A couple weeks ago I received a birthday present like no other. A precious time-capsule that no one in our family even knew existed was discovered … and inside were seven sealed envelopes containing personal letters written by my kind and loving mother to each of her seven children—Annie, Debbie, Tina, Bobbi, Emine, Ahmet, and Jimmy. These “love letters” were penned on Christmas, 1987, as she undoubtedly sat at her kitchen table while waiting for a twenty-two-pound turkey to cook and the sound of laughter to fill up the house when all her children and their families finally arrived. Each letter was written with insight, wisdom, vision, and unconditional love. Us kids ranged in age from twenty-five to five years, yet my mom knew each of us so incredibly well at that time of our lives. How could it be that she knew fourteen years after her passing that those letters she wrote to us and hid away in a dusty, dark cabinet would be found … and that her messages would wax poetic?
How could my mom possibly know at the time that her youngest son would receive his letter and cry when she wrote of cuddling his own child whenever possible and to remind him how safe and warm they would feel in his arms? Did she foresee the impact her words had on that little boy twenty-three years later when he longed to be near his own young daughter to feel her soft touch and see her daily smiles? Or the irony that my mom would scribe to my sister about how each sunrise brings a new day and new things to experience when, ten years after writing those words to her, the promise they made to watch a sunrise together would never come to fruition as my mom had passed shortly—and how that one decision to sleep in had haunted my sister for years to come. Reading my mother’s words, so many years later were comforting and poignant. In each letter, the underlying message was the same: keep your family close and love them and God above all else. How is it possible that she knew that hiding those letters away only to be found so many years later would mean more to us now than they ever could have at the time?
When my sister, Annie, called me a few weeks ago to tell me she found something that would make my hair stand on end, I couldn’t fathom what it could be. Did she find buried treasure in the home we grew up in? Are we all suddenly rich? As it turns out, the answer is “yes” to both of those questions. They were buried, they are a treasure, and we are all richer because of them. After catching my breath from listening to her cry uncontrollably over the phone as she read the letter mom wrote to her, I couldn’t help but to think to myself, “Oh God! What the hell was I doing in 1987?” and “UGH! I was such an idiot then! What in the world did mom want to tell me”? I was only twenty-three-years old in 1987 and had big dreams and even bigger hair. I was working as a waitress pulling double-shifts for extra money and not around the family as much as I should have been. I found myself suddenly wishing that my mom wrote those letters when I was older and had reason to make her proud of me so she could tell me so in this “ lost letter”. Unfortunately, life doesn’t just hand out Take Backs or let us collect $200 as we pass Go. I waited until my birthday to open my letter and felt my heart beating harder as I scanned the pages. As it turns out, my mom was proud of me despite my head-banging ways and didn’t think I was an idiot at all. Imagine that! She told me that the nickname I’ve had since birth, Sunshine, was so fitting and to keep it forever. She also reminded me to not “lose my Debbie in the rush of life and stop always and reach inside you to find her.” I want my new path to pay homage to her sage advice.
When I tell my story about these seven sealed envelopes to my friends, they get chills and some even cry. It’s an astonishing, beautiful story and begs to ask the questions, “If you stumbled upon a buried letter from a loved one in 2034, what would you hope to read about yourself?” What impression do you want to leave another in one year? Two years? Twenty-three years? Would you wince like I did and hope they saw through your “growing pains” or “hard times” and recognize the love and goodness in your heart anyways? Will you make an impression in 2011? I now invite you to pen a secret letter to your loved ones. I ask that you write what you observe about them today, not how you hope they would turn out in the future. What do you want them to know about how you viewed them in 2011? What do you want them to know about your love for them? Write what comes to mind and please don’t type it. Showing your penmanship is so touching and brings back memories for those who will come to find it. Say a prayer, seal your envelope, and then hide it where you know someday, somehow, it will be found when the time is right. Make 2011 the year that you left an impression.
With that in mind, I want each of you to know what an indelible, undeniable impression you have left on my heart. The love and support and laughter and tears we shared this past year has been the mainstay of 2010. I enjoy all of you in so many ways and want you to know that you will not be missed … because you will not be gone. Your humor, strength, compassion, daily status’s, silliness, and encouragement will be with me every day as I go down a different path and try my best to make an impression in 2011
With all my unconditional love,