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Dear Mitch,
I think the lesson for the son who stayed at home was that although he was in his "father's" company every day, ate meals with him, had opportunity to talk and share intimate feelings, shared in all the physical amenities available, he did not find value in it. Sadly he missed the very essence of his "father". If he had really known his father (God) he too would have lifted his robe and run to throw his arms around his brother.