WHEN MY WIFE AND I were young, it was common to receive savings bonds for major events, such as birthdays and religious celebrations. We carried on the tradition with our two sons and we’re planning to do the same for our grandchildren.
With our sons, we bought savings bonds to mark significant childhood milestones. We held on to those paper bonds for many years, and gave them to our sons when they graduated college. They appreciated the significant sum and used the money to help fund the transition from college to the working world.
But one bond they each received was unexpected—and extremely meaningful.
The story begins in summer 2004. My mother, who lived with us, was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma. At first, brain surgery and aggressive chemotherapy seemed to cure her. But weeks after her last chemo treatment, the cancer came back and ravaged her brain. By December, it was clear there were no treatment options, and she chose to go on hospice care at our home.
My mom was especially sad about losing the opportunity to see her nine grandchildren grow up. They spanned a wide range of ages, and she had a special relationship with each of them. At the time, our oldest son was a senior in college, and she lamented that she wouldn’t see him graduate.
That reminded my wife and me of something my wife’s grandmother had done. She bought savings bonds for her great-grandchildren to commemorate religious milestones that would come later in their life. My mother-in-law held on to the bonds that her mother had bought, and then gave them with a card to each great-grandchild as the milestones occurred, which was often long after their great-grandmother had died. It was a nice way to connect them with a beloved family member.
We asked my mom if she’d like to do something similar, and possibly write a card to each of her nine grandchildren. She thought that was a great idea, so I went to the bank and purchased nine $100 savings bonds. That was the easy part.
Meanwhile, my wife bought a variety of cards she thought each grandchild would like. Then, with the help of several boxes of tissues, she sat with my mom so she could add a message to each card. Writing was well beyond my mom at that point, so she dictated a personal message for each grandchild, while my wife wrote the cards. It was an incredibly emotional but very special time that they shared. My mother passed away a few weeks later.
At our son’s graduation in May 2005, after the ceremony and the celebratory lunch, we pulled him aside and gave him the card. He was surprised and moved to receive the card and the savings bond. We asked him to keep it to himself, so that his brother and cousins could later experience the surprise themselves.
Two years later, we were able to repeat the event with our youngest son. He also was touched. Over the years, this was repeated with my mom’s remaining grandchildren at events such as college and high school graduations.
At the end, my mom had few financial resources. I think she was glad she could pass along a modest but tangible gift to her beloved grandchildren—along with a timeless message of her love.