I don't do well with vomit. I gag, have dry heaves. Sometimes being around it also makes me sick. I avoid it at all costs.
But when my kids got sick, I wouldn't be anywhere else. They were ill, scared. I held their hair back, and had a cool wash cloth for their faces. I held tissue and told them that blowing their nose would clear the nasal passages and make it easier to breathe. Yes, I sometimes got sick right along with them. They got used to that, and tolerated it, preferring my gagging presence to dealing with the situation alone. My love for my kids far outweighed the distasteful circumstance.
When I tell people, whether they are dying or not, to write letters to people that matter to them, the usual response is as though I had just thrown up on their shoes. Disgust. Rejection. Horror.
"I'm not a letter writer" or "I don't even write grocery lists" or "If someone got a letter from me, the shock would kill them".
And yet, so many want to designate something special for those they will leave behind. You may bequest money, property, jewelry. These items will certainly be appreciated. But I guarantee that a personal letter will be a most prized gift. Especially if you are not known for jotting down your feelings! The herculean effort will be recognized, and the recipient will be truly honored.
We're not talking about a doctoral thesis here. No one is going to check spelling and syntax. The goal is to let someone know that even if they were throwing up, you'd be there to help. That your relationship with them meant something to you. "Oh, they know that". Are you so sure?
I remember a reading assignment in a long ago literature class. A father and son had each written in their journals about a fishing trip they had shared. The father's entry was something like "The weather is terrible. My son is bored. We're not catching much. I wish I had stayed home."
The son wrote pages about how special he felt, being chosen to go along. He caught his first fish and was very excited. He was so happy to have his Dad to himself for a whole day. He marveled that his mother had excused him from all his chores so he could go, and how much that meant to him.
So you get the idea. Don't assume.
Do you know one of the prevalent fears after the loss of a loved one is forgetting what their voice sounded like? Or what they looked like?
If the last photo taken of you was the day you entered the service, your favorite grandchild won't relate to it. NOBODY likes having their picture taken. For those 'of a certain age', it's a reminder of the loss of youth. Well, get over yourself. The idea of a gift is that it be something the receiver wants, not what you deem adequate.
If writing by hand is physically challenging to you, have that grandchild tape a conversation with you. Let them snap shots on their camera phones. Put a video camera on a tripod. There are people who make their living doing this for people, so no excuses.
Whether it's written or mechanically preserved, the idea is to get your thoughts out. Be very personal. Below is a list of things that may be included. I promise, you'll be a star. It's a gift that keeps on giving, possibly for generations.
You may present the finished product upon its completion, or give it to someone for later distribution. The key is to get it done! Share the love.
CHECKLIST FOR LEGACY LETTERS/TAPES
1. Something about you - place and date of birth, education, where you met a life partner, your family members, where you went to school and for how long, favorite and hated subjects, your first car, favorite sport/book/hobby, favorite vacation, music you like, what you did for a living, favorite food, childhood memories, best friend, a time you got in trouble and what happened, a time you were happy/sad, a president you remember, favorite birthday, favorite holiday, a historical event you remember, your faith/beliefs.
2. Tell all you recall about how you first learned of the receiver (their birth, where you met), mention a pet name, talk about what they look like now and then, why you are proud of them, a time you spent together, something they did that made you laugh/happy, your hopes for their future, any regrets you have, something they did for you that you appreciated.
3. Advice. What you have learned the hard way, how to get through the tough stuff, what really counts in a person, what constitutes a good relationship, how people should be treated, what is fair, how to act when things aren't fair, goals, the future.
4. Express your love.
Now, see? Piece of cake!