Is it just me, or is there something special about receiving a hand written letter or card in the mail, sent right to your house? I understand that it takes time and an email or text is much easier, but getting the mail and seeing your name written on the front, I don’t know, it just brings a sense of excitement.
I’ve had three pen pals through the course of my life. The first one was when I was very young. She lived in Canada and we met at a benefit dinner for a local Christian radio station. It only lasted for one summer, but it was so much fun. The second one was a boy from Germany. In our 8th grade German class we each picked an address from a pile. I chose, I wrote, and when my letters began coming, the girls in my class became jealous. I happened to get the only boy and in his first letter, he included his picture…he was adorable. I think our friendship lasted that whole school year. My third pen pal came after I was married with kids. She was a young mom too and although we never got together, it was nice having someone to bounce ideas off of.
It has been a year. Wednesday marked the anniversary of the day our lives took a dark turn. You know the fork in the road, the one that everyone tells you that you will eventually stumble upon and at that point, you will have to make a choice? If life is a road, or a series of roads, last year, our road completely washed out. It felt, at the time, like we couldn’t move forward, there was no more solid ground in front of us. Throughout the course of the year, though, and with the help of some amazing family and friends, the road began to be rebuilt. It’s almost as if the people that we already had in our lives and the ones that God brought into our lives, became our road crew, laying the foundation again.
But as we moved forward, one step at a time, I gained a new pen pal. This time, I don’t receive any letters in response, I don’t even check the box for them, but I continue to write. I don’t need a picture because my new pen pals face is everywhere I look. I can see the color of her eyes in the blue sky and her joy bounces off the giggles of her little cousins. There’s no judgement when I tell her that I ache for her presence and I don’t offend anyone when I tell her that some days, her new home is the only place I want to be.
This one-sided correspondence has gone on for a little over a year now. I don’t write her every day or even once a week, but only when I really need to express my heart to the one who took a part of it with her. On Wednesday I wrote a letter to my beautiful pen pal, but it will never get an envelope or stamp. It will never be dropped in the mail. And yet, writing it brings me healing. She will never open a box and see her name written on the front, but because she can’t, I want you all to.
I want her family to read it. Her aunts and uncles, her cousins and grandparents. I want her best friends to read it, her teachers, her mentors. Read it and when you’re through, write one of your own. It can be addressed to my pen pal, or it can be addressed to someone else, someone you have lost, but still have words for. Tell them you’ve moved on and are doing well, or tell them you’re stuck in grief. Tell them you’re mad at them for the way they left, or tell them you’re mad at God for allowing it. Tell them whatever you want, but get it out. They may never receive or read it, but putting those words on paper move them from the box of emotions we try to keep a tight lid on, to a place of freedom. When you are done with your letter, share it with someone you trust. Let your joys or wounds be known by a friend, don’t let the enemy keep you in a place of isolation and loneliness.
My precious Gracie Liz,
You’re in eternity, but these past 365 days have felt like an eternity to me. I have so much I wish I could tell you. Oh to be given just a few minutes with you. Instead, though, I figured I would write you, because, we both know, that’s what I do.
This past year has brought me through the lowest lows a person can journey. I’ve never known pain or anguish like I’ve experienced and yet, I’ve never in my life felt the presence of our God in a more real way.
You, my baby, get to look Him in the face, stare into the very eyes that calmed the storm with mere words. I wonder if you’ve ever asked Him to calm the storm that rages in my heart every waking moment, because so often, as the clouds darken and the waves are just about the crash over me, I hear His sweet voice saying “Be still.” And I try, once again, to feel the peace that He so graciously provides me.
I realize a little more every day, the many different things you were to me. My daughter, my best friend, my encourager, my secret keeper, the one often who kept my heart calm, the one who told me I was beautiful with no make-up on. My first born and all the responsibility that came with that title. Your dad’s princess, your sisters most trusted companion. For every day you have been gone, I could name a reason you shouldn’t have left.
And, my dear girl, I’m not alone. Like a puzzle, you have left a piece of your spirit with so many people. Countless lives were changed because of you. I have often wondered how you had so much to give, but you just kept pouring it out.
I am a firm believer in the fact that loss and grief is a very personal and individual struggle. No two people will experience any of this in the same way, but what we can all agree on, is that we miss you. Some of us have moved on to only thinking about you when your name is mentioned. Some of us try to forget, because it hurts too much to remember. Some of us wake up each morning to the keen reality of a life now lived without your smile or laugh to fill the air.
Your dad and sister amaze me daily with their strength. To have a void so unfillable, but yet spend every day pouring into other hurting hearts, it’s a beautiful thing to observe.
Gracie girl, if I could see through your eyes, for only a moment, I know that I would never want to return. Skip around, with your golden hair bouncing with each light step. Worship the One my heart longs for. Gaze into the beauty of our Savior’s face. And rest. Rest in the knowledge that you are home. Close to papa, close to your baby sister or brother and close to Jesus.
You raced ahead of us and finished strong, but I will continue to run this life course, until I reach the finish line and, once again, wrap my arms around you, my beautiful Grace Elizabeth.
Forever your mommy…