Charlie was tired of reading his mother’s dull letters every single day and began ignoring them. Six months later, he decides to finally go through them when he finds something that devastates him to the core.
“Finally, some rest!” Charlie was cozy on his brand-new couch in his sprawling new villa, watching the curtains billow gently in the warm afternoon breeze.
He still had a lot of work to do–but his big career move to Boston’s swankiest neighborhood was feeling great already.
The other houses in the lane looked expensive – there was a lush carpet of green as far as his eyes could see – and there was peaceful silence all around, except for a luxury car or two smoothly zipping by every few minutes.
Just when Charlie had finally drifted to sleep, the doorbell rang and startled him awake. It was the postman. “Not again,” Charlie grumbled as he threw himself back on the couch, frowning as he opened the seventh letter he had received in the last seven days.
How are you, my son?
Have you been receiving these letters? It’s just that I haven’t heard from you…
I just miss you, that’s all. I dreamt of you – again.
What’s the weather like today? Did it rain there last night? It was raining cats and dogs here. That stray cat came by again, and I gave her some warm milk.
Are you eating well, son? Yesterday, I made your favorite, chicken parmesan. I tried adding an extra zing this time, you know. Instead of adding grated cheese, I…
Charlie was dozing off at the tedium of the letter.
“Why does she have to write to me every…single…day!” Charlie thought and rolled his eyes. “I mean, I get it; she’s bored and misses me. But I don’t have the time to read the same old things about the weather and the cat and the recipes every day.”
Charlie hadn’t responded to any of the letters he had received in the week since he had moved away from his mother’s town.
“There would have been so much she wanted to write! She would have had so much more left to say!”
He preferred to call her or, even better, text her. “Now that’s an efficient method of communication!” the young and successful corporate lawyer believed.
But the truth is, he had forgotten to call or text his mother, too.
Charlie flipped through the three-page-long letter written in his mom’s tiny careful handwriting and yawned. “That’s it,” he said, slapping the pages onto the table and going back to his nap. “I’m done reading these long ramblings. The last thing I need is to go through more paperwork!”
From the next day onwards, Charlie asked the postman not to ring the bell when he brought his mother’s letter. The guy would just slide it under the door and leave.
Days turned into weeks and weeks into seasons. It had now been six months in Charlie’s new career chapter, and it was going fantastically well. His beautiful home became a place for workmates to hang out, brainstorm over cases through the night, celebrate wins with extravagant parties, and occasionally spend the evening with a particularly beautiful paralegal from his office.
“What’s that?” she asked on one such evening, as Charlie was clearing out some old paperwork. She was pointing at a box by the door overflowing with envelopes.
“Those…” Charlie was surprised by how he had forgotten about them, “…are letters from my mother. She used to send me one every single day when I first moved here.”
“And I mean every single day, rain or shine, the postman would deliver an envelope from her. My mailbox had been overflowing, and I had to box these up from time to time. Can you imagine?” Charlie tried to smile.
“Aww, that is so adorable! She sounds like an amazing woman!” the young woman said, touching Charlie’s cheek.
“Yeah…” Charlie said, swiping a layer of dust off the pile of letters, feeling a twinge of guilt in his heart. “Yeah, she’s pretty incredible!”
Charlie had gotten so busy with his life that he had forgotten about the letters his mother kept sending him. He had tried calling her once or twice months ago, but he knew she wouldn’t pick up.”Those teeny tiny buttons ain’t going to work with these shaky hands,” she had said when Charlie tried to teach her how to use a messaging app.
It was disturbing enough to Charlie that he had forgotten to respond to his mother. But in the next moment, he realized something much more troubling.
“When was the last time I got one of her letters?” Charlie tried to think. It had been months, and he was about to discover the heartbreaking reason why.
His date had left, and Charlie should have been preparing for the big client meeting set for the following day. But that night, he couldn’t take his eyes off the box of letters.
“Why haven’t you written to me in a while, Mom?” he questioned the image of her in his mind as he sat down and opened letter after letter.
“…son, I miss you terribly. But I’m so proud of you…”
“How’s the weather there…”
“Happy birthday, Charlie dear! I miss you. Can’t believe how big and successful you’ve grown. I still remember carrying you in my tummy, working two jobs…”
“…this one time, your father and I went to the movies, and I fell in love with the main character, Charlie. That’s how your name came to be! And now look at you, way more handsome than the actor…”
Charlie chuckled and wished he had read these letters earlier. They had so many amusing little stories from his childhood. But as he went through the more recent letters, they were about to get more serious.
“…Charlie, the doctors are saying it doesn’t look good. They want me to go through some therapy, but I’m not so sure…what do you think, son?”
“…the treatment didn’t work. I’ve been lying alone in this hospital, and the pain is just unbearable…”
“…I’ve had plenty of time to think on this hospital bed, and I want you to know that I miss you, but I love you more. It’s not your fault you aren’t here. It’s not your fault that you weren’t here for my birthday yesterday. None of this is on you, my child. You hear me? You are a hard-working, gentle, smart, and kind young man. That’s how I’ve raised you.
“Don’t let anyone or anything make you feel otherwise. I think this is going to be my last letter to you, Charlie. I’ll have hugged and kissed it a million times by the time it reaches you. I love you, my baby. I’m tired. I think I’ll rest now…”
Charlie’s heart beat painfully in his chest, and he felt like he was running out of air. There was one final letter left to read. And Charlie’s hands were trembling, knowing it couldn’t be good because it was from a lawyer.
“…passed away in the ICU yesterday at 7:32 p.m……funeral will be held tomorrow morning…”
It felt like all the air had been snatched out of Charlie’s lungs. Like all life around him was dead. It felt like the world had conspired against him to teach him a harsh lesson.
Because not only was his doting mother dead, the funeral was over, too. It had been an entire month since Charlie’s sweet, funny, and lonely mom had been laid to rest.
Unable to think of what to do next, Charlie jumped onto the next flight to his hometown, where she had lived and died.
When he arrived in the front yard of his childhood home, Charlie saw it covered in twigs and dried leaves. There was no one inside the house save for a mysterious-looking bird that had made a nest in the kitchen sink and a cat perched on the old rocking chair Charlie’s mother used to love.
As he walked with heavy footsteps into each room and saw how time had stood still, Charlie’s tears refused to stop. If only he had made the effort to write back to her–even once–she would have had something to hold onto.
Instead, the mother who cared ever so deeply about him died alone, not knowing how much his son loved her and wanted the world for her. And Charlie had continued to live life, unaware of having lost the only family he had left.
When he saw his mother’s old desk, there was an uncapped pen, an empty envelope, and a blank sheet of paper. “There would have been so much she wanted to write! She would have had so much more left to say!” Charlie thought and allowed himself to cry.
A few minutes later, he noticed a business card on the table. It belonged to the same lawyer whose letter he had received about the funeral!
He drove down to the lawyer’s office, and the kind man agreed to take the bereaved son to his mother’s grave.
The epitaph read “Our beloved Marianne. Fierce Believer. Devoted Educator. Proud Mother.”
Even on the spot where she was resting forever, Marianne was remembered for her love for Charlie.
“I–I don’t know what to say, Mom. I’m so sorry! I’ve let you go. I’ve lost you. All those letters…thank you for them. I will cherish them forever. I could’ve had all of your love, your warmth, but all I have left to cling to is that stack of letters that you so lovingly wrote.”
“I can’t hold you anymore, but I can write to you and read to you, hoping you will hear me somehow…”
“I love you, Mom. I’ll come back and see you soon.”
He kissed the sun-warmed gravestone with tears in his eyes and returned there every day until he could breathe without crying again.
Charlie moved back to his mother’s old house, brought it back to life, and re-read his mother’s letters almost every night. He read the same old stories about the weather, the cat, the neighbors, the golden and dark years of their lives–those words soothed his aching heart, and he never got tired of them.
Over the years, Charlie wrote a lot of letters to his mother and read them aloud at her grave. But till the day he died, not writing back to his mother all those years ago remained his greatest regret.
What can we learn from this story?
- A mother’s love is precious–don’t neglect it. Charlie ignored his mother’s letters for months and ended up regretting that when he didn’t even get to say goodbye to her before her death.
- Call the people who were always there for you–let them know you’re there for them, too. Had Charlie not ignored his mother’s letters, he could’ve expressed how much she meant to her, and she wouldn’t have died alone.