The first weekend Donny wasn’t able to sit in our row with us at church I began writing him a letter on Sunday afternoon. The first one was spontaneous and instinctive. I wish I wrote it long hand with a cup of tea in one hand and lucy snuggled at my feet. Instead, it’s in email format with my cat leaning against the back of my computer purring in sync with the hum of my computer. After the first one, I kept the habit going every Sunday afternoon. During the middle of the week, I leave him alone. Oh my that’s hard to do because I’m so used to having him around all the time and sharing everything, but I have to give him the space of silence.
In these letters, I tell him about the mundane happenings in our week. I share a silly anecdote about the animals (knowing if he’s scanning my letter this will catch his attention), I tell him what our pastor spoke about, how God’s working in my life, what’s new with the adoption, how the brothers are doing, what home is like, food we ate … you get the idea. I try to capture a slice of our life and serve it to him in a way that he can digest and feel he’s been fed family even as he is so immersed in campus life.
He doesn’t always respond. At first I propped my fists on my hips and had a hearty “hummph” to say to that. Then I realized this is a gift I give him freely and the best gifts have no strings attached. I let it go and say good-bye to it hoping it lands in his heart, but if not, another will come. My favorite gifts are heart felt, authentic, specific and tender letters written to me from my family or friends. I treasure them. It is natural to give what you most like to get.
I mentioned to my Pastor Omar, when he was at our home for dinner, that I have been writing to him weekly. He gasped, and told me, “O, Tonya, don’t stop doing it no matter what!” You see, he buried his mom this past summer. He continued to tell me, “My mom wrote to me in college, and I go back over her words and I can just hear her voice, and smell what was cooking in her kitchen. What she wrote about was so common but it was my life then, and I am so glad I have those letters. It’s how I keep her close to me now. I treasure them.”
After that conversation I was encouraged to be the giver of my heart through words to Donny as he is away at college. I print them, and his occassional responses, and keep them in a binder. Some day he’ll find these letters and I hope he remembers the sound of my laugh, the firm line between my eyebrows when I’m serious, the silly way I danced through the house to embarrass them all, the stacks of books I’m always working on, and of course what home felt like “in those days”. So the saying is proven true once again, “the best things in life aren’t things at all.”