Would I be disrespectful of my mom to throw them out? Would I be wrong to throw such thoughtfulness in the recycle bin? How could I keep the feelings, the good words, the connections that these cards represented?
To some degree I feel like a hypocrite in receiving such letters and cards, since I am so terrible in not sending them to my friends in their grief and distress. I don't think I knew how much they could mean to someone. I am glad that I did not think of anyone who was missing, or make a list in my head of folks that I felt should have said something but failed to write. I know many did hurt for us, and prayed for us, so I am grateful to them even if they could not or did not write, but the letters were a blessing. I was surprised that some folks who know me but with whom I am not that close took the time to let me know they cared.
I still had to let the letters go, and only kept a couple, one with a picture of my mom when she was younger, one a dramatic statement of the resurrection. I was glad I opened them up again especially since one had cash in it that I had forgotten about. What will linger is the impression of love, and the reality that we do live in community. The reality of community is that people do actually notice you, and want to know about you and what you are doing, and your losses move them and your victories encourage them.
I think this is something young people don't realize until much later in their lives, that the folks they grew up around, and the older people who watched them grow feel a sense of ownership. So many of us when we are young are cavalier about the investment others make in us, even to our parents. We can move away so easily, get caught up in our own lives and stop communicating. We forget where we came from, and sometimes we even resent questions and accuse people of being nosy (okay, some people are nosy) when the truth is that they are interested in us and want to stay connected.
I have watched children grow up in my family, and in my church. I have seen some keep that sense of connection, and I have seen others who give nothing back and would be amazed that someone thought they should. I think for some of us, when we were young, all our achievements were our own. It is what we did and it had nothing to do with the platform that launched us. There are some stories like that, of folks who made it in spite of where they came from, but I think most often is because of where and of whom we came.
There is of course a healthy parting, a need for the young to leave the nest and make it on their own. Yet death has a way of bringing things back to the reality that permanent "good-byes" make us more appreciative of "hellos." It at least sometimes makes us realize people see the drama we are caught up in, and they empathize with us, and the knowledge of that is worth a lot on days when you don't think your life means that much, or that anyone cares. They do, and we should, because the caring of others sure heals the heart when you remember what you have lost.
So when some old lady or old man asks you how you have been, or where you have been and what is going on in your life, tell them. At least thank them for asking, maybe even ask about their situation. Hold on to the connection, through the years if you can. People are important even if they haven't done anything directly for us, and maybe we don't know what they've done. Maybe they prayed for us, maybe they defended our name when we weren't around, maybe they just hoped our potential would someday be realized. Maybe they just sent a note and it made you take notice that they noticed. Thanks, by the way, for the card.