Wendy's Blog

A message from a match!

by Wendy Keller

When my home and office building burned up in 2007, one of the few things that survived was – curiously – a large plastic crate full of memorabilia from my life as a writer.  It’s mostly book and script ideas, character sketches, awards and some tear sheets from the thousand plus newspaper and magazine articles I’ve had published, but also in that crate were three bulging manila folders, each labeled “Encouragement”.

Each folder is stuffed with the best of my fan mail: the cards, emails and letters I’ve received from people who’ve heard me speak or read my books over the years.  It’s eerie that the crate survived.  I moved it from its usual place in the shipping room not ten days before the blaze.

Tonight  I just randomly yanked out an Encouragement folder. I was feeling the need for some fans!  Just wanted to believe I’d done something – anything — that had helped someone else so far.  Have you felt that way, too?

To my surprise, that folder didn’t contain fan mail at all!  Instead, I found condolence letters strangers sent to my then-husband and me after our children died – heartfelt outpourings I was suffering too much to appreciate at the time.  I found a stash of crayon drawings by my daughter.  She just turned 18. I thought all her old artwork had been burned up, so I got magnets and hung it all on the fridge.  (Just wait until she comes home and sees it – uh-oh!)  I found a bunch of touching, fervent love letters sent to me since my divorce in 1994.  The dearest ones are from my high school sweetheart Dave.   He’s my “One That Got Away”.  There are letters from Ernestine, a seminar leader-turned-friend who greatly influenced my life with her words. An actual written apology from my ex-husband.  A forgotten postcard from my dearest long-dead grandfather. I read the record of my life in that file like a geologist reads sedimentary layers.  I didn’t find a single piece of fan mail.  Not one thing lauding my professional achievements.

But every scrap of paper there a testament to the fact that I have lived,

and I have loved others, and they have loved me.

I felt my heart’s DNA rewriting itself as I read them, like in the old days when we could hear a hard drive writing over a floppy disk.  This stack of paper feels like proof that I’ve been here, that even if I end tomorrow, I’ve touched some dear people, and they’ve touched me.  That love exists, it flows, it moves, it changes.  In some cases, all that’s left is faint traces, like water poured on sand.  In other cases, it has grown and blossomed into something so precious it cannot be described by mere language anymore – like my love, respect for and pride in my daughter Sophie.

I wish every person could accidentally stumble on a box of encouragement when they’re feeling a bit blue. 

What a transformation we’d have overnight! 

We live our lives so fast.  Love letters have become text messages.  Scribbly crayon drawings quickly become algebra homework and then college entrance essays.  Sometimes it’s easy to forget it’s the lives we touched and that we allowed to touch ours that really matter. And I can prove it – c’mon over and look at my fridge.

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