The approach of Memorial Day earlier this year made me think about some of my friends and family members who have passed away. The pain of their loss may never go away completely, but it has lessened over time.
One of the ways I dealt with the sudden loss of my mother several years ago was by writing a letter to tell her all the heartfelt things I didn’t have a chance to tell her in person. In fact, I wrote for hours that first night, often crying so hard that tears smeared the pages.
I told her how deeply saddened I was that I didn’t have a chance to tell her goodbye and how much I missed her. After a few sessions of cathartic writing, I was able to finally turn to a more joyous topic: how grateful I was to have her for my mother.
Mom taught me many of the important things in life, such as faith, love, family, honesty, respect and responsibility. I started writing vignettes about memories from my childhood and I found a sense of peace as I experienced what I can only describe as a starburst effect.
As I recalled the details of a single, simple family event (such as my 8th-grade graduation) it pointed me to stories about favorite family recipes (such as sour cream chocolate cake) that in turn made me recall summer activities (such as our huge vegetable garden and preparing projects for the county fair). If you envision the sky on the 4th of July, when the fireworks display amazes us with a burst of color and lights followed by another and then another, you’ll see a starburst effect.
Each little story made me think about another one and I began to jot down story ideas in a pretty little spiral-bound writing journal that I carried with me at all times. Every time the cobwebs in my mind cleared enough to reveal a potential topic for future development, I wrote it down in my journal. My hope was to use the snippets of memories to expand into a full story as time allowed.
So what’s the point of this rambling for you?
1 - If you’ve lost someone dear to you, try writing to them or about them. Enjoy all the old memories you can recall to save for yourself, as well as for your friends and family. As a Personal Historian, I am always excited and pleased to help people save their family stories, whether I write for them or teach them how to write their own.
2 - Think about the people around you and let them know how much you appreciate them while you still can. Tell them you love them and what you admire about them. Write them a little note to thank them for something, even if it is small. Consider this: if they were suddenly gone from your life, what would you have wanted them to know? Make an effort to show them how much they matter to you.
3 - Start keeping your own writing journal. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a simple notebook, tablet or sheaf of paper where you can jot down images that you recall and stories that you can pursue later.
4 - Years ago, I sent a letter to my great aunt and told her how much I appreciated her seeing me as a young lady when I was a terrible tomboy. My intention was to drive up to see her so we could talk about all the little things she had done for me. Unfortunately, she died before I could make the trip. I was so glad I didn’t put off sending that letter.
5 - Moral of the story: Don’t wait until it is too late to tell someone how much they mean to you. You never know when you will lose someone dear and you don’t want to regret the omission.
Go ahead, make their day – tell someone you love them.
Better yet, write it down so they can refer to it time and again.