The rain pelted at the window as my 13-year-old daughter and I cracked open a journal I saved from my days as a teenager. I recently rescued the Hilroy notebook from the dusty box that had been in storage longer than she’s been alive. We lay on our backs on my bed, looking up at the yellow book as I read verbatim how I longed for a boyfriend, the teachers I didn’t like, and how painful and futile it felt to wear a back brace for my scoliosis. And then there it was… a journal entry that had completely slipped my mind!
“On October 5th, 1980, I was in a car accident on the way back from Toronto [to Montreal]. It definitely ranks as the scariest thing that ever happened to me. As the car turned in the air, I thought my life was ending.”
I never forgot being sixteen and sitting in the passenger seat of the car when it flipped on the highway. I didn’t need to reread my journal to recall every little detail, but what I wrote at the end had completely escaped my memory.
After explaining what happened and feeling lucky that neither I nor my sister or parents were seriously hurt or killed, I wrote this: “The point is: look how easily life could slip away. It’s the scariest thing. It’s something that people only read about in papers. It just doesn’t happen to you. It really makes you think. If I’m to die – unexpectedly, there are a lot of things I’d like to say to people, so here goes…”
And then right there on the lined pages, as ordinary as can be, I wrote a short “Love Letter” to each of my closest friends, Nina, Gail, and Liana. In each letter I told them what I loved about them and our relationship, and what I hoped for them and their future. Wow! Is this where I started my journey to WILLOW?
A brush with death compels to hold on tighter to love and life.
I had a brush with death and felt compelled to hold on tighter to what mattered most to me; my friends. I wanted them to see me and know that I saw them and cherished our special connection. I wasn’t taking anything for granted.
Capturing love in a moment in time, makes a lifetime of difference.
I didn’t die. I’m very much alive and hope to live many more decades. I know however, that when I wrote those letters, my teenage self appreciated love, friendship and life just that much more than my middle-aged self. I would hardly describe myself as complacent about the gift of life but I do know that I sometimes feel distant from the wellspring of joy and connection that I know is available.
The letters captured a moment in time when I felt so lucky to be alive. Reading them many years later, reminds me to be grateful for every moment. Just this week, I dropped my daughter at school after having argued with her most of the morning. I told her that I never want to part angry because anything can happen. Within minutes we were sending loving texts to each other.
Share the love.
It brought both me and Gail joy on her recent birthday, when I shared my diary entry and original letter to her. Gail and I are still very close almost 40 years later, even though she lives on the other side of the continent. I’m in touch with Nina and Liana occasionally via Facebook and excited to share this blogpost with them along with a scanned copies of the original letters I wrote.
Perhaps you’ve thought about writing lasting messages to those you love. You may have already downloaded our free tool, How to Write Your Heart Will Guide, or read about Love Letters and Heart Wills in previous blogs, like How to Live Until you Die or Five-Minute Love Letter.
If you still haven’t started writing or feel there’s more to say, consider diving into the self-reflection and writing process at our upcoming Legacy, Love Letters + Heart Wills retreat in Mexico! Join us from October 29 to November 4, 2018 and experience the day of the Dead in San Jose del Cabo.
What about you?
How has a brush with death impacted you?
What is your experience (or hope) around writing lasting messages to those you love?