Monday, February 22, 2010

"Letter Day Saint"

Here we are, and what a motley crew I might add! What is about a four-hour trip, was actually seven. That's because we had to stop so Karol could walk around and wake her legs up, Audrey had to use the bathroom, we all needed drinks, and of course we had to eat at Cafe Rio!

We survived about three winter storms, icy and slushy roads, fog, and not having washer fluid! Going down was full of welcome chatter, and coming home was full of singing--from the Beatles to the Carpenters--we belted them all! I still miss Karen's voice. 

We wound down by listening to "American Life" with Ira Glass on NPR. This radio piece as told by David Segal tells the story about a woman named Elizabeth who was dying of cancer. She composed thirteen birthday letters for her 16 year-old daughter. Her final letter was to be sent on Rebecca's wedding day. 

At first, the letters felt comforting. Dad mailed them to her, but at her mother's request, the letters were for her eyes only. This set up one of many uncomfortable "traps" in the experience and unintentionally built a wall between her and her Father. The story has an interesting twist, and ends in a very unexpected way--promoting lively discussions between all of us, in the car, as we drove north on Interstate 15. What we would write to our children if we knew we were going to die?. Would we write anything at all? After hearing this broadcast, we all had to re-think our first reaction!

The girl, Rebecca, said that although she felt that the letters made her "visit her mother's grave" every year and kept her from "moving on", they also made her a better person, as her mom challenged her to give "ethical expression" to her life as well as other important comments and suggestions. Elizabeth was a Mormon mother who wanted her daughter to marry in an LDS Temple. All of her letters reflected on her daughters Mormon religiosity, with only one problem: the daughter decided as an adult that Mormonism was not for her. Each yearly letter became more of a condemnation than a welcomed visit. And Dad had to "pick up the pieces" from an emotionally distraught daughter every year she read her birthday letter.

She marries, outside of an LDS Temple, to a non-member. She is very happy, but on her wedding day, she is not sure if she wants to read her Mom's letter--she doesn't want to be sad knowing that she was not meeting the expectations her mother had for her. She thinks she may wait another time to read her Wedding Day Letter--but the letter never even arrives. Although her Dad's secretary had sent the letter FedEx, the letter turns missing. It never shows up. 

You will have to click on the link below and listen to the story--trust me, Rebecca has more to go through in her young life, and we are all saddened as we listen. Not the outcome we all thought, as we drove down the interstate. Not the outcome at all. 

The program describes what happens when parents set "accidental traps" for their children. The actual story is called: "Act One. Letter Day Saint", but the other two stories are just as interesting. So, if you have a moment, click on this link: 

Listen to all three stories if you like, and then tell me what you think in a comment. I would love to explore this with all of you!

1 comment:

  1. Darling:
    I, too, listened to the Ira Glass story on Saturday. To add insult to injury, Rebecca’s husband dies 18 months after there wedding day after the couple was hit by an SUV while riding a scooter. Rebecca was able to let her husband go after a time, but she never could achieve that with her mother due to her mother’s famous letters arriving annually.


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