel deigns to touch the pig. The angel has to lower herself to do it. The sow is extending her head as far up as possible seeking that touch and seems to be happy for the slightest contact. I can sense the joy in the pig for even the slightest touch in that brief moment.

I dreamed to one day have one of these lithographs but knew that it was a fantasy; an item on my if-I-win-the-lottery list. I really am blown away. That my wife would work so long and hard to make this happen and that my family and friends would contribute to make this a reality amazes me.

I do not consider myself materialistic. OK, I have a bunch of gadgets. But really, if the house burned down tomorrow (God forbid), I would not be heartbroken over losing “stuff.” But this lithograph is something else. This work now represents more than its subjects. It also represents a thread that goes back to the beginning of my marriage, the joys and many, many trials we have been through to get to this point. It includes the achievement of my educational goals through both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Most importantly now, it represents the love of family and friends who care enough to help make a fantasy come true.

I am touched and blessed to have these people in my life. Thank you Honeybun and Bailey. Thank you Mom and Dad, Sally and Dave, Grandma Stone, Steve, Jay, Melissa & Brent, and Julie, Shawn, Cody & Tyler. You are all angels to me.