As my sister hugged me goodbye, she told me she had left a present for me on a shelf in my closet. My family was flying home after my husband’s memorial service—I was 36, alone with two little kids, and destroyed.
She was about to be 9 hours away from me, and she wanted to leave something physically behind. My instructions were to open the gift when I was having a “rainy day,” one that I didn’t think I could get through. She told me that what was inside would help, and that each time I opened a gift she would mail me another rainy day box. She still does to this day. It turned out to be the most powerful gift I was given. Here’s why:
My days felt surreal. The pain was intense, the reality was unbearable. I was staring at a life I didn’t want. I had to move forward even when I felt like I couldn’t, which was essentially daily. I was helped along so much by so many people who sent meals, flowers, and cards. Every single gesture was meaningful and important. But those gifts showed up on that person’s timeline, mostly in the early days after my husband’s death. Their arrival reflected when that friend was thinking of me, a day they thought might be hard. They meant so much. But there were days and days and days that were hard when no one was right there reaching out. What was incredible about my sister’s gift is that it was available to me not when she thought I needed something, but when I felt I needed something.
Those times were so dark. Opening her gift, and reading the encouraging note that came with it, truly let the light in. I quickly learned I had a huge source of relief and love and concern available to me without even having to ask for it (this was huge—I wasn’t very good at asking for help). At the very moment I needed it—often while broken down on the floor of my closet—I could open a box. It was a sustaining breath, a way of feeling seen and cared for. Each time I heard my sister saying, “You got this.”
It was so impactful that I started replicating the concept for friends—after divorce, depression, death, a NICU baby—by making “rainy day boxes” that contained a handful of gifts, each paired with a note related to the gift and intended to make her feel loved and encouraged. I saw how powerful it was for them, and I felt how powerful it was to be able to magically show up on their worst days. And I—with the help of my amazing sisters—wanted to extend that power to you.
Kate and Jess