We are all living letters to our children, and our children’s children.
This really came through to me at a Fatherhood Success Seminar I recently conducted in Coffs Harbour, NSW.
One of the dads at the seminar shared with the group about the 250 letters that his father had written to his mother and brothers and sisters when he was just a baby during the Second World War. Bill’s father was put on military construction duties in the Northern Territory, which meant he only came home to see his family once or twice a year. The National Museum has expressed interest in this cultural treasure trove of familial love during war time Australia. Not to be outdone, my interest was piqued as well.
Bill showed me some of his father’s letters. Some were written exclusively to his wife while others were written exclusively to each of the children. Interestingly his dad drew pictures of different objects, particularly for his sons. Sort of a bit like the dad of today, taking pictures on his Smartphone and sending them home. The basics of communication have not changed, but technology has.
I can imagine the children who were of all different ages, eagerly waiting for their words of love and encouragement from ‘Dad’. Let me give you some excerpts:
To My Dear Son John
I read your short note today and I hope the weather is fine for you when you go camping at Bulla on 1st April. Now when you go on the bike be very careful and keep on your right side and any big steep hills, get off the bike and walk them as you do not want the bike to get away from you. Never mind what the other kids do or say. I expect you have seen Grandpa and Grandma lately, and I hope they are both well . . . Keep Bill happy and full of life and joy and let him play with his toys and the pup, but watch the pup does not tear his clothes. I will say cheerio now with all my love to you and a big hug for Bill.
From your loving Dad xxxx xxxx xxxx
Here is a short example from a letter to his wife:
To My Darling Sweetheart Wife Mary
I received your letter today and it is grand to know that you are starting to get about again. I hope that by the time this letter reaches you that you will be your old self again. How I would love darling to be with you to give you something of my love which you are longing for so much . . . Darling I do not know that you could be anything else but faithful to me as I am to you and if you think of me only as I think of you, we both cannot be any other way but faithful to each other and our darling children.
From Your Loving Husband Alwyn
Who would have ever guessed that Alwyn words would predict that he and Mary would go on to celebrate 64 years of wedded bliss? No doubt they were not without the usual ups and downs of married life but none the less it was a massive achievement.
The letters give us an insight into a father who cared intimately for each of his three children and a father who was passionately in love with his wife and proved it over the long haul of love.
Bill shared the story with tears at the Fatherhood Success Seminar of how his eldest son had recently taken all 18 family members, including his sisters and brothers and their respective spouses and children, and his mum and dad on a holiday to Fiji. It was a way of saying thank you to Mum and Dad for all the sacrifice over fifty years of raising and looking after all of them as children.
Often it is only when you have to raise your own children that you realise the sacrifice of your own parents. It is always lovely when people express their gratitude in such a generous way. But perhaps the thanks should really go back to the author of those ‘living letters’, written so many years ago by his grandfather to his wife and children.
Paul the apostle said, “We are all living letters, read by all men”. This is the case with us as fathers. The reality is that our words and actions will not only affect our own children but many generations to come. This was the case with Bill, and this will be the case with you.
This week I heard Dr Sam Chand speak at a conference. At the end of his sessions he spoke about the importance of leaving a legacy. I think Bill’s father did a pretty good job. I hope I can do the same. How about you?
Yours for Living Letters
PS. Some of the names in the above story have been changed to preserve anonymity, but I can guarantee the reality of this story of the power of a father’s love through the generations. Check out this YouTube if you want some more inspiration.