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Love letters can come in many forms. For my family, they came as important discussions and notes on a yellow legal pad and in person.
Growing up, my siblings and I were met with regular messages, many times chores assigned, on our Dad’s beloved yellow legal pads. We had the distinct pleasure of having a father who made the effort to communicate. No BS, straight from the heart and straight from his moral compass.
Many of you know that last year my father was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. He knew that this was a battle he would not likely win. You see, my Dad was a planner and a realist. There’s nothing like this kind of diagnosis to jumpstart a planner’s mind. The immediate response was not to cry or feel self-pity; it was to assess the situation, review his life, develop a plan for damage control and set that plan in motion. Of course, there were tears and there was sadness, but this man, this planner, this family-focused Dad, involved grandparent, this Rotarian, this faith-minded parishioner, this incredible human being though: I’ve got to plan.
My dad was taken to the ER on a Friday, given an aspirin and later diagnosed that evening. The aspirin was an enormous gift to our family. You see, because of this one little aspirin, the surgeon needed to wait 7-10 days in order to operate. We could now travel together on Sunday for our annual summer family vacation and spend an entire week together connecting, talking, grieving and celebrating us.
So, at 6AM on the 1st day of our summer family vacation, he called a family meeting. Why 6AM you ask, because, you see, my dad was an early riser. He had been up since 4 working on his legal pad making notes, and to him, we had slept long enough. Besides, we had been trained, “the early bird gets the worm.”
In truth, he was terrified that he might not be able to communicate all that was in his head before the disease took over the man we knew and loved. And so, get up!
Pause: God forbid, if something like this were to happen to you, what does your family need to know, what do you want to communicate to your spouse, your kids, your grandkids, your business partner, best friend, spiritual counselor, neighbors, employees, etc.? If you really take a moment, this is a very long and important communication. Where are your passwords? How do you feel about those specific people? What does your family need to know about how to manage finances? How much life insurance do you have and with whom? Who are your trusted advisors and friends that can lend a hand? What are your favorite charities and why? Where do you want your services? Who should speak at them? What do you want people to remember about you? Will it be a party or a somber event? Who should receive your jewelry and most precious possessions and what do they signify to you? Why do you want this specific person to receive them? Where did you hide jewelry, guns, or cash?
All of this information is in your head – so speak, write, get it out!
Our dad’s love letter had little juicy tidbits with his personality attached. For example, a favorite of mine: “When you go out to dinner, your mother is never to pull out her Visa, never!” It’s funny because he still has me jumping, only I’m jumping for the bill.
I share this story as a way to illustrate the wonderful man we were fortunate enough to have, and to demonstrate the significance and challenges of writing and communicating such a love letter. I encourage you to communicate to those you love and to those who depend on you.
Talk to your family, discuss the difficult things. We never know when they will no longer be of this earth. For many, this is an extremely difficult consideration and planning concept. Consider talking with a financial advisor (me), your spiritual advisor, an estate planning attorney, your spouse and your best friends to help iron out these important discussions.
P.S. – If you’d like to use a template of a love letter, you can find it on our website.