Dispatches: The Mortality Effect

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Time is on our side, at least for now. But here’s a fact that life – and especially parenthood – tends to drive home: someday we’re all going to die. We start to calculate how many days we’ve already used and estimate how many we may have left. We feel a sudden need to get our affairs in order, clear our consciences, and generally lay the groundwork for posterity. In short, if our own mortality is staring us in the face, we stare right back. And so we write a letter to our kids.

Velinda Peyton of Los Angeles decided the night before undergoing surgery that threatened to end her life almost 20 years ago that she should write letters to her children. “If I died in surgery, I would never have had the chance to say goodbye to my children.” Only recently has Velinda compiled the letters in a book, “This River Called Life: A Letter To My Children.” She reflects on her difficult childhood – how, for example, her father abducted her and her brother, only for her mother to hire a private detective who luckily found both. http://velindapeyton.com/my-book/

Tim Lott of the United Kingdom decided to write an open letter in The Guardian to his children. His reason: why wait until he’s on his deathbed to do so. “I should write a letter to my children before I go,” he writes. Besides, “I can never get my four daughters to listen to me on such matters without sniggering. So I’m going to write it down instead.”Here Tim takes the opportunity to dole out advice about how to make time count. “The present is all you’ve ever got . . . Living is tricky, everything is a guess . . . Be strong but be flexible.” He concludes with a lesson he learned regarding fatherhood about why sometimes “being wrong is fine.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/jul/14/tim-lott-company-of-women-letter

P.S. – please see part 2 tomorrow.

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