Why should we not study elocution to be effectual primary and supporting characters?
Why should we not live with Love in our hands, prepared to touch every spirit until all forget lines of hatred written in the flesh?
Why should we not die with pens in our hands, prepared to ask God to autograph the playbills featuring Love that we contributed to?
There I was, sitting in my uncle’s empty bedroom and holding a stack of letters all opened but safely kept within their tattered and yellowing envelopes. All in my handwriting.
When I was a young girl, I felt an unexplainable kinship with my aunt as she took a liking to me. I believed she liked me because I reminded her of herself, but those weren’t the thoughts of a young girl, they’re my thoughts now. When I got older, I drifted, as children must do in the quest to steer their lives.
She always seemed to find me, and when she did, her greeting accompanied a request for money. She asked me not to tell anyone she needed it and always sounded sad. We were both awkward beyond small talk, so it never got more extensive than that. There was a greeting, the weather, the request, and confirmation that I would send what I could. As a young adult, I felt she was using me, but her sadness erased my judgments of her.
When our calls ended, I began to ponder how to love her, to let her know that the money was nothing to be grateful for so much as Love. There were many miles between us, so I turned to words and began sending letters, the handwritten ones. All the times she called asking for more money she never acknowledged receipt and I never inquired cause the question would have led to more than small talk.
Once a month for two years, I sent a one-page letter. Words of encouragement, of Love and verses from the bible I knew she read.
She died after those two years, and it was after her funeral that I went to my uncle’s home, her husband to spend time before saying my farewells. He approached me in the kitchen and asked me to follow him to their bedroom. He asked me to sit down and then pulled a box out from beneath the bed.
Sitting next to me, he placed the closed box on his lap and began crying. I wasn’t at all close to my uncle and had never seen him cry, not even at my aunt’s funeral, so his emotions were a surprise. I rubbed his back to comfort him while growing uncomfortable in the bedroom. When he stopped crying, he opened the box and without looking at me said,
“I’d find her reading these letters often in the middle of the night while crying but we’d grown apart, and I never cared what she was reading or how she was feeling. I opened it last night and started reading, and I understand now. I…”
He stopped talking to gather himself so he wouldn’t cry, and I listened quietly.
“What you did was beautiful, and I want to thank you cause it meant a lot for her to read your letters when she was crying. I know it made her feel better. I want you to keep the letters cause I don’t think it’s right for me to keep them and I don’t want to throw them away,” he finished.
We stood up, hugged and then he handed me the box. Not knowing what to say and sensing all my emotions approaching a waterfall if I said too much, all I uttered was a soft, “Thank you.”
Years later I wondered if she would have spent less time crying if she had ventured past small talk and found the courage to express what she really needed because money can’t ever have wiped away her tears. I also wondered if I would have spent less time writing letters if I had ventured past small talk and found the courage to express what I really had to give because Love can surely wipe away tears.
There were no expectations of reciprocation when those letters were written, but after her death, I realized the value of courage and vulnerability and knew also I’d need to redefine small talk. I realized that in waiting not to suffer, one must surely suffer, and too often this involves submission to a deceptive form of grief called isolation.
We can often sense isolation is the destination in a person’s ask but we need to glimpse their heart to discern the real question so that we can answer in real Love and heal the voices of the unheard who speak without sound, all who give and receive.
Our entrance and exit are the only moments we don’t get an opportunity to edit and rewrite, but everything in between will be rescripted and recast. We must write to our heart’s content until our hearts are content.
The miles apart from those we love are pages painted with lighthouses.