In September 1999, my mom was diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer.

Needless to say, the next few months were a blur of just trying to

accept what was happening and getting through the day for all of us family members.

When December came I was really struggling for an idea of what to get my parents for Christmas. I wanted to get them something really special, but my funds were pretty tight and my parents have never been into material things anyway.

For some reason, I remembered that I had read about a "Memory Jar". It's just a jar or box that you fill with slips of paper that you write on with memories of growing up. I was amazed at how many memories came flooding back to me once I sat down to think about it. I had to write them down as soon as I thought of them or I would forget them, so I had notes at home, in the car, at work, they were all over!

About a week before Christmas I sat down and wrote them on nice

stationery and put them in the jar.

I'll tell you -- it was quite an experience.

What amazed me was that most of the memories weren't of "big things", they were of small things, like mom making us tea, toast and jello water when we were sick as kids, or me always having toast with peanut butter whenever we had tomato soap for lunch. Of course there were big things too, like when I got married, or how my parents looked when they held my babies for the first time. It was really emotional for me to write all these down, but once I did it, I felt wonderful!

Then I started to get nervous about how my parents would take this

gift. My family is close, but we're not overly sentimental or affectionate. So on Christmas morning I wrote a letter to go with the jar explaining what it was and that they could read a few memories a day, or all of them, but they had to wait until they were alone.

I waited until everyone had left their house on Christmas and then I went over to see what they thought. They told me that they had decided that they were only going to read a few that night and then they were going to read a few every day until the jar was empty (there were about 100 in there).

Well, they got started and couldn't stop! They ended up reading all of them that night!

They both told me that it was one of the best presents that they had ever received and it showed them that they did a good job at being parents and it really is the little things in life that count!

I would recommend everyone doing this for the people they love. I now know that no matter what happens with my mom's illness, she knows how much I love her and my father and what a great impact they have had on my life!

It must have had an impact on them too because the Memory Jar now has a prominent place right on their kitchen counter so everyone sees it when they come in.

-- Karen Retzlaff <>


Karen lives in Indiana with her high school sweetheart and two daughters,ages 5 and 7. She says, "My mom is currently doing very well and we're just happy for each day that we get."

Meanwhile if you ever want to send us  mail12.gif (343 bytes) mail, our address is patsypat at

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Thank you Lord for our parents and our loved ones.  Help us always to show our appreciation for all the things they do for us, for their love and support, their sacrifices and prayers.  They are your hands and feet and heart here on earth, Lord.  We see your face because we experience your love through them!

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