This family-speak is not meant to exclude. It is our bonding mechanism, the verbal equivalent of a hug. My husband and sister-in-law speak it as if it were their native tongue. They’re up for a good Bubba Rangel joke, even if they’ve never seen Bubba Rangel (a grade school classmate of my brother) in their lives. Our words draw us together and bring us joy.

One of the characters in the novel , by Mary Gordon, (which I previously quoted on the show — tune in, won’t you?) hopes that heaven will be like a private joke, a sudden giddy inclusiveness, an instant feeling of belonging. That’s what our language is for us. It’s a quick rush of home and family and being part of something larger than yourself.

I, too, hope heaven is like a private joke. If, upon seeing Him at last, God says to me, “Sit, Rachel,” I’ll know I’m home.


They can be stones;
they can be roses.
Help me, Creator,
to make my words a gift.

Open my lips to bring comfort;
still my tongue before I lash out.
Let the right combination of sounds
rise to meet anger
and soothe it into submission.

Divine presence, be in my words.
Speak through me,
that I might be your conduit
to the listening world.

-Lori Strawn


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