For the past several years, I have acknowledged my parents on my birthday, thanking them for the ultimate gift… life. Some years I sent them cards. Sometimes I expressed my gratitude to them on Facebook. This past year was no different.
My dad passed away in October of 2011. The following May I celebrated 47 years on the planet. As I reflected on the previous year, I decided to express my love and appreciation for my mother in a letter. I penned this letter, in my own hand, on May 24, 2012.
In the letter, I thanked my mother for standing by me in spite of my bad decisions regarding money, marriages, and “a million other things.” Having raised children of my own, I now understood the challenges my mother faced raising me and my siblings. Her willingness and acceptance helped me to grow. My hope is that I inherited those qualities.
With my thoughts on paper, I folded the letter, placed it in the addressed envelope, put it in the mailbox, and went about my day.
On that same day, my mother also wrote a letter. The letter she wrote was also a result of reflecting on my birthday. The letter was written to her mother, my namesake. My mother’s letter would never be mailed.
When my mother was eleven years old, her mother took her and her younger brother to their grandmother’s house and never returned. My mother has spent a lifetime trying to process this traumatic event. Although she will never “get over it”, my mom has worked hard on forgiving and healing.
In her letter, my mom gently expressed the anger she felt at being abandoned. Her mother’s mood swings caused my mother great fear and dread as a child. This translated into fear and self-loathing in her adult life, but my mother didn’t place blame in her letter. In fact, she expressed an understanding of her mother’s pain and a hope that she had experienced some happiness in this life. She expressed a bittersweet love and compassion for a woman who missed out on the joy of motherhood.
Although the relationship with her mother could never be replaced, my mom chose to focus on her relationship with her own children. Even though she has forgiven, my mom has never had closure because it is uncertain whether her mother is living or deceased. As she closed her letter, my mom cried and prayed for a sign that her mother could somehow see or feel what my mom was feeling… that she somehow knew my mom loved her in spite of everything.
Ironically, that sign would come in the form of a letter. A letter from her daughter. A daughter who bears her mother’s name.
When my mother received my letter, she immediately called me. She was stunned that our letters were written on the same day. It was her sign, loud and clear. My mother keeps both letters in her journal to this day.
I called my mother today and asked her to read both letters to me over the phone. As we talked about it, my mom noticed that she wasn’t as emotional as she had been on that day. I suppose more healing has taken place since then. And I decided to call this The Letter (singular) because I saw whatever we had experienced individually on that day as parts of one event.