We take time for granted. We’ll have plenty of time to tell people what they mean to us, right? Then suddenly, just like that, it’s too late. Make time to tell them anyway.

When mom stopped walking, we all began bracing ourselves for the end. My child who lives too far away to pop in for visits made a special trip so she could tell mom how much she meant to her before it was to late to tell her.

“But, wasn’t it already too late?” you might ask. Mom wasn’t speaking except for the occasional random, disjointed word. Too late or not, Soraya flew down to tell her anyway. This is what we know from the experience: When Soraya wheeled mom outside for some privacy and fresh February air, mom responded with her eyes, with her fidgeting. We didn’t feel like it was too late.

So you think it’s already too late? Tell them anyway. Maybe it will seep through the broken hippocampus. If it doesn’t, your words and love will fill the space between you, connect you.

I’m sharing two things with this post, Post 41 Eulogize the Living, and also, with her permission, my daughter’s letter to mom. This is the letter she read to her in February, this is the letter she read for us at mom’s memorial service in June.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2023.

Soraya’s letter to Mama Nick

Hey girl, I miss you. And I just wanted to hold your hand and tell you something. Did you know that, even though we live far apart, you are with me every day?

When I snap peas, when I shuck corn, when I bake a batch of cookies, when I put on my tennis shoes, when I pull weeds in my farm, when I take a sharp turn in my truck, or when I ride my bike. You taught me how to do all of those things and so much more. You have been my softball coach, my basketball coach, my swim coach, my trampoline coach, my riding coach, my driving coach, my badminton coach, my jump-rope coach, and my cartwheel coach. Any sport we played or activity we found ourselves in, you could be the guide because you can coach anything. It is your gift, and I cherish it; it made me who I am.

You are the one of the best teachers I’ve ever known.

I have always felt so lucky to have you by my side. You have given me moments of peace. In front of your windowsill doing the dishes together. Harvesting treasures from your garden. Talking walks around your ponds. Baking cookies or just holding hands on the couch together while we both quietly listen to the conversations around us. Just happy to be in each other’s embrace.

You have also given me moments of absolute joy and fun: backflip lessons, sideline cheers at any sporting event you could be at, endless vanilla malts, beach ball volleyball, cheering on me and Audrey’s synchronized swimming routines, schooling all of us in basketball. And the list goes on. You have shown me what it means to be truly nurtured and supported.

Even when you can’t understand what my dreams are, you are just so happy to see me chase them, to find my purpose, to grow into myself. I know you always said you aren’t creative but you have always been a nurturer of creativity, a teacher, and true anchor for those you love.  Hearing “alright girl!” or “I’m so proud of you girl!”—words of encouragement you give so generously and lovingly—has always been a life-force for me.

I just hope you know how proud you make me, too, and how amazing I think you are. I love you so much, girl. 

Eulogizing a grandmother

Eulogize the Living

In 2018, I wrote my first “preulogy,” a eulogy for a living friend. Why? Because why wouldn’t we tell our people how we feel about them now? Why not eulogize the living?


I wrote five preulogies. I’m remembering these today because my younger daughter flew in from Chicago for a couple of days to see mom.

“I thought I said goodbye in December, but I need to come back.”

My daughter brought the eulogy she wrote for mom with her.

“I want to read it to her.”

I know some of you might recoil “Ew!” but my heart swells with “Yes! This is what we do!”

Our discomfort with the notion of reading someone’s eulogy to them before they die is part of our uneasiness around death and dying.

Let’s dispel some of that disquiet.

Eulogize Now

Eulogies are filled with fond memories, funny anecdotes, joyful shared moments, and many this-is-why-you’re-special stories that we don’t always offer the eulogized before they die. Why not let them know while they’re alive? And look it up. You can use how-to-write-a-eulogy instructions for composing a note to a friend to share your heart now!

The notion that a eulogy is a lot and a little too late is the reason I wrote preulogies for my friends. I wanted them to know now.

My daughter made me proud when she told me she wants to share her thoughts with mom now, not just after she’s gone. I’m thankful that my mom will witness those words and that maybe she’ll understand how much she means to us.

Shine a Light on the Light

Although I’m glad I did it, writing preulogies is daunting. It requires entering that dark place of losing someone you love, of sifting through your shared history as if it were lost in order to find the golden nuggets, to retrieve the light they brought to your life.

You don’t have to write a eulogy to the living to let your family and friends know what they mean to you. Consider writing a letter or a card. Send it the old fashioned way, because what a thrill to find “real” mail in the bundle of junk and bills.

In 2020 I began a #spreadlight postcard campaign. Person-by-person, I’m sending a postcard to inner and out circles, letting them know what they mean to me. Some cards never arrive, some arrive damaged, but I trust the Divine to deliver the ones that are needed now. My goal is to circle back through my list so that eventually everyone I can reach will receive a short message thanking them for the light they bring to my life.

Spread the Light

What’s special about each person in your life? Write it down. Share it. Spread that love and light.

It’s beautiful to share the loving thoughts and memories at a memorial service, but don’t save them all for that day. Take opportunities now to share them now.

I’m grateful my daughter thought to fly home one more time for this, to tell mom why she’s special, to remind her of the light she brings to our lives, a light that will shine for years to come.

I plan to do the same.

Mom’s not gone. Her light is dimming but it’s not out. She knows she’s dying. We know it. But we still have time to tell her what she means to us. Like my postcards, not every message will reach its destination. Some thoughts might not penetrate her aids and drums, some might be crushed or damaged by the Alzheimer’s bull during delivery. So what if delivery is not guaranteed? Spreading light to those who bring it is worth the effort.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2022