Barbara’s Unopened Email

To live in hearts we leave behind

Is not to die.

~Thomas Campbell, “Hallowed Ground”


Sometimes I really hate emails. I hate that you have to remember to delete them right away or else they’ll sit forever in your inbox and take up valuable space. As I’m writing this, I have 511 emails in my “primary” mail, but overall I have over 10,000. I always forget to delete emails as I open them, so, months, even years later, I have to go down the long list and delete them.


Today, I was trying to clean out my inbox and stumbled upon a special email. It was an unopened email, from my would-be mother in-law right before she passed away. She sent it almost a year ago and I finally opened it. I wondered to myself, ‘why hadn’t I opened it before?’ I figured that I was too busy. Looking back, I probably wasn’t busy at all, but maybe I wanted to do it in private and give it the attention it deserved at a later time. This woman was very dear to me, and I didn’t want anyone at work or around me to bother me while I enjoyed something she sent me.


Before she relapsed, she would occasionally send me emails. Inside would be links to articles about Judaism or photos from her trips. Luckily, they were usually short and sweet. But sometimes she would send me long ones, and I would cringe because I didn’t have time to read them. I never really appreciated the significance of it all; she was thinking of me and took time out of her day to share it with me. Now, I wish I had.


My boyfriend, his family and I will be honoring the one-year anniversary of  her death in a few months. It’s hard to believe that it will be a full year that she’s been gone. Maybe I saw the sender of the unopened email and purposefully decided not to read it because at the time, it would have been too painful? Maybe I was afraid that I would get emotional in front of people while reading the email?


I just went back to look at the message. I decided I’m going to mark it as unopened, so that it will stand out when I try to empty my emails next time. I don’t want to throw it away. It will be like the birthday card that she sent me last year, sitting in a special place, waiting for me to read when I need a happy thought. I’ll treasure it, like I do with everything else she’s given me.


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