Written on October 28, 2015. By Shari Norvell
Tears streamed down our faces, intermittently interrupted by giggles and dreamy sighs. An overturned box rested between us, pouring forth trinkets and treasures. We had a job to do that was quite simple. Find pictures. Well, it sounded simple when our Grandmother asked us to do it.
Two sisters, granddaughters helping prepare for the Life celebration of our Grandad who had just left his earthsuit with us, that he might dwell with Jesus. In those moments, we had no idea we would be searching similarly just a few months later for my Grandmothers journey back to the land she was of.
“Would you girls find some pictures of your Grandad for me?” followed by directions of where to find the boxes that held them. We were feeling kinda like big kids now. Like the day you get promoted from eating Thanksgiving dinner at the coffee table to the actual dining table where the big people eat.
Trusted, we moved on. We prepared for the grief we might find within the boxes. Pictures telling the story of one our hearts loved dearly. It was okay. We were armed with Kleenex. But midway through the first box, something happened without our permission and mostly without our knowing.
The grown up girls we were, gave way to the little ladies we had been. Ambushed by the One who had just received our earthly treasure. For there was no way to go through his story without going through our own, intertwined as they were. And our grief transitioned from what we felt as such loss, into the joy of all we gained by him having been with us.
It was right in the big middle of that, when we struck gold. As we chose picture after picture (more than we could use because we loved them all), we uncovered contents of the boxes we hadn’t see at first. Letters.
Had we still been the grown up versions of ourselves right then, we might not have done what we did. We might have quickly stuffed the letters back in the boxes, quickly as if to deny we ever saw them. But we didn’t. It was too late. Our childlike hearts were beating wildly. Laying before us were not just pieces of paper, tinged with age. They were pulsing pieces of history. Within them were revelations of who are grandparents were, laced with invitations of the legacy of who we were meant to be.
So we read them, every single one. And we willingly wept, giddily giggled and sweetly sighed. The letters didn’t cover all of the sixty years our grandparents spent together. Instead, they promised and prophesied what their life together would be.
The letters were written during World War II. Our grandparents had just discovered love and everything around them threatened to tear it apart. Separated for a season, they both chose to let love be greater. And so they wrote, letter after letter. Our grandad’s expressed all the things he missed about my grandmother. He wrote of how he ached to return to the things they shared when they were together. Our Grandmother, full of the life that they together placed inside her, shared about the things they hadn’t experienced yet. Lives to be reunited and the family to come. They wrote of longing and desire. The letters were tender and wild.
Reading them on the other side of sixty years, we were undone by one thing. They were true. Every word, sentiment and expression we had seen in our lives as promises fulfilled. Nothing was left out. Not one single thing.
So, we did fess up to our Grandmother. She had forgotten about them. Maybe forgotten is too strong a word. She simply didn’t need them anymore because they were no longer words on a page. They were lives lived. They told of a completion to come, that had arrived. We wrapped them up in ribbons for her. And she took them and tucked them away, grateful. They were full of remembrance, not regret. Ahead of her was her own journey of grief. How sweet of Pappa to give her a map for it.
When we returned the letters to her, Grandmother shared how she read the letters Grandad sent her every day while they were apart. When they were reconciled, she said she began to read the letters she wrote to him everyday. She never wanted to forget what she promised, her declarations of who she would be, because she knew who she was. Some years down the road, that knowledge collided with entering the knowing of the one who created her to BE. She said the letters meant even more then, because she then had all she needed to become what HE had her write before she knew it was HIM.
I just realized a colossal mistake. I didn’t come to my computer armed with kleenex.
The letters of my grandparents were those of returning. Their existence reminded them of who they were and what awaited them. And led them to a place where they allowed nothing to be between them or come between them.
You get to write two letters of return! You might use your journal for a “draft” and then write the letters on special paper (like fancy paper, because everything is a little better when its fancy.) Put them in a special place. Read them. Every single day. Read them until they are no longer words on a page, but the returned life you are living. And one day, Pappa will invite you to read them so you can celebrate together that every single word is true. Every. Single. One.
Write a letter of return to Pappa. Tell Him who is to you, what he means to you, what you believe about Him. You can even share about the things that have at times turned you away from Him and how you never want to turn to those things again. Tell him how you want to live with Him, from this day forward.
Write a letter of return to yourself. Fill it with the remembrance of who you were created to be, who you love being. Declare your return to you. Here are a few excerpts from mine:
I remember our first glance on a mountiantop. A mountaintop. That must have been your first invitation. To meet you on the mountaintop. To be free to meet you there. to not get detained in the valley. Mine or others. For quickly after our first dance, I encountered the valleys of what others believed about you.
The glance and then the breeze. I always used to recognize you in the breeze. When did it become just wind? When did I stop pausing when you blow across my face?
The dreamer whose home is the stars
The believer whose home is your heart
The speaker whose home is your voice
The singer whose home is creation
The writer whose home is imagination
The dancer whose home is your heartbeat
One last thing. After you write your letter to you, discover something tangible in it and touch it. Maybe its to pick up and instrument again. Maybe its to do something you have felt niggling for a while. Maybe its to write, paint, create. Whatever it is, touch it. Every. Single. Day.