Old Letters

Yesterday was the first Fourth of July in 20 years that I haven’t spent with Susan.  (Well – actually I went to D.C. with my college roommates one of those years…)  I was surprised at how emotional the day felt.  Although I guess I shouldn’t have been.  I took the kids down to Charlotte to be with Susan’s parents – it just felt like what we needed to do.  It helped to be there, to sense the strong memories that are there, to see her old childhood room, to look at pictures.  We played Pictionary with the grandparents, something Susan would have loved to do.  We made homemade ice cream and ate a hot dog.  We didn’t talk about her a whole lot, but her presence was all over the place.

A few months ago I was trying to find a bunch of letters.  I had already found a stack of letters I wrote her (that she kept in her bedside table) – and had pored over those slowly.  But I couldn’t find the ones she’d written me.  I was sure that I’d kept them – or almost sure.  I began to doubt myself when I looked all over the house, and then all over my parent’s house in Raleigh (even the attic), and couldn’t find them.  I resigned myself to the fact that, being an insensitive guy, I had thrown them away without thinking what they might mean to me some day.

For whatever reason, I found enough courage to clean out the shoe closet Saturday – which was one of Susan’s storage spots for apparently anything and everything that didn’t have another place to go.  There are several boxes full of pictures that I knew were in there.  But as I opened up those boxes, I found a surprise – stacks of letters.  Not one, but two boxes full.  It turns out that I did keep the things she wrote me when we were dating.  Lots and lots of letters, cards, and even notes that she passed to me when we would see each other in-between classes in Chapel Hill.  (I’m pretty proud of myself for keeping all of these, not to mention shocked.)

I had a deep sense when I found them that I wasn’t supposed to find them until now.  That God allowed me to see them this weekend, to remind me of some things, to encourage me, to help me feel some things that I get numb to.

As if you didn’t already know…Susan was an amazing person.  I’ve known that for 20 years, but it’s good to re-discover it through a box of old letters.


5 Responses to “Old Letters”

  1. Joyce Says:

    Please keep writing. You have a gift, and it’s heaping to encourage others, even as you grieve. I wish I had known Susan. Hugs.

  2. Joyce Says:


  3. John Says:

    I am glad that you found those letters. It must have like opening a treasure chest and discovering treasure greater than gold.
    Glad that you are not afraid to feel. A life felt deeply is a life lived deeply. Keep writing, Jerel. You are paving the way with your words.

  4. Ali Hogston Says:

    What a touching post. Your love for one another IS a treasure. Thanks for sharing and may each month bring you more peace.

  5. KM Says:

    I woke up praying for you and the kids on July 1st, sensing it would be a tough day, half way through the year, leading into an emotional weekend holiday. Your heart, poured into words, is such a source of encouragement for so many. You are a God-led leader of authenticity, humility, and Truth. Thank you!

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