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Jottings contributor Jo Ann Parsons shares thoughts on writing a Last Letter to loved ones.

Editor's note: If this column looks familiar, that is because it is. Portions of the column were accidently changed or deleted from Jo Ann Parson's article for the Jan. 23 Jottings. It appears today complete, with apologies to Jo Ann.

One of my main accomplishments of 2019 was what is commonly referred to as "getting one's affairs in order."

It's not that I didn't have all these important documents, but they needed updating and a few minor changes. This required a couple sessions with my attorney and daughter, phone calls, emails and, since it wasn't considered an urgent matter, took several months to complete.

I felt pleased and relieved when all had been approved, duly signed and stashed in the safe deposit box. But just as I was mentally crossing this task off my "to-do" list, I read an article in an AARP publication by Jane Bryant Quinn saying there needs to be one last bit of paperwork to complete your estate plan — writing a last letter.

So I went to med.stanford.edu/letter/friendsandfamily, which she mentioned, to see what that was all about. It offers suggestions on what to include and there are sample letters and a template of seven specific tasks if you need a guide.

I will probably make up my own format since I consider myself somewhat of a pro when it comes to letter writing. After many years of a secretarial career and a zillion business letters, 20 years of weekly letters exchanged with my daughter before moving to be near her, 30 years of weekly letters that my husband and I wrote to his mother, plus corresponding with relatives and friends through the years — surely I can figure out how to write this important "last letter."

The first task listed is to acknowledge and express your appreciation and love to family members so I would, of course, start with my daughter who has been the joy of my life for her almost 66 years.

I'd want my three grandchildren to know how much they mean to me and to thank them for their love and respect. I could not have had a better daughter-in-law and son-in-law if I'd picked them myself, so I should express how much they are appreciated and loved.

It would be impossible to name all the cherished friends I've been blessed with during my lifetime — the ones who miraculously appeared in my life at the precise time I needed them. And those forever friends who you haven't seen for long periods of time because of distance or other circumstances, but then when you do it's like you've never been apart.

Another suggestion is to recall special moments and times spent together, so I could recall graduations, weddings, our summer family times at the beach and other noteworthy events.

While these were all happy times, should one mention the sadder times when our love and support is what held us together? I'm thinking of illnesses and deaths of those so beloved and who have passed on — my parents, two husbands, and a son. I hope they know how much they are so lovingly missed.

This is another document that will require occasional updating when new members join the family and other friendships evolve. I am still pondering on how to write it — but maybe I just have, and all I need to do is fill in the names and all those special times we've spent together.

Jo Ann Parsons is a member of the Jottings group at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.


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