I was driving today passed a church, and the sign asked something like, “If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, would you live differently today?” My first response was inappropriate, but as my brain drifted, I was thinking I’m as ready as ever for death. My kids are not ready, but they are as ready as they can be for their ages. I’m personally tired, and I’ve been too spiritual for this life lately that I honestly am just waiting for death praying God waits until the kids are old enough to move on without any permanent psychological damage. But it also made me think of this…
I submitted something to a book wanting us to write letters to our kids when they are teens, and mine didn’t make it, and I’m pretty sure it’s because it’s too religious for the book I was aiming for because it couldn’t possibly be that my writing sucks at all like that’s not even a possibility to consider, it had to be the religious nature of it. HAD TO BE. But I wanted to post it here so my kids can find it after I die.
A Letter to Three Lovely Ladies
By Michelle Grewe
Dear ladies, my children, my sweet girls all grown up, sort of:
I am so happy you made it this far in life, and as you are hitting an age becoming of a woman, I suppose it’s time to tell you: none of you were adopted. I know, bummer, right?
Also, none of you were really planned. You might have figured that out by now watching me plan things as they happen like your birthday party. I just stopped planning things a long time ago. But it was planned not to plan you, so that counts for something, right?
I am writing this as you sleep right now because you are at the ages where you won’t let me otherwise. I’m still working on the brainwashing molding and shaping of you, and I will probably fail at teaching you things like letting your mommy write something. In many ways at this point in your lives, I feel like I have failed you as a mother. The house is nowhere near the clean you deserve; however in many ways, I feel like I have succeeded as a mother. The house is messy because I allow you to explore whatever whim you are curious about, whether it’s to build a house out of blankets or to experiment with how parachutes work. Erickson was a fan of the personal exploration, so I probably did succeed there, even if it appears to be a failure.
The point I want to make is many times, things in life are both a success and failure in one. Everything is a trade. If you want to be successful at something, you will have to sacrifice some of your other possible successes for it. In Economics, it’s called an Opportunity Cost. There is one for every success. For me to have a clean house, I’d have to cage some of your freedoms as children. I’d also go insane yelling at you to keep it clean at this point. I chose not to keep a perfectly clean house because that’s an appearance thing for other people whereas your exploration is an internal thing shaping your individuality. You are more important to me than what other people think.
Did I just justify having a messy house to my kids? Why yes. Yes I just did. Go me. There’s a success. What did I lose in the process? Pancakes. I would be making pancakes, from scratch, if I weren’t writing this letter.
This letter is intended for you to read when you reach that age where you think you know it all. The age where you think you are invincible. The age where you are moody regardless of PMS. The age where you are probably sneaking alcohol and engaging in immoral sexual acts. The age that you perform inappropriate party-flavored debauchery that you actually think is worthy of re-telling, that you cannot retell without giggling profusely. The age BEFORE you truly experience a good party so good you cannot retell the story without incriminating against people you love, so you don’t. And if you are anything like me, the age you haven’t gotten caught yet.
I also believe it’s most likely, because the odds are against me, that I’m not with you anymore. I honestly will dance the jig, so let it be written, if I live to see all three of you kids graduate high school. I’ve made some poor health decisions in this life, and I don’t think my pathetic body will make it that long. If it does, I owe you the jig. If it doesn’t, I’m sure this letter means a lot more to you than I realize.
If I had just one thing to tell you about life, about your life, about growing up, I would simply say I will always love you. That entails quite a bit. It means no matter what you do, I’m proud of you. If you are the biggest failure, I’ll be the one in the nursing home bragging about it. “My kid failed more than your kid ever could on his worst day.” It also means I will never lose faith in you. I will always believe in you. I will never leave you; not even death can stop true love (Princess Bride reference). When you hit a low point and you are laying on your face thinking about giving up, just remember I’m standing right there spiritually telling you to get up and walk it off. And if you decide to lay there for a while, I’m there rubbing your back. I support you no matter what, even if you are wrong. I will always forgive you. Always.
Speaking of Love, I stole the idea from God. That’s kind of an important thing to me. It is to your grandparents (both sides), and their parents (both sides). Before that, I’m not really sure, but I’d wager to guess this is important to your entire family tree. God is in your past. We all want God to be in your future.
I know you have family in heaven, and that’s where I want you to go so you can find us again. Your great grandmother actually owns a white mansion up there surrounded by a white garden sitting next to a trickling brook, as she described what she saw the few minutes she had passed away before being revived. I don’t want you to go just to be with your family indulging in peaceful luxury. I want you to go because you love love. Because you are aware of the spiritual footprint you leave behind every time you do the right thing. Because you legitimately love good over evil, and you know the one God who stands for those things is watching over you. I am heaven bound, but I would go to hell for God and for you, so regardless of where I end up, heaven or hell or haunting the earth, I will be with you more than you think. Even if death brings us a deep sleep, I will dream about you. I never want you to feel alone when I’m gone because I’m there. I will be that whisper in your ear, and the slight caress on your hand. I will be the peace you feel out of nowhere and the one trying to keep the air positive. And God, He is the guy you can talk to because He will tell you what I want to say.
This is important to your family tree because our struggles were always spiritually deep, and God is the one who got us through them. Your family members are loyal, preferred customers of heaven, and it’s a club where your membership will bring you more joy and comfort than any alternatives. Your grandfather used to wake up every morning at 5 AM, and for over an hour each morning, he’d sit, alone, at the kitchen table with his glass of orange juice, and he’d pray. I still to this day swear that is why he was so successful at his job, at taking care of his family, and at raising me. It’s that love that I want to shine through you. It is also God’s love. Your grandparents’ love. My love. Only you can choose to allow all of that love to shine through you to your children.
Speaking of which, your grandmother once wrote a song about that. It means so much to me, and it’s the family song. The first verse is about a mother’s love. The second is about a father’s love. The chorus, “Their love shined through, the years and the tears and the laughter. Their love always shined through, the days and nights, the wrong and right, their love shined through.” And the third verse, “And now that I am grown with children of my own. With the heart of them carried deep within, my fervent hope would be that their love would shine through me.” This is our family’s circle of life. Our love is our biggest legacy, one we pass down from generation to generation. It is a family heirloom that cannot be stolen by a thief, or lost in a fire, or destroyed by children.
And, it’s important to me throughout your life, beyond my grave, that you children love each other.
You are sisters, and I want you to be there for each other through thick and thin, like a marriage, for better or for worse, forever and ever. It’s not fair because you didn’t get to pick each other, but remember, my blood runs through all your veins. Things you hate about each other may be aspects of me, or your father, or your grandparents. You will have to get over those things. It’s a two way street. One sister cannot do all the work. All three of you have to make that conscious decision to be there for each other on a regular basis. You all three have to step back from the emotions and drama long enough to remind yourself what you are really trying to accomplish.
Right now as I’m writing this, as you are children, the biggest joy I get is to see you kids play together nicely. The biggest smile on my face happens when you kiss each other’s boo boos. I cry every time I see you cheering each other up or cuddling together to watch a movie. In the midst of darkness, your love for each other shines brighter than any night light. The three of you as a team are a force to reckon with, and I expect you three to join forces and fight the struggles you face together.
I am not going to give out advice to you about being successful, or how to get rich quick, or how to impress me with your good grades because these are things that don’t impress me at all. I don’t care if you fail. I don’t care if you pick a career that isn’t high paying. I don’t care if you work at McDonalds flipping burgers your entire life. What I care about is that whatever life you are living that you are living it together as sisters, so that way you will never be alone. There should never be any struggle that any one of you face alone. I did not just lose my mind to raise three kids this close in age for you to act like you are an only child. If I am dead when you read this, just know every time I see you kids fighting, I’m down here screaming in your ear, “stop fighting!” smacking your butt with a cloud shaped into a baseball bat. It might not even be my ghost doing that; it might be residual energy from your past.
You are at an age where you think you know everything. The wisdom you are looking for from me right now is probably not here. You are probably looking for something superficial, and see, I’m at that age where I realize what is truly important in this life. It is love. That is why I’m talking about love.
Every decision has a pro and con. Every success has a trade. I don’t care what decision you make; I care about how you make that decision. I want you to make it with love in mind. With God in mind. With your family in mind. I want your heart in the right place when you face decisions, whether it’s what to eat for breakfast or what to major in in college. Just like I decided to write this instead of doing the dishes this morning, I want you to follow your heart. The best advice I can give you now at this point in your life is to remember that love is the legacy you get to take with you when you die. The superficial things of this world stay with it.
The only way to find love is to love.
Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy or boast. It is not proud. It doesn’t dishonor others, nor is it easily angered, nor does it keep record of wrongs. It is not self-seeking but self-fulfilling. Love does not delight in evil, but it rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.
And all the things love is, I love you.
Even when you hate me… moody teens.
May you love and may you be loved.