When my beloved grandmother died five years ago, we all sat in the pastor’s office sharing what made her special. As I listened, I realized how much I wished she had been there to hear her legacy. Of course, for all we knew she was. I couldn’t speak for the other family members in the room, I only knew that I had never told her how much she had meant to me. Hers was my second home when I was young. We lived a few blocks away, and we were there often. Grandma and Grandpa thoroughly spoiled my sister and me. As with many grandmothers, her favorite way to spoil us was with food. Boy was she good at it. She was so good a cook that even today I can’t eat store-bought cookies or cake from a box. Truly, she spoiled me for life :-). One of her legacies is that all three of my children can cook, rare among today’s kids. Grandma and Grandpa were an important part of the foundation of my life, providing one of those things grandparents do best–loving you so much that you feel special. That kind of love helps form a kind of protective shield around you that helps you endure life.
I resolved after that day never again to be left with that regret of not having told someone how much they mean to me before it was too late. That year for Christmas, I wrote four letters to four very special people in my life. In each, I listed the three things about them which had positively impacted my life. Because we didn’t go home for Christmas that year, I wrapped each letter and mailed them with the presents, which also made it feel a little less awkward than hand-delivering them would have. Then I waited. I shouldn’t have been nervous–they each hit their mark. Two of the letters provided an opening for brief but meaningful first conversations about our relationships. Both of those special people are now gone. I was very sad when they died, but I had the peace of knowing they knew without a doubt that they were loved, and perhaps more importantly, that they had left a lasting impact on my life.
Doesn’t everyone yearn to know that their life is not futile, that they will be missed when they are gone, that they left an impact on the world? It’s too easy to forget how much power each of us has to make our own impact through the simple act of thanking those who’ve made our lives meaningful. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, with Mother’s and Father’s Days not long after that. Birthdays and anniversaries happen all year, and Christmas will eventually be here again. It’s been five years since I wrote those first four letters, and there are four more which are overdue. I think I’ll start on my Christmas presents early this year.
“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say ‘thank you’?” –William Arthur Ward