Do you ever wish you could tell your mother what she means to you, even after she’s gone? You can, by writing a letter. Whether your relationship has been inspired, delightful, or strained, a letter is a place where you can pour out your heart, discover your gratitude, and speak your truth.
If your mom is alive, you can offer a letter to her as a loving gift. If your relationship is difficult, you can pour your truth into a letter, speaking the things you might not be able to say, or reaching for the reconciliation that might not be possible in real life.
If your mother has passed, the time you spend thoughtfully reflecting on who she was by composing a letter to her is a special way for you to be together in spirit, as you recall memories and reconnect with the best of who she was.
Rabbi Elana Zaiman describes the power of writing such letters in her wonderful book, The Forever Letter. Written for people from all walks of life and faiths, Rabbi Zaiman illustrates what letter writing can do for us, as well as for the people who receive our letters.
She shares her own story about discovering the power of stories at age 14, when her Rabbi father presented her with a letter that he had composed for his children. She still carries it with her today.
In our world of electronic communications, it’s rare to receive a letter composed by hand, mailed or hand-delivered. Such a letter has become increasingly valuable.
The Jewish faith has a tradition of the ethical will, a letter handed down from one generation to the next, offering words of wisdom, values and autobiographical insights to illustrate what one considers to be most important to living an ethical life.
A similar form of letter written to be handed down is the legacy letter.
Writing a forever letter is similar, but it’s not limited to passing information down. You can send letters to those who are older, including parents and people who supported you in the past.
Have you ever lamented, “If only” you could have shared what you valued, cared about and loved about someone who is now gone? Why not write a letter to a friend or relative who is living today?
A forever letter is also a beautiful gift to your children or grandchildren, in which you can offer them a piece of your love and wisdom.
Setting yourself up to write a letter is an important part of turning letter writing into a rich experience. First off, make a date with yourself to write – and remember to show up! Choose a pen and paper that you love.
Perhaps you’d like to start the writing session by lighting a candle or taking time to quietly reflect. As you write, be aware that, as Rabbi Zaiman reminds us, many emotions may show up – so treat yourself kindly.
If your relationship with your mother was (or is) difficult – most of us encounter some difficulties with our mothers – you can pour your heart into a draft before deciding what to send.
If you’re unsure how to begin, start with some appreciations, quotes, stories, as well as the occasional “hard truth spoken with love,” to quote Rabbi Zaiman.
You can always offer your blessings.
My mother, who has been bedridden for two years, following a stroke that took away her speech, can no longer communicate with words. Dementia has taken its toll on her mind and when I speak to her, I’m not sure how much she takes in or understands.
Yet, writing my words helps me to transcend our lack of mutual communication. I reconnect with who she is for me and everything she has offered me. In her room, I speak the words I have written, knowing that even if she does not appear to be following me, somewhere in her heart she may still understand.
Even if she doesn’t, the process of writing the letter has opened my heart. I will continue to write to her and speak to her even after she is gone.
Whether our mothers are still with us or not, writing a forever letter allows us to remember our love, open our hearts, and kindle our spirits.
And that may be one of the greatest ways to honor our mothers.
Have you ever written a ‘forever letter’ for your mother? What would you say to your mother if you wrote her a private letter? If it’s not too much to ask, please share those words in the comments below.