Across the room, 5 year-old Zach and 1 ½ year-old Elizabeth sat playing. I wanted desperately to let Zach know how much I appreciated his willingness to play with his little sister and to share with him my feelings of pride, excitement and apprehension in regards to his entering kindergarten in the fall. I wanted him to know what a joy it was to watch him help his daddy in every way possible. I wanted to tell Elizabeth how proud (and relieved) I was that she had decided on her own to be a ‘big girl’ and use the potty all by herself and praise her for knowing her colors and being able to recognize the letters in the alphabet already. I wanted to tell them what a great job they were doing in welcoming their new baby sister to the family. But anything beyond “Good job, honey.” or “I’m so proud of you!” would have gone right over their heads. So I just smiled and told them I loved them.
But my heart kept telling me that wasn't enough, so while the girls slept peacefully and Zach was diligently hauling countless loads of dirt and gravel around the yard with his dump truck and tractor, I conveyed my thoughts to them the best way I knew how-I wrote each of them a letter. As I finished the last letter, I decided these letters would be the first of many more to come. I decided that throughout my lifetime I would periodically write letters to my children; letters that would provide insight as to what it was like to be their mother. I wanted my children to have the chronicles of my heart.
The number of letters I wrote increased to four when Emma was born, but that was fine-I had plenty to write about! Over the last twenty-five years my letters have disclosed the joys and disappointments (yes, our children do disappoint us at times) their lives have brought into mine, the pride I feel in who they are and the ache in my heart that matched (or exceeded) the ache in theirs when they were hurting. The letters I have written contain words of encouragement as well as chastisement and have served to preserve memories of the special moments in their lives. The little things they said and did that often fade from our memory when the moment is past are forever recorded for their sake as well as mine.
I sometimes wonder what effect these letters will have on my children. Will my words bring smiles and happy tears to their faces the way they did mine? Will their questions be answered as to why I did the things I did? Will they commiserate with me when they read my words of worry and concern because they are feeling the same in regards to their own children?
There have been times I have contemplated not writing anymore letters and letting my children have them, but I know now that isn't going to happen. I’m not finished writing yet. I am still breathing, so I am still their mother. It's not much, but their letters will be a part of their inheritance-a legacy of who they are in their mother’s eyes. I want their letters to serve as a window to their childhood-an affirmation of how loved and valued they are just because they get up each morning and take a breath. I want the letters to serve as tools of accountability to live their lives as the man/women of God they were raised to be.Zachery, Elizabeth, Olivia, and Emma wake up each morning in their own homes and live their own lives. But they also wake up knowing they are loved to the fullest. I have never used my letter writing as a substitute for letting my children know how precious they are to me. But these letters-the chronicles of my heart-will be the proof they can hold on to long after I am gone.
So if you don't want to risk letting another memory fade with time or want to explain why you did what you did, but knew it would fall on deaf ears; ears unable (or unwilling) to comprehend, I encourage you to pick up a pen and paper and start writing. It doesn't matter if you write a lifetime’s worth of letters, or just a few. What matters is that you leave your children something tangible to cling to when you are gone.