If you read books, you are familiar with the dedication page, placed in the front section. The author dedicates his book to people who have made a difference in his life. Sometimes those revered people have passed away. Often, it will be special family members who may still be living.
The influence these people have is commonly the reason why the author pays tribute to them in that special place – the Dedication. I acknowledge 12 family members in the dedication of my first book which includes my mom and dad, my wife and two daughters, and seven grandchildren. I guess if I never write another book, a lot of devotion is covered in the Dedication of my first book. Even today I can remember the experience of writing that Dedication – just doing it made me feel special.
Most of us will never write a book. I had thought about doing it, like many people have, before I actually did it. But I did not actively seek writing this first book until I became a professional speaker. Writing books makes a lot of sense now because they serve as an ‘admission ticket,’ a resume for speaking opportunities. By the time I wrote and published my first book in the Year 2010, both of my parents had passed away. I wish they could read my book or see the dedication I wrote to them. The values and lessons I learned from them are a central part of the book – both of them are in some of the stories. They would love this book!
Even though my parents are not here to enjoy my book and the dedication to them, I am so glad I spoke to them about the things that really matter before they passed away. The kind of things you might say in a dedication . . . they heard it over and over from me. On purpose, I lived my life knowing I probably would lose them one day and wanted to leave nothing unsaid. I am so thankful for what I told them while they were alive.
If you were publishing a book tomorrow, who would you honor in the Dedication? What would you say? Did you know that you do not have to wait until you write a book? You can write that dedication in the form of a letter. You can do it now! I know, because I had such an experience.
I remember this moment in what I can only describe as something meant to be. On this weekend, a guy named Roger encourages me to write a letter to someone who has influenced my life. I decide to write to my grandmother who had great impact, yet unrecognized by me.
As I write this letter, I am unaware that my life is going to change in an unexpected way.
Two weeks later, my mom is on the phone sharing the sad news of grandmother’s passing. She is sobbing as she tells me. As I travel to the funeral service in New Orleans, my mind burns with the question I must ask my mother: “Mom, did grandmother receive my special letter before her death?” Only my mom might know the answer since grandmother had been living with her during her illness.
Ten minutes after the funeral service in the cemetery is over, people are getting in cars to leave. A few family members are talking to each other and now it is only Mom and me standing there. She is wrapped in complete sadness when I ask the question that has been relentlessly burning in my mind as I traveled to the funeral. “Mom, I wrote a letter to Grandmother a couple of weeks ago. Do you know if she received it?” In the pause of a few seconds, I sense immediately that this is not a good time for asking such a question. She seems so vulnerable and lost . . . older than the last time we visited. I want to take the question back and ask it at a better time, but I stand frozen, not knowing what to do. I want to make it better. I want to erase her pain.
Then, she lifts her face upward to me and says these words that I will never forget. This day, as I stand there in the cemetery with my mom – waiting on the answer I seek – is a day of significant change for me.
With tears of sadness, as well as with great joy, Mom says: “Yes, Robert, Grandmother did receive your letter. It was so special to her. She hung onto that letter the last two weeks of her life.” Both of us now crying, I hold tightly to comfort her, and console myself in the process.
Several weeks pass and I have some awareness of the beginning of changes in my life. I have already written a letter to my dad. Other letters will soon follow in the days ahead. Some of them are already imagined; others will find their way into my life and I will be willing to write them.
Today and every day, I commit to the silent vows that will forever be part of my life. I am now a letter writer. I will tell the important people in my life all about their influence on me. I will not wait until it is convenient or when I have the time. I will not wait until it is too late.
Reluctant at times to express what is in my heart, I will persevere in my effort. The words expressed in these letters will include phrases like ‘I love you,’ and ‘I believe in you.’ I will repeat them often. I will say it in writing. At times, I will even find the courage to say it verbally. Today, I will change my life.
Those promises have not been easy, but I have been faithful to deliver them time and again. Looking back, I also recognize opportunities I missed, but remain thankful and hopeful. For all the times I have been inspired to say what is in my heart to the important people who surround me, I am eternally grateful – grateful for the long-ago letter to my grandmother – grateful to Roger for encouraging me to write that first letter that set me on this path and grateful for all the changes this path has made in my life.
My parents did not see the dedication I wrote in tribute to them in my first book. But countless times they did witness it in the words I wrote and spoke to them. I was devoted to them in so many other ways, long before that book was published.
If you were publishing your first book today, to whom would you pay tribute in the Dedication? If you are not publishing this book, would this be a good time to pen that dedication in a letter? Will you write it today?
How much time do you have to write what is in your heart? How much time remains for an important letter; your dedication to someone who impacts your life? I had only a mere two weeks, unknown to me at the time. I did not know what I was doing as I sat down and wrote that letter.
As you write, what words will you choose?
Dear . . .
“Do you know how much you have influenced my life?”
“I will always remember the time when you . . .”
“I love . . . “
If you are thinking about a person, then you recognize the seed that is already in your heart. I hope you will write it today.
You can find the complete story of The Letter in Rob’s first book, There are No Small Moments.
Note from Rob: If you write a letter, today or in the future, I would love to hear about your experience. Roger Hall was the person who encouraged me to write that first letter. All my letters were rooted in that first one. I hope one day I will find him or his family so I can share this story.