In the days after Vance’s death, our twelve-year-old tore up the house. He took stuff out of drawers, cabinets, closets. At the time I didn’t think too much of it. Just that he was looking for some tangible things of his dad’s; something to physically hold onto.
I had no idea that it was so much more than that.
A year earlier, Ezra had woken up early and found his dad at the kitchen table, writing letters. None of us know why Vance was writing. He didn’t ever tell me they even existed. He made Ezra promise not to tell anyone that he knew about them. He kept that promise until about a week after Vance died, when he finally found the portfolio full of envelopes.
I don’t know what his plan was for them. He didn’t know he would die the next year. But he did know what he wanted his kids to learn from him.
And so he sat, early in the mornings while the rest of us were sleeping, and wrote a few letters. Each was in a sealed envelope with a kid’s name and the date on the outside. I’m not going to share with you what was in those letters, as they’re private. I haven’t even read all of them myself. They are just between the kids and Vance.
But I will tell you this. At his funeral, we got the big things right. His letters told the kids “people or things? People,” and “Do the next right thing,” the family motto of “Two are stronger than one and a three-fold cord cannot easily be broken,” and Nahum 1:7. Those were all in there. They were all things he wanted to pass on to his kids. They have become his legacy.
Over the past few days one of my kids has been reading those letters every night at bedtime. Seeing in Dad’s own handwriting, the important things. It’s hard to watch. The reading of letters from a dead person. The tears. The anger. The longing for just one more hug or one more time of hearing his voice. But these letters, they are priceless gifts that Vance left behind.
Dads. Moms. Write a letter this week. Just one. To someone who will miss you when you’re gone. Hand write it and tell them you love them. Tell them what you want for their lives and what you’re proud of. Tell them your big things.
Someday you’ll be gone and those letters will become more precious than gold.