A Final Birthday Card

Around New Year’s 2015, my grandfather had been hospitalized and was in quite severe pain. I visited him in the hospital during the holidays but had left the city by the time his birthday came around a couple weeks later on January 17th. I just came across the following letter that I wrote to him, which ended up being my last birthday card to him. When I had visited him at the beginning of the month, he told me that the pain was so bad that he wished he could die. This was obviously difficult to hear and so, in writing to him, I felt greatly responsible to give him some encouragement.

Here is what I wrote:

Dear Zaida,

Happy 96th birthday to you! How amazing!

I have been thinking about you and praying for you a lot during your time in the hospital. Even if my prayers don’t seem that effective because you are suffering quite a lot of pain, I hope you will be filled with the peace of knowing that I care very much for you and that you are well loved by all of us.

It’s so wonderful that you moved to Calgary, that I have gotten to know you much better over the years, and that you have had the opportunity to watch me grow and to help encourage me to be diligent in my studies, committed to my work, and eager to travel the world!

You give me a good example. I learn from you. We share our lives and learn from one another through the beautiful interplay between generations and by how we live as a family.

Through the affection that my parents show toward you and that you have toward them, I have a very good model of honour and devotion and it inspires me; so, take courage in your hardships. Be assured that you are not alone and let the knowledge of our love be a constant source of comfort.

I cherish every memory with you. Each event has been, in some way, formative; you (and Bubbie, too) have played an important role in the person I have become and am becoming still.

I hope you dwell on your memories of our beautiful Christmas together and on so many meals and conversations. Life is such a profound gift. May the good experiences outweigh and outshine the moments of suffering.

You are in my heart. I carry you with me. Keep up your hopes for my future.

Sending you all my love and, by the power of words – a form of presence even in my physical absence – I wish you a very, very Happy Birthday.


Your granddaughter,


He was greatly cheered up by my letter and by the birthday greetings he received from others. The pain was managed, his health improved to some extent, and he lived for a few more months – long enough for us to enjoy one final visit in April of that year.

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