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I decided to read Ben-Hur this year, not knowing that a remake would be in theaters on Aug. 12. I had seen the original classic in the 1959 version as a boy, which was mesmerizing, but going through the entire novel slowly as an adult impacted me at a much deeper level as I saw it afresh on the backdrop of the Bible narrative. One passage that really hit home personally and for which I wrote about in a prayer letter to supporters on March 30, 2016 (5 years to the day from the passing of my wife due to cancer in 2011) was the following: “In a recent reading of the novel, Ben Hur, I came upon a section where the Arab chieftan, Simonides asks his daughter what day it was…she affirmed it to be the anniversary of her mother’s death: "True, most true, my daughter!" he said, without looking up. "Today, five years ago, my Rachel, thy mother, fell down and died. They brought me home broken as thou seest me, and we found her dead of grief. Oh, to me she was a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of En-Gedi! I have gathered my myrrh with my spice. I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey. We laid her away in a lonely place--in a tomb cut in the mountain; no one near her. Yet in the darkness she left me a little light, which the years have increased to a brightness of morning." He raised his hand and rested it upon his daughter's head. "Dear Lord, I thank thee that now in my Esther my lost Rachel liveth again!"
Five years ago this very day, my cluster of camphire, Paula, was received into glory. It is easy to identify with Simonides as he reflects on those five years with his daughter. Today I had the opportunity to reflect with my daughter, Amber, concerning this significant day. Amber reflects so many of the lovely traits that I saw in her mother. So, after talking with Amber I read afresh the words of Simonide, but changed them a bit, “Yet in the darkness she left me a little light, which the years have increased to a brightness of morning…Dear Lord, I thank thee that now in my ‘Amber’ my lost ‘Paula’ liveth again!"