I love homemade gifts and have this past week received a range of homemade gifts from cards to a birthday cake to fridge magnets.

But I have a particular homemade gift that was not made for me yet is one I treasure. It is beautifully made - although the frame is now coming apart - and until a year ago hung in my living room (it's been in storage while we have lived through renovations).

The inscription on the back reads: "To Eloise from Dorothy. June 1936." I am neither Eloise nor Dorothy and I was certainly not alive in 1936. (Come to think of it, neither were my parents.) I assume that Dorothy was the fine craftsperson who stitched this beautiful piece but I can't be sure and I have no way of tracing the original owner of the cross stitch. Since it was gifted so long ago and both ladies could now be gone, I can't help but wonder if the piece was sold off as part of an estate sale.

There is another inscription on the back. It reads: "To 'Jules' from 'Lace'. January 2009." I can't be certain but, give the date, it is probably safe to assume that is was given to me on my birthday eleven years ago. Lace loved to frequent antique shops and filled her house with amazing period pieces and I suspect this was one such item she found in a shop somewhere. When she gifted it to me back then there was no way for either of us to know that on my birthday this year I would receive the sad news that she had passed away.

Lace wasn't her real name but an affectionate nickname given her by her friends based on her online username. It suited her well. She was like a rare piece of heirloom lace: precious and fragile yet at the same time strong, and beautifying everything around her. Like fine lace she was to be treasured and valued and of infinite worth. She had a gentle and humble spirit, and despite living with unimaginable pain and rarely experiencing a full night's sleep, she was always concerned for others and rarely complained.

Lace was also an incredible prayer warrior. If she said she would pray for you then you knew she would. And she would remember days and even weeks later what she had prayed about and wouldn't give up until the answer was forthcoming. 

Like us all, she had her faults. She could blame herself at times - sometimes harshly - and usually when she was not responsible. Sometimes she felt too deeply. I think she had been hurt by life at times and struggled to realise her own worth.

She survived two different cancers back to back and the subsequent side effects and the loss of her long hair from the treatment. It was a difficult time for her but she proved how strong she could be when she put her trust in God. I smile as I remember her telling of singing hymns as she underwent an uncomfortable procedure. I think few of us understood how much she suffered physically. 

And then this year the dreadful news that she had died. I am still struggling to accept her death. It was so sudden and unexpected, and I - and others - will miss her terribly. She taught me much and I will always be thankful that I had such a friend. She was in every way, a gift.