It's Not Goodbye, It's See You Later: Love Letters, Knick Knacks and Family Memories

Frances Christine Ingram

Paulo Coelho said, "We never lose our loved ones.  They accompany us; they don't disappear from our lives.  We are merely in different rooms."

I find this statement to be profound and undeniably truthful.  Having been a christian my entire life, I have always easily accepted the idea that when someone dies they are not truly gone.  I know there is a Heaven, I know there is a Hell; and in a weird sort of way, we are kind of stuck in between.  Death has never been a be all end all for me, but I have come to the realization that that is a hard reality for many people in this world.
Dan with my grandma at our wedding

Last week, I lost one of the most important women in my life; my grandmother.  At 86 years old, my grandmother was the epitome of strength and perseverance.  Having suffered from rheumatoid arthritis (or "awfulritis" as my three year old self described it) for the past 58 years, I grew up with a grandmother who suffered daily from a physical pain I hope to never understand.  And yet, every day she woke up and did what she had to do without uttering a single complaint.

She was strong.  Much stronger than muscle or man power.  Her strength was all mental.

But it was not only her strength that my admiration draws from.  My grandmother had a faith that was unlike any other.  Much like her mental strength, her faith in the Lord was unwavering.  After losing her parents, siblings, husband and two sons, she did not stray from God, as many people would, but grew closer to him.
Last Christmas together

As I grew up I saw and admired this about my grandmother so much that I promised I would try my hardest to do the same.  I am young and my life's hardships are only just beginning.  But I take each day in stride.  I thank God for the blessings I am given and I thank Him for the downfalls.  It is not always easy, but I saw my grandmother do that my entire life and it is something I know is worthwhile in the long run.

To all those reading who are not at that level of faith, I say that's alright.  Everyone walks different paths in life and I would never judge you for that.  And the same goes for those who have no faith at all.  As a christian I know we get a bad rep for being "preachy" and "judgmental", but I strive every day to not meet that expectation but to overcome it.  We are all human beings whether we believe in the same thing or not.  And I can confidently say I love you all the same, but man are you missing out!  I pray one day you reach the peace of mind a healthy faith in the Lord can give you.  My grandmother taught me that, and I don't ever plan on forgetting it.

Before my grandmother passed away she called me on the phone to say goodbye.  As much as she wanted me with her in person it was not in God's plan, but I will always be grateful for that call.  And as I approached her casket for my final farewell yesterday, I let all my sadness and hurt wash over me.  With tears in my eyes I bent down to say goodbye, but couldn't do it.  I know death is not forever.  So as I leaned over her I merely whispered "See you later, grandma."  And I will.

My grandmother and the angel I put in her casket.

Love Letters, Knick Knacks and Family Memories

While I was back home for the funeral these past couple of days my mother let me go through some of my grandma's possessions.  Like most grandmas she kept everything.  While some would call it a cluttered mess, I began to see the meaning in the items she kept and it has given me new appreciation for the small things I currently hold on to.

One of the most amazing discoveries came when my mom showed me the love letters my grandfather sent my grandmother before they were married.  Every letter started with "My Darling" and went on to describe how much he missed her and prayed for her to join him in Wyoming.

Now you will have to excuse me.  I get a little sappy at this point, but I just love this.  Not many people write that way anymore.  It is a dying art that I wish would make a comeback.  Gentlemen, pay attention.  No woman will ever be disappointed if you take the time to write her a heartfelt love letter (on actual paper, no Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc.)  Seriously, she won't.

As I read through these letters I felt a little ashamed.  As though I was invading her privacy by reading her husband's deeply personal words.  However, I think that this is how we keep our loved ones with us.  What better way to keep them around than to read their letters and get to hear their voices again?

This got me thinking about my own love letters.  While Dan and I have never really sent letters back and forth (let's face it, a phone is so much easier), I will admit I have kept every single card he has ever given me.  They are contained in a box by my bed and if ever I am in need of a little trek down memory lane I know just where to start.

Although we have only been together 6 1/2 years, a mere blink in time compared to my grandparents, we have grown so much in that time.  I love reading his notes to my high school self and tracking our journey to where we are now.  It reminds me of why I fell in love with him in the first place and gives me a glimpse of those first years together when we were perfect in each others' eyes.  While I wouldn't trade our matured relationship for anything, it is nice to go back and re-feel that "can't eat, can't sleep, reach-for-the stars, over the fence, World Series kind of love."

After reading these letters I know I will never throw out my cards from Dan.  Hopefully they will bring comfort to my family a long time down the road.

In addition to the love letters we came across an assortment of other memorabilia my grandmother had saved without ever saying a word to anyone.

Among the piles of little knick knacks and family photos we came across a little black purse.  The contents of which were absolutely amazing.

It was here that we found a treasure trove of memories that must have meant the world to my grandma including: a lock of her little sister's hair, a letter to her father and a couple of WWII Ration Stamp booklets.

I am sure as time goes on we will discover even more treasure troves that she left behind.  In a way I think it is her way of giving us comfort and telling us she is here.

I would like to end with a simple message to all my readers: Be sure to hold your loved ones close today and all days.  They could be gone before you know it.  And while it is never the end, we may have to wait a long time before we can see them again.

XOXO~ Kayla


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