Secondary Breast Cancer

Creating Memory Boxes, Writing Letters and Other Ideas

by dk

After putting this off for a long time as I thought it would upset me too much, I have enjoyed putting these together.
I have always liked writing and creating things so I suppose for me this was just an extension to what I already do.

I have written more detailed letters to my children, husband, sister and her husband and children and general thank you letters to people who have helped us so much during my illness.

I got the social worker and the MacMillan/Hospice nurses to read my letters to ensure I hadn’t written anything that could be taken the wrong way or could be taken as a personal insult.

Letters to the Children
In the letters to my children, I have described what it was like being pregnant with them and about what they were like as small babies and things that probably only I would know about their early lives.

I have written about favourite memories I have of them and what has made me proud or laugh.

I wrote about how sad I was that I would never see them grow up and that they were never to blame themselves for my illness or my death.

I have also written a little about my own beliefs and made it clear that it was my belief and that they may have different views and that was perfectly Ok. For me, this meant writing about my belief about the importance of having confidence and self belief in their own abilities and that I don’t see the point of living with regret, cynicism and bitterness about experiences but to learn and to move on.

For the future, I wished them happiness and that it didn’t matter what job, career etc they had as long as they were happy. I wrote about them looking after each other or taking care of each other and sticking together as a family and that there would be times when they would fall out.

I was careful not to state what I expected of them eg to get married, go to university and things that may or may not be possible in their lives.

I was also careful not to criticise anything they may have done in the past.

Letter to My Husband
I wrote about how we met and my feelings then and wrote about the ups and downs in our lives together and my sadness that we would not be able to complete our plans for the future.
I wrote about special holidays, events and how he made me feel and what I loved about him.

Other Family Letters
I wrote about my love for them and how sad I was about not being able to do things in the future. (I’d always assumed I’d outlive my husband and would go on holiday with my sister like my Gran did with hers.)

Again, I wrote about special events and memories and what I liked about them and how they made me feel and thanking them for all their help.

Letters to Friends
I’ve had so much help from people who have done housework, cooked us dinners or looked after the children at the last moment so have written thank you letters to them saying how much we appreciated their help.

For some of my friends, I have bought little gifts of friendship.

Life Story
I didn’t meet my husband until I was 30 so had lived quite a different life to him up to that point. I started off with my memories as a child and wrote about things I did or what I suppose is ‘social history’ up to the point I married.

By the ’social history’ I mean writing about coal fires, queuing for telephone boxes, hand me down clothes, not owning a car and using public transport, the sort of holidays/days out we had and school life.

I wrote about the toys we had and the games my sister and I used to play and our family life and traditions, family sayings.
I have also put together a photo album of my life with a limited commentary as most of this is in the Life Story part but some of the photos need commenting on as you could see the old ’wireless’, the lino and mismatching wallpaper and curtains due to money problems. Also, I wrote about my clothes and the fashions and the hairstyles. I still want to know how my mum climbed to the top of the South Downs wearing a pair of stilettos and carrying a shopping bag with the picnic in and why my sister and I were in our best Sunday dresses on that day!!!

Putting the photo album together was more fun than I thought it would be as it brought back so many memories and I could still ‘feel’ my velvet party dress and polyester yellow top with a tartan bib - always was a fashion victim. I could remember what I was thinking when I had a school photo done at 4 and my insistence that I wore this particular set of plastic beads even though they were the wrong colour to go with my dress but it was in black and white!! It was sad but also made me laugh at times.

Fortunately, my father used slides rather than photos and I had these transferred onto a CD Rom. When I had these printed from the CD, the clarity was excellent and much better than the old photos that I had reprinted.

Memory Box for all the Family
I have made one box up which has things in like my O and A Level certificates and my nursing badges. Things that really I only have 1 of. I have put my old school reports in and Guide Certificates etc.

I have bought files that I have put special cards in from me to them or from them to me. At one point, my hubby and I lived apart for 6 months as we couldn’t sell the house so I was stuck in Kent and he was in Hampshire and he would come back at weekends. We wrote a lot of letters to each other then so I have put those in his box plus anniversary cards and birthday cards. I have put the children’s school and scouting achievement certificates in as well.

Individual Memory Boxes
I bought boxes from John Lewis and other shops at a fraction of the price of Winston’s Wish as then I could get a box which matched their interests or was in their favourite colour.

I did buy the leaflet from Winston’s Wish about memory boxes but was disappointed about it so just did my own thing.
I took photos of special ornaments and jewellery and stuck them on cards and explained why they were special to me such as my charm bracelet and certain ornaments.

I used the Winston’s Wish little cards to focus my thoughts though. They say things like -
‘My proudest moment of you was……..’
‘You make me happy when…….’

I have put in some shells and pebbles as I have always collected them and it brings back memories of us on the beach.

I have put in a bottle of my current perfume so they can always have that to smell if they want to.

I still had their favourite baby toy and outfit and so have put that in as well.

I kept tickets from when we went to Eurodisney, Legoland, Goodwood and theatre tickets so they went in to the box too.

Photographs - ScrapBook
I started a long time ago making photo scrap books and have continued with them. It is a long term project as always taking photos. The only problem is there are no dates or comments in them but they should marry up with my life story.