April 24th, 4 days to ride start
The chapel on the campus of St Catherine University overflowed with mourners and many had to stand on the stairs outside to hear about Madonna’s life. She was loved by many – in addition to her spouse, family and friends were her students, school colleagues, former classmates and neighbors. As the priest described an authentic, charismatic, empathic, wise, patient, funny and beautiful woman, I thought of my own interactions with her. We had been introduced a few years before by her husband, a fellow resident in Internal Medicine at HCMC. The brutal fact was that this special person had died five days after giving birth to the couples’ second daughter. The pain and grief among the mourners seemed insurmountable and I still remember the scene and my own emotions during that funeral – more than two decades later.
The priest encouraged everyone to write a letter to her children describing Madonna and their interactions with her since the girls would not know her. I followed his advice – thankful to be offered a method to honor her memory and sent the letter to the girls.
My copy of that letter recently surfaced as I was cleaning my office. As I read the letter, my memories of Madonna returned as if she had died only last month. I felt the same emotions as when I was in her presence and the same horror and pain I experienced at her funeral. I was pleased that I had followed the priest’s advice and written the letter to her daughters – to help them know their Mother a little better. But, I was surprised to learn how important that letter is to me now. That letter brings back treasured memories I had not thought of for years. And for me, my memories of Madonna are a blessing.
So, if the unthinkable happens to a child and they lose a parent or other loved one, write them a letter. Tell them about the deceased individual and your relationship with them. Help the child learn about their loved one – and you will help yourself as well.
Postscript: All those treasured letters are still held by Madonna’s husband and they will serve again when Madonna’s daughters have children of their own.