One Question to Ask Before You Die

Death in Death Valley by Dee Ashley

The recent Facebook announcement about enabling “legacy accounts” reminds us: We will all die. That’s the honest truth that we forget. From the moment the wrapped bundle is put into our arms to say hello, we are on the path of depreciation, until we are back in the hospital, arms around the same body, to say goodbye. Morbid? Or, as my family have always called me, blunt? I prefer to think of it as pragmatic. Reading the stories in semester’s Gender in Folklore class reminds me that the worst thing that can happen to a child is to lose one of their parents. Films like Super 8 show us the pain of faintly remembering a lost parent.

Valentine’s weekend had me ruminating on the nature of love. How I want everyone to know how much I loved them. And my life. I’ve had a great one thus far. Hopefully many more years to come. Failing that, I want to celebrate at my funeral how wonderful it was.

So I wrote a letter to our two sons, to be given to them at age 10, if I don’t live to see that. The letter isn’t very long, and in it I try to avoid superlatives. I give the advice I would like to share with them when they are on the cusp of becoming teenagers. I emailed the letter to a few friends, giving them instructions on how and when to share it, encouraging them to write one of their own.

One friend writes in a journal every year on her children’s birthdays. Another records her thoughts about their major events.

The interesting part of writing a letter like this is the gratitude that swells up for all the love you have to share.

Who would you like to write a letter to? And do you have to wait until you’re gone?

Just in Case

I hope you remember me, not for my sake, but yours. Because you will grow up into men who know they were cherished but who also had responsibilities. Never raise your hand or voice to a woman. Never persist after she says no – to anything. Never lead a woman on because you need the emotional comfort. Choose your bed partners and friends carefully. If you have private photos of someone – those are not for you to share with anyone else. You don’t have time for drugs because you are busy doing something important: for yourself, the family, the world.
Enjoy parties and celebrations and being with those you love. Jesus did.

The world seems scarier to me for young people than it did when I was growing up. Back then you could only get pregnant or thrown in jail. Now you can be publicly humiliated on the Internet. Have no part in that. And if you see it happening, say something.
Stand up for the underdog because that’s what I was growing up as the child of immigrants. Not everyone will like you. That’s okay. You’d rather have their respect.