Dear Mom,

I never thought I would sit down and put words to some of the thoughts that have run around my head for years, but here we go. It has been 27 years since you died. 27. That number seems so large and surreal. I used to live by 11s. I was 11 when I lost you. At 22 I had lived as much of my life without you as I had with you. At 33 I was the age you were when your life was cut short.

Now, at 38, I have stopped counting the years that have gone by. Though I can easily group my childhood into 'with mom' and 'after mom' categories, I don't look at life and see what I have lost. I am so lucky to be where I am, to have experienced what I have. I have been blessed by close friends to confide in, and wonderful 'other mothers' who have helped me navigate the journey into adulthood...and now motherhood.

When I became a mom three years ago I was terrified that I wouldn't know what to do. I longed to be able to just pick up the phone and call my mom for answers to those big and little questions new moms have. But the truth is, we all just figure it out along the way, don't we? My boys are the best things that have ever happened to me and I just wish they could have known you, and you them. What can I tell them about you? I have great memories but they often get jumbled together and I lose sight of details. What I do know is that you were a loving, and fun-loving person. I also know, like all of us, you had your struggles and challenges. It takes a while for someone who has lost a loved one not to idolize that person. You were real, you were human, but I'll never doubt how much you loved me. I hope you know how much I love you. I apologize for ever being a difficult, attention craving only-child.

I wish I could have known you as an adult. It is very hard for me to picture what that could have been. The fact that I am older than you ever were will always be very strange to me. The night I lost you was the defining moment of my life. I truly believe it determined who I have become. This is something I struggle with. I often wonder who I would be today had I not lost the most important person to me so young. I consider myself an open, loving, compassionate person who tries not to stress out about life's little bumps and bruises. Someone who sees the big picture and tries to cherish every precious moment in life. I know how good I have it, how lucky I am to have the people I have in my life, the security of a loving husband and the blessing of healthy, happy children. I can't help but wonder, if this tragic life event had not happened to me, what kind of person would I be? Would I still have my own beautiful family? Would I have ever grown out of my childhood selfish tendencies?

I would give anything to have you back. To be able to tell you face to face how much I love you. To have fought with you as a teenager challenging boundaries. To have confided in you and depended on you as I became a young adult...a wife...a mother. But at the same time it scares me to think that my life would be so different. Better? Worse? Who knows? Just different. Would I have had the same experiences, the same friends? Doubtful. Would there have been other amazing experiences and friends? I'm sure. And I would have had that most important relationship in tact...mother and daughter.

I'm not sure what all of this means, what I hoped to accomplish with this letter. Just a purging of thoughts...a slight toss of my soul out to the universe...a hope that somehow, across time, my mother knows that she is loved and missed by her daughter. Mom, I hope I make you proud. I love you. I miss you, and who we could have been together.


just Me


Dear 2,

I remember a cool morning in San Francisco, on the gray sidewalk with our backpacks and an idling taxi. You pressed a small key into my palm, hugged me, and said, “This is the key to the city. Don’t tell anyone you have it.” I laughed and you turned and jumped into the cab without looking back. I saved this key for a long time, with that image of you flying out of my orbit again. And I knew that you were never mine to keep.

It’s hard to define you. Though we were never romantically involved, you were the most formative love of my life. I feel ever-bound to you because of this. I became myself by being in friendship with you. I laughed, loudly. Rode buses through a foreign country. I simplified, felt brave, and was unembarrassed to be authentic and kind and raw and silly. With you, I planted my first seeds. You were with me as I learned things about the world and myself that later became so true that I can only look back and howl. All I wanted then was us, as this intense, committed, untamable us, forever. The full me seemed inextricably tied to you. Life was better at your side in some ways that I’ve never been able to replace. Even though I am very happy.

Selfishly, I just want you to miss me. I want to be special and irreplaceable. I want you to regret not prioritizing me to the extent that it caused you to lose me. I guess this shows that feeling wounded still sometimes overshadows all the love I have for you. I’m working on this.

The other thing I want to say is that I’m sorry. I’m sorry I found and lost myself through our friendship with such abandon that I didn’t know how to be friends anymore. And I’m sorry I wasn’t there when your brother died. I should have set aside my pride and come through for you. I value friendship very deeply, and with you is where I have most grandly failed.

Will we meet again, as you once said we would? You will still know me. I wonder if I’ll still know you. 

Your long lost ricshishca     


Dear ***,

I was 20 years old the last time we spoke. I wonder if you know the extent of the impact you have had on my life. You held so much of my identity between the ages of 13 and 20.  For so long I tried to shape my story, the part with you in it, to be positive.  As you know, I have always been proud of myself; a strong, independent, self-confident person.  Even as a teenager I was excellent at giving the illusion that I was in control of my life.  I made deliberate choices.  I made my present and my future.  I was in control.  But the truth is, I was 13 and you took that control away from me.  I was 25 before I realized that you were a master at making me feel in control of something that you knew you had control over the whole time.  You took advantage of me when I was at my weakest; a 13 year old girl who had just unexpectedly lost her father. You deceived me to the highest level.  You, a respected community member, a trusted church leader, a popular teacher, a master of deception, a coward.  You made me believe that I loved you.  You abused your power.  You abused me. For a long, long time you ruined my ability to understand what romantic love should look like.  It's been 15 years since we last spoke. Today, I am not a victim. And I am in control.  It took me a lot longer than it might have but I am now in a healthy, loving, happy marriage.  I know myself better than I ever thought I could thanks to year and years of therapy.  So, thank you for that.  

I often wonder how many other girls you have tricked, coerced and abused.  I wonder if it was part of your plan to keep me at bay until the statute of limitations had passed and you could no longer get in trouble for what you did to me, and likely many others.  How have you not been caught yet?  Does your wife know what you do to the young girls you teach and coach? I hope the law catches up with you.  You deserve to be in jail where you no longer have any control over anything.


Dear Bride,

I am so lucky. You are a fabulous mother. Just look at our kids. You did that. I was absent far too much during those formative years. I went to the ball field, where I was good and praised, to get my ego stroked and to give me a sense of self worth. How selfish. I’m sorry. My loss. However, could the kids have turned out any better? Hard to conceive. You kept it all together and that took a very strong woman. I admire your strength. It wasn’t until I was inducted into MASA Hall of Fame that I realized how much time I invested in softball and how much I neglected a wonderful family. It then became clear how blessed I was to have you and what a you had to sacrifice all those years.

You don’t take praise very well, but I am blessed to have you in my life. We have beautiful kids and beautiful grandkids. I LOVE YOU.

Thanks for being in my life.


Dear Grandma,

I cannot image my life without you.  I know that day is going to come and it is all in God’s timing.  Now, I sit here and am processing what life will look like and feel like when my Tuesday and Thursday nights are no longer spent with you. 

I began staying with you somewhat as an obligation and somewhat by choice.  I am a teacher and have the summer off and had more time available than your full time working daughters.  As I stayed with you, I found myself fighting to spend more time with you.  I am so glad that I did, and now we have settled into a routine of me staying with you on Tuesdays and Thursdays because that’s when my hubby works. 

There have been times when your dementia and stubbornness have frustrated me to the point of tears, but of course I didn’t show you that.  I am not sure you would understand why it is in turn frustrating for me.  Simple things like using the bathroom have become things that you need to be reminded about.  Because of these reminders and with you having someone stay with you so often, your independence was pretty much ripped out from under you.  I see you fighting for as much independence as you can get. 

There have been times when you have created quite a mess during the day and in the middle of the night.  You do your best to clean it up but you’re ultimately making it much worse.  But before I realize what I get to clean up or how long it might take, I see how mortified you are that someone has to help you in that situation.  I can only imagine what it would feel like if I were in your position. 

Probably my favorite time with you is from 7-8pm, because it is when I feel like I am somehow helping you.  From 7pm to 8pm Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy are on TV.  We watch together and do our best to solve puzzles and answer questions.  Many times as you are watching the TV, I am watching you.  I am watching your brain work.   I am watching you try so hard.  And I am secretly hoping that the stimulation of your brain is helping you, helping you stay with us for a little bit longer.  Usually while we are watching, you notice Grandpa’s picture which is right below the TV.  You talk about the necklace he gave you and his last words to you.  You tell me how much you miss him and that you wish he was here.  As I watch your heart break, mine breaks a little too.  Seeing the pain in your face and in your heart leaves me speechless.  After a few minutes, all I can muster is the same thing I always say, “I miss him too.” 

During our most recent mess in the middle of the night, you were so frustrated and embarrassed and you said, “I wish I were dead.”  It was the first time I had heard you say that and it was like a reality slap in the face that you won’t be around much longer.  You just turned 92 and God is waiting for you…so is Grandpa.  When you join them, my Tuesdays and Thursdays will be so different.  I will again be alone on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  You have filled a giant void, filled it with so much more than I could’ve ever imagined.  You have filled it with immense love and stories of the past.  You have filled it with glasses of red wine and chocolate.  You have filled it with memories of grandpa and your life together with him.  You have filled it with lessons in humility, thankfulness, feistiness, dedication, and a fight for life.  My Tuesdays and Thursdays will never be the same as these past few months.  I am so thankful for them and wouldn’t change it for the world. 

I love you.    


Dear Sister, 

You’re a really mean person. Anytime we’ve disagreed over the years, you’ve pushed me away for months at a time. Anytime you’ve been unhappy with me, you’ve fought dirty—ripping up pictures I treasured of us together and the like. You’ve always been so hell-bent on getting in the last dig, and you fight until absolutely everyone else is exhausted.

I’ve hated to see the way you’ve emotionally abused our dad to give you money, even after you got married, and threatened to not let him see his grandkids if he didn’t meet your demands. You’re a mean, mean person.

Today is your birthday. You couldn’t accept my well wishing. You had to instead insult me.

I know that you’re a person who aches, way deep down. I know that you’re trying to fill your unhappiness with fancy possessions. Gift giving has always been your love language. You’ve always been good at celebrating Christmas, following our mom’s example by always giving the best, most generous gifts and wrapping them in the most meticulous, beautiful packages seen outside of Hallmark commercials.  I’m so sorry that Mom died while you were in high school. It meant that you were left with only Dad as a parent; a parent not ever able to use “boundaries” as a way to show love. I imagine that for the last fifteen years you’ve had a lingering, quiet panic, feeling like there’s no anchor on the boat you’re steering. I don’t know that, but I’m fearful that’s true.

And now you’re getting a divorce. Your marriage was never perfect. Your partner was never your equal because you are a ridiculously smart, talented person with giant heaps of potential. You’re likely to outshine any partner ever. But now you’re choosing your affair. You’re moving off to Chicago to start a new life abandoning your husband and children. In the last few weeks he tried to take you back; and you continued to lie and choose your affair even after you told everyone it was over.

I tried to support you in this time; never lying to you about wishing you would choose your family and do the hard work involved… but you pushed me away. Because I didn’t sing the praises of your affair. Since I’m your older brother I know you sometimes think that I come across as judge-y. I promise that I try REALLY, REALLY HARD not to seem that way to you. I just always want you to have a rich life. And sure, I’ve got opinions about what that looks like. But I really try to always be supportive of your paths, even when they seem ludicrous.

I so desire for you to find peace and contentment. I know at times you’ve walked with Christ, and I hope you’re talking to him now. I so desire for you to find healing. To know that money won’t fill the hole in your heart. I so desire for you to find space for those who love you—even when you don’t like what it looks like.

Being in a family with you is really, really hard. But I’m not going to stop. You’ll always be my sister. And though you can make my blood boil sometimes, I will always create a space for you. I’ll never jump on your band wagon if it means negotiating my own character, but I will always strive to love you even as you push me away.  

Love, brother


Dear X,

It has taken me far too long to write this letter. We met, loved, hated and tore each other apart long ago and yet I was never able to articulate why until long after.  To be honest, I didn’t care why at the time and for many years after. This is partly due, of course, to the intensity of our feelings; they stayed with me long after we went our ways. The truth, however, is that I needed to grow a long way up before I could look back with any kind of perspective.

Women, we are told, mature faster than men. I know this is very true for me. I spent my youth hiding an alcoholic family truth from the world and consequently had very little time to become my own person. I kept my feelings, my history and my curiosity buried. When we met I had experienced so little of the world and had traveled so short a distance in it. You, on the other hand, seemed sure of yourself and knew, from experience, much of the world and your place in it.  I had incredibly simple needs and desires and no real idea how to be authentic while searching to meet them. You, on the other hand, although the same age, were much wiser and, I see now, much more complete as a person.  

I am sorry that I was ill-suited to complement you or help you in life in most ways. I needed too much emotional tutoring and I gave back too little. Instead I became too dependent on you both emotionally and in day-to-day decisions. Time has taught me that I hate being dependent and restricted. Rules, authority, people who dictate relationships…all drive me to anger. And for most of my life I have internalized and hidden my anger until it bursts out. Certainly this was true of me then.

What resulted was a love-hate relationship that I am responsible for. All of the mad rollercoaster peaks, the separations, the fights, they were largely a consequence of my own struggle to live my own life while living with you. Did I deserve you? Let me just say that I wish I had been a better person for you. In the end, I should have recognized and taken responsibility for much of our mess and I just never did

I am sorry for that. We were together for too long. I learned far more from you than you may have learned from me. I am a better person today because of that experience and I can only hope that you have found your way to better and happier relationships. You certainly deserve it.




I enjoyed the lunch we had together in June with some of the family.  But what I didn’t enjoy was the oozing of anger that I could feel coming from you.  I have noticed this before.  I feel like you are holding onto your past in a way that swells into bitterness.  That, oddly enough, is not the reason I am writing to you.  And sadly, I have come to accept that anger and bitterness in most of our conversations. It has taken me a long time to understand that and to let go of any responsibility or guilt for it. 

Why I am writing to you is because you accused me of not knowing, understanding or caring about my roots.  I know you are unhappy that I have moved away from my family and my birthplace.  And to you, I think that means I somehow don’t care about who I am and where I come from.  Because you look at it as a personal rejection.

Everyone connects to their roots differently. For me, unlike you, it doesn’t mean I try to act like my parents or play the role of a child. I value where I come from, and my child values where he comes from as well.  Just because I don’t eat off the same china that you did, or use the same placemats that my grandmother used doesn’t mean I don’t value my roots.  I feel bad for you that you can’t move past your own anger and grow.  I feel bad that you don’t try to understand me and my decisions.  Because if you care and love me like you say you do, then you wouldn’t accuse me of not loving my roots and you would instead TALK to me.  Show interest in my life, ask me about the kind of person my roots made me to be and where they have taken me since.  I don’t think you really care about that.  And that tells me that you are stuck in the past and can’t appreciate the here and now. 

We are here now.  My grandparents are gone.  Start building connections with your present.  I appreciate my family and history more than you know, and I even wanted to visit our ancestral homeland with you and the family, to SEE where we come from, those roots.  And you have all the excuses in the world not to go, not to seize the present and share it with me. Dad, I don’t make excuses.  I am proud of my family history, my roots.  And I am proud of how I am raising my son.  And if you don’t want to miss out, you better pull your head out of the past and get to know the people who are alive in your life now. We have a lot to share. Welcome us, as we are.

Your daughter


Dear TA,

On the first night I met you, you told me that one of your favorite books was One Hundred Years of Solitude. You said I should read it. Now, after a month of loving you and another month of living without you, I found an image that perhaps you unconsciously sent me looking for. It’s on page 362, so it took me a while. There’s no way you remember this sentence, hidden in a paragraph hidden in a chapter, but it is the sentence that connects us through these pages and onto the one I now write.

“He saw the gloomy old man with his crow’s-wing hat like the materialization of a memory that had been in his head since long before he was born.”

That is what happened when I met you. When I saw your mysterious eyes, heard your name, and touched your arm in the lunch line. Something stirred in me, like I already knew you in some buried and dark way from before I was born. From another lifetime that neither of us can remember. Meeting you, I had no choice but to believe in reincarnation.

Given this, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that we were doomed this time around. Finding you again brought me alive in ways this life had never known, but I suppose we also brought baggage from the last life into this one. It made things intensely wonderful, but in the end, must have contained something we didn’t know how to heal. You left, eventually saying things were just so good that it scared you. I was shattered.  Our relationship was a wolf in sheep clothing.

Perhaps I owe an apology from something long long ago, but you owe the apology this time around. It matters to me because I feel that our evolutions are intertwined. I want you to be a better, bigger, braver man than this, because who knows what future lives we have ahead.

I’ll catch you on the flipside.


Recognizing You

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