A Letter from Priscilla,

Dear Suzanne,

I have been following your column for several years and I am so grateful that you are willing to share glimpses of your life, whether it's happy or sad.

Let me introduce myself: I am a 43 year old, mother of three children ages 8, 10 and 11. I have been diagnosed with late stage metastasized lung cancer.

Knowing that I won't have the privilege to walk my three young children through their tough teenage years and adulthood, I want to prepare a scrapbook for each of them to fall back on when they are down and have no one else to turn to. When I was reading about the 'writing inspiration' folder you keep, it strikes me to the core-- that's exactly what I want to prepare for my kids. Something to inspire them to be the best person they possibly can and to pick up their spirits up on a rainy day when things feel out of control, and they need to get themselves grounded again.

It will be greatly appreciated if you can share some pointers with me about where to find these inspiring books, articles, quotes, etc.

Thank you for your time.

Yours sincerely, Priscilla

(Suzanne responds)

Suzanne-sun-room180pxDear Priscilla,

It's always a pleasure to hear from a reader, especially someone who has been reading with me for such a long time.

One of the most precious things I own are the photo albums and recipe cards that my Grandma Hale passed on to me. Whenever I thumb through the albums, or I’m following the recipe on one of Grandma's recipe cards, I feel like she's standing right beside me. It's such a comfort and the memories come flooding in.

Making scrapbooks or journals that you can leave for your children is a wonderful, loving, thing to do. They are going to miss you and you're right, there will be happy and sad times in their lives when no one else but their mother could comfort them.

Of course you can put pictures in a book and write captions underneath them, but Priscilla I think the most important thing you can tell your children is what you are thinking, or were thinking. Write it down, (it doesn't have to be fancy) tell them what you were thinking on your first date. How it took hours, maybe days, to figure out what to wear. How awkward your first kiss was. Tell them about the day you flunked your Algebra test, how worried you were that you might not make it into college, or why you felt you didn't need to go. Why did you decide to get married? How did you meet their father? On days when you feel like a loser, what things did you do to get yourself grounded again.

Set up recipe boxes for your children and include your favorite cooking recipes and recipes for life. Leave them a handwritten copy of the recipes for your very best meals, the cake or casserole that people always rave about. Write down the things from your life you'd like to pass along to them--recipes for their lives: how to make an impression on someone, (give them an example of something you did), when it's okay to tell a fib and then tell them one of your little white lies. What's the best gift anyone ever gave to you? What were the things that really scared you in life? How did you feel when they were born, when you were diagnosed with lung cancer, and you realized the outcome?

My mother died from lung cancer a year and a half ago and my son said that he asked my mother if she was afraid to die. She told him no, that she didn't think it would be quite this soon, but that she wasn't afraid. That statement has brought my son so much comfort. I know, because he's mentioned it to me several times.

There are things that I wish I would have asked my mother and most of them begin with, "How did you feel about..?”

Don't weigh yourself down with the need to write fancy, just simply write. Pretend your kids are sitting in front of you and start talking. And if you get too tired, talk into a microphone and ask a friend to make sure that your tapes get transcribed and passed on to your children.

recipe-box02612668SmallI can picture you leaving each one of your children a recipe box filled with recipes for cooking and recipes for their lives, written on 3 x 5 index cards.

I'm in the process of writing a book about the recipes from my own life and one of the chapters is, I Miss My Mother. With your permission I'd love to include your letter in my book and in my column. I'm sure it would be an inspiration to many other people.

Priscilla, I wish I could say something to make everything better. I'm so sorry. There is a quote that I say out loud to myself when it feels like my world is falling apart and it always brings me at least a moment's respite. I'm saying it for you today.

If I knew the way, Priscilla, I'd take you home.

Thanks for reading with me. It's so good to know I'm reading with a friend like you.


Suzanne Beecher