101 Ways to Cope with Losing Elderly Parents #18 ~ Give a Thank You Letter as a Christmas Gift

Letter 3

I wrote a post back on December 17th, 2012 about a Thank You Letter which I gave my father for Christmas  a few years before he died in 2010. It’s one of those posts that I wrote very much from the heart and I was a little surprised that it received so little attention at the time.

However, over the last few weeks, it has been the most read post on the entire blog by a long shot and that has made me think a lot more about whole idea of writing Thank You letters as Christmas gifts for one’s elderly parents.

I was fortunate that, for some reason, I was inspired to write the letter to my father while he was in good health and able to appreciate it.

However, I would say that it is never, ever too late to write that letter of thanks. Losing elderly parents, to me, is a process which can begin years before they actually die and goes on probably forever after they have died.


I know now that my mother would have appreciated such a letter but I never wrote one to her. I’ve been thinking, though, that this year ~ the 6th Christmas without her here ~ that I will take time to write to her and say everything I would have wanted her to read.

Writing a Thank You letter to a parent can’t be a token gesture. If you feel that no thanks is due, then don’t do it. But, I guess that most of us have lots of things for which we can thank our parents.

So, I would urge anyone who is fortunate enough to have an elderly parent still alive and well to give the gift of time, thought and gratitude in a Thank You letter this Christmas. It is probably the present which will be most treasured by both the giver and the recipient. And if your elderly parents have already passed on, there is still time to write and the right time will come to you, as you are the only person who knows exactly how you are feeling about your parent.

Remember, there’s no set formula ~  be yourself and dig deep!

letter 4

Remembrance Day, 2012 ~ Write to Remember

Remembrance Day, November 11, has become very precious to me over the last few years. It is a day which evokes memories of special people in my life who have died. Two years ago, I presented a lecture on Remembrance Day  in Alexandria, Virginia, on the subject of  Losing Elderly Parents. It was entitled: On Lives Well Spent: Coping with Losing Elderly Parents.  I look back now and wonder how I ever managed to give the lecture as it was only two months after my father had died.

The main thrust of the lecture was about the extent to which Cicero’s book,  On a Life Well Spent, written in 50BC, had helped me enormously in coping with losing both my parents within a period of sixteen months.  I found great comfort in Cicero’s seasonal approach to life and his view of old age as winter. I also loved the way he wrote about death in terms of finding safe harbour after the tossings of life.

Cicero was a person who found huge solace in writing as a way of coping with the death of his daughter and I can identify totally with this as writing has been extremely therapeutic for me in grappling with the flood of emotions which are associated with losing loved ones.

Door of Remembrance ~ Watercolour by Jean Tubridy

This year, I decided to run a workshop, here in Co. Waterford, called Write to RememberOver the last two years, I have become more and more convinced that celebrating the lives  of loved ones who have died, through various forms of creativity, such as writing, painting, gardening, photography ….. can be very therapeutic. There is no easy way to lose someone you love but feeling his/her presence in everyday life and embracing that can be so comforting and inspiring.

Finding the ‘right’ venue for the Write to Remember Workshop on Sunday, which runs from 3pm-5pm, was crucially important to me. It takes place in the Copper Coast Geopark Centre in Bunmahon, Co. Waterford.  This is a restored church along a stretch of the most beautiful coastline in the world and, yes,  I will be stopping en route to look at the waves on Annestown Beach  and the arms of the harbour at Boatstrand, places where I spent so many happy times with my parents over their long lives.

‘Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.’ 
(Christina Rossetti)