letter #022 | dear younger me: give people their flowers (while they're still here). | happy birthday to my favorite Gpa. ❤️

give people their flowers (while they're still here). | happy birthday to my favorite Gpa. ❤️

Letter #022

October 21, 2023

dear younger me,

In my high school Spanish class, my teacher had us read the works of renowned Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez. When Mr. Márquez was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer, he wrote a farewell letter to his friends. For the last 10 years, I have carried one line from this letter in the back pocket of my mind.

Márquez wrote:

Nadie te recordorá por tus nobles pensamientos secretos.

which translates to:

No one will remember you for your noble secret thoughts.

In the closing line of his letter, Mr. Márquez reminds us to demuestra a tus amigos y seres queridos cuánto te importan, to show our friends and loved ones how much we care about them.

Today’s letter is dedicated to my grandfather James, a man who has given me the whole world just in being who he is.

in today's letter, we'll explore:

  • a celebration of my grandfather, for his 74th birthday
  • this week's ✨ glimmer gallery ✨, also dedicated to my grandfather

My grandfather will be celebrating his 74th birthday this week and if you’ve ever talked with me for even 5 minutes, you’ve heard me speak of the absolute treasure my grandfather is in my life.

Reaching 74 years of life is a milestone not promised to all. And though this birthday doesn’t fall on a so-called “golden year,” I don’t care because every day with my grandfather feels worthy of celebration.

It is such a gift to grow older in good health and love. And another gift entirely to have been raised and loved by someone as absolutely incredible as my grandfather.

So here's to my hero and the man who makes every day feel like a celebration; here's to my grandfather, aka my favorite Gpa. ❤️

to my dearest Gpa,

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that writing this immediately brought tears to my eyes. I take my job as the “family crybaby” seriously, so it’s only right that I start this letter off in some tears. But in all seriousness, there’s probably nothing that makes me emotional faster than trying to capture what you mean to me in words. But as you always say, “Just try.”

In organizing this, I came up with the idea of listing 28 reasons why I love you. I know you’re not turning 28, but that’s about how many years I’ve gotten to know you so far, so I wanted to share one reason to commemorate each year I’ve had the privilege of journeying through this life with you.

1. Thank you for singing and talking to my birth mother’s stomach every day leading up to my birth. The dedication and consistency it takes to get off from a long day of work every day for 9 months straight and go sing the ABCs and count the numbers to someone’s stomach in the hopes that that developing baby could maybe pick up on some things that you yourself had a hard time learning growing up is so commendable to me.

Even though you weren’t sure if I could hear you, I appreciate that you loved me enough before I was even born to start trying to help me. And judging by my being the first newborn to not jump at the sound of your deep voice and how quickly I later picked up my letters and numbers, I have a feeling your talks paid off. Thank you for singing to me.

2. Thank you for being my first teacher. My earliest memories are of us lying on the kitchen floor reciting multiplication times tables together while Nana cooked dinner at the stove for us. I feel like the success I’ve had with my own students is a reflection of the care and foundational focus that you instilled in me from age 3.

3. Thank you for always encouraging me. My second earliest memory would be all the times I’d start crying when I made a mistake and would cry, “I can’t do it!” to which you always calmly responded, “No, you just can’t do it yet. But one day you will.”

4. Thank you for all the times you took me to Winchell’s donut shop growing up. Every time I drive past one now, I can’t help but smile when I think of the “change game” we’d play every time you took me there. How, if I could figure out how much change the cashier owed you before it rang up on the register, I could keep it (if it was under $5). It cracks me up every time you tell me how that little game to teach me mental math subtraction almost drove you bankrupt.

5. Thank you for always writing and calling no matter where I was in the world, just to make sure I was okay and to let me know I was thought of and loved. I think, sometimes, as we go through life and accumulate relationships, we mistakenly think that we need to make these grandiose gestures to show somebody we care about them. We don’t. A simple, “hey, I was just thinking of you” can go a really long way.

6. Thank you for having the patience to teach me how to drive. Even though I failed my driving test twice, I appreciate that you stuck with me until I got it because as you and I both know, I was not a natural. 🤣

7. Thank you for the dedication you’ve had in my business. Nothing will ever replace that. You drove me to every student’s house for over a year (sometimes driving 200+ miles in a day). You’d wait several hours for me to get through teaching each of my kids. You paid for gas, you helped me cover supplies and the different activities I planned for my kids but couldn’t afford on my own at the time. But most of all, you believed I could do it and that I had a place in the world as a successful business owner long before I did. I’ll always love you for that.

8. Thank you for instilling in me the importance of thanking those who’ve helped me and paying homage to those who paved the way before me. Hearing you speak with so much appreciation for the different teachers, mentors, and family members who helped you throughout life has had a profound effect on the way I show up in my own relationships.

9. Thank you for all the times you have invested in me, one of the most significant moments this year being my 27th birthday celebration in March. Booking out a private room at a 5-star restaurant in Beverly Hills to honor 17 incredible people in my life who helped me become who I am today, couldn’t have happened without your support, so thank you. That was the best day of my life so far and it meant so much to have you there. I couldn’t have done it without you.

10. Thank you for the discipline you acquired and all the sacrifices you made at an early age to be able to provide for your family and even support me and my dreams generations later, too.

11. Thank you for all the meals you've shared with me. I could have my “Breakfast of Champions” with you every morning for the rest of my life. (And yes, I would still marvel daily at how good that same ol’ breakfast is every day for the rest of my life.)

12. Thank you for all the times we’ve laughed together. The sound of your laugh calms me and brings joy to my spirit. And after me, you're like the funniest person I know. 🤣

13. Thank you for influencing my stellar music taste. 🤣 No, but really, I love sharing music with you. Going all the way back to when you’d be blasting K-Ci & Jojo’s “All My Life” on the cassette player while you took me to preschool. I love jamming out with you.

14. Thank you for being such an amazing listener. Gpa, I know for a fact that everything I be telling you do not be nowhere near as interesting as you make it seem, but no matter what I’m talking about, you always give me your full and undivided attention and listen to me so intently. I really appreciate that.

15. Thank you for reading and responding to every single one of my newsletters and for believing in my writing and my ability to share with the world wayyy before I did.

16. Thank you for coming to every talk, every big moment, and every ordinary moment, too. It’s hard to express how much it means to know that no matter what, you’ll be there for me, with me, and rooting me on, every time, through everything.

17. Thank you for being with me through all of the hard moments and helping me see that no failure is final if we’ve learned something from it. You’ve seen me through so many iterations of myself and at my lowest, joyfulest, and every version in between. Having your love and support through it all has truly been priceless.

18. Thank you for being the person you needed when you were younger. If I could go back and meet little James, I would give him a big ol’ hug and let him know how special and needed he is in this world. You have the most indomitable spirit of anyone I know. Growing up in the peak of the Jim Crow era, surviving 12 months and 20 days in a war zone at the tender age of 18, and dealing with everything that came from that… Navigating life, entrepreneurship, and fatherhood as a young Black man from the projects when it seemed like the odds were stacked against you... Sometimes, I don’t know how on Earth you made it through everything you have. But I’m so grateful you did and I’m proud of you for doing so.

19. Thank you for never giving up.

20. Thank you for checking in on me every day. We joke that I still call you 10 times a day, but I love our little good morning messages and check-ins each day.

21. Thank you for always having my back. You never let anyone badmouth me, including myself.

22. Thank you for bringing me my favorite Nike sweatpants, books, and In-N-Out when I was in the hospital years ago and for coming by to see me every day I was there.

23. Thank you for always supporting my writing. From my book reports and letters as a kid to my poetry and essays during high school and college to my ‘dear younger me’ letters as an adult, it’s meant so much to have your unwavering support and the comfort of knowing you’re always reading my work and cheering me on.

24. Thank you for supporting me through every iteration of who I become. From my days of staunch veganism to when I practiced Buddhism to now approaching my baptism as a Christian.

25. Thank you for never judging me and always making me feel safe and loved in every version of who I was, am, and become. Thank you for allowing me the freedom to make mistakes and grow into who I am, judgment-free. We all need that.

26. Thank you for being God’s love in human form. If someone were to ask me for evidence of God’s existence or love for me, I would just point to you.

27. Thank you for being who you are to me. As beautiful as it is to grow older together, it is so hard sometimes to come to terms with the fact that one day, you will no longer be with me here in physical form. As we round the corner of your 73rd year, I want you to know that the love I have for you will reach across every lifetime, be understood in every language, and will forever be felt, remembered, and appreciated.

28. Thank you for helping me have a good life. You have changed my life through no singular act or set of actions, but just by being who you are. My favorite Gpa. ❤️ My gift from God. If nothing pleasant ever happened for the rest of my life, I would still say I had a good life because it was one I got to know and be loved by you.

Thank you for everything, everything, everything.

Knowing you is one of the greatest gifts I’ll ever receive.

I love you and I’ll always appreciate you.

✨ the glimmer gallery. ✨

The glimmer gallery is *usually* a weekly collection of moments that made the good times better and the harder times bearable, but this week's glimmers are dedicated to moments with my grandfather.

Thank you for everything, Gpa. ❤️

Nothing will ever replace the love I have for you or who you've been to me.

Happy 74th birthday. 🫂

I love you always, always, always,


Have any thoughts about this letter? Did anything resonate with you?

Just write or text me a reply to let me know. It makes my day to hear from you and I read every message and reply to as many as I can.

Dear Reader,

Do me a favor and tell someone you love how you feel about them this week. We all could use a little more love in our lives and life's a lot shorter than we think.

Hope you have a great week. 💛

See you next Saturday.

With love,

Amahni E. Yarber


PO Box 814, Chino Hills, CA 91709
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