Living my Life in One Hour
I’ve been going through old piles and boxes of paper in recent days. Retirement has freed me to get some things done that have been neglected for a long time. Progress, however, has been slow, especially since I found many letters from and to my grandparents and my parents and other family members. I also laughed and cried reading letters from my children through the years. I wept through the letters of encouragement sent from a friend who has shared my difficult years. Mihai Eimnescu wrote, “You take old letters from a crumpled heap and in one hour have lived your life again.” So I have been living a part of my life again.
In today’s world of texting and short emails--one of my brothers insists that emails should be one short paragraph on one subject only--I mourn the loss of letters, written by hand or typed, pretty stationary or scraps of paper. My brother insists that he has saved all his emails, but will he ever go back and read them? My son insist that he saves all of his texts, but the only illustration he could come up with of going back to them was replaying old videos of his daughter on his phone. I replay some of those videos too, but those do not have the effect of a letter.
Alice Steinbach said, “A letter is always better than a phone call. People write things in letters they would never say in person. They permit themselves to write down feelings and observations using emotional syntax far more intimate and powerful than speech will allow. Other letters simply relate the small events that punctuate the passage of time: roses picked at dusk, the laziness of a rainy Sunday, a child crying himself to sleep. Capturing the moment, these small slices of life, these small gusts of happiness, move me more deeply than all the rest. A couple of lines or eight pages, a Middle Eastern stamp or a suburban postmark. . . I hoard all these letters like treasure.”
I feel the same. The letters from my mother entertained me with the stories of my little sister’s antics. I never lived at home with her, so these were snippets of her personality I never would have known. My grandmother in her letters loved me, bragged on me, encouraged me, stimulated me spiritually, showed concern for my health, expressed interest in my friends (especially if they were young men!), shared her activities, and even shared her dreams and frustrations. All of these and more are the story of my life.
Goethe, the German writer of many years ago said that “Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.” I have been pondering the letters I have both sent and received in my lifetime. I have realized that these have been fewer and fewer. So, one of the things I want to do in this new stage of life is write letters—to my children, to my grandchildren, to family members, to friends, to acquaintances. Perhaps God will even show me strangers I need to write to.
What kind of written memorial will you be leaving to those who will still be here when your life is done? Will there be evidence of your great love for them? Will there be evidence of God’s greater love for them? Where are your letters?
~~Faith Himes Lamb