I am sentimental. When it comes to heirlooms, I’d rather have the rusty soup pot my grandma made a thousand meals in over expensive collectibles. I prefer items that have stories behind them. I want to hold on to memories, not things. To me, it’s the personal, unique items that become keepsakes.
I lost my mom when I was a mere 31 years old. She was only 56. I have some of her jewelry and articles of clothing. I have many pictures in albums and a few videos on VHS tapes. But the items I treasure most are her Bible and her handwritten cards and letters.
To me, her handwriting is the closest, most identifiable thing that makes her, her. Like a fingerprint, one’s handwriting is unique. I kept many of her letters and have re-read them many times, just so I could hear her voice. I even came across a twelve-page letter giving me advice for my first apartment, such as how to remove stains from clothing, easy recipes, and what to do if I got sick. I touched the pages knowing she had touched them as well.
Her handwriting is so precious to me that—much to her chagrin, I’m sure—I got a tattoo of the way she signed her cards with a heart and “mom.”
Today, it is more common to type than write by hand. And it seems we’re moving toward abbreviations and emojis to cut down the number of words one actually has to include. I personally still feel it’s more therapeutic to put ink to paper when it comes to journaling, but for most other times, typing is faster and easier. And thanks to spellcheck, it’s more grammatically correct. But without the personal touch of handwriting, it becomes impersonal.
I have lived most of my life far away from my grandmother. As a child, I loved finding cards in the mailbox with her handwriting on the outside. As I grew, discovering long, handwritten letters in the mail never lost its excitement. I tried to be good about writing my own letters to her in return. As she has said, my letters tend to be “gabby” so apparently, I do not struggle with topics to share about in way too much detail. I know she appreciates the personal touch of handwritten letters, so I strive to do that for her as often as possible. Needless to say, throughout these many years, our letter writing has continued. Many of her cards and letters are kept in a special keepsake box.
My grandma is now 89 years old and still handwrites letters. Not only does she write to me a few times each month, but she also writes to my adult daughter who lives over 800 miles away. My daughter is also learning of the joy of finding a handwritten letter in the mail amongst junk and bills. And like me, she is good about writing letters in return. Sure, my grandma always apologizes for her handwriting becoming shaky over the years, but it doesn’t bother us one bit.
Her handwriting is still comforting to see, and her words are precious to hear.
Just recently, I found yet another envelope from her in my mailbox. Upon opening, I immediately saw this letter was different. On notecards, my grandma explained she felt led to write out a prayer for me. Tears immediately filled my eyes. She began her prayer and started with her thankfulness for her daughter, my mom, who is now gone. She wrote of the joy of my mom being pregnant with me. She wrote about the prayers she’d said over the course of my lifetime, in good times and in bad. She wrote of thankfulness and requests from her heart for me currently. It ended with an “Amen” and was signed, Grandma.
These three, double-sided notecards mean more to me than anything else she could pass down. A prayer is so deeply personal. It is our thoughts, feelings, worries, and hopes spoken directly to our personal Lord and Savior. It is powerful to have someone pray aloud for me.
But to me, having that prayer written is even more precious and profound. Her handwriting, her words, to re-read for as long as I live.
The idea to do this came from her heart. However, I feel inspired to take her idea further. I, too, want to give this gift to those I love. It’s a bit scary to share my thoughts in such a personal way, but if my grandma was brave enough, then I’d be as well. It is now a goal of mine to handwrite prayers to my family and close friends. To some, it might just be sweet or thoughtful. But to others, maybe it will become a keepsake or even worthy of a tattoo.