The midpoint for 2015 is rapidly approaching. For reflective types like me, it’s a perfect time to press the “pause button.” To think about lessons learned. To thank God for prayers answered and yet unanswered. To assess my progress (or lack thereof) toward my 2015 goals.
Among the most rewarding...and unexpected... experiences for me in 2015 has been helping pediatric hospice patients write letters to those they love before they were “promoted” to Heaven. Wow! Talk about convincing me that this work matters.
I’ve done it twice this Spring: first with an amazing 11-year old named Casey, and more recently with a precious 8-year old named Miguel.
When I say “pediatric hospice,” most people gasp. The typical question is: “How can you do that?” My answer is “How can I not?” Yes, it’s heartbreaking to see a child whose life will likely be so short. But it is also an incredible privilege to help a child express…on paper…their love for those closest to them.
Seeing the comfort these letters provide to families as they journey through the landmines of bereavement further fuels my passion for the message of Leave Nothing Unsaid.
You might remember a blog post I wrote earlier this year about Casey. (Here’s the link.) Casey was promoted to Heaven shortly after I wrote that article.
Just three short months after Casey’s passing, here’s what her grieving mom has to say about the impact of the letters: “Each letter that Casey wrote with your help has either been framed or is in a special or prominent place…we look at those letters often. It’s a little piece of Casey and in a way she lives on through her words. The written word gives a perspective that even the best, most beautiful pictures can’t. When you take the time to put your feelings into words, there is release and comfort and validation. “
The picture at the top of the page was taken with the cousins and brother of Miguel shortly before his death.
Just a few days earlier, I had met with Miguel and asked him questions about his family. He could barely talk at that point, but he could nod. I would suggest different words to describe family members. He would nod when I got to a word that fit the person. Together, we completed four letters, one by one. And Miguel was able to sign each letter.
Those letters will undoubtedly mean more and more to Miguel’s family with each passing year. But I am so incredibly thankful that they have these letters as a “stairway to Heaven,” as a way to stay connected to their sweet boy.
Our words matter. And written words matter forever, whether you are 8 or 80 or somewhere in between.
Casey and Miguel took the time to write letters to the people they loved. If an 11-year old and an 8-year old can do that, couldn’t and shouldn’t each of us? We don’t need to wait until we have a life-limiting illness. We can do it today and pour our life and encouragement into those we love.
If you don’t know where to start, please let me help you “leave nothing unsaid.”
What about you? What have been your milestones in the first half of 2015? So often, God surprises us with joy in circumstances where we least expect it. And that seems to happen most often when we've stepped outside of our comfort zone and reached out in love.
If you haven't experienced that in the first half of 2015, you've got the second half. Be brave. Love big. You'll be amazed at the joy that follows.