I told my letter writing class last week that perhaps the highest and best use for letters – and most rewarding for the writer – are those written during a time of sorrow and pain, either for the recipient and/or the sender.
These sort of circumstances make letters the ideal medium to convey the sort of intimate thoughts and details that move way, way beyond the perfunctory “I’m sorry” found on pricey cards that by their nature are so, so limiting. Letters allow depth and emotion and relational details, and privacy.
I shared a few of such letters with the class, but not the letter below. This wasn’t the first my dear aunt and uncle received, but it was the last of an exchange that occurred days after my uncle’s passing and was sent to his wife, Mary. As the inset shows, Henry’s handwriting on an earlier letter was legible. His nephew’s, not so much.
September 4, 2012
Mary: It was wonderful to talk to you for even a few moments yesterday. You sound good and characteristically strong. (Ellen and Reid pass along their thoughts and prayers. Both independently mentioned Hank as a ‘good man’.)
I am just so sorry. He was just a good guy. I don’t know how else to put that. From what Tom relayed, everything was as peaceful as one could expect and hope for. As he had ministered to so many others, you and your collected brood ministered to him. That’s as it should be.
I always seemed to not only get along with Henry but saw him as an energizing force. There aren’t a lot of people you can say that about, but he was one of them. No doubt you will hear much from people who feel the same way in Shaker Heights and LaGrange and other points in the U.S. and beyond.
Both Ralph and I will be out for the service. It will be good to be there. We really appreciated that, when his own times were tough, he still found a way to be there for Ralph and Barb. He was there when his brother in law and sister needed him the most. He brought his wit and caring nature with him. I will miss that.
But we will see you soon enough. My own minister, John Cleghorn, passes along his best, too. There aren’t a lot of soothing words many of us can say right about now other than to say your husband lived as he acted and as he preached. Not many of us can live up to that standard.
See you soon.