Maybe, just maybe, she’s doing something right, Qiana Thomas-Armstead thought when she saw a Christmas letter that her 7-year-old daughter wrote to a terminally ill little girl.
“It brought tears to my eyes,” Thomas-Armstead said. “It got me over a tough period I was going through.”
Sometimes, it takes our youngest celebrants and their innocence to show us the way during this season of joy. Children tend to understand that this can be a happy time even in the midst of sadness. This letter also gave hope to a mom and a little girl.
Here’s the first line of Raeghan Armstead’s letter to Addie, a girl she doesn’t know but whom she was told has an illness that will soon take her life. I’ll quote it here, youthful misspellings and all:
“Dear Addie. I am so sorry that you have to go in a few months, but you are a strong little girl and I believe that you will live long enough for everybody to remember you every second of our lives.”
I happened to see the letter while sightseeing on Facebook. It caught my eye because Thomas-Armstead is a friend, church member and a soloist in one of our church choirs. And sometimes her daughter, Raeghan, is in a pew near me. In fact, Raeghan sometimes makes her way to several pews during 90 minutes on a Sunday.
Raeghan sometimes looks over the pew to stare at me — sometimes smiling, sometimes just staring. I pretend not to notice, but she knows I do.
So, to see this smartly written letter on Facebook by someone I knew forced me to stop and say, “Wow.”
The letter, her mom said, originated in Raeghan’s gifted and talented class at Polk Elementary School. The teacher, Shakia Davis, told the students about little Addie’s plight.
“The teacher told the students that the girl would like for them to write her letters to lift her spirits,” Thomas-Armstead said.
“I used this time as a teaching moment with Raeghan to help her understand death and to understand what Addie is going through,” she said. “I know she understands what is happening.”
Another line in Raeghan’s letter reads, in part, “I hope you have a Merry Christmas in two weeks. And I hope that Santa gives you at least three or four (presents) to remember all the fun you had. …”
Thomas-Armstead said reading her daughter’s words gave her an emotional uplifting. With her job that takes her around the country setting up nursing-medical centers in prisons, she has had to be away from both of her daughters.
“I’m a single mother, and it’s tough because I have to be gone a lot with my job,” she said. “You’re doing all of this to make things better for them, but you’re also feeling guilty that you are not able to do everything with them.”
She said she appreciates “the team” that helps her with her daughters “but you still feel bad about the time you’re not there with them.”
Thomas-Armstead said her daughter’s teacher will occasionally text or email her information about what her daughter is doing in class, “and it really helps when I can’t be there.”
When she texted the letter to her, Thomas-Armstead said, she was pleasantly surprised. “I looked at it, and I was thinking that maybe I am doing a good job raising her and my other daughter,” she said.
Seeing the letter came at good time for her. “Honestly, I was focused on a lot of other stuff. … I was in my own emotional situation,” she said. “Reading the letter about this little girl and what Raeghan wrote got me through all of that.”
“Reading over the letter put a whole lot of stuff into perspective,” she said. “It really helped me. You know, I don’t have it that bad.”
The last part of Raeghan’s letter to Addie says, “And again have an Holly Jolly Christmas. And, don’t forget that you have friends and family that will remember and love you.
Edward Pratt, a former Advocate editor, is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is email@example.com.