94: Mom’s Cards from Beyond

94: Mom’s Cards from Beyond

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Amazing Mom

Mom’s Cards from Beyond

What is a mom but the sunshine of our days and the north star of our nights.

~Robert Brault

In 2010, about three months before my wife died, she decided to write birthday, holiday, graduation, and wedding cards to our two children as nuggets of herself they would have to share for many years after her death. At first, she tackled the project with energy and enthusiasm. She researched what was going on in the world when she turned ten, eleven, twelve . . . eighteen, etc., so she could share with either Miguel or Maya what her life was like when she was their ages.

Because she was taking steroids and narcotics for pain, I asked her if I could be her secretary.

“No,” she insisted. “I want the kids to know what I went through, how I wrote the cards for them.”

Even when her handwriting, which was never all that legible, deteriorated as her metastatic breast cancer progressed, she never wavered from her task.

I am convinced that our children—Miguel, who was twelve, and Maya, who was four, when Verna Wefald, wife and mother, died—appreciate the amazing gift she left them.

For Maya’s tenth birthday in 2016, Verna wrote:

One of the typical projects for 4th grade is to write a report on one of California’s missions. I used to love history, and one of my favorite ways to learn about it is to travel and visit historic sites. Some of my favorite ones were to Israel in 1992, to Italy, Portugal, and France with Grandma (it was a religious pilgrimage for her), Costa Rica in 1990 after I got my teaching credential, and Washington, D.C., in 2004.

She added:

I hope you will always love traveling the world.

Verna would sit in her sliding recliner chair in our living room, use one of her special colored pens, do her research, write the card, and then stuff a savings bond, which she’d collected when she was a paralegal for the city of San Francisco, into it when she was finished.

She wrote cards for each kid’s first Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah after she died. She wrote birthday cards they will receive until they turn eighteen. There is one for Maya’s sweet sixteen, and ones for Miguel’s and Maya’s high-school graduations. She knew she wouldn’t be there for any of the celebrations, but she left part of herself for each child to savor.

For their first Thanksgiving after her death, Verna wrote one for Miguel and Maya together.

I always loved Thanksgiving because we all got packed into our car and drove wherever the whole family wanted to be. Thanksgiving is a time of thanks. I’m forever grateful I got a chance to be your mother and I brought you into this world.

On the first Easter after she died, Verna wrote to Maya:

I had fun coloring eggs with you. And I loved watching you run through the park to find the eggs. Don’t eat all the candy at once. Save it so you can eat it for many more days, even months.

Each night before a birthday or holiday or important life event, I pull the card out of the plastic zippered bag and bring it down for either Maya or Miguel. I have to read most of them because I am the best at deciphering her handwriting.

For Miguel’s fifteenth birthday in 2013, Verna wrote in purple ink:

You’re going to be able to get your learner’s permit soon, and I can’t believe it. I expect you to maintain good grades and a good attitude if you want to be a driver in the Friedman-Wefald household.

She said she took driver’s education training with three other teenagers, one of whom was a bad driver.

I had to close my eyes every time she got behind the wheel. Whenever she would take a right turn she would overturn and almost run over a curb. One time she almost plowed into a bus stop full of people. Thank God the instructor had the ability to apply his own brake.

She used the cards as opportunities to share love and advice for years to come even after she was gone. The void from her absence will always be so stark and painful, but I do believe her cards help ease our suffering by bringing her into our lives during important celebrations.

For Miguel’s seventeenth birthday in 2015, the last birthday card she wrote for him, she said:

I applied to one college only—San Francisco State. One of the regrets in my life is that I didn’t apply to other colleges. I never got to experience living in a dormitory.

She’d chosen a local college and lived at home.

Stuffed into the two plastic bags in our closet are dozens of cards she bought for birthdays and other celebrations that she never filled out. She purchased an eighteenth- birthday card for Miguel, but never had the chance to write anything in it. But the card alone was so sweet I gave it to him anyway. The Hallmark writer said:

Son, every once in a while in your running-everywhere childhood, I’d see you in a moment of quiet and catch a glimpse of the man you’d one day be . . . I knew I’d be proud of you. I just never could have guessed how much.

Tears filled my eyes as I read the unfilled card the night before and again when I shared it with Miguel on the morning of his eighteenth birthday.

Being a parent was the greatest joy in Verna’s life. She adored being a mother, spending time with her kids, watching them grow, and playing with them. When her oncologist told us she probably had three months to live, she dedicated herself to leaving a legacy for Miguel and Maya (and me) that they would have for their entire lives, even without her.

She may be gone, but the cards she wrote to each child mean she will never be forgotten or absent from their lives.

~Steven Friedman

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