As a teenager, I sobbed through “Terms of Endearment,” the 1983 film in which Debra Winger, as a mom of two sons dying of cancer, writes a final letter to her kids.
Apparently, Elizabeth Edwards was also moved by the tearjerker. According to a 2007 story in People Magazine, the film inspired Edwards to begin writing such a letter to her children:
Edwards’ version, although titled “dying letter” on her computer, is actually more a guide to living for the three children she is preparing to someday leave behind. “It’s more than ‘How do you get the core out of a head of lettuce?'” Edwards says while taking a break during a campaign stop in Iowa. “It’s ‘How you choose who you marry and what to expect from that, how you choose a church.'” Looking across a playground at her two youngest monkeying on the jungle gym, she chuckles: “It’s got all that butting-my-nose-into-their-lives-long-after-I’m-gone stuff.”
Earlier this week, guest blogger Dana Rousmaniere wrote about Edwards’ last letter to her kids:
As a mother to three children myself, I can’t fathom having to write that “dying letter.” I can’t imagine its contents, or how words could ever come together and adhere themselves to a piece of paper for the purpose of saying goodbye to my kids. There simply are no words.
Of course, there are no words that can express the love Edwards, no doubt, had for her children. And no way to express the regret she had about not being around to see her two younger children grow up.
Over at Motherlode, Lisa Belkin asked readers what they would write in such a letter and the responses were inspirational and heartbreaking. Here are some of the words of wisdom and advice parents would write to their children if they knew they were dying:
1. Marry someone who is kind to everyone, not just people who could be useful.
2. Nothing, not one thing, is ever bad enough that you cannot overcome it.
3. The letter would be a thousand ways I would tell my child how much I love them, believe in them, and look to them to make an impact on the world – either through marriage, or church, or education, or wherever their life will take them.
4. Things are never as good as they seem, nor as bad as they seem.
5. As they go through life, notice more the good things people do rather than the bad things.
6. I would ask them to be risk takers and to not let being afraid of doing something stop them from doing it. It doesn’t take any courage to do what we don’t fear.
7. Material things may make life a little easier, but wealth doesn’t buy happiness.
8. Manners and respect for others really make a difference.
9. Travel as much as you can as it will broaden your understanding of the world.
10. Don’t forget that I love you. Even more important, love yourself.
Are you crying yet? I’m a bit worried I’m getting the keyboard wet. I plan to hug my girls especially hard before bed tonight and to phone my parents now to tell them how much I love them.
It seems only fitting that this should be the last post I write for Strollerderby (today is my last day). I’ve been honored to work with such wonderful writers and editors at Babble an to get to know some of our faithful (and opinionated) readers. You’ve all taught me a lot!
Wishing everyone a happy, healthy holiday season and best wishes for 2011!