Monday, November 17, 2008
GRATITUDE FOR PEOPLE
My mom turned seventy-five on election day. Family complications forced us to delay her surprise party until Sunday and it turned out to be a good day. A very good day. And why? The food was good, very good in fact, and unlike some surprise party attempts, this one really did catch her off guard. She also loved seeing so many family members arrive solely for the purpose of seeing and celebrating her. But none of those reasons were the real cause of the day's excitement.
The real enthusiasm felt in each room that day was being generated by our excitement over a book of memories to which we had each contributed. It was simple, really. A survey was printed out with fifteen or so questions that stimulated thoughts and memories of Mom and her many sacrifices for us. Even the most independent and proud family members could not deny the impact this relatively simple woman's life has had in shaping theirs.
For Mom, the book was a reminder that despite have lived what she deems a routine, seemingly mundane life, on a very small stage, she had made a difference in this world . . . that her influence amounted to something far more grand than she dared imagine. She saw that her efforts to return to the classroom in her forties to secure a GED had pushed faltering grandchildren to stick it out in school and get that sheepskin. The many references to her proclivity for hard work and her passion for her animals made her proud to be a farmer, knowing that her work ethic had been passed along. She was able to see how her decision to join the Church and be baptized has changed lives three generations out. And though my little family and I are the only active members remaining, she can see how far the ripples of her faith have extended as grand children's valiant choices have left their own marks on this world, or as they marry and raise their own families, or as grandsons served missions in far-off places expanding the impact of her decision.
It quantified the vast scope of her mortality.
My daughter-in-law, Krista, did a similar, but much more beautifully prepared thing for me when I turned fifty, assembling tributes to me from my children, grandchildren, my husband, mother and friends. None of them will know how often I pull that book down and reread their words of love, but I understood completely when my mother referred to her new album, saying that she now knows she mattered in this life. Deep down she always knew, but sweet words spoken one minute are quickly diluted by another word spoken in frustration, while words on a page last forever.
We all need a little of this . . . a back slap that reminds us that we are cherished . . . a moment when our time on this earth is measured and found enormously unique and irreplaceable. And it needs to be in a permanent form. Not emails or e-cards or e-anything. It needs to require a moment of thought, and it must be written out in hard copy so it lasts, with a little embellishment that punctuates the words' meaning. We need to return to the diminishing art of communicating our love and gratitude for the wonderful people in our lives.
So today, buy a card, a really pretty or funny card and send it someone . . . for no particular reason other than to tell them what they mean to you. Then tell me how you felt as you stuck it in the mailbox. I'd love to hear!