I find it amusing how often, in the past week, I have heard about people writing or talking the importance of handwritten notes because they are so meaningful, considering I just blogged about that last month. It must have become apparent to many of us at the same time; those of us who were missing that in our lives. I sometimes look at my handwriting and think how much it has changed. It was horrible in the beginning being left handed and trying to write in the contorted positions my teachers insisted on. Eventually, I ended up with great handwriting without the tell- tale slant or loopy flow of a typical left hander. It’s not as clear and flowing as it once was, although it’s still quite decent. I wouldn’t lose my cherished Peterson Handwriting Certificate just yet. I remember how frustrating it was for my mother, who in her later years developed shaky hands, to try to write legibly, resorting to printing and then stopped writing altogether. She had beautiful handwriting at one time that had a certain distinction in it that indicated a Catholic school education. There was just something about her r’s. I wish I had kept some of her letters from over the years. She and I corresponded by mail many times because of distance. I just never thought the letters would end.
So, knowing my kids’ finances and not really needing much in life, I asked for something special for my birthday. I asked each of them, and their spouses, to write a letter to me, in their own handwriting, about a special time or memory they have that included me. I am so excited to read them on Friday, the 15th. I have already received one from my daughter in law and can’t wait to read the rest. Things like this mean more to me than any gift you could buy. It’s from the heart. It took time and thought to do it. It couldn’t be a last minute gift. There’s no worry about whether or not I can use it, want it, or does it fit? I can also guarantee my kids that I won’t be re-gifting them either. I wanted to share my “happy birthday” with them by also reminding them of good times in the past.
I don’t want to wait for them to think about this, say, for my funeral. I want to relive those times with them now, while I am here to enjoy it. Too often we wait too long to say or hear I love you, or I miss you, or just letting someone know what they’ve meant to you. While there always seems to be time to wait on things, sometimes there just isn’t. Last week, I was at a funeral for a priest. I had worked for and with him for several years. I listened while members of his family got up to speak, as well as some of his brethren in Christ. They said such wonderful things, making us laugh and others tear up. Things I didn’t know because we had a working relationship only. They were the type of family that probably did express those things to him while he was alive, but wanted to share it with others with his passing. I also need, and want, to hear it now. Material objects are wonderful to have, but it’s those personal, intimate words we say to those we love that are the best gift of all.
I think it put the kids on the spot to ask for this. I say that with a little chuckle. I feel things that make you feel uncomfortable, make you grow when you’ve gone through the experience. I truly hope they are honest and open about whatever they write. I know I wasn’t the perfect mom and there were a few bumps in the road along the way with each of them, but I hope they know just how much I love them. Always did, always will. When I say my kids, I mean my son in law and daughter in law, too. They are all mine now. The relationships I have built with them mean as much to me as those with my birth children. While we come from different worlds and don’t always agree, I think we are at a comfortable place. It’s all any mother in law could hope for and I cherish it.
So, when I get all of my letters, I will go off somewhere by myself and read them, probably more than once. I will keep them in a safe place to be able to look at again and again. Who knows? Maybe when I’m gone they will pull them out and read them aloud at my memorial service. I want them to amuse each other and other people. I want them to share things I would be embarrassed about if I were sitting there. I want them to laugh through their tears and let the stories go on all night. I hope they shake their heads and say how crazy mom was sometimes. And they can complain, too. That’s just being real. Too often, we want turn someone we knew, that has passed, into a martyr. We want to act like they had no faults and that we didn’t complain about them when they were alive. That’s a dishonor. Being able to admit you loved them regardless, is what it’s all about and that’s what I am hoping turns out to be the case with me.
With the approaching holidays, it might be something to consider when you start doing your shopping or making your lists. What kind of gifts don’t put people into debt, require great effort, or are money down the drain? What kind of gifts are one size fits all, something everyone could use, and never becomes outdated? Consider the gift of words. Beautiful, true, and heartfelt. Think about something to cherish. Make it personal. Gift it like words are all you have to give.