Thursday, April 12, 2007
My daughter collected the mail from our mailbox today.
She went through the pile of bills and triumphantly called out that I had received a letter.
I received a letter today. I received a letter on a cold and dreary day.
As with any letter, I receive, it causes my heart to jump a beat in anticipation on seeing my name scrawled on an envelope. A handwritten letter brings pangs of excitement, or glorious anticipation, of what ideas and sentiments are stored inside.
I always take a moment before opening a letter, as it is such an event.
I always glance at the entire envelope, taking all in, before I open my letter. Sometimes, if I am lucky, the scent of the author remains. And with this, I drink in the letter.
I glance at my letter.
It had my name addressed on it in a penmanship I was not familiar with.
It had come a long way. I can see by the stamps.
It was from South Africa.
I opened it.
And inside was a letter from a person I have never met. A wife of a friend of mine. A friend whom I have not seen in over twenty years. A friend who would write the most beautiful letters, on the most exquisite stationary, when the mood struck him and who I would write back with great zealousness.
For years and years, we have written each other, almost forgetting what the other person looked like or the sound of our voices. But we knew each other's penmenship. We never likened to e-mails as it would just dullen and cheapen a wonderful experience of true mail. It was a gift we gave to each other.
We both loved the ritual of mail.
But as the years passed, our letters, our gifts of words and insight into each others lives began to dwindle from every few weeks, to every few months, to Christmas letters summing up our lives in a long annual letter, answering questions from the previous Chrismas card. We would give a antidote which only the two of us would understand and love to each other's families. But our Christmas letters were certainly still cherished and most definitely anticipated, And we truly understood how busy life can be and there was always the promise of next year's letter.
She wrote to tell me how much I had meant to her husband over the past twenty years She wrote to tell me he kept all my letters in a shoe box. She wrote to tell me that he spoke of me often. She wrote to tell me that he lived a good life. And she wrote to tell me he had passed away from a massive heart attack. It took him right away. He did not suffer. She wrote to tell me how she was suffering, but consoling herself to the fact he received his wish. 'A good healthy life, lived to the max. He lived every moment'. He was loved by many and he loved all in return. And now he was gone. And she misses him terribly.
My daughter eagerly was by my side asking about my letter. Asking me all about my mail. My exotic letter. And I was short with my daughter, as I wanted a moment to just think of this letter and to think of him. To think of the last time I saw him at the airport bound for South Africa. I wanted to picture him, heed to his velvety voice and to hear his great gregarious laugh, and to be enveloped in the great bear hug he would give, before I buried him to her. I needed a few minutes.
I gave myself the time. I breathed in my memories but just as importantly, I exhaled.
And then I called my daughter back to me and re-addressed the letter. I told her of my letter and of my friend. It gave me comfort to have a wee arm around my shoulder, for her to ask me about him and truly listen to the answers. And then, when she was finished asking and she thought she 'knew' my late friend she added that she was sorry.
And for this, I am comforted.
I am sad. Sad to have lost a friend. Sad for his six children he leaves behind and so heartbroken for his widow.
And tomorrow I will go out, and purhase some exquisite stationary and I will write my late friend's wife a letter filled with memories I had shared with her husband, but most importantly to share the great loss and to keep his memory alive in my heart for a few more paragraphs and send them with a kiss on the long voyage back to South Africa.