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My mother-in-law and father-in-law are keeping me warm this winter. After they died, our family emptied their house of all their personal effects. Somehow, I ended up with their robes. On -2 degree mornings, Jane’s pale blue Polartec® is like wearing a blanket. It reminds me of all the winter mornings she padded out of her bedroom, bundled up in her Lands’ End robe.

I took Jerry’s navy fleece robe to our lake retreat for the winter, but before I did, I shortened the sleeves to three-quarter length. It’s a little big on me, but trimming the sleeves made it serviceable. One Christmas, we badgered Jerry to give us his Christmas wish list. He spotted The World’s Softest Robe in a catalog and suggested it as a possibility. We were relieved to have something to buy him.

It is, indeed, soft. My only complaint is that it’s prone to incurable static electricity. It redeems itself by giving us a few laughs as we remember what a perfect match it was for a man given to hyperbole. “Oh, you’re wearing The World’s Softest Robe this morning,” my husband will say.

As I drive toward southern climes this week, neither robe seems appropriate to pack. But never fear: I recovered a little gem at the back of a mostly-empty closet in their master bedroom. It hung there like an orphan until I claimed it. It’s an impeccably-tailored, handmade rayon plaid that will pack well and be just right for Florida mornings. The quality of the fabric alone telegraphs its age: old as the hills. We can’t imagine who made it. Probably one of Jerry’s crafty aunts.

You might think, “That’s creepy, wearing your in-laws’ duds.” So far, it hasn’t felt creepy at all. They are gone, but their stuff is still here. Knowing how conservative they were, I think they would be thrilled that we are using their things, that we didn’t just trash a vintage robe with enough imperfections to mark it as handmade.

Wearing their clothes reminds me of so many funny things about them. Their goneness (yes, I meant to write that) rattles me into saying (more often) what ought to be said to those who are still here, while I’m still here. (I hope their last robes aren’t my last robes, but who knows?)

This will likely be the last post of 2017, and I want to end with an appreciation for my three brothers, what they’ve taught me this year and what that’s meant to me—and perhaps to you as you think about a new year.

Boys, please don’t think this is a comprehensive list. It’s just my humble attempt to capture bits of “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely” about you at a snapshot in time. Once upon a time, you socked me in the gut, decapitated my dolls and forced me to stick crab apples up my nose. Thank heavens you’ve grown into men who’ve given me something better to tattle about.

Scott, I thank you for showing me that one can be happy, productive and creative even in times of great adversity and uncertainty. Your lively mind and your adventurous spirit have given me some of the year’s happiest memories. You’ve reminded me how important it is to keep growing and moving forward.

David, I admire your boldness in reinventing yourself and the softening of your heart while enduring things that are prone to make men bitter. You’ve inspired me to look for the high ground at every turn in life.

Brent, your newfound joy is just the wakeup call I needed to realize that happiness isn’t always found by chasing dreams and striving, but through God’s most unexpected gifts. He knows what’s best for us and gives it just when it’s most needed.

Readers and friends, I hope my brothers’ wisdom inspires you to plan an awesome year—one that’s filled with joy, courage, imagination, humility, surprise, perseverance and most of all, trust in God’s plan for you. Best wring all you can out of this life because…

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.