If you’re smack dab in the middle of the “Sandwich Generation,” you’ll know exactly what this term means. Responsibilities on all sides. Teachers’ conferences, college visits, baseball and ballet practice, drama with schoolmates on one side. Your own children might even be getting married and having children of their own! (I know, I know...you're far too young to be called "Grandma!")
On the other side, aging parents face decisions about retirement, downsizing and increased health concerns. Oh yes, and right in the middle are the weary hero and heroine, trying to keep a marriage vibrant, maintain successful careers, have milk in the frig and pay the relentless bills on time. Lots of responsibilities and lots and lots of people to love and to serve.
As you try to juggle it all (and often feel like you’re failing) a newfound sense of appreciation for your own parents begins to bubble up. Gratitude for the countless sacrifices and gifts you’re finally realizing they have made on your behalf over the years.
Amidst the busyness of your life, it’s easy to think that your parents will live forever. News flash: they won't! Life is moving quickly, and parents age, get sick and die, often unexpectedly. It’s inevitable.
I have a plea to every one of you who is blessed to still have your parents on this earth: eulogize them while they are living! Tell them what they mean to you and put it in writing so that your words and sentiments can be read and re-read.
Recently, I received an email from someone who heard me speak several years ago. What fuel she provided to the importance of leaving nothing unsaid, and of telling our parents while they are here what their love and support has meant to us.
“I attended a luncheon in Atlanta a few years back at which you were the speaker. At the time, my mother was 86 and in relatively good health.
Around that same time, a good friend of mine’s mother passed away. Afterwards, many of us were talking about her and how wonderful she was and sharing joyful memories. I immediately thought of things that you had said and realized that I did not want my mother to pass without hearing firsthand how I felt about her. We were close and as we both aged, got to be the best of friends. Right then, I sat and wrote her a letter recalling stories, memories of things we had done together and how they made me feel. I wanted her to know what a great job she did as my mother and how I felt badly for everyone else who didn’t have her as their momma! I told her that it was a ‘pre-eulogy’ honoring her life and that I could not bear the thought of her passing away, and me getting up to eulogize and wonder if she knew how I felt about her. It confirmed for her that as my momma, she did a JOB WELL DONE.
I read it aloud and gave my copy to her that year for Mothers’ Day. She was so honored and told me where she was putting her copy. She asked me to read it at her funeral.
She passed in November and I did just that. I am forever grateful to you for opening my eyes to this opportunity that I did not let pass. I have shared this with people every chance I get.
Two words: No Regrets.”
Please, please heed her advice. Don’t allow excuses keep you from doing this for your aging parents. It’s a loving act that you will never regret. With Mother’s Day and Father’s Day approaching, why not start now and begin writing letters to your parents? Your affirming words will mean more than any gift that money could ever buy.
If you need help, order a copy of Leave Nothing Unsaid. This easy-to-use workbook is designed to help you write a meaningful letter. And if you’re really stuck, I’m available to help, too!
PS: You can also forward this blog post to your own children as a not-so-subtle hint!!