Monday, February 21, 2011

The Parent Trap

Just listened to this week's episode of This American Life, titled "The Parent Trap."

The first story was about a mother sending letters from the grave. Mom died when her daughter was a teenager. Her last task on earth was writing letters to her daughter, letters to be delivered on the daughter's birthday, for 13 years.

The daughter, at first, found the letters comforting, then challenging and then annoying, painful and cramping. The mother, a devout Mormon, wished her daughter to follow the Mormon faith as she did. The daughter could not, would not, did not - and that grieved the daughter a great deal. In the story we hear the daughter ask, "Why did you do this, mother?"

I don't know why, but my heart tells me that maybe it was because of a feeling parents have.

We want to keep our children close to us. We love them and it pains us greatly to part from them, so we do the best we can to hold on to them. It is, of course, hopeless, for our children must grow their own paths in life, must way their own ways.

But we try. The pain of admitting that we can't hold on is just too great for our own souls in our unguarded moments. We try, but we know we will fail to hold tight and our children will wander away.

We want them to go, to grow, and to be independent human beings. But when they are gone it can feel enormously lonely.

Perhaps that's why that mother wrote those letters to her daughter. It was just too painful not to.

If you haven't heard this episode, it's well worth your time. This American Life is a Chicago based program - which is probably why it's so good.

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