Kimberly stopped by the store on her way to work. She had been looking forward to this day for the past three weeks. She grabbed several copies of USA TODAY and hurried out the door. She couldn’t wait to get settled in at her desk and read the article. She had sent emails to notify all her friends and family, so she knew they would be reading it as well. All the excitement and buildup began when she received a phone call three weeks prior.
USA TODAY had decided to run an article on off-campus fires involving students. During their extensive research they had acquired Kimberly’s name. It had been almost three years since her daughter Elizabeth, had died in a tragic fire. Liz was a student at a nearby college who lived in an apartment with several other roommates. The paper wanted very much to interview Kimberly for the article. After so much despair and grief she was relieved for something good to possibly come from her loss. She believed if she could help even one student avoid the mistakes made by her daughter and 61 other college kids who had lost their lives, then their deaths would not be in vain. It wouldn’t bring Liz back, but in Kimberly’s eyes it was a chance to honor her daughter’s memory.
Flipping the pages she found the article and began reading. It only took a few moments for an overwhelming sense of sadness to fill her heart. She had mistakenly thought she could handle reading about her daughter’s death again. Even after three years it still seemed so senseless. The enthusiasm she had felt initially faded quickly and she began having a difficult time dealing with all of the raw, painful emotions that once again bubbled up and grabbed her. The prevailing thought in her mind when first approached was that prevention was the key. Above all, she wanted to keep other families from experiencing the loss of another vibrant young adult. But now in retrospect she argued with herself. How could she possibly think that an article recounting her daughter’s death could actually make her happy?
Frustrated and mad at herself she angrily tossed the papers on the back credenza of her office and tried to put it out of her mind. No matter how hard she tried to forget about it she was constantly reminded, as all day long a steady stream of co-workers kept stopping by requesting to see the paper. They meant well but it was all she could do to maintain her composure and she fervently wished she had never mentioned the article to anyone. Obviously this was turning out to be one of “those” days. It had been a while since she had experienced one so she assumed she was due. Kimberly simply reminded herself that this too would pass. One lesson she had learned since Liz’s death was that you had to feel the pain before it would leave. It had always worked for her in the past and it would work again.
Kimberly focused on her job at hand. She had taken this position just three weeks after Liz’s death. God in his infinite goodness had provided the perfect job at the perfect time. The stress level was low and because she worked with International customers the time difference dictated communication via email rather than phone calls. She could come to work, answer all her emails and then go home. It all worked out perfectly. As she worked her way through the sea of emails a familiar address caught her attention. It was her daughter’s high school French teacher. Jan had been Liz’s favorite teacher and they had done pretty well at keeping in touch after the tragic loss.
Assuming Jan was responding to the article Kimberly had notified her of, she hesitated to open it. Reluctantly she proceeded and much to her relief there was no mention of USA TODAY or the article. The message she read was, “Kim, you will just treasure this. I was in my classroom yesterday clearing out my files and getting ready for a new school year when a lone file folder fell on the floor. I reached down and picked it up and on the outside it said, Liz Wencl Essay. I opened it up and discovered an assignment I had given out over four years ago. The assignment was to write a letter to one of your parents in French, telling them what they represent in your life. Kim, this is a letter Liz wrote to you!”
I know that you love me. You show me each day that it is true. Don’t think you are a bad mother. It isn’t true! When I look at you I realize how much I am loved.
When you are feeling bad, don’t forget – I truly love you. I would like to be a better daughter. We argue sometimes and that makes me sad. I feel bad and unhappy if you cry.
I remember when I was little and you would hug me and say, “I love you so much, Lizzie, sit here with me for just a little while.” Those times were so special for me and you made me so happy. I felt like nothing could ever hurt me. I used to wish those moments would never end. To be cuddled up next to you like that today would be like a dream come true.
Mom, I feel sad when you feel sad. And, when you are happy, I am happy! You are my mother and I would never choose anyone else. Without you, I would never be who I am.
I love you with all my heart.
That letter was a parent’s dream. After reading those precious words Kimberly’s difficult day melted away and became a completely amazing day. Once again she was sending an email to friends and family, this time to share the wonderful letter that she had been so blessed to receive. Now Kimberly couldn’t wait to get home and share this with her husband. She knew he would appreciate it as well. Finishing her work she quickly headed home, her heart once again filled with love and joy.
That evening the doorbell rang and she welcomed Liz’s teacher into her home. Jan had been thoughtful enough to bring Kimberly the actual letter. As Jan placed it in Kimberly’s hand she exclaimed, “You have got to know this was no accident.” Kimberly quickly replied, “Oh Jan, believe me I do know that!” Jan then proceeded to share how she remembered telling Liz what a beautiful letter it was, and how she had encouraged her to share it with her mother. Liz’s profound response was, “I will when the time is right.”
Kimberly knew it was no coincidence that Jan had found the letter when she did. She believed with all her heart that Liz was still with her and knew the type of day her mother was going through. Liz had reached out to her in a way that spoke volumes on just how much she loved her and missed her. That letter meant the world to Kimberly. It became a physical and tangible symbol of the loving bond she felt with her daughter.
With great pride Kimberly framed her daughter’s words. She had the original letter in French, the translated version in English and a picture of Liz in between. Prominently displayed in their living room, it is a constant reminder of the power of their love. It serves as visual proof for her that Liz reached out and touched her on a day she needed her most. Now, Kimberly accepts that there will be more sad days in the years to come. This time when the sadness threatens to overshadow her, all she will have to do is read her letter and once again feel the strong bond of love they will always share. Kimberly has faith that Liz will always be there for her. In her heart and mind she will always cherish their bond of love that can never be broken, not even by death. As Kimberly so eloquently puts it, “Just as God’s love for his children never changes, the love that my daughter and I share never changes. It will live for all eternity.”
Submitted by Kimberly Wencl