My father was dying of cancer, and I wanted to write something special that he could read while he was still fully cognizant. His affection, his gentleness and his loyalty had all been a huge part of my life. Writing a tribute to him was the perfect gift of thanks and had translated easily from mind to paper. Sitting down to write to my widowed mother was another matter entirely.
The prompting for repeating this exercise for Mom was due, in part, to my own daughter’s letters to me. Ever since she had learned how to write she would fill pages with thanks, praise, drawings and plenty of hugs and kisses. God planted her like a rose bush seed in the ground, and we watched His rain and His sunshine nurture her until she began producing the beautiful flowers God plucks daily- to give to us. I couldn’t remember ever wanting to give my mother anything like that; no, there was no loveliness or sweet aroma for that mother. I remained the seed, unwilling to germinate, with a rock hard protective shell. I had spent too much of my life living under the soil harboring an emotion close to hatred.
Underneath the layer of hatred was anger.
Under the layer of anger was pain-
lots and lots of pain.
I wanted her to have at least one of the roses I had been given. I wanted her to know that I did care- in spite of all of my historical and repetitive snakelike actions- poised and ready to strike, followed by the lunge and deadly bite of my venom.
I made the time for her one day, and as I prayed over what to say the Holy Spirit flooded me, giving me peace and comfort. I understand, He whispered to my heart, and then my mind filled with His inspirational thoughts about the direction to take the letter in. It wasn’t a tribute, but God knew exactly what she needed to hear.
Thank-you for everything you have ever done for me.
Thank-you for staying at home to raise me. Thank-you for keeping house, getting up every day to get me ready for school, cooking me meals, and packing me lunches.
Thank-you for taking my brother and me on holidays with you and Dad, when you would have had a better time leaving us at home.
Thank-you for all the driving you did every day of the week to get us to dancing and music classes. Thank-you for coming to many of my sports games, even though I wasn’t very good at sports.
Thank-you for the financial sacrifices you made to ensure we would get a good education in private schools.
I’m sorry for being so ungrateful and critical most of the time I was at home.
I waited for many weeks after sending it in the hopes that that perhaps the scent, if not the rose itself would have formed a peephole in the walls between us, but eventually I gave up. I assumed that in my mother’s heart nothing had happened, and judged her to be the same unfeeling brick wall I had always critiqued her to be. The lifelong hopelessness simply returned like a familiar but unwanted friend.
Strangely enough, even though my heart should have stayed just as rigid, the writing of the letter softened me. My outer shell cracked, and gratitude, like fresh rain, seeped in. My deepest parts reached upward for the sunlight, allowing His light to reach into my darkness. My apology humbled me enough to allow the Lord to remove all of the loathing, along with some of the anger and pain. My arms unfurled and stretched in a dancing breezy freedom I had never known. I laughed easily in God’s flowerbed.
About two years later I was talking to my sister about Mom, and I happened to mention that I had written a letter to thank her for the things she had done for us. It was well known in our family that Mom and I persistently rubbed each other the wrong way, so I suppose I wanted some sort of recognition for the fact that I was trying.
My sister’s head cocked to one side as if a sudden memory hit her.
“Oh yes, I remember that. We were in the kitchen and Mom said that you had sent her something very sweet. She got out your letter and read it to me, and she was crying the whole time……”
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