love letters lost
sifting through the cyber-ashes, gathering up a flake or two of text, pausing long enough to read, to remember, to let the tears fill and fall. feeling the full-throttle pang of if-that’s-what’s-left-how-very-much-was-lost?
i’ve found the snippet dated april 10, 2009, on the eve of a baby’s birth, in which i wrote to the expectant mama and papa: “i am certain that we have entered into holy time….” a beautiful baby girl was born deep in the middle-night four days later. the email marked the beginning of the hardening rhythms of that labor and delivery.
i’ve been scribbling life’s every twist and turn, long as i can remember. i mark time with typed-out missives. short or long or in-between, doesn’t matter. all that matters is that, for me, it’s putting life to paper, etching time with written record.
i’ve found the one i sent hours after delivering our firstborn to his leafy college, in which i wrote: “poor teddy sobbed silently, melted in tears.” august 29, 2011. i’d sent that one off to my mama, who wanted to know how the parting went.
and there’s the one, three months later, when that firstborn came home for the very first time, and at the dawn of that first morning while he slept, back in the bed above where i was typing, i wrote to my brother: “i suddenly feel whole for the first time in three months….”
i even found the email, carefully tucked away in my meticulously organized treasury of emails — a virtual apothecary chest of drawers within drawers, each one labeled and stuffed with cyber-snippets — from november 4, 2008, when one newly-elected barack obama sent out a note letting me (and a few million other cyber-pals) know that we’d just made history and, by the way, he was heading over soon to grant park, a moment in history — a moment in my email trove — that won’t soon be forgotten.
i have been sifting through all week, discovering what was lost and what was saved. i find notes from the mother of a dying child who wrote, “as they say at NASA, failure is not an option.” another to a friend whose husband had just died, and who i tried to fill with comfort in the best way i know — words dispatched from the pulsing place deep inside my heart. yet another to a friend whose unborn baby girl had just died. and another, a note from the intensive care unit where our firstborn lay with a fractured neck bone. and one my little one (nine at the time) wrote to his uncle, “i will love max all my life,” after his uncle’s beloved golden retriever up and died.
it’s birth and death, and all the touch points in between. it’s loss and hearts filled up. it’s history and how i breathe.
i write because words for me are the vessels in which i pour my unharness-able heart. i pay acute attention to nuance and particulars. i make up words to try to stretch the periphery of that place that holds so much. i want the people in my world to know they’re not alone, they’re loved, their murky shadow is pierced by shard of light. there is a hand to squeeze in the darkness, and i offer it in words.
i render communion in banged-out letters on a keyboard.
and when your hard drive fails, and the trusted back-up drive does too, when you fall in the unheard-of 0.5 percent, you lose crucial threads, you lose what matters, you ache and you weep, the tears spilling to the keyboard.
and so it’s been all week, as i sift and sort and flag bits and snippets that piece the long-winding narrative — the story of a love that’s flowed without end for all the years i’ve been typing.
among the many chapters lost: the one of a boy with a broken neck and his triumphant bar mitzvah three weeks later; the story of that boy wending his way through high school and — finally, achingly (for his mother anyway) — heading off to college. i’ve lost all the emails that i sent, at every turn in those early far-from-home days that turned to weeks and months of learning how to be a long-distance mama. i’ve lost the emails i sent to beloved teachers, kindergarten through college. and, to pinpoint yet another now-missing chapter, the emails bandied back and forth between my sweet life mate and moi, as we decided whether to up and leave our house, our life, our humdrum everyday, to move for one short year to cambridge, mass., to go back to college, to dwell beyond our comfort zone.
in the life story of a family, much unfolds over the course of eight years. back when i first started typing on this particular apparatus, one boy had just turned 13, the other was barely five. i was working at a newspaper, longing to work from home. george bush was president. my brother’s first wife had just died. neither my beloved niece nor nephew had yet been imagined. my mother hadn’t been told that she had a tumor growing in her belly.
i recorded it all in the little blasts i type and send nearly every single morning, and through the whole day long.
the nice and very smart geniuses who live in apple-land, they did the best they could. for days and days and hours without end (or so it seemed when our phone calls ticked into sixth straight hour, three days in a row). but the sent emails could not be saved. nor the photo albums, all carefully edited and curated. i got back raw images, some 20,000, and i will sift and sort and delete the blurry ones, as i’d done before, in all those hours now lost. the books i’d made from those images — pictures and text, page after page — all gone.
and so, on this day of hearts and cut-out valentines, when words are scribbled in silly rhymes and riddles, i am left to consider love letters lost. and to hope and pray that the echo of what they meant, and what they tried to hold up to the light, i am left hoping that it lives on where it was birthed — deep inside me, deep inside the soul of a girl who’s been holding tight a pencil all her life, trying again and again to get it on paper, to get it right, this immeasurable, unfathomable force of life, of love, of understanding.
the one that sometimes is spelled out in quiet little emails. ones that arrive with nothing but the ping of a flat black box telling you something from the heart has just landed. please read, and know that you are loved.
forgive me for dwelling one more week on this nasty mess of a cyber-crash. it’s been just awful, the slow dawning realization of chunk after chunk that’s simply gone, vanished, kaput, kerpluey. like so many other losses in life, we console ourselves with the deep down truth that in the end the only thing that can’t be stolen, can’t be crushed, or lost, is the imperceptible and vast catalog of memory, of what’s held in our hearts and souls and minds.
what love letters do you hold closest to your heart?
Oh, BAM, it is hard to fathom your loss but know that all you have written still exists not only in your memory but the hearts of those with whom you have shared your precious life journey. You have filled us with wisdom, guidance, beauty and love and not even the largest hard drive can contain these gifts.
thanks, dear beautiful friend. xoxo i know that more than one or two of those were written last year, after your dear angel of a boy had descended on our cambridge apartment and lifted our hearts beyond measure, and i sat down to let you know how extraordinary a boy you had delivered to the world. i remember, yes, but i do wish i still had the words to hold before my eyes.
What PJT said. The black and white may be gone, but the feeling our hearts got when receiving that holy communion of words from you thrives and helps keep us going. Unfathomable loss such as this, well, like other unimaginables, cannot be understood, only gotten through, one breath at a time, one tear-filled and snotty tissue at a time. We at the table are all here to tell you, we ache for you, and send hugs along the interspace, and weep with you. This is just awful, and I am so sorry to hear it. Lots and lots of love.
bless you, sweet heart. one snotty tissue at a time, indeed. xoxo
I have been immersed in world of CMS (federal regulatory body for healthcare) where every word and number within clinical documentation Is probed, scrutinized and scrubbed for accuracy so I missed these posts about your words that went missing.
Only words I can offer are the ones that say, I find your words, sentences when stitched together able to transform me into a depth of understanding and connection that literally no one else can. So, to lose these carefully stitched words is a loss unimaginable. So, I stand in solidarity with you as we acknowledge this loss….I mourn with you.
bless you, thank you. love, your old old friend. xoxox i am touched beyond words by your words. thank you. i know i said it twice, but i will be whispering thank you for that until the end of time….
Oh, dearest bam … a heartbreak. As you know, I adore your every word, uttered or typed, and to think the treasured ones (the keepers) are gone without a trace is unimaginable. I equate your loss somewhat to those who suddenly lose everything to fire, flood or tornado … you feel the void, knowing that what was once there at your fingertips is now gone, out of your reach, but never out of your mind or heart.
Just today, our local paper ran an article that told a sweet story about letters – the old-timey, handwritten kind. Treasured and fragile, these letters, some dating back to the 1930’s, told stories of love, faraway places, war and longing. For the reader, I felt myself thinking that this has now become a lost art. Society today has lost the appreciation of the handwritten letter. Sometimes, just to satisfy my soul, I look at the things I’ve saved from my loved ones that have gone on to glory and just seeing their handwriting gives me a lump in my throat.
Still, we live in the modern age, where ‘send’ has a different meaning than licking a stamp and dropping a letter in the blue box. No one wants to wait days to get a message when it’s nearly instantaneous in the cyber world.
I choose to think this way: Your words, letters, notes, and thoughts are not lost, but somewhere in cyber-space, hovering over our heads in the heavens, perhaps being read by the angels. xoxo
bless you, my earthly angel (and one with penchant for those beautifully-scripted missives that arrive in the front-door mailbox — sealed, stamped, delivered). the gift of recognizing hand-writing, now there is a lost beauty…