Photo of Answer to Life's Puzzle

Answer to Life’s Puzzle
    from Dianne...

While making last minute preparations for our annual family gathering at our home on Mother’s Day, I had the thought that I’d like to make each family member feel special by putting each of their names on a place card on their plates. One of my nephews was recently engaged, so this year I had decided to seat the gentlemen at one table and the ladies at the other table, hoping that we ladies could spend more time getting to know my nephew’s fiancée.

I am fortunate to be a part of a close-knit family, but for this Mother’s Day I was shown a way to place a “hidden message” within these place cards that would bind us even more closer together through a special experience. Since time was running out, the beauty of this idea is that it would take just a few minutes to prepare. I could quickly hand tear a piece of paper that contained the “hidden message” into little puzzle pieces, hand letter the names of each family member on each puzzle piece and place them on the plates where I planned to seat each family member. You might like to use this idea to create a special experience for your next gathering of family or friends.

1. After making a list of the names of our family members who would be attending, I then added the names of our family members who would not be attending because of the great distance between us. I also added the names of our family members who have passed on like our Dad, our grandparents, and our young nephew who recently passed as well as our tiny brother who died at birth. The number of names on my list totaled (26), but if I had more time to think about it, I would have added the names of my husband’s relatives as well.

2. I then grabbed a sheet of paper, picked up a black marker and covered a large area of the page with the “hidden message” using large letters. When you see the photo of my finished puzzle, please keep in mind that I was in a hurry. But the beauty of this idea is that instead of stressing out over how this all would eventually “look” when completed, I was more interested in conveying the special “hidden message.”

3. My biggest challenge was figuring out how to tear the paper so that I would have the correct number of puzzle pieces I needed. (Math was not my favorite school subject.) I figured I would need to first roughly tear the sheet of paper into (4) sort of large equal pieces of paper. I then figured that if I tore (2) of those large pieces into (6) smaller pieces and the other (2) larger pieces into (7) smaller pieces, I would have the (26) pieces needed for reassembling like a jig saw puzzle.

4. I then had the idea to mix up the order of my puzzle pieces, but was careful to make sure that all the pieces would remain face up with the “hidden message.” I then took a gold marker and hand lettered the first puzzle piece I grabbed with the first name on my family list I'd created earlier. I grabbed the second puzzle piece and hand lettered the second name, and so on, and so on, until all the puzzle pieces were lettered in no particular order (that I was consciously aware of).

5. I separated out the (13) puzzle pieces I was going to use as place cards for those family members attending, and placed them on their plate. I then put aside the remaining (13) puzzle pieces with the names of members who were not attending. My family was not aware that after our dinner, I planned to combine the (13) puzzle pieces used as their place cards with the extra (13) puzzle pieces I put aside with the names of those family members not attending so that we would put together one large puzzle containing all our family's (26) puzzle pieces.

During the meal, someone commented on the unusual place cards I’d made. I spoke up so that they all could hear me say that these place cards were actually part of a puzzle that contains a “hidden message,” and that we would put it all together later. After the meal I slipped out of the room to retrieve the (13) puzzle pieces I'd put aside earlier with the names of those not attending, and combined them with the (13) puzzle pieces I picked up off the tables, and reminded them that it was time to assemble the puzzle. They decided that our youngest family member should have the fun of putting the puzzle together. But after only a few minutes, the 9-year old was stumped and it wasn’t long before almost all of our family members were hovering over the puzzle trying to fit the pieces together. Finally after three-fourths of the puzzle had been completed, our nephew’s fiancée discovered what the “hidden message” was and shared it with the others. After that, the remaining pieces fell into place. After the puzzle was completed, we saw that the puzzle pieces that contained the names of the children in our family that had passed were touching each other in one corner of the puzzle. And it was very interesting to see that our deceased Dad’s puzzle piece is there touching one side of Mom’s puzzle piece, and now our ‘step’ Dad’s puzzle piece is touching the other side of Mom’s puzzle piece. To see the photo of our family’s completed puzzle, go to:

I hope this will inspire you to be creative and create your own special message for your next gathering such as Father's Day, or use the message I was given that appears in our family's completed puzzle shown in the photo above: "We are ONE Life!"

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