We recently held a lovely discussion on our Austen Author’s Facebook page. In case you missed it or would like to revisit some of the touching stories shared by many of our friends I am posting a synopsis here.
The idea for Letters from the Heart came to me in a roundabout way. I was sharing my “Feel Good” book with my granddaughter. The book is my lifetime collection of letters from friends whose lives I may have touched or who have affected me in some deep and lasting way. Some of the letters are bittersweet and painful for me to read. There is a decade-old card from my very dear friend, Lizzie, who was taken from our world by early onset Alzheimer’s. She wrote:
“We sometimes get so caught up in things that we forget to tell or show people who are close to us, how valuable and important they are to us. I know that in my entire lifetime I will never meet anyone like you, who has been so many things to me. I will never forget you.”
Time, distance, and life got in the way and I was not able to visit Lizzie in the memory home until a few months ago. Her family warned me that she does not remember or recognize anyone. As I walked towards her room, she stepped out the door. Her eyes lit up and she tottered to me. “Barbara, you came!” she said.
I could not stop crying for my dear Lizzie remembered me.
The letters between Elizabeth and Jane created a forever image of their bond. The sisters were able to read between the lines and share the emotions withheld from the page. What a wonderful gift Jane Austen plucked from her life and imbued in Elizabeth and Jane. The emotional closeness generated by a handwritten letter is sadly lost in our current communications. The terse email lines with no bother for salutation and no words of goodbye are a sorry example of our times.
Again I thought of how treasured real letters are. They tell us much about ourselves while they convey our words to another.
Patricia and I have been best friends since we were nine years old. Time and distance keeps us apart, but about once a year we manage to get together. A few years ago Pat brought me a package of weathered envelopes tied in a ribbon. I could see by the atrocious handwriting that these were letters I had written to her when we were in our teens. I had been fortunate enough to take a month long, cross-country trip with my uncle. Throughout the journey I wrote my friend about my wild capers. Pat cared enough for my words and over-the-top antics to keep those letters for over forty years.
In saving and then re-gifting those letters to me, she gave me something very special: A look into the reverse end of a telescope. I could see the me I was; remember quite clearly how I was feeling; and note that I had not changed a smidge in all those years.
During our Letters from the Heart chat, the posts we received from our dear readers were so moving; I will just touch on a few without sharing names. If any of those mentioned would to comment we would love to hear from you.
About a year ago, I reconnected with an old friend. She had been a good friend of my late mother’s & it had been years since we had spoken. It turned out that my mother had given her a quilt that my grandmother had started not long before her death five years earlier. My mother was able to finish the rest of the quilt top, but she knew she was dying. So she sent it to her friend to finish. Diana received the quilt almost one year to the day before my mother’s death. When Diana and I reconnected last year, she sent me not only the quilt, but also a copy of the letter my mother had written to her. Seeing my mother’s handwriting again after nearly thirty-one years brought tears to my eyes. It was as if I had my mother back for a few precious moments.
My mom also died 31 years ago. My second son had just been born, so my children didn’t really know her. But I have a rosary made of rose petals that used to belong to her. When they were little they used to ask me to smell it. About a month ago, my oldest went on his honeymoon and visited the Basilica de Guadalupe, (my mother is in a crypt there) and brought me a rosary like the one I have. What brought tears to my eyes was that when I opened it, all of my children said at the same time “It smells like grandmother.”
When I was a child my father was in prison. I only got to speak with him once a week, but he wrote to me almost everyday. I have a few of these letters still, written on yellow notepad paper. Wish I had a picture. I can’t read them without crying. My father didn’t tell me much about what was happening to him, but I knew with absolute certainty that I was loved. I wish I had kept them all.
My grandmother was born in Mexico and had a strong accent. She called me baby, darling, and Princess a lot. I love pulling out the letters she wrote when I was in college. Her voice comes through loud and clear in those wonderful letters to her Princess.
I lost my father at a very young age to cancer. During one of his treatment/recovery times, he taped (audio) a letter to his sister (this was back in the 70’s.) This “letter” was a normal letter of him telling his sister about the happenings of our family at the time.
A couple of months after the letter was mailed, my father passed away. For years, I heard about this “letter” but my aunt had lost the tape of this recording. This “letter” was the only known recording of my father’s voice.
A few years ago, my aunt was cleaning out her house and came across an old cassette tape. She played it and discovered it was the missing tape that my father sent her years ago. She quickly got the tape to my mother. My family gathered one day to listen to my father’s letter. It had been close to 30 years since we had heard my father’s voice. I was four when my father passed away and could not remember what my father’s voice sounded like. It was bittersweet.
Thanks to modern technology, we were able to take the cassette tape and had it re-mastered onto a CD. This process also picked up various background noises of my sister, brother and mother while our father made his “letter.” It has become a treasured piece of our family.
Thank you to those who commented on the Austen Author’s Facebook page. There were so many beautiful, bittersweet stories. We welcome your comments below.
With love & laughter!
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