Love letters from people who are terminally ill can be of the world’s greatest gifts both to those of us who receive one and certainly to the person writing it. The choice to say, “I love you,” is empowering at any stage of life. It puts the speaker in charge at a time when being in charge may be or seem to be curtailed by illness. And, it is, best of all, a way of staying present in the lives of those we leave behind.
Garth Callaghan, father of Emma, began writing notes to her when she was in kindergarten. He wrote them on napkins and put them in her lunchbox. With every school lunch she got a big helping of love. In the face of the second round of kidney cancer he is now facing he has made a commitment to write his daughter 826 more notes, one for each day until her last day of high school. He is, despite his ordeal that he says has him terrified, taking an active part in Emma’s life at school functions. He is also planning to take part in her future life whether or not he is here on this earth with her, a life she will live with his physical and emotional presence in the form of those letters.
Each of those letters will forever carry the touch of his hand. It may hold the warmth of a kiss as he held it to his lips before delivering it to her. Maybe his heartbeat if he held it to his chest. Every letter will bring his living self back into focus, and each letter will let them forever embrace in a hug across time and distance. A letter from someone who is critically ill may seem like, or actually be, a goodbye. Whether those letters are a last hello or a final loving goodbye, over the years, when those letters are re-read and re-loved, every one of those letters of today will be tomorrow’s sweet hello.
Please notice that every one of Garth Callaghan’s letters are in his own handwriting. Every computer has Helvetica, Chicago or Times New Roman, but no one has your handwriting. Your handwriting is the proof you were there, the proof it was you who wrote that letter. When it comes to love letters, handwriting rules; it is the fingerprint of the heart and soul. You are how you write.
Is it time for you to write some love letters to the people who are most important in your lives? They will bring joy now and soften grief later. They don’t have to be long, they just have to be written and signed by you. Oh, and putting the date on that letter will be an added gift as the years fly past and we wonder when we got that love. These letters are a gift for now custom designed for one person on this earth and a gift for generations to come who will find these letters and know what a legacy of love and strength is theirs.
With gratitude to Garth Callaghan for this exquisite example of documenting a forever love and
from me to you with love in the air,
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