Forgiveness & Grace

This is something I wrote in June 2011 as I reflected on Mother’s Day.

I was reminded on Mother’s Day of two things: There are memories we shouldn’t let fade and we shouldn’t lose the powerful art and gift of writing letters. These past months have reinforced these things as something I believe I have always known, yet never fully appreciated or internalized.

I was recently in New York City and visited the 9/11 exhibit located directly across from Remembering 9-11 Coverwhere the World Trade Center towers once stood. During my visit, I came across this book, Remembering 9/11. The exhibit and the book triggered a flurry of memories of that tragic day. I was moved by the memorials and items at the exhibit that signified the bravery of those that lost their lives. I was touched by the letters from family members and friends who were personally touched by the tragedy. Those letters brought back memories that were closer to my own heart, those of the death of my father who passed away 10 years ago this July.

Not long after this NYC visit, I ran across the letter I had given to my dad three months before he lost his battle with cancer. I had written to him as I reflected on the great memories that I had and I wanted to thank him for who he was and how he had impacted my life.

Strommen Forgivness and Grace Photo- DadI remember, like it was yesterday, the day I was sitting with Dad in my parents’ home in Roseville and he asked if I would speak at his funeral. I was overwhelmed with the honor and at the same time the terror of such a task at a time of such emotional turbulence. How could I say no as this is something that few are granted, to personally be asked before a loved one’s death. The letter I gave my dad became the foundation of my talk at his funeral. As I re-read the letter I found the deep emotions of his loss surface along with the wonderful memories that sometimes fade over time. The letter brought back into clarity these important memories and the power of the written word as it kept my memories and feelings alive in my heart and fresh in my mind.

This was again reinforced on Mother’s Day when I was in Naples visiting Mom. Mother’s Day Sunday, we were having brunch with our pastor, Rev. Steve Wigdahl. He mentioned that he had written his mother a letter, put a stamp on it, and mailed it. Not that a phone call would not suffice, but he thought a letter would be something that she could touch and read time and time again until he saw her again. As Rev. Steve said, this is the great aspect of letters that we have forgotten and lost in this technology-focused world of ours.
Strommen Forgiveness and Grace image- MomThe memories of my trip to NYC, lunch with Rev. Wigdahl, and the time with Mom sitting on the balcony reminiscing about her life with Dad helped me be thankful for my life and the greatness of my memories, both the good ones and those of events I wish had not occurred. I am reminded that I was blessed as a child growing up. I was blessed during the years my own children grew and developed. I remember the wonderful times of our family camping trips and experiences and of being engaged in my children’s activities and their career development as they grew up and matured to become the great young adults they are today.

I treasure these memories and am constantly reminded that these memories cannot be lost or forgotten. We need to remember the wonderful nature of and importance of family. The power and symbolism of Easter is “Forgiveness and Grace.” For those who celebrate the season of Easter, you are blessed. For those who don’t hold that faith tradition, I will hope and pray that you are touched in some way to understand and embrace the powerful words and qualities of Forgiveness and Grace.

I encourage you to sit down and write your parents a letter if they are still living and thank them for all they have done over the years. Write to your children and mail it to them reminding them how important they are to you and how proud you are of them (regardless of their age). As the Caribou Coffee slogan says, “Life is short, stay awake for it!” And as Bob says, “Cherish your memories and write a letter to those you love!”

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