Earlier today, a package came in the mail from Mom. It contained some forgotten Christmas-stocking items of the boys, and an envelope with “Rox” written in pen on the top.
Mom had given me a hint that the envelope would be coming, but in my afternoon rush, I forgot momentarily about the treasure awaiting, and so I haphazardly placed the envelope in an unlikely spot on the way to meet a friend for coffee.
During our coffee talk, I remembered what the envelope contained, and made a mental note I had to find the envelope as soon as I returned home.
But when I got home, it was nowhere. Panic set in, because by now I was certain that the envelope held some priceless items. Mom had told me that while sorting through nooks and crannies at Grandma’s house to root out what should be kept and what should be given or tossed, she’d discovered some treasures. Among them, some letters I’d written Grandma a while back, along with some photos from when the kids (our kids) were young.
“I’ll send them to you with the package that’s coming,” she’d told me.
But where was the envelope? Quietly, I started on a mission. I was tired, but I had to find that envelope.
“Tony, Tony turn around, something’s lost and can’t be found.” C’mon St. Anthony. Do your work buddy, I thought.
It did turn up eventually and I heaved a sigh of relief, then closed my bedroom door to hole away to better absorb the gift that awaited. I opened the envelope and discovered two letters from 2004, just before my Grandma’s 90th birthday.
One was a Lenten note done in my own handwriting, expressing my appreciation for her and noting how much I’d enjoyed my recent visit. The next was typewritten, filled with additional thoughts about regret over missing her 90th birthday party, but then, offering her my gift of love through words. The main gift was that I’d decided to dedicate my children’s book, “P is for Peace Garden,” to her and my father, and so I was telling her about that for the first time, pre-publication, and sending a hope that she would be around once the book was bound and would have a chance to hold and read it herself.
God granted her that time. A year later, she had that chance. And then, she lived another 10 beyond that, to 101. At the time of the letters, we’d learned Grandma had a slow-moving cancer. When surgery was discussed, many of us felt it was too risky and talked the medical staff out of going through with it. The cancer never did manifest. It wasn’t an issue at all in her death.
But the dates on the letters reminded me that, around the time I was penning them, we wondered whether her time with us was possibly very close to its end. I didn’t want to miss the chance to tell her how I felt. Being reminded tonight that I’d not forsaken that chance brought me peace. Additionally, I remembered how proud Grandma was of my book and, I think, honored that I’d honored her in it.
I am still reveling in the gift of these resurfaced notes and photos. I am so glad to remember that though I’ve made many mistakes in this life, one of them has not been failing to say “I love you, you are important to me” to my grandmother. There will be more such chances. May I not forsake those, either.
My next book will include a special note to Grandma, too. I’ve dedicated it to the memory of her, and even though she has no more need for such attributions, I want those who read the book to know about her. For my love for her, and appreciation of her, has not ended with the cessation of her breath. As in 2004, now, too, it feels right for me to celebrate and appreciate the depth of the gift that is her.
Q4U: What unexpected gift were you given after a loved one passed?