Emotional Organizing as a Teachable Moment



Day 13: (May 13) OK, so it’s Mother’s Day, the kid’s came over to obviously celebrate with me today, but what they didn’t know was that they were going to be a key part of a significant, personal and emotional purge.  I insisted they indulge me and sit down beside me to help me through this process.  After all, it was Mother’s Day…and I got to choose how to spend it!   

We were all mindful of the fact that it was my husband’s first Mother’s Day since her passing, and the vibe was a solemn one.  The emotional triggers for the day were already present, and reminiscing my past only exacerbated the sentimentality of the day.  We all gathered on the den couch, and as I read aloud each letter, I realized how grateful I was for that moment.  For me, it’s all about the family, and I was so touched that they could support me in a way that I needed them to.  This was very important to ME, not so much for them. At first they were casual and light-hearted, resisting the gesture to get all sappy,  but as my voice was cracking, and my tears puddled down my cheeks, they soon got that this moment was something more.   

With some of the more tender cards, I could barely read the words inside.  You see, with my family, one simple Hallmark card could never capture or express adequate feelings.  It was never enough. We always felt the need to embellish and fill the inside pages with our own thoughtful words. I might add, we also have a tendency to buy multiple cards for the same person, same celebration. I tossed most of them yesterday and saved only a couple of really special ones. So when I read some of the anniversary and birthday cards my husband wrote years ago, we were all moved by the beautiful sentiments expressed.  The kids were engaged with his words, now privy to his personal promises and dreams, and were happy to see that the ink on the page was not the only thing that persevered.  Their Dad is their mentor, and has always been their rock , but he was also once a young romantic, naive, and vulnerable young man . This was a teachable moment, for sure. My kids could not believe I had saved all these special memories and now I can appreciate their immeasurable value.   

We laughed and cried together, mostly poking fun of my earliest camp letters exposing embarrassing moments of my summer experiences. It was amazing how similar my daughter and I were at the same age.  She laughed with a joyful identification, but then we tossed them. Found a letter, dated 1969, the very day the man walked on the moon, and wasn’t surprised that at 14, I didn’t understand that history was being made!  I merely thought it funny that it happened on a Monday and I wrote that everyone that day renamed the day “Moonsday”!   The last letter I saved to read was one asking my mom about falling in love (i.e. “how do you know”? and “who should say it first”?…I was only 10!) Laughed, read and tossed.  Once we were done, I filled two huge trash bags with nothing but letters, postcards, birthday and anniversary cards.  Purging the  sentimental clutter emits a different kind of grieving. Certainly, this is not “death”, but a loss and sense of finality just the same.  The camp letters were gone forever, but the memories of today will always remain. I was OK now with loading up the recycle bin.   

On the other hand, re-read a letter from my deceased Dad, who wrote me a letter (at age 15) while away on a business trip abroad.  It was a letter about having a positive outlook on life, and convincing me that the world needn’t be a scary place.  I can recall it was a period of adolescence where I was filled with trepidation and self-doubt.  I have read and re-read this letter multiple times throughout the years after his passing, and his guiding words still comfort me.  It is written in his signature handwriting, on air-mail stationery from a London hotel. I shall savor this forever and you can be guaranteed this will never be tossed.  This a keeper, for sure, and I hope to share this with my future grandchildren one day.   

Dad's Letter