My mother was raised in a generation that wrote letters and practiced great penmanship. She had an amazing knack for sending out small notecards with heartfelt greetings. Every time I opened the mailbox and saw an envelope with her handwriting my heart jumped.
Her birthday cards were the best. Each year she’d send me a card making note of the significance of the day, telling me how much she loved and was proud of me, and how lucky she was to be my mother. She carried her faith in everything she did, so the word “blessed” was in the copy. Many notes were signed with two little interconnected hearts drawn.
Over the years I’ve tucked many of her cards in books and drawers throughout my home. There are some in the Bible. This way, any time I’m looking for something or using something I will be momentarily hugged by the love she so willingly gave to so many people.
Her words mattered. They were a simple, yet profound way to show love. I am self conscious about many things in my life, but never did I feel unloved or unwanted by my mother. Those letters were gifts that still reverberate, as many in our family have kept notes from her. The memories are part of our real inheritance.
This spring while the country has experienced a virtual lockdown from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) many people have begun writing letters to others as a means to keep in touch, to make people happy, to stay busy and shared their love. The process of printing and mailing those letters takes sentiment to a whole new level.
Gone is the cold email where emotions are not necessarily readable. Text messages won’t do it. Videos are OK, but not the same. Today it is a gift to receive a piece of mail that isn’t a direct mail piece, a bill or a package we ordered.
When you are thinking about recording families stories or sharing memories for future generations, consider writing letters to people you care about. As we’ve learned from the girl who wrote and illustrated dozens of letters to postal workers, you may not even know them personally.
When my mother was in her mid 80s, she reorganized your last will and testament, wrote an ethical will for us to find in her private papers and instructions to family and then wrote a letter to each of her nine children, documentating the day we were born. I was the eighth of nine children. There are only a handful of photos of me before kindergarten. So Mom’s letter gave me a gift I didn’t own, a glimpse of what life was like in our household when I was born. I have a refreshing image in my mind of what it was like as I learned to stand and walk along the knees of siblings sitting on the couch.
Mary V. Danielsen has been writing life stories for families and business for more than 25 years. She often writes about her large extended family, genealogy research, photo scanning and opportunities for everyone to preserve pieces of their family history.