My Letter to President Barack Obama

My Letter to President Barack Obama

This letter was written and mailed to the WHITE HOUSE on December 28, 2016

Dear President Obama,

We had the briefest of handshakes on a fearless bright day in Des Moines, Iowa, 31st of October, 2007. And if I could go back to those days and keep you in the White House, I would. But you need some rest and you have books to write—your first two being enlightening for me, all words of wisdom. So last night after perusing a memorial edition of EBONY, I cried. What has happened should never be. The electorate has failed. Don’t they realize that we are a country of truth, not of lies?

You, Dear President Obama, will always be my POTUS. Knowing your intent and strong love for the United States of America, you might argue with me, encourage me to accept him. But I cannot agree. He will never be my president. That’s the way it will be in my heart—maybe forever. Maybe until the United States is brave enough to finally elect a woman.

I fear you might never see this letter—there will be and are so many others. But regardless, I had to write it, and hope that you will take bags of these letters to your new home in D.C. to peruse on a day when you need to reconnect with your constituency. That’s me! I’ll await your future words in your next book, or when you need to speak out. Because you have promised to do so—we will always need you.

And though you have repeatedly pointed out how the office of President can change the man or woman who enters it, I personally don’t believe this One can change. There are troubling days ahead.

My story: because I know you love and appreciate our stories: born on the Southside of Chicago to an amazing mother and dentist father who died when I was three. But like your mother, mine raised me with tender love and promise. She gave me responsibility early on, so by twelve I became a latchkey kid who took care of my younger brother and cooked meals. And like you, my mother’s love made the difference and helped me reach out to others. Rarely have I been fearful of the future. But without you, I am now.

I’m white and regret subtle racism that surrounded me where I grew up, in the Beverly Hills neighborhood on Chicago’s Southside. David Axelrod and you just discussed on the podcast that you were backed by that very Irish neighborhood. Beverly has always been a town of lawyers, doctors and educators. But my first revolt was wearing orange to my grade school on St. Patrick’s Day. My heritage is German.

After earning a degree at Mundelein College on the hipper north side, I taught English literature at Bloom High School in the far south suburbs. You might know Ford Heights. On a day to remember, Lacy Moore came to my desk in homeroom to warn me not to be in the gym at second hour. It was the time of the shooting of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. We teachers never faltered in our love for our students. And I don’t know what happened to Lacy, but I’ll never forget him and many others, like Flamingo Stringfellow, who objected to an uptight play we were reading—all the characters white.

I don’t remember what play it was, but I certainly remember what Flamingo said to me: Sex is good. There’s nine people in my family. My parents and seven kids. No space. We sleep in the same room, all of us. So all my life I’m hearing my parents have sex. Nice sex. This story you are teaching me? Says nothing to me. Nothing.

 He was right. And when I think about it now, living with my widow mother, there was no sex in my house. We all need to discover how to accept our different lives.

I’ll also never forget Anna Cooper, the daughter of a former slave, who cleaned house for my grandmother and then for my mother. God only knew how old Anna was. And I want to call out: Anna forgive us, for not being more giving than we could have been. That was the 1950s when I was growing up in white Beverly Hills, Chicago.

Change can be slow, but inexorable. At Thanksgiving this year, my family all talked about how we have to cope, now that you are leaving the White House. I wish you could stay, but I know you cannot. So, God speed, Dear President Obama.

Hillary tried. You worked hard for her. We thought we had it made. But for many troubling reasons, it was not meant to be—and now we know that instead, the future will hang some progressive star farther from our reach, making us work harder, believe harder in THE HOPE AND CHANGE that alters the very thoughts in our brains.

HATE won’t win, Dear President Obama, I know that. You know that. Thanks for what you have given me these past eight years.  And blessings on you and your beautiful family.

Sincerely, 

Elizabeth A. Havey wife, mother, teacher, nurse as a second career, and always a writer and lover of ideas

PS My husband and I attended your inauguration in 2009. We were all the way down by the Washington Monument. We were cold! But we loved it all.

Thanks for reading….Have you ever written to a president, governor, mayor, senator etc??

Even as a seventh grader, I wrote to Queen Elizabeth II and got a formal reply from one of her Ladies in Waiting–an exciting mail moment for me.

The White House used to follow this tradition. If you wrote to the First Lady, you would get a formal reply on White House stationery.

I had a friend who actually helped decorate the Obama Christmas Tree. She wrote and asked, knowing that the First Lady was looking for volunteers. She was selected and worked alongside Michelle. Not that’s something to remember.  

What Are the Chances that Folks Will Remember You?

What Are the Chances that Folks Will Remember You?

Maybe you’re not in the mood for this, but I’ll try to make it upbeat.

We all want to be remembered. For something. And though today, right this moment, we might consider how vast our place in FOREVER might be, it’s not that vast. I’ll use ME as an example. Who will remember me?

My family: my children and grandchildren. After that it’s a guess.

My friends. Yes I have many, my husband has many. But like Wendy, Michael, John and Peter Pan, we might ascend to the heavens all at the same time, or around the same time. Because remember, we are all of the same generation.

THINGS YOU CAN DO TO BE REMEMBERED

Be kind, be as generous as you can be and take photos! From the beginning of our life together, my husband took photos–of our vacations and family events: baptisms and weddings, holidays and birthdays. We have a cabinet full of photo albums and now many of those precious memories have been digitized so that we won’t lose them. You cannot walk through a room in our home without seeing a framed photograph of family. It’s necessary–because two of our children live a distance away and life gets crazy and we want to think of them and see their faces. It’s a form of connection. I also have a photo of the women’s group I was a part of when I lived in Iowa. I look at it frequently–I miss them.

Communicate: we have phones, snail mail and email. Though hearing a friend or a family member’s voice is the best, it’s not always possible to connect that way. A voice mail starts the process and so does an email–it’s like a friendly knock on the door of the person you want to chat with. It’s saying: here I am. I have news. Or I want to tell you I care about you.  Or I don’t want to forget you and I don’t want you to forget me.

Don’t Move. Stay in one place. This is hard to do. We live in a society of movement and change. In our years of marriage, my husband and I have moved twice–once with our children (though one was in college, one in grade school and another already working) it changes the center of the family, the HOMESTEAD. When we moved the second time, it was just the two of us. Now one daughter is near us, one in Boston and our son in Chicago–which is our starting place, our HOMETOWN. Chicago is where we were born and lived for many years–and thus there are people in Chicago who do not forget us. They are the Golden Oldies and if you’ve moved from your Hometown, you know that and you need that.

But regardless, you must call or write, visit and embrace. That’s how you will be remembered. We had many wonderful years in our second Midwest home, and I knock on doors with email whenever I can, people visit when they travel here, and yet I fear over time those friendships could be lost. Of course, now in our new home, we make new friends. Will they last? Will they remember me?

Become a Member of Ancestry.com or a similar organization. Talk about memories!! My husband has become the official family historian–and if you can become part of someone’s history, why yes, you will be remembered. He has unearthed photos and news clippings about my deceased father and mother and his family. He is building a family tree that grows bigger and bigger with births and with finding those that lived before us. No one is ever deleted. They live in our memories. What will be necessary is for someone to continue this endeavor. Not everyone finds history fascinating. But here’s something else to consider:

Someday you will be history, but only if there’s a living person keeping track. So encourage record keeping of some sort. You know what they used to say: if your house catches on fire, grab your photo albums and run. Now you need to have a flash drive or backup system you can grab and run with.   

And I guess, finally, make a name for yourself. Or in other words, get your name out there. Still with becoming so-called FAMOUS, there are no guarantees. You have to be truly truly famous to go down through the ages. I would love to publish my novels. Then, hopefully, someone would have a copy when I’m gone. But over time who is remembered? Shakespeare. Homer. Jane Austen. Dickens. Writers of literature in languages I am unable to read. Tyrants, kings, presidents, politicians, saints and sinners.

Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us 

Yes, this is a real thing, a book by scientist Sam Kean. He is fascinated with all things science and finds connections for us–between the LIVING and the DEAD. An excerpt: Even more startling, our breaths entangle us with the historical past. Some of the molecules in your next breath might well be emissaries from 9/11 or the fall of the Berlin Wall, witnesses to World War I or the star-spangled banner of Fort McHenry. If we extend our imagination far enough into space and time, we can conjure up some fascinating scenarios. For instance, is it possible, that your next breath–this one right here–might include some of the same air that Julie Caesar exhaled when he died? …Across all that distance of time and space, a few of the molecules that danced inside his lungs are dancing inside yours right now.   

Kean’s theories certainly connect all humans to one another. And we will be remembered as the species that occupied the planet Earth for thousands of years. But will some other species know that we were also the creation that destroyed it?

ONE FINAL THOUGHT

In order for humans, those that are famous, those that our infamous, those that will be forgotten over time–the earth must survive. It becomes questionable that we should strive to advance and change, only to allow some naysayers to condemn the planet to it’s final death. Yes, there is controversy, but if your painting or photo, your poem or organization, the building, the business you built with your name up in lights or glorified on a skyscraper–if any of that is to have meaning, the human race must survive on this planet. Or we can say goodbye to Shakespeare, Austin, Caesar and the rest–then, Oblivion. So we must strive to keep the earth healthy, for our DNA to continue on in some form. And to make that happen? We all need to fall in love with Mother Earth and protect her.

P.S. To preserve memories, you can interview family members and write down their memories. Or keep a diary. More about how to do that here.

Photo: Pixabay

 

Writing that Last Letter Brings Serenity

Writing that Last Letter Brings Serenity

Death challenges serenity. The closest a loved one’s death can come to some form of calm and peace is if everything is said–especially by those who will go on living. Communication is of great necessity, whatever that might entail: saying we are sorry for something, or professing love, or professing that those left behind will be cared for. If there is a chance to say it–please say it.

How I Began to Write These Letters

Once, when a busy wife and mother of three young children, my older cousin, George, was dying. I had babysat his children and we’d formed a bond. Now he was dying in his fifties. I felt the pain of his imminent death, and yet I didn’t know what I could possibly do to ease his suffering. So I sat down and wrote him a letter–a long letter. I touched on the things we shared, the laughs we had. I praised his life as a friend, father to his children and incredible spouse to his wife. He died a few days after receiving my letter. I always hoped it gave him some comfort. Ironically, I know it comforted me.

Going For Forgiveness

We had no problems between us, but I began to see that even a letter might provide healing in families and relationships where grudges or anger had blocked communication. During the time my mother was dying, I learned of several families who could not sign a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) for their parent, because one sibling was saying no. When I gently asked some questions, I learned that sibling often had a quarrel, a guilt with the parent that had not been resolved. They preferred to keep the parent alive, unable to face the task of finding serenity and healing.

In the discussion, Forgiving Your Parents, the point is made that hurts shared by a parent and a child are the hardest to forgive. If we experience pain from our mother, we still hold out hope, maybe unconsciously, that she will be the one to come forward and plea for forgiveness. Why? Because at some time we put her on a pedestal–we made her the better of the two–she’s the adult, the mother. We might even have imagined a scene where she praises us and underlines that we are good children and have always been in her eyes and she is just so sorry.

But even a mother is human, not perfect, and often the only way to arrive at peace before that person dies is to extend the love and concern first–to be the strong one and forgive–let someone you have been angry with back into your heart.

Seinfeld’s “Serenity Now”

Do you remember the classic Seinfeld episode when high-strung Frank Costanza tries to lower his blood pressure by yelling SERENITY NOW? It’s truly comedic because the effort he makes is blatantly self-defeating. It’s a great illustration of how elusive peace of mind can be. But is it really that hard for us to find some contentment and then make it our own? Yes, when it comes to death. But again, communication–if at all possible–helps both the dying person and the one left behind. So how do we get there?

After George’s death, I found myself continuing to write to people I loved if they were dying; I wrote to my mother-in-law, as we were not in the same city. I thanked her for her love of me, for sharing her son with me and I let her know the things in my life that would always keep her alive in my heart. Very early on we had a few adjustments, but we loved each other and I just needed to say it in black and white.

Don’t Like to Write? Other Choices 

Once I wrote a poem for a friend dying of bone cancer. But it doesn’t have to be writing–it can be a card you carefully choose and sign; food you drop off. If you are far apart send a gift that speaks to something you both share like wine, music, a favorite joke, or a favorite photograph, artwork or literature. Unsure as to what might work, you can check with your loved one’s caregiver. Again, communication is the key.

Another wonderful idea is paying a visit to your loved one and gently asking them questions about their life. Often being able to relive wonderful moments is a calming experience for a person who is dying, and you will benefit so much from what you learn. Then there are no regrets that you forgot to ask your parent or grandparent the family history. 

Losing Luke 

When my friend Luke was diagnosed with lung cancer I began writing him letters. After the first one, I saw him and he told me he enjoyed the letter, so I kept it up. I wrote about ten letters over the months he was in and out of the hospital, fighting for his life. Luke was a big guy, warm and friendly and he extended that warmth when we first moved to Iowa. Though we were on opposite sides of the political fence (Iowa can be very political because of it’s First in the Nation status), it never mattered. He asked our son to become a Cub Scout and that helped us meet people in the community and feel welcome.

Weeks before his death, our church “roasted” him at his request. It was part of a fund raiser. But he was so ill he left the festivities early, so I sent him a copy of my words: Luke’s got a son he calls Little Luke. That’s in juxtaposition to Big Luke, Gigantic Luke–Luke the big lover, the big eater (he orders double and dessert too) the big dancer–but truly, the guy with the great big heart. I looked it up, the name Luke means light. Luke, you are a light in all of our lives, no, I take that back, a bright, powerful flashbulb–you just dazzle us.  

And later I wrote: And Luke, this letter thing that we’ve had going has been good for me. I’ve learned about you and you’ve learned about me, which is what friendship is all about. Thanks for helping me become a fairly decent Iowan. Thanks for the help you gave my son. Thanks for just being you.   

Luke read this an hour before he died. That was a gift to me. That was serenity of the highest kind.

Thanks to Google Images

Writing that Last Letter Brings Serenity

Sharing your thoughts brings serenity.