It’s been four years since I wrote my Heart Will, a lasting message for people I love and future generations. While I’ve been soul searching most of my life, the events of 2020, and in particular the much-needed spotlight on systemic racism, has accelerated my inquiry into high gear.
Here’s a peek into Michelle’s recent process of writing an End of Life Love Letter to her mom.
March 30 ~ Victoria
The day-long Legacy, Love Letters + Heart Wills workshop is wrapping up and it’s my turn to declare a “moving forward” action. I want my action to facilitate my yearning to be at peace, with nothing left unsaid, should I or someone dear to me die unexpectedly. I declare to the group that I will write or start writing—an important caveat based on experience—a love letter to my mom by the end of April.
A pathway to peace
April 10 ~ Vancouver
It’s early morning and I promise myself I’m going to at least start writing my mom’s love letter. I stand at my desk, open a new file and pull up Willow’s Five-Minute Love Letter exercise. I’m a ‘get-it-done’ writer. I do not create sacred space, brew a cuppa and light a candle. I set a timer on my phone. Quiet tears roll down my face as I awaken my regret that I didn’t express my love more fully to my mom before her cognitive ability was stolen by disease. She lives with very advanced dementia and was officially diagnosed as palliative many moons ago. While she doesn’t speak and I don’t know what she takes in, I believe my mom feels love and connection. I feel like this letter is more for me than her. I tap out a jumble of thoughts and the timer goes off. I stop because I met my goal of starting.
May 2 ~ Vancouver
I haven’t revisited the letter to my mom and I didn’t meet my deadline of the end of April. I’m finding it hard to create a sense of urgency. I need to recommit and find some way to stay accountable. I’ve been emailing with a friend about her desire to write a love letter to her estranged brother. I write and ask if she’ll be my accountability buddy. I declare to her that I’ll finish my letter by Mother’s Day, which is when I plan to read it to my mom.
Create a sense of urgency to get it done
May 12 ~ Vancouver
Ack! It’s just after dawn on Mother’s Day and I haven’t written another word in my mom’s letter. I’ll be visiting her this afternoon so, once again, I open the file I started and pull up Willow’s Five-Minute Love Letter exercise. I tell myself this doesn’t have to be a perfectly-flowing letter that says it all and explains why I’m writing. It’s good enough to use the writing prompts in the exercise and just complete the sentences.
May 12 ~ North Vancouver
I maneuver my mom’s wheelchair and sit on her bed in the care home. I adjust the height of the bed so we can be eye-to-eye and heart-to-heart. I take her hands in mine and I begin to read, through tears, what I wrote.
You have always been the connective tissue—the glue—that held our family together.
You took care of everyone and everything. I am grateful beyond words. I hope you found this role satisfying and rewarding.
Forgive me for not seeing nor honouring you as your own unique being with hopes and dreams. I regret not being more curious and asking more questions. I regret not sharing my journey with you. I missed out on so many opportunities to learn from you and to be supported by you.
I hope you feel at peace. I hope you feel cherished and appreciated.
May your death come when you’re ready. We’ll miss you Mom and I truly believe we will always be connected. We’ll take care of each other when you’re gone. We’ll be aok.
I love you with all my heart.
What helped me write my love letter
I did it! I got it done because I used available tools, I recommitted when I didn’t fulfill my original goal, I created urgency and I sought out ways to make myself accountable. At long last I articulated what I wanted to say. I don’t know what difference, if any, it made to my mom but I do know that I feel a sense of relief. I feel peaceful knowing that either of us could die suddenly and I have said what I wanted to say. The letter wasn’t perfect but like we wrote about in this previous post, Something is Better Than Nothing.