Farm Progress

The Home Front: What could a letter of affirmation do for each of your children — after you’re gone?

3 Min Read
father and son standing in field

We have a framed print in our home that reads: "Words are so powerful, they should only be used to bless, to prosper, to heal." I don’t remember when or where I purchased it, but it’s been hanging on the wall near our front door for years. It’s a good reminder to choose our words wisely.

Almost a year ago, I witnessed an example of powerful words.  It was while attending the funeral of a woman we’d known for quite a while. She and her husband had three children — two sons who were college-age and a younger daughter. This dear woman had been fighting cancer for several years and eventually lost the battle. The church was packed to overflowing on the day of her funeral as people came to support her family and honor her memory.

Toward the end of the service, the pastor asked the widower and his three children to join him on the platform. Then he read an affirmation to each child — affirmations written by their parents before their mom’s death. I’m certain there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. We all heard the loving words expressed by a mother who was no longer able to speak to her children.

I’ll be honest with you; as I sat there that morning, I wished I could go to our lock box or to my drawer of keepsakes and find a letter like that written by my parents. That was my first thought. My second was that it was time to write to each of our sons. I was not anticipating (or desiring) a lingering illness to prompt such an effort. Instead, I’d been motivated by the action of these friends.

Kendra first made the suggestion on our way home from the funeral. As I recall, I was pretty sure I was too busy to sit down and write. She’s the writer, not me. The assignment seemed a little daunting. Surely there would be a better time for this. After all, planting season was about to begin, and that would occupy most of my thoughts for the next six weeks.

The problem with that particular rationalization was that planting would keep me busy, and then I’d be catching up on all the things I'd put off during planting. After that, I had to get things ready for the yearly camping trip. And before you know it, it would be time to harvest, buy seed for next year, celebrate Christmas and start the cycle once again.

I realized there was no perfect time, but if I agreed it was important, now might be the best time. I thought and wrote and rewrote, and asked Kendra if what I wrote made sense, and ultimately, each son’s letter was complete. 

The affirmations are filled with words of encouragement and reminders of fun memories, hopefully accomplishing our goal of providing a written testimony of our love.

Oh yes, and before you mistakenly think those same kids didn’t drive me crazy at times, I need to set the record straight. The truth is they absolutely did — and still do on occasion. But I figure God’s kids drive him crazy now and then, too — and He still loves us and produced a whole book of letters to affirm, encourage and guide.

John and Kendra Smiley farm near East Lynn. Email [email protected], or visit

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