Friday, February 12, 2010

Love Letters

I found an old trunk from college in my parents attic recently. Opening it was like discovering a time capsule from 15 yrs ago. The contents were varied and collectively fabulous: outdated Biology textbooks, a collection of random photos, my first playbill (Les Miserables at the Fox), an 1993 Rolling Stone with Pearl Jam on the cover, even a long lost chemistry lab sheet complete with acid burns. The best discovery far and away however was the stack of letters.

The letters turned out to be as varied as the trunk contents overall. First there was the camper mail. Those of you who were ever camp counselors may remember this. You accompany a group of teenagers on what is one of the greatest weeks of their young lives. At the end of the week they ask for your address and then proceed to write you sporadically so they can have a touchstone for their camp experience until they return once again. They usually fill you in on the drama of their adolescence and reminisce about the wonder days of camp. "Have you heard from Mary?" You ARE coming back to camp this year aren't you?" Even fifteen year later it still brought a smile to my face.

Next came the letters from friends, mostly classmates I grew up with sharing their roller coaster journeys after we all went our different ways. There were the postcards sent while discovering the world on studies abroad, long letters with page after page detailing stories of new love, lost love, and the ever present question we all shared, "what in God's name and I going to do with my life?" In hindsight we all turned out okay... we are now doctors, lawyers, professors, and an officer of the law. Many of us married, some had children as well.

There were a few nostalgic letters from ex-boyfriends and one card from my now husband, Jason. But those actually weren't the love letters that impressed me the most. I found one card I had totally forgotten about. A boy I was on a mission trip with gave it to me a couple of hours after I learned my father had suffered a heart attack. He knew that I had a long flight home from our trip location that it would be several hours before I would discover if my father had made it through the night. In the card my friend tells me about the food he has packed me for my trip, tells me he is praying for me and reminds me that angels are all around me as I take this frightening trip home. All this from a guy I had met less than a week before.

And then there were the letters from my Grandmother. Oodles of them. She must have written me once weekly the entire time I was away at school. She is deceased now so her voice coming through the page was so dear. "I missed you today. It was Sunday and I fried some chicken...I'll make you some when you come home." "Thank you for bringing Jason to meet me, he seems like a nice young man." "Are you coming for the holiday?" "Remember, you'll always be my little girl."

While reading these letters over an entire afternoon, I found myself having to stop frequently just to fight back tears. And not just over the letters from my Grandmother, it was all of it. I was overwhelmed by ALL the love that came from these precious people, the gift of the connection that we shared. The totality of it was almost overwhelming. It hit me that even if I am not physically in contact with some of these people anymore, our connection and the love that they gave to me never goes away. That's the great mystery of our life and faith isn't it? Love survives even death.

As I grow older, I realize that possibly the most important thing in my life is this connection with others, this giving of and receiving of love. Reading these long, lost letters made me want to be even more generous with that love, to send a love letter to all the people in my life to tell them how grateful I am for them. If you are reading this as February 14th approaches, consider this my Valentine to you. And who knows, maybe you will be inspired to write a few love letters of your own.