Birthdays of our deceased loved ones can be difficult days. As a nurse, I have encouraged family members to plan on birthdays as “sucky” days. Now, that I am more than a casual observer or educated professional, planning can help, but it still sucks. So what can we do? Well, one of the things I do is write my sister a letter. I mean literally a letter. For those of you who are younger than 30 or so, I take out a piece of paper (nothing fancy) and a cool pen (I am totally into pens!) and hand write a letter. No texting, no emails, no facebook postings–a letter that normally would go through the post office or snail mail. Sounds crazy and a bit sad, but I like it!
Part of the reason I like it, is that I feel like I am updating my sister on everything that is going on. I have read historical fiction/non-fiction books that include excerpts of a letter from a daughter who came out west in the 1800’s. Or letters from sons written during the Civil War. The letters give such a real-life, first person account.
This is how I feel. I am reaching across the expanse of time and space to tell Debbie what is going on. For example, this year’s birthday letter included a note about writing the memoir. I shared how I hoped she will like it and that it will honor her memory. I know, I know it sounds psycho! But, I don’t care. When I am writing this letter I feel like I am talking to her and she is close to me. Also, I don’t feel like she is missing events that are happening in our family’s life. I update her on how our parents are doing and what her sons are doing. I also update her on our grief. How much I miss her and the problem my mom had choosing a headstone.
Once the letter is completed, I fold it up and put it in an envelope and mark it–Happy Birthday, 2014. I have also written a letter for Christmas and include a Christmas family photo. In ten or twenty years from now, I envision opening the letters up and reading through all the life events she has missed. It sounds heartbreaking and I am sure it will be; YET, it will be better to have a record of all I have shared with her. Instead of the alternative–which is ZIPPO–as if she wasn’t my sister anymore.