Dear John

Many of us (most?) don’t write letters anymore. E-mails suffice. And not that you can’t correspond via e-mails. I just wonder if e-mails create the same connection that letters do. I think of the letters of Robert and Elizabeth Browning; letters suffused with love and life. Or the correspondence between Ulysses Grant and Mark Twain, which are filled with insight and a growing friendship. I even think of the letters between my mom and I written in the last couple years of her life. I lived a state away and when we weren’t visiting, we’d talk on the phone, of course. But I remember writing her a letter once and having her write back. We both got a kick out of it so we started writing more regularly. She seemed to reveal more of herself. A keen sense-of-humor that wasn’t obvious. . .things that occupied her day that weren’t conveyed over the phone. . .and a surprising vulnerability that seemed to be safer on stationary. I treasure those letters and am so thankful we indulged in writing to each other.

I’ve also written letters of admiration to some of my favorite authors. I have a wonderful card written back to me from the early nineties from Robert McCammon when I’d written him of my love of Boys Life. His letter, like his writing, was personal, gracious and lyrical. I have a letter from David Morrell, most famous for his action thriller novels and the creator of Rambo. I wrote him after finishing his memoir on the death of his 17 year old son, Matt, to cancer. It was an incredibly moving book and I couldn’t help but sit down and write him immediately upon finishing. He wrote me back a sensitive and candid reply, expressing thanks for reaching out to him and in return honoring his son. And I have a letter from Ray Bradbury after a friend met him and handed him a sheet of paper I wanted him to have. It said: Thank you for being my ‘Papa.’ Thank you also for giving me back my hometown in literary form through Green Town. This was a reference to the tradition that all those influenced by Bradbury called him ‘Papa’ and how many of his stories were influenced by his Illinois roots and his fictional home of Green Town, which reminded me so much of the little town where I grew up. After reading it Ray chuckled apparently, took the sheet of paper from my friend and wrote, “Dear John —THANK YOU!!”  It’s hanging above the desk where I write this.

There’s something deeply connecting when corresponding with others. Especially when they have moved you in some fashion.

Is there someone you need to reach out to and tell them how they’ve moved or influenced you?


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