My former law partner, Robert Torricella, is a man of deep faith, a great dad, a loving and devoted husband, a UM Hurricane football fanatic and an exceptional lawyer.  He and his wife, Denise, have had their own share of “family challenges” over the years, which, to their substantial credit, they have met head on with love, courage, faith, patience and perseverance. They are an inspiration to others confronting similar challenges and those who, like me, simply watch from a distance with great admiration.

Likely unbeknownst to Robert (until now), because of that admiration, my longstanding respect for his writing ability and his deeply compassionate and loving spirit, he was one of the first “members” of the “Dear Ashley” inner circle. I sent him drafts of the earliest chapters, in strict confidence, certain I could count on him to be candid in his assessment of both the concept and the content – and then I held my breath waiting for his response.

Turned out my worrying was for naught (Come to think of it, isn’t worrying ALWAYS for naught?!?). Robert was an immediate fan and his enthusiasm for the project has never waned. In fact, he repeatedly offered his heartfelt beliefs that the book, originally entitled “Beyond the Burning Bush,” is an “inspired” work, that I am mostly a conduit for its message of hope and healing and that, because it is inspired, my biggest challenge has been and likely will continue to be staying out of its and my own way.

It is impossible for a writer to overstate the importance of positive feedback, support and constructive criticism during the creative process – all of which I have received in abundance from Robert over the past 3 years. In fact, I have Robert to thank for insisting that I change the title of the book to make it more personal, more reflective of its most endearing and intimate qualities, suggesting instead that I simply call it – you guessed it – “Dear Ashley . . .”

Robert also was instrumental in my eleventh-hour decision to include “The Graduation Note” that I wrote to Ashley the morning after her high school graduation, insisting that, while he and others who have known Ashley since early childhood appreciate just how extraordinary she is, it was important for the reader to have a similar understanding of and connection with her from the beginning. He was right. It makes a difference – Robert made a difference. Thus, my inscription in his “first-day-it-came-in-the-mail” copy:

To Robert–

I can’t possibly thank you enough for the encouragement and unwavering support you so unselfishly and enthusiastically provided during the writing of this book.  I am deeply and eternally grateful.


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