Love Letters for the Living

Before the COVID Monster forced us to hide in bed for about a year, with covers over our faces, I was teaching workshops in Texas on writing love letters. I was partnered with Bev Davidek of Davidek Law Firm that specializes in estate planning. I believe people should leave notes to be given out at the time of their passing. After a short teaching on why it’s important to give your family everything you possibly can to help them navigate life without you, the event launch into a hands-on activity of writing a ‘love/gratitude letter’ to an unexpected person, to be mailed that afternoon. I supplied the beautiful cards, and the law firm supplied the stamps. After about 20 minutes of reflection, and lots of scribbling on scrap paper, I asked if anyone wanted to share the contents of their card. The responses moved me to tears.

Though divorced, one woman wrote a thank you note to her ex-husband for ‘making it easy’ to jointly care for their daughter. Another woman wrote a heartfelt note to an employee of an animal crematory who had lovingly cared for the remains of her faithful animal.  She said it had been over a year since her pooch passed, but she thinks of that person on a weekly basis. For some, letters went to their hair stylist, whose services were described as a sounding board and therapist as much as a hair professional. For others it was a waitress, who had faithfully served their family for years.

Fifteen years of designing funeral programs has show me that you never know what your last words are going to be, and last moments aren’t always rainbows and skittles. People fight. Relationships separate, with each party hoping the other will make the first move. Even without conflict, people die without ever letting another person know how much they truly meant to them.

I do try to practice what I preach. On the three-year anniversary of breaking my femur bone (compound fracture), I wrote the surgeon that saved my leg and my life. Every day my feet swing over the side of the bed and I stand on my own two feet, I’m grateful.  I thought he should know that for 1,096 days (there was a leap year in that 3 years), that my morning starts remembering his extraordinary ability to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. How many years did he study to get to that point?

I have not always done this perfectly. I’ve had a flourishing career in printing, and felt I should write my college professor who taught me the art of printmaking, giving me a keen understanding of paper and embossing. In the effort to locate his address, the Tulane office informed me that he had passed two years prior. I had the same urge to write Mrs. Welch, my beautiful fourth grade teacher, who cared for me both academically and emotionally. My mom had a brain aneurysm, and as a little third grader I was told she would probably die in surgery. My grades plummeted, and for fourth grade I wasn’t placed with my advanced achievement friends. Mom defied the odds, but she was pretty heavily medicated that first year.  Mrs. Welch stood in the gap, holding my emotionally shaky heart. On more than one occasion I called her “Mom,” because in so many ways she was that to me for a season. I wish I had contacted her years ago.

While I missed the mark with two previous teachers, I have a “To Do List” for today. My guess is you do, too!

Key Notes:

  • If you are part of the “I’ll just tell them,” line of thinking because $.66 cents for a postage stamp is just too much, remember our words pour out faster than our brains can process them. Writing things down allows us to thoughtfully filter and edit.
  • Hand-writing a note is an art form. Consider having your postage stamp beautifully reflect your personality and feelings. I recently stocked up on the “Peanuts” Forever Stamps. Even the stamp makes me happy.
  • Humpty Dumpty was never explicitly described as an egg. He was turned into a “huge, bizarre, sentient egg” by Lewis Carroll in the beloved novel, “Through The Looking Glass.”

On A Lighter Note:

  1. June 4th, 1937, Sylvan Goldman made history, rolling out the world’s first shopping cart at his Humpty Dumpty supermarket chain in Oklahoma City.
  2. Humpty Dumpty sold to Allied in 1959 because of major market changes and falling sales. There were permanent closings because Allied couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
    • I lived in Metarie, Louisiana for a few grade school years, and I’m personally a fan of Piggly Wiggly.
  3. Still a popular nursery rhyme in the US and UK, it is used as a tool to teach children to be careful of heights.
    • I broke my femur bone on a carpeted surface, in between a tufted ottoman and cushy mattress.
    • Growing tired of answering, “How did you break your leg?” Without even a smirk, I told the guy in the line behind me at Walgreens that it was during a rough landing from hang gliding in Western Nebraska.
  4. $14.50 for a 9 oz. package of Humpty Dumpty All Dressed Potato Chips on Amazon? Just how good are they?

Interested in doing a workshop? Contact me at [email protected].

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Category: Leaving a Legacy



  1. What a GREAT idea! Speaking from the grave will be a comfort to my loved ones and leave me with no regrets. Thank you, Valerie!

  2. I love this. I retired from teaching high school in 2020 but still have a box of handwritten notes students gave me over the years. They always boost my spirits in a rough week.

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Article by: Valerie Bourdain

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