After my father died at 66, I found only one letter from him summarizing his life’s journey. My senses still happily recall the sights and sounds of my days with him. But, sadly, I have no other record of his thoughts and feelings throughout all his years on earth.
When my mother departed 20 years later, I held in my hand several letters of a routine sort. She also had typed about four pages of precious childhood memories. Two weeks after she died, I found a scribbled note in the bottom of her purse that was clearly meant to be her final instructions to my two sisters and me.
I love you all very much and am so thankful to God for each one of you. We’ve experienced much joy and happiness together and also some trials and sorrows. We have always been close, and I know that you three will continue to have that relationship for the rest of your lives.
This life is a test and a trust and only a temporary time before we will be together for eternity with our precious Lord and all our loved ones. I know your dad is waiting for me, and I can’t wait to see him either. My only advice is to stay firm in the Lord and try to grow in love and service to Him.
Aside from the letters and that note, I possess nothing more from my mom’s hand to remind me of who she is today—alive and happy in God’s kingdom.
Will your offspring have anything from you that can guide and inspire them after you’ve passed on? If not, now is the time to begin a journal, start a blog or write a letter.
A journal is like a trail of breadcrumbs that tell trackers where you came from and went. More than that, writing things down somehow helps you discover yourself now. Mystery writer Nevada Barr says, “I started writing because I think more clearly with a pen in my hand.”
The best advice on journaling comes from Robert Grudin: “In writing your journal give primary attention to detail, for it is detail which organizes and preserves experience for your future self or some other reader. General statements like ‘We had a wonderful time’ or ‘It was a dismal morning’ make a mockery of the whole procedure, for they evaluate experience without recreating it.” Grudin says we must record, even briefly, what we actually saw and heard; these things are “the tiny hooks by which experience [can be] caught and held.”
Blogs tell our friends and loved ones here and now what we’re feeling and thinking; they don’t have to wait till the funeral is over and the journal is found in a drawer. Blogs also make it easy for people to respond to you. Remove the technical hurdle from blogging by the use of a simple and free service such as blogger.com. You’ll be up and writing in minutes.
Letters are best, if you can make the effort and muster up the courage to be candid and creative. Letters beat blogs since they are directed and delivered to a particular person; they don’t demand that you go find them on the Internet. They are better than e-mails because the whole letter, including the handwriting, the envelope and the creatively chosen stamp can be like a care package that says, “You mean a lot to me.” People save letters forever (just ask the apostle Paul); they delete e-mails and instant messages in a second.
Whatever you do, start now. Something you experience this very day is worth preserving for those who will come after you.
Ray Seldomridge is a senior editor for family ministries at Focus on the Family.