Not too long ago, I wrote a post entitled Memories of The Way We Were. I spoke of how I was scanning in pictures for a family from some very old scrapbooks and photo albums, some dating back to 1918! At the time of that writing, I had no idea that there would be a Part II … until this past week! I was called back to this gentleman’s house to scan in letters – boxes and boxes of letters! And these letters told great stories … heart touching stories … some even heart wrenching stories.
Imagine seeing that little piece of history laying right before you! These particular letters were written in German, and oh how I wish I could have read them. I can only imagine the stories that they offered from that point in time.
Among the letters were documents from this gentleman’s time in the war. There were forms that he had to complete prior to enlisting, and then there were the necessary forms after enlisting such as a will. One would not think of a teenager needing a will, but the military made sure that all of their bases were covered. The gentleman’s history and physical were among the forms in the file, as well as “official” paperwork from the government. Confidential, privileged, top secret information … laying right there at my fingertips. It was absolutely amazing to me.
As I told in the previous post, I know the family, although I clearly did not know this gentleman as I wasn’t even a thought back in 1953. Having worked with the family for almost ten years, though, I have come to know the names that I saw in some of the files and on the documents. I’ve come to know the gentleman in pictures and now in letters. Beautiful handwritten letters on the finest of paper that money could buy.
Before I go on, allow me to make a few observations and offer tips should anyone ever wish to preserve our little piece of history from when we walked the face of this earth:
- Never write a letter in pencil. Obviously, it leaves you open to having your words erased or altered, which you wouldn’t want. But, more than that, pencil fades away over time, as does any colored ink such as green. There was a LOT of pencil and green upon those pages that I scanned this week. While some prefer using a pencil, that is great for art … but not for writing a heart felt letter. The green ink was pretty on the decorative paper, too, which of course, had green in the logo and design. It was hard to read after so many years have passed, though.
- Use a good quality paper. Even though the sheer paper may look really pretty when you’re penning your words, think of how fragile that paper truly is and how easily it could rip by just the mere touch of someone’s fingertips as they try to open it once more after all of those years have passed.
- Be sure you write the DATE on your letters and cards. While it is great to save the envelop, which reflects the postmark date, it is better to have the date at the top of the letter so others will not have to guess what time frame it came from should it get separated from the envelop it arrived in.
- Do not include flowers, grass, or any thing that was once living, vibrant and beautiful. Over time, it will wilt, fall apart all over the articles you’re trying to preserve, and it may also stain your precious letters.
- Please do not write on tiny strips of paper or on various different types of paper for one letter. Also, do not write at a slant or around the entire perimeter of the page. While it is cute, it is extremely hard to read. One can turn the paper in an effort to capture all of the words while they are holding the letter in their hands, but it is more difficult once an image has been scanned in that reflects words written in this manner.
I bet you never imagined this would be a “how to” post when you started reading or what to do and what not to do … neither did I! I am just throwing that out there in an effort to help some one, some where that is thinking of doing all of the above or may have done so in the past.
What I would like to encourage you to do is WRITE!! In the times we’re living in today, it is much easier to text someone or type an email than it is to actually take the time to bring out the paper and pen to actually write to someone. Think of how you have felt in the past when you’ve received a hand written letter. Didn’t your heart just melt at the thought of someone setting aside time out of their day to write to you? When someone puts this much time and effort into it, it truly is beautiful. I think of the ones that sat at their desks for long periods of time writing out their words of love onto the pieces of papers that went through my hands this past week. They are precious, and each and every one of those slips of paper told a story.
Did you know that EVERYONE has a story inside of them and that EVERYONE’S STORY is important?! It is! It truly is, and it needs to be told because your story matters!
I had seen this woman’s name before much earlier on in this project when I scanned multiple pictures of her with this gentleman. I especially recall the features on this woman’s face because she resembled my grandmother, God rest her soul. We lost my grandmother in March of 2013. I suppose it’s only natural that with such a short amount of time that has passed that I would see her face in everyone and everything even still. I’ll admit that the pictures did make me stop to consider what it was like for my grandmother at that age and what stories her pictures held that we’ll probably never know about. While she kept lots of things, I have yet to be told of letters such as the ones I worked with this week.
The lady in the pictures had written letters, piles and piles of letters, to this gentleman. Thankfully these letters were in English, so I had the privilege of seeing a love story unfold right before my very eyes. They were forced to be separated for long periods of time, and considering he enlisted in the military, one could only assume that he was away on active duty at that point in time or maybe even serving in a war. I do believe he served in a war at some point or knew of someone that did as, unfortunately, in the pictures I scanned previously, there were a few of bodies stacked up … bodies of women and children, too, and it … broke … my … heart … completely. Let’s face it, there are things that you just simply cannot un-see! This is at the very top of the list right now. I paused when I saw what horror this picture held, and I cried. I clinched the picture in my hand, and I cried for all of the lives lost, for all of the precious ones in this very picture I held in my hand that provoked such heart wrenching sobs for people that I did not know. They had a right to live, and they should have … yet, their lives were taken from them. Oh the tears that fell for these souls.
I cannot focus on that too long, and so I move on.
This lady had such eloquent handwriting. I imagined her with this very determined look on her face while sitting at her desk with her legs crossed. I can almost see her with her elbow on the desk while her thumb rests just under her chin and her index finger rests upon her lips as she’s in deep thought. She’s staring out of the window into the beautiful night sky as she tilts her head to the side and reaches for her pen. A smile forms upon her lips now as she begins to write to her love. She pours her heart and soul into each letter, sharing just enough yet reserves more for future letters that will come … all with such force and impact that her love is felt over a span of hundreds, even thousands of miles crossing sand and sea.
I imagine the gentleman in his barracks at night holding the letter he has received from his love. How he eagerly awaited the arrival of this letter and how disappointed he was days leading up to its arrival when everyone had mail but him. Now it was his turn as he held the letter in his grasp, savoring the sweet smell of her perfume, and delighting over the lip prints in beautiful shades of pinks and reds. And how he ultimately wished he could have been the one that she kissed instead of having only this slip of paper to feel her kisses in the distance. He clutches the letter close to his heart where he holds her and has for quite some time. Although they are separated by many miles and difficult circumstances, they are still connected by their heartstrings.
They loved so intensely, so completely … and they spoke freely of this love for each other. Although separated for a length of time that surely felt like torture to them, can you imagine the sweet reunion they had when they did have the chance to be together? I can imagine her waiting with a sign as her love scans the crowd looking for his lady, and there … they see each other … fall into each other … clinging tightly to each other as sweet tears of happiness stream down their faces.
What a beautiful vision for such a deep love.
What story will your letters tell?
For me, I would like to leave behind a whole string of letters such as these. Heartfelt letters full of love and affection … words that spring forth from the depths of my heart and leap onto the paper yet have the ability to pierce my love’s heart as they soak in each and every word that I’ve written.
This does not only apply to words of love to your soul mate or your one true love. The same is possible for your children as well as they need to be reminded of your love for them as well, even more so than any adult. Your children need to hear you speak those words of love as well as have those words of love to hold on to for the rest of their lives. They need paper that they can hold in their hands and hold close to their hearts as they cry sweet tears of joy over having such a piece of history and such a part of you to cling to … as they wipe their tears away, they’ll have the reminder of your love that will live on in their hearts long after the letter has been folded ever so gently once more and put in it’s safe place until the next time it is taken out for your children to bask in the love you have for them.
I have a section on this very website that contain Words of Love To My Babies. In addition to this online now, I have journals saved from their earlier years with all of their “firsts” documented. These journals are so important to me that I actually have them in a fireproof safe stored in my home. I do not want these words of love to ever get misplaced, tarnished, or vanish if the worst should happen. I want them to always, ALWAYS have my words of love to cling to in hopes that it may help them through some difficult times in their lives if I am unable to be present for them. I pray that God will allow me many more years on this earth, but we’re all reminded that we are not promised the gift of another day. It truly is a gift, so we must not waste any of the precious time that we’ve been given. We must show love in every possible way, as much as we possibly can. There is always an opportunity to not only tell but show your loved ones how much you care for them and how much they mean to you. Take the time today and every day. Time waits for no one.
Some one in your life right now needs to hear how important they are, how much they are loved, valued and cared for. You can tell them!
Consider the legacy that you are leaving behind for your family. Think of the impact your words will have on them now but also much later in life when they dig out these old treasures, dust them off, and sit a while remembering days that have passed.
Write the letter … pen the poem in your head and allow it to flow freely on paper for your loved ones to see. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you, just do it! It matters not if you have the best handwriting ever, or if you merely scribble a few lines … it needs to be written … and it longs to be read.
Capture the memories of the way we were … now … as they are unfolding … so future generations can savor in years to come. Make history. Be a part of history. Share your history. There is some one that will be so eager to soak up every bit of yourself that you’ve offered.
Your story matters … share it!