I have received a lot of letters and notes as of late. Some from friends wishing me safe passage, some exhorting me to take my journey to new heights, others acknowledging only love and support, and some just because.

Most important to me probably was a letter of love and forgiveness from a friend. Although she and I had ample reason to find the other at fault…still love was stronger than hate or hurt. Love and only love. Peace.

I also received many well wishes and thank you cards from my boys. I would love to show you the pictures they sent, but having not secured permission from their parents, I find it most loving to only include their words.

“Thank you so much. Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication to the team and me. Please come and visit”

Another was shorter…and funny.

“Congratulations on your retirement.”

The next one I could tell the boy wanted it to be just right. He had written it all out in the heavy hand of a 10 year-old with a dull pencil. Although he spelled the words correctly, he fastidiously wrote and re-wrote the card over and over till it had the “look” of something as important as what he had to say. All the while leaving the embossed letters of his previous labor; allowing me to see with insight into his heart and love. Perhaps this attention to detail is the very reason this boy was the regional champion. The picture he attached was of me giving him a bear hug. It is nice to be remember that way.


Dear Coach Neal,

Thank you for teaching me how to do gymnastics and also helping me become more mature. You inspired me to keep doing gymnastics. You have been a great coach to me, my teammates, and also to all the other boys you have taught! πŸ™‚


The next letter was from a boy that probably changed more than any I’ve coached. He was a good boy, but he had to find out for himself that he was really good. Don’t we all? He typed it all out (not bad for an 11 year-old).

I have learned a lot from you. When I came from another gym, I wasn’t good. You made me the best that I could be and you never gave up on anyone. Also, you have a great sense of humor and always make up jokes. Aside from that you always push us to do harder things, that is how we got better, and that is how you became a fantastic coach. Whenever we were competing, you made sure we warmed up really well, and when we were doing our routines, you always cheered us on.Β  Thank you for setting up and helping build the new gym that will make us even better. I would like to say thank you for getting to my current level, and teaching us how to learn; learning all these new skills that look very scary, but are actually very fun. I am sad that you are leaving, I will miss you a lot. I hope you have good luck painting. One day, when I walk by and art museum, I will see one of your paintings. Good luck as a painter.

This morning, there was a letter from my dear friend Tom sitting on the deck of my boat. Man! He is such a good writer. He should write this blog for me. πŸ™‚


Your strength and art are moving non-dimensional belief and skill into two-dimensional gifts that will have three-dimensional effects.

What you are doing will touch real lives in real ways. Keep your socks dry. Chang them several times a day. Really!Β  Accept help. Allowing us to help allows us to contribute to something we admire. Change your socks! This whole gift is riding on your feet. Take care of them.

I so admire your journey.

He went on to give “snapshots” of how people may use, hang, or possess the pieces I give them. Profound and wonderful ways; each touching a different emotion and need. (He is a fantastic writer) I will share a couple of my favorites:

“Her 15 year-old brother looks at it and says, “It looks like you!……..Sorry!”

“One will hang her portrait 2 feet off the floor. That way it will be at her eye-level when she wakes in the morning. Next to her bed. Next to the new day.”

“He can’t write. He can’t read. He is 20 years old. Your portrait of him is the only piece of paper that has ever spoken to him. The 1st that has ever spoken of promise.”

“Tiny silver fish flash in a lake in Africa. Their flickers blink within a hut on the shore. On the only whitewashed wall hangs your portrait of their son. He sent it to them rolled up in a cardboard tube. It held his heart…and their hopes.”

The last one, and the one that was more most dear to me of all that Tom wrote was this:

“He had a voice. He wanted to be heard but not seen. For 24 years he wrote. The gift of being seen through your hands stands unique and treasured in his life.


My friends if any of you doubt living your life compassionately and in love, please, please try it. All your dreams will come true. If nothing happens after we die, and it is just it. Then as your life flashes before your eyes, you will see all the beauty you witnessed and helped to create. But, if there is a “heaven” think of all the friends you will have there when you were able to make a choice. Love to all.