I got a letter this past weekend. A real letter, written just to say hi, how are you, I'm thinking of you, and catch me up on the doings of my friend's life. What he's working on, what he's reading, what he's thinking about. It wasn't a required letter - a thank you or a filler around something he needed to send me.
It was just a letter.
Once upon a time, I wrote letters like that. And received them. Lots of them. It was how I kept in touch with my cousin, my grandmother, the teacher who left mid-year to move to the Dominican Republic, the boys I met at Garner State Park, the friends who went off to college...
I loved getting letters, so I wrote letters. Sometimes on pretty stationery, but more often on plain notepaper, because I could write pages and pages and pages!
Now, after just a few lines my hand and fingers are tired.
I never had great handwriting (I specifically remember getting a 'B' in 4th grade, Ms. Haygood!) but at least it was legible. Now, even before my hand gets tired, I have limited control of the pen or pencil; it'll go zigzagging off on its own wild adventure across the page.
The letter was from a writer friend. He has decided too much time on the internet has made him lose focus and it has affected his work. He's getting back to plain old paper, for his writing, communication (when possible), and for leisure, as in reading books with pages of paper.
Perhaps tonight I'll pull out some paper and re-train my fingers to hold a pen, to tame it to create legible words on a page once again.
What about you? Do you write letters the old-fashioned way? When was the last time you received one?
Before I could publish this post, I received a phone call that required me to add a little bit here on the end.
My friend's letter mentioned a plan to get together with Joe, a classmate of ours from high school who was visiting Los Angeles. Joe, too, had sent me a Facebook message letting me know he'd be seeing my friend. I told him to tell him hi for me.
That evening Joe posted a photo of them on our class Facebook page, smiling, toasting their friendship and life.
The next morning, Joe died of a massive heart attack.
What's the moral of this story? I'm not sure.
I know I'm grateful for all of the ways I've been able to stay in touch with my longtime friends and get to know some of those faces from my past as adults. I'm grateful for letters, for email, for Facebook, and for phone calls that draw us together in times of joy and sorrow.
Perhaps the moral has something to do with living each day to the fullest, for not letting opportunities slip by to spend time with a friend or loved one.
Maybe it's to present a smile to the world at all times, like Joe did, no matter what's going on in your life, and in that way inspire others to find a way to smile, too.
I don't know. But I do know I'll miss seeing that smile.
Rest in peace, Joe.
“My friends have made the story of my life. In a thousand ways they have turned my limitations into beautiful privileges.”