Friday, September 16, 2005

Old Letters

I read a really sweet news story yesterday about a soldier’s final letter. It seems that some fellow in Kansas bought an old stack of newspapers from 1915 at a yard sale. Tucked inside one of the newspapers was an unopened letter with a military postmarking dated March 1944.

The man felt a strong pull to find its rightful addressee and thus placed an ad and picture of the letter in the paper, hoping to find remaining members of the family or someone who knew their whereabouts.

Word of mouth reached the letter’s author’s sister and she was thrilled to claim it. Her brother was an infantry soldier stationed in Italy during World War II ~ he had written a thank you letter for a watch, candies and nuts sent for his birthday. He had been killed in action in May 1944. This letter had been the last he’d sent home, and it finally arrived 60-some years later.

Isn’t that remarkable? I mean, can you imagine how precious it would be to receive such a letter from a loved one who’d been dead for nearly a lifetime? It would be as if his spirit was reaching through the veils of the dimensions to become a material part of your life again. Whispers of their soul’s presence captured with pen and parchment. Written so many years ago, the words “I love you” still remaining, fresh and crisp as if the ink had just dried.

In a similar experience (much downscaled), I unearthed an old journal not long ago, and while flipping through the dog-eared book ran across a letter tucked between the pages. It was a letter from J, written 15 years ago, almost to the day. I read through the letter, holding the pages as gingerly as if they’d disintegrate in my hands, though the paper didn’t seem brittle or ancient. The writing was mid-conversation as our letters always were – phone calls in long-hand, we’d call them – and I reflected bittersweetly as I strained to recall the situations and cast of characters. Many I remembered but many others had faded from our recent lives and memories. I was still with S, she was with C. R was just a baby. Her health issues were retrospectively minor compared to what she’d struggle and suffer with in the later years. She was getting ready to go back to school for the psych degree she ultimately earned. She asked about the classes I’d be taking in my upcoming final semester in college. She commented on two poems I’d written and apparently sent to her. One I remember. The other I do not.

Details have a disturbingly stealthy way of fading on you.

Such an unexpected glimpse back, finding this old letter, and it reminded me of how though we lived states away, how interwoven our friendship managed to become. It was always like that with us.

It was sixteen weeks ago today that she died. I'll never stop missing her.

When we moved last summer, I threw out a bunch of old letters and stuff, many from J. Had I known how precious they’d be a mere year later, I’d have kept them all.


Blake said...

What a story—both of them. I know the feeling. The thought of a past life, just 15 years prior, and how the thought of who you were and who you were with can bring a bittersweet smile to your face. My mother passed away 14 years ago, when I was 10, and I can say that if I ever received a long-lost letter from her it would mean the world to me. I’d hang on every word. Dissect each sentence. Trace her signature with my index finger. It gets tough to remember what her voice sounded like or what her 3-D physique looked like, but her handwriting will stay with me forever. What a beautiful entry you’ve penned. Thanks.


Lori said...

This reminds me of a story I read once...

I have letters from my mom, brother, pastor, in a file cabinet and periodically go back and read them. I just can't seem to throw them out. I have a letter from my mother-in-law - her last to me, when she was fighting cancer. They are all so precious...

Anonymous said...

Wow! I actually got all misty eyed < well in one eye because the botox injections won't let me tear up in box.:)

Bougie Black Boy said...

Wait--Ruben got his botox job? i gotta go to his blog and discuss this!

Michael Lehet said...

My boyfriend always yells at me because I keep all the cards/letters I get. It's so rare in this day and age to get a "real" letter in the mail or a card that doesn't have the letter e- in front of it.

My Grandmother and I used to write letters to each other, and since her passing last month I am even happier that I've saved them.