I’ve been struck by the death of Elizabeth Edwards. I keep coming back to thoughts about her. Like most Americans, on Monday I learned she was advancing to hospice care. After a long day in clinic on Tuesday, spent, I listened to NPR in the car on my commute home. It was dumping rain in Seattle, it was dark, the cars were moving slowly. NPR announced she’d passed away. What? Pause. Swallow. Take a right turn at the light…
I thought she had weeks. Tears welled up in my eyes; I felt caught off guard. I can only imagine the sadness of those who have known her.
I’ve been thinking of her, her children, and her life experience. I don’t know her, so of course my vantage point into her life is one similar to most–I only know what the media shared with me and what she chose to share with the public. I trust her texture is expansive and far more pronounced in person. I know so little about her, but I have heard her story and it is memorable. I am taken by her death likely because so often, she was identified as a mother.
Today in NYT’s Motherlode blog, Lisa Belkin writes about Ms Edward’s “Dying Letter,” a letter she composed for her children as she faced her mortality. People magazine reported on the letter while the Edwards family was on the campaign trail. I suspect like any letter from a mother, her letter is filled with story, memory, advice, wisdom, and legacy. Fortunately, we’ll never know. Only her children will.
But it got me thinking. Why don’t we all write this? Why don’t we all share, journal, and jot down our thoughts and ideas for our children before we face a mortal diagnosis or worse, an unexpected death. Why not collect thoughts/ideas/moments in time throughout our lives for our children. After I wrote a letter to F last year for his preschool emergency preparedness, I felt better. I know that if today an earthquake occurred while my son was at school, that while separated, he’d at least have my words and a photo. This task could function like a living will but not for our own end, rather for our childrens’ future. Today, a living-Mommy (or Daddy)-will makes a lot of sense to me, despite the onerous task of composing it.
Does it make sense to you to start an ongoing letter to your children? If you don’t feel like much a writer, how about a list of ideas/wishes/advice placed in bullet points? I suspect if any of us start this, we’ll never regret it. Neither will our children.
Will you do this?