Letters Lost

George - Litchfield, Connecticut
Entered on August 21, 2008
Age Group: 65+

Six months after my daughter died, I found a letter from her stuffed along with other cards and notes in an old shoebox in the basement. Finding her letter was a Godsend — it was three days before my birthday and I was sad and filled with the grief of missing her.

While reading her words I could hear her voice for the first time since she died, I could see her face and feel the sense of her personality in her handwriting, and I could hold something tangible to my heart that came from hers. I cherish that letter with its vibrant optimism and hope, and the tangible expression of her love for me from her own hand.

Today, fewer people seem to write real letters. Handwritten letters are personal, come from our hearts, and provide a peek into our character and a taste of our spirit. They communicate much more than information.

I love to write letters the old-fashioned way — with fountain pens. Today, few people use them. The feel of the pen, the width of the nib, and the smooth flow of ink make a mystical connection to the physical and spiritual being inside of all of us. Writing letters with a fountain pen gets us in touch with that quiet part of our soul that can only be reached when composing in thoughtful silence and solitude — every word shaped by hand in our unique script and crafted word-by-word and sentence-by-sentence. In doing so, we reach out and share a portion of the cherished moments we have on earth. Each minute and day in life is precious and spending a part of it writing a personal letter is a tender act.

Letters truly mark that we were here on earth, in this place and time. They are visual reminders of our love for each other and our passions in life. Sometimes, we can even get a sense of the person’s physical presence through a hint of perfume or after-shave radiating from the paper. Handwritten letters tie our whole being together as we express our thoughts, feelings, and dreams.

One suggestion when writing letters – don’t worry about cross-outs. They weren’t meant to be perfect. They are like the electrocardiograms of the soul, marking our being from moment to moment as we write. They show our human vulnerabilities, illustrate our thought patterns and reveal the inner workings of our minds and hearts. The spontaneous expressions and changes add flare and delight to the letters.

A wonderful bit of improvisation in letters is missing from perfectly word-processed, spell-checked, margin-justified letters from a laser printer. Today’s computers flatten communication and make it mono-dimensional, technical, and antiseptic. Technology is fast and efficient, but it lacks heart and soul. E-mail just doesn’t hack it with its abbreviations and smiley faces.

Letters also have one other very special thing: a signature. Our signature is one of a kind, totally distinctive; and provides a glimpse of our personality. Sometimes signatures are small, tight, and closed. Other times they are looping, large, and bombastic. In our signatures, we communicate more than our names – they often signal our approach to life itself and our personality. What a beautiful way to end a letter.

An unwritten letter is a loss of more than words. Our natural longing to be connected to others is abandoned. And with that, our humanity.