pastoral/spiritual care

Letters from Beyond the Grave

“When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are.  It means that you can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us.  It means that if we meet again, you will know me.  It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart.  For as long as you remember me, I am never entirely lost.” – Frederick Buechner

You may have seen on NBC’s “Today Show” an interview with the parents of Elena Desserich.  Elena was diagnosed with a brain tumor just before her sixth birthday.  Over the course of several months, as her condition worsened, she lost the ability to communicate through speech.  So she turned to drawing.  Using paper and brightly colored crayons or markers, she made pictures of hearts, rainbows, stick people, the sort of things six-year-old girls usually draw.  Sometimes there were also words scribbled in her novice handwriting. 

After a battle of nearly a year, Elena succumbed to her illness.  And most people probably thought that was the end of her story.  But days later, as her mother found the strength to begin going through Elena’s room, she discovered a note Elena had written tucked between books on a shelf.  The colorful heart had Elena’s name written in it, along with a big “I love you” addressed to her parents and younger sister.  In the weeks and months that followed, Elena’s parents continued to find the notes everywhere – in boxes of holiday decorations, tucked in her parents’ dresser drawers, in a pocket of her father’s briefcase for work.  Dozens of them were written to her parents, her grandparents, her sister Gracie, even the family dog.  More than two years after her death, Elena’s love letters were still finding their way to their intended recipients, a very tangible reminder that she is still with them.

Few of us are blessed to find actual love letters from those we have lost, but if we pay attention, there are messages all around us.  It may be his favorite song on the radio at just the moment you were thinking of him.  Or perhaps you see a beautiful sunset and can almost hear her delighted gasp of wonder as if she were standing beside you.  Maybe a familiar smell brings his image so strongly to mind that you can close your eyes and see his smile, feel his hand in yours.  In all of these things, I hear God saying to us that the one we love is still with us, even as she or he is safely at home in the presence of our Creator.  Through these moments, God whispers that the love we shared with this person has not died, and can never die. 

Loving God, thank you for the untouchable moments we have shared with those we cherish.  Even those who are no longer with us live on in the love we still have for them.  Open our eyes to the “love notes” scattered throughout our lives every day, reminding us of the love others feel for us, and especially of you, because you are Love.  Amen.

-- Chaplain Stacy N. Sergent


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