17 years ago.
That’s when we wrote the cards. It was my suggestion, my brother-in-law told me. I vaguely remember it. Evidently, I asked everyone to write a postcard for my 1-year-old niece, and to put it in a box — to be opened on her 18th birthday.
And here she was, tall, beautiful, ready to graduate high school. The box on her lap.
The first few cards were hilarious. Her cousins, all older than her, had dispensed wisdom with their teen and tween selves. They told her how they’d be rich, or have lots of kids, or how they’d buy her a car. We laughed at how some of these were so far off, and how others came kind of close.
The box had things like the price of gas. A headline or two. But then she picked up a card and tears started to flow. It was from “Papaw,” who we lost this January after a long battle with Alzheimers.
So she handed it to Amy, her next older cousin, sitting next to her. Amy got one word out and then crumpled. So she passed it to Melissa, my daughter. Melissa got one line out, and then she too broke down. Finally, the card was handed to my husband and he read his father’s words.
Karsyn, you are 1-year-old. You just gave me a sloppy kiss. You are so beautiful, and I know that you’ll be just as beautiful at 18. I hope that I am with you when you read this.
But he wasn’t with us.
And he hadn’t been with us for some time, even when he was alive. His spirit was there. Ornery. Funny. Yet distant and vacant, never knowing who we were. And in the end, it was the hardest of all.
That’s not who he was when my niece was 1. He was a strong man. He loved nothing more than having his family wrapped around him like a comfortable blanket. He poked and prodded, joking and kidding. He was the chairman of the board, several times over, serving his community well. He was a farmer. A man who worked with his hands and heart.
No one knew when we sat down to write those cards that he would one day slip away, one memory at a time.
[bctt tweet=”We aren’t promised a thousand tomorrows, but we often live as we do. How to love those in front of us right now. https://wp.me/p4jbdw-4Db #livingfreetogether” username=”suzanneeller”]
Hearing those words brought him back for a moment. The normally loud crowd, comprised of his sons, daughters-in-law, their kids, and their kiddos, were totally silent after Richard read the few words from his dad. Every eye was wet with tears.
It made me wonder.
One year from now, would I wish I had a postcard from someone in that room?
Five years from now, would I give anything to hear them crack a joke, tell that story that I’ve heard a hundred times?
Ten years from now, would the postcards — just a handful of words when they were written — become heirlooms?
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. Proverbs 27:1 (ESV)
I love every person that was in that room, but do I treat them as if they have a thousand tomorrows?
I have to admit I do. I may let an argument fester for more than a night. I may let that story they tell for the 10th time get on my last nerve. I may treat everyone else with care, and take them for granted.
That’s pretty natural, and I’m not saying we should treasure every single moment or hold up every day as a monument. But I do think that we could avoid a lot of regrets if we held our days with loved ones just a little more sacred.
Gave a little more grace.
Laughed a little more often.
Forgave a lot quicker.
Worked through those hard issues with a little more wisdom.
Say those sweet words rather than withhold them.
If I could sit across from my ornery father-in-law, the man we knew so well before Alzheimers, I’d tell him thank you for the lesson, the one he didn’t know he was teaching the day he wrote the post card.
It made me want to notice every person in that room, and thank God for them. A group of imperfect, often noisy, sometimes ornery, caring, good people I get to call family.
Who is sitting across from you right now?
Are you living as if you have a thousand tomorrows with them?
I hope you have a thousand days and more. Yet what if, one day, you could look back and see that you lived each day as if it were a gift? You worked through the hard stuff. You noticed the good. You forgave when it was needed, and you didn’t fail to tell them that you loved them.
These are our postcards. We give the best of ourselves each day. And ask for forgiveness when we fall short. What a beautiful, beautiful way to live.
Lord, help each of us to treasure today. Help us to live each day as if it is a gift, for it is. Help us to live fully in this day with those right in front of us. In Jesus’ name.
Q: How would it change your relationships if you treasured today with that loved one?
Q: What would you do differently?
Maybe you struggle to love because there’s hurt standing in the way. The Unburdened Heart: Finding the Freedom of Forgiveness is a gentle resource to help you uncover what that looks like.
The Mended Heart: God’s Healing for Your Broken Places is another helpful resource to help you work through those hurting places with family.