I recently traveled home to see my mom who hasn’t been well. One afternoon, she asked me to check in her closet to make sure her purse was where she left it when she got sick. I knelt down to open the drawer and noticed an old address book filled with papers and envelopes. One envelope stuck out more than others and I immediately recognized my father’s handwriting. I slid the envelope out of the book and was surprised to see it was a letter he had written and mailed to me when I was a junior in college. My heart leapt as I peered inside and found a three page letter.
I found my mom’s purse, put the letter in my bag, and slipped away to go sit and read my dad’s words.
It started with, “Dear Lori, It was so good to hear your sweet voice yesterday.”
My father died 25 years ago, but I could hear his voice so clearly as I sat with that letter.
I sat and read about all that was going on at home. At the end of the letter he made a list of several things he wanted me to know. The first was that he was proud of me. The second was that He knew God would help me to walk on the right path. And of course, at the end, he wanted me to know how much he loved me.
I read the letter to my sister and we both cried.
That day in particular had been a tough one, and my dad’s words just helped us both. They brought comfort and reassurance. Because even though they had been written almost 30 years ago, it felt like I was reading them for the first time. His words encouraged me in the present moment.
I am sure that when I received that letter in college, I did not appreciate it as much as I did so many years later. In fact, I know I didn’t.
And I am sure that my recent day improved because my dad had taken the time to write a letter.
We don’t write letters anymore. In a recent New York Times article, it said, “Over the past decade, the number of first-class mail items sent through the Postal Service has dropped by more than 50 percent. Not counting holiday cards and invitations, the average American household receives just 10 pieces of personal mail per year. “
The article also talked about how writing letters benefits the letter writer as well. In one study, A professor named Steven Toepfer, asked people to write three “letters of gratitude” in a month.
Toepfer found that with each letter, “the writers experienced higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction, and lower levels of depressive symptoms.”
So basically, not only is a hand-written letter a gift to the recipient, but also to writer.
As I read and reread my dad’s letter, I knew it mattered more to me now than it did when I received it in college. I often send nice texts to my daughters, but I rarely send them handwritten notes. Thirty years from now, I doubt they will be able to find that text I sent. But they might find a letter. And it might matter.
Let’s start taking the time to write some letters to each other. My college roommate once decided to write a letter a day during Lent and I was one of the lucky ones to find a handwritten letter in my mailbox. What a gift to find something other than bills in my mailbox. What a gift to read her words.
It is one reason I created my Have I Told You lately cards. I just think the act of writing down our love for someone else matters. It’s an easy way to write short, meaningful notes to our children. Let’s start there. And then let’s take some time to write a handwritten note to someone we love.
You never know when they might need to read those words a second or third time.