After watching his siblings fight over the very little his own mother had left behind, my father often said he'd know he'd done a decent job of rearing his children if none "fought over the body" after he was gone. It is unlikely this yardstick will be applied to my life. There is almost nothing of tangible value I possess that any of our children would fight over at my funeral.
There is one thing on which I place a high value, but doubt anyone would fight for very hard. Its value in my mind comes partly from the fact it was the only possession my father left me, and partly from the intrinsic value I found in it. That one accruement of life I value is a six-volume set of Sir Winston Churchill's memoirs of World War II.
At the risk of "playing favorites" these volumes I give to Matthew, "theoneinthearmy", as my 2009 Christmas present. I give them to him not necessarily because he's the only one likely to appreciate their intrinsic value, but because he is almost certainly the only one who'd actually read through all six 750-plus page books.
What he will find is that the most all-encompassing event of human history was the Second World War. War raged from one end of the earth to the other; there was no continent unaffected, few nations untouched, almost all of humanity involved to some degree. As was recently pointed out, only when good men wage just war against evil can there be hope for peace on earth. In the face of such evil stood, in this opinion, the greatest man of the 20th century, Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain.
Not everyone will or can read these volumes, but all who do will learn something about their own small part in life. Again in this opinion, to read this work is to get some miniscule idea of the problems an almighty God must have in meeting any isolated individual need.
Always knowing eventual victory was certain, Churchill could not dictate personal actions and choices, nor short-term outcomes. Handed ultimate responsibility to stand-up to the world's great evils, and to motivate whole nations to join in the fight, he had no real control over people or events. Daily, hourly, determining who would be reinforced and who sacrificed, it would only be clear afterward which determination was valid. And, as is often the case, he would be blamed for the failures and credit for victory attributed to others.
So, this is my gift to my middle son. A father can only hope a son will be willing to learn from reading the lessons Churchill left. The alternative -- for fathers, sons, and nations -- is to learn life's truths from that teacher known as bitter experience.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.