Letter to My Parents

Letter to My Parents

December 18, 2018 0 By Nancy Oehlert

Words are powerful. In the beginning, God ‘spoke’ the world into existence. He simply said, “Let there be light” and it was so. His words are so powerful. Our words have power, too. They have the power to build up or to tear down. To inspire or to offend. To enlighten or to embitter. Words are powerful stuff.

Forgive me if this particular post is a bit self-indulgent. I’m grieving. This is my first Christmas without my mother or my father.  The thought occurred to me that some of you are surely grieving, too.

Grief changes how we look at and think about things.

If someone you love has died recently, I am sorry. I hope that these words will be a source of comfort to you. Let me encourage you to keep a journal. As thoughts run through your mind, type them or write them down. If something catches you off guard and reduces you to tears, record that. If someone or something brings a smile to your face, put that in your journal, too. No one ever has to see it except you and it will help your mind and heart process your mourning.

Each pain brings with it its own kind of grief.

Maybe no one you know has recently passed from this life, but a relationship has died. In some ways, this pain can be worse than if a person was gone. Are you grieving the life you once knew? Time and age bring changes and change can be tough. Perhaps you’ve lost the ability to live as you once did. Adjusting to your ‘new normal’ is a type of grieving.

I never thought about how I would face a major holiday like Christmas without either of my parents around.

It never crossed my mind. Now I’m staring it in the face. In a moving speech at our weekly Toast Masters meeting, Rick Garza read a letter he’d written to his mother. The words inspired me. And writing my own letter has been enormously healing.

Dear Mom and Dad,

My earliest memories are of being held, being cared for, and being loved. Pictures in my head appear. Dad walking into my room in the wee hours and patting my back as I fall asleep. Mom, holding me and rocking me, with my face laying against the softness of that red robe. Gentle kisses on my forehead and cheek as I look up at you and hug both your necks. Precious memories, almost ‘touchable’.

I remember being picked up at Mama and Pat’s house after dad got off work. I remember riding home sitting next to him, boosted up on his briefcase with my arm flung around his neck. (This was long before the days of child safety seats!)

Mom, I remember the day I had a doctor appointment and instead of taking me back to school afterward, you took me to work with you. What a treat! You even let me help by giving me work to do.

I remember the smiley face necklace you bought for me the night we all went to a football game. You helped fasten it around my neck and told me how it reminded you of my own smile. I had much to smile about.

I remember when I broke my leg playing football with my brothers. You took me to school the following Monday, and it was raining. So instead of dropping me off as usual, you walked me in. The sidewalks were slick and I was still getting used to the crutches. Predictably, I fell, making a mess of myself and my clothes. You went into the girls’ bathroom with me and sat me on a sink to make sure I was okay. Then you used paper towels to try and clean me up a bit. I remember you had tears in your eyes and I asked why you were crying. You wanted to take me home to put on clean clothes, but you had to be at work. As a mother myself now, I can only imagine how hard that was for you to put on a brave face and head to work. I was fine, but I suspect you had a very difficult day.

Dad, after having three boys, I wasn’t the dainty girl you expected. If I was a disappointment, you never showed it. Not once. You never made me feel awkward or less feminine for liking sports instead of cheerleading or for watching football instead of ‘girl movies’. When I carried that big bass drum while marching in a parade, you stood proudly and took pictures.

When I fell gravely ill at the age of seventeen, your strong back and arms picked me up off the floor and carried my unconscious body out to the car. You took me to the hospital, probably saving my life.   

There were other times, mom and dad, that I’m sure you both grieved because of me. I had a habit of opening my mouth without thinking and saying things that hurt you or embarrassed you.  I would speak without thinking and say things to others. I’m sorry. I remember clearly dad saying to me, “Nancy, you have a bad habit of talking to people in a way that sounds like you’re talking down to them.” Coming from a father who was never critical, the words stung. But I needed to hear them. I still struggle with controlling my tongue, but with your patience and God’s help, I’m making progress.

Thank you for loving my husband, for allowing him into your hearts and our family as ‘another son’. So many times I’ve talked with couples who did not get this type of love and acceptance from parents. Mark and I were so blessed. It has made a difference in us and how we love our children. I lost track of how many times I sought your counsel, particularly in the raising of your precious granddaughters. Your example will reach into the future for years to come.

Somewhere along the road, things began to shift and change. I was running errands for you. Cooking and cleaning for you. I was seeing you to the doctor.  Walking with you to be sure you got safely inside. I was brushing your hair, helping you dress. Then, I was lifting you, cleaning you up with tears in my eyes. I was putting you to bed with you looking up at me this time. But still, you spoke words of love and comfort.

Your love and comfort are with me still. Most days I’m fine. I’m productive. I’m happy. I’m blessed. But then, every now and then, something will blindside, me and I’m a mess. Memories flood in and my heart aches.  I’m learning to grieve. I record my thoughts and things I remember you saying. So, you’re both still teaching me, after all these years. Thank you, mom and dad. I said it often but I could never say it enough. Thank you.

With much love,

Your daughter,


Words are powerful. If someone you love has died, write them a letter. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels. If you have a relationship that is suffering or gone, write a letter. Text or call them. Imagine how good it will feel to have the burden lifted! Use the power of words to heal what is broken, especially if what is broken is a heart.


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