Do you find yourself making excuses about writing letters? Perhaps you agree that it is important, but the tyranny of the urgent always seems gets in the way. You’ll write those letters…some day. But some day never seems to come. Procrastination about the important things in life affects many of us, me included. No judgment here.
Perhaps you have lost someone you dearly love. As part of your grieving, you are grappling with regrets over words left unsaid. If so, know that countless others are in your shoes. You are not alone. Please don’t emotionally flog yourself. (This is from someone who has a black belt in self-flogging.)
As I lead in-person and virtual letter-writing workshops, my desire is always to ignite a sense of urgency about letter writing. I want to teach people how and why this is so important and life-changing, and to implore people not to wait. Part of my passion comes from the countless heart-wrenching stories I have heard of grief, loss and regret.
That happened again last week as a workshop participant strongly encouraged fellow participants to “do it now.” The reason behind her passionate plea left me speechless, and I later asked if I could share her story with you.
Jeannette Taylor is an incredibly resilient, faith-filled woman who has walked through almost unimaginable loss. She was widowed earlier in her adult life when her Air Force fighter pilot husband was killed in a plane crash, leaving her with three children: Tifanee, age 12, Matthew, age 11 and Cameron, age 6. A few years later, God blessed Jeannette with the gift of a wonderful new husband, Richard, who adopted her three children. Later, they had a daughter together and named her Lacey Richelle, and often called her "Lovelace."
Lacey at 13 with her horse, Legacy
Shortly after her fourteenth birthday, Lacey developed a horrific headache. An x-ray revealed a glioblastoma brain tumor and Lacey was transported by helicopter to the Philadelphia Children's Hospital. Tragically, she died four days later. FOUR DAYS. The shock and the grief were overwhelming, and Jeannette began writing letters in a journal to Lacey as a way to process her grief. She would tell Lacey the things she missed about her and would write about her deep love for Lacey as well as her grief and sadness. Jeannette says that the experience of writing letters to Lacey even after her daughter’s promotion to Heaven was incredibly healing and helpful.
Thankfully, Jeannette has always been an encourager, and had written many notes to Lacey over the years before her death. Lacey had done the same back to her sweet momma. Pictured here is a note that Lacey, at 5, had written to her mother as well as a prayer Lacey had written at 13. Jeannette keeps these priceless treasures in her Bible and reads them frequently, even 20 years after Lacey’s passing.
Lacey's note: "Miss you Mom, Hoop (hope) to sey (see) yoy (you) soon."
Lacey's prayer: "Dear God, There are no words to describe how thankful I am for what you do for me. I want to be used by you in all the ways that you can."
Three years after the loss of Lacey, Jeannette’s son Matt was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 29. Surgery to remove the brain tumor seemed successful, but the tumor reappeared six years later, and Matt died shortly thereafter. As part of her grieving process for her son, Jeannette put together a photo album which provided comfort as she cherished memories and reflected on the life and Godly character of her son.
Matt and Lacey
Jeannette believes, as I do, that there can always be purpose in our pain when we are yielded to God. She has used her loss to help others. For many years, she has been an active participant and speaker with Umbrella Ministries, an organization for mothers who have lost a child.
My hope and prayer is that you will never experience the painful losses that Jeannette has. But please heed Jeannette’s words of encouragement about writing letters to those you love: "Try to imagine the joy and blessing for your child or friend to receive a letter written in your hand, signed by you after you are gone. EVEN better to send them letters periodically NOW while you are here and so are they. I treasure cards and letters from my children and from friends. There is much JOY to read and reread how someone loves you and cherishes your presence in their life. WE are not promised tomorrow so do not delay."
And if you have suffered the loss of a loved one, consider starting to write letters "to" that person, expressing your deepest feelings about them. You might find such a journal to be healing and helpful as it was for Jeannette.
Please take the time, now, to write letters to those who matter most. As Jeannette poignantly expressed, none of us is promised tomorrow. A few simple sentences can truly become a life-giving treasure and can provide immense joy and comfort to both the writer and to the recipient.
"Teach us to number our days that we might gain a heart of wisdom."