He had been feeling fairly well for some time after his second surgery when one day he kept going to the couch for a nap. My suspicions, aroused, I asked if he was sleeping because he was tired or if it was to avoid his thoughts.
“Probably the latter,” he admitted.
I suggested we go for a drive and talk. Driving through his favourite country-side the words tumbled from him.
“It’s not that I’m afraid to die,” he shared, “it’s just that there are so many things I still wanted do. I hate to leave you so soon, just when I thought I was going to relieve you of some of the house work so you could write. I’m proud of our grown children but I had hoped to continue to support and encourage them until they were much older. I have so many ideas for ways to spend quality time with my grandchildren as they grow up, now I will be leaving them while they are so young they may not even remember me or know how much I love them.”
The agony in his voice tore at my heart. What could I say? He was right! Then God planted a thought in my mind and I expressed it before I could give it more thought.
“You’ve learned in Marriage Encounter to write love letters to me. Even though you didn’t like to write and found it hard in the beginning, you do it beautifully now. Perhaps you’d like to write one to each of your children, in-laws and grandchildren.”
The face of the dear man I loved lit up in relief and gladness. There was a ring to his voice as he said, “I believe I will do that.”
In the next week or so, he labored over the words he wrote until at last he had written all twelve letters sharing special memories of each individual. His love and delight in each of their unique characteristics, his desires and wishes for them were all expressed with love affirmation and deep longing. He asked me to type them on nice paper and together we worked at fashioning envelopes for them. At first, he thought he would let me give them to the recipients after he died, but he couldn’t wait. I’m glad he gave them for it gave the adults a chance to reply to him.
What brings all these memories to my mind now? The two youngest were just, and not quite three when their grandpa died. For some time, their parents read their letters to them, but as time went by, they were stored away to be saved until they were older. As adults, we tend to think because we know and remember, the children will too. However at three, it’s hard to hang on to those details.
When the mother of one of those ‘little’ ones (now fifteen) casually mentioned the letter from grandpa, that young lady was shocked to know there was such a letter. When it couldn’t be immediately found, they asked if I still had them on my computer. I did. I read again those precious words before sending them on. The strong feelings and emotions of those days came flooding back, but something more happened. What a treasure my children and grandchildren have in those missives. Those words are a legacy that money can’t buy. Although I am still relatively healthy, I want to write letters of my own.
Expressing my love and delight in the strengths of my family and the people around me on a day-to-day basis has always been important in my mind. I want them to know while I am still living, how much they mean to me. I want also to express my encouragement and affirmations. However, there is something about the written word that seems more lasting. Some spoken words linger on in our minds, but if we can go back and read again what someone has told us, in their own words, it can be refreshing and sustaining each time we do so.
This blog is read by people who know the power of the written word. Our articles and books are also a legacy but may I suggest we all take the time to write personal letters to our loved ones or people who are important to us—letters that express our love and appreciation, our positive observations about who they are and our hopes and desires for them? We may choose to keep them until someone sifts through our important papers, but it may influence lives more if we give them right away. They could be a legacy that begins to give now.