The snow that had tumbled down overnight was fresh and light, just enough to transform the back woods into a magical winter forest. Pure white wonder, the afternoon sun glinted through the cathedral of pines that towered atop the ridge above our little house on High Street.

“Who wants to go for a snowy woods walk?” I called through the house, knowing that it might be our last chance before moving. Only my youngest sons — ages 5 and 2 — were home, along with our oldest, 18-year-old Judah, who is on school break during his freshmen year of college.

Small feet came running down the hall, followed by the creak of Judah’s door. “I don’t know,” he said.

“Come on.” I remembered the first time I took him on the back trails in winter. He was not yet 2 and insisted on trudging through the waisthigh drifts rather than being pulled in a sled.

He and our other children — ages 16 and 12, who were at school — and I had spent so many hours enjoying these woods, I wanted to say goodbye together. Whether facing a move, a change in employment, a drifting relationship, or bidding a final farewell to a loved one, it is important to say goodbye well. That is because the words we speak and the ways we commemorate life’s passages have the power to convey a blessing.

A common sacrament in Bible times, bestowing a benediction was a powerful ritual, such as Isaac’s deathbed blessing of his younger son Jacob. “Haven’t you saved even one blessing for me?” his older brother Esau cried.

When I was younger, my mom, who became a Biblical scholar and minister, spoke of the special significance of a parent passing down a blessing to his or her children and how many parents miss it.

One year ago, a few days before she died, we spoke of how she was feeling and when I would see her again. Neither of us knew how little time she had left, when her words quietly drifted and I realized that she was no longer talking to me. She was talking to God, praying a blessing over me. It was one of our last conversations, and although I didn’t write down her words, I know they are recorded in eternity.

And so it was, last week, that I zipped up my jacket and hoisted 2-year-old Ezra into the pack carrier and headed outside. Following the trail of my other sons’ boot prints, I called our golden retriever, Sushi, and hiked up the hill as ice-crystals showered down around us. Avoiding concealed pools of water, we followed a logging road to a clearing high above our city.

The mile-off, red-andwhite tip of the shipyard crane winked at us through the shaggy pines as I lifted my face toward the clear blue sky and thanked God for these woods, for our time in this house and for what was to come. Then I prayed a blessing on those who would come after us before snapping a photo of my 6-foot son trudging through the snow beside his little brother and starting down hill for the final time.

MEADOW RUE MERRILL is a Mid-coast Maine writer who shares about God in her everyday life through “Faith Notes.” For more, go to where you can follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

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