While cleaning out my dad’s storage room four years after he died, I opened a file cabinet drawer and there they were: neat bundles of letters from my grandfather to my father. During my dad’s service in World War II, his father wrote him a letter every single day. My dad was the envy of his buddies, many of whom rarely received mail. More than once, my grandfather wrote to them too, at my dad’s request, so his buddies wouldn’t feel so homesick.
My dad was a carbon copy of his father—smart, clever, and kind-hearted. I did my best to carry the torch when my daughter, Erin, flew to England in the spring of 1998 to study abroad for five months at Alnwick Castle, not far from Scotland. Like my grandfather before me, I wrote my cub a letter every single day. Twice, I remember, I was in bed for the night until I was jolted upright by the realization that I hadn’t written her daily letter—so I hopped out of bed and fired up the computer. Erin kept her letters too, just as her grandfather had. And like my grandfather, I wrote to a couple of my daughter’s friends who rarely received mail from home and were feeling homesick.
The power of regular letter writing cannot be overstated. Even if all they consist of is the minutia of everyday life, letters maintain and even strengthen intimacy, no matter how many thousands of miles separate the sender and receiver.
Imagine being away from home for months, or even years. If there was little contact between loved ones, you’d be coming home to a house full of familiar strangers. It would take months to get reacquainted to the point where you knew your loved ones as well as you did before you left. With daily letters, however, there would be no such awkward period. You’d just pick right up where you left off in your last letter.
Of course, e-mail serves much the same purpose in the digital age. It’s amazing how quickly intimacy can be established with a few e-mails here and there. That said, I’d still give handwritten letters the edge. E-mails lack the personal touch that letters convey so well. My mother, who is seventy-seven, refuses to use a computer and keeps a large stock of greeting cards handy for the many friends and relatives she corresponds with through handwritten letters and notes. “I love that Grandma Sandy writes to me often even though I live in the same town,” says my grateful daughter.
My father and grandfather (whom my sister and I called Grampo) carried on the tradition of regular letter writing for decades after the war, writing each other at least once a week. I found many of those letters in my father’s belongings as well, and my sister and I look forward to reading every one when we can set aside the time to do so. As my sister said when I called her to tell her about the treasures I found, reading through those weekly letters, filled with comments about the weather, sports teams, laundry, and other mundane topics, will make us feel like we were back with our dad and Grampo again, experiencing the good old days with a new appreciation.
But most of all, we will feel closer, much closer, to our dad and grandfather, both of whom we dearly loved. Through their letters, we can get to know them more deeply through the way they lived their lives and how they expressed themselves. In truth, they weren’t just writing those letters to each other, they were writing them to my sister and me, and to my daughter and her children and her children’s children. What a gift they have left us!
Click here to view all my posts on writing letters and notes to loved ones.
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ABOUT PHIL BOLSTA
Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World, is a road map for living a more peaceful, beautiful life. It’s the one book that explains how dozens of spiritual principles interact, how to weave them together into a cohesive worldview, and how to practically apply this spiritual wisdom to daily life.
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SEE EVERY MOMENT AS A GIFT
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Phil’s eBook, The Logic of Living a Spiritual Life: Supporting a Life of Faith Through Logic and Reason, is now available for 99 cents.
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In this eBook, you’ll find answers to questions like:
• What is the cornerstone of a spiritual life, and why?
• What is the secret to liberating yourself from other people’s judgments and expectations?
• How do you reconcile the “free will vs. Divine Will” conundrum?
• Why is there an exception to “Everything happens for a reason”?
Those who worship logic instead of God are only half right. Not only is it logical to believe in God and to live a faith-based life, the existence of a loving, benevolent God that governs all creation is perhaps the only systematic worldview that explains every aspect of life.
Phil is also the author of Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything, a collection of 45 inspiring, life-changing stories from prominent authors and thought leaders he interviewed. The roster of storytellers includes Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Neale Donald Walsch, Caroline Myss, Larry Dossey, Rachel Naomi Remen, Bernie Siegel, Dean Ornish, and Christiane Northrup. Sixty Seconds has been translated into four languages: Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. Reading this book is like spending a few minutes face to face with each of the contributors and listening to their personal stories.
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