Words really do hold a magical power. I’m approaching my 5-year anniversary with my wife Heather at the end of this month, and I wanted to share with you all a letter I wrote her (by hand) while I was deployed to Iraq on July 9, 2008.
It’s a letter she has kept all of these years tucked in a box with other letters we have written to one another. If you’re a writer yourself, and you have someone you love, consider writing that person a love letter for Christmas. I guarantee they will appreciate it more than any other physical gift you might give!
(The following letter is intended to be poetic in prose)
This is not just a letter, this is my touch, my touch from worlds away where peach trees have shadows six thousand miles long and helicopters come flying in twos, because even in this world belong two partners, where husbands need their wives, and wives need their touch in return — a touch like this — because this is not just a letter… This is my hand, charged by my mind — a mind commanded by God, a God who unites even husbands and wives separated by long shadows and different suns.
My sun is not your sun. I’ve seen and felt the sun of spring, the one that tans before it burns. My sun has only two settings: they are dusty or blinding, because when my sun is missing, it comes to send my love to my bride. It carries my touch. There are myriads of lights in the sky and they carry my love — spoken by prayer, written by touch.
I have lost half of my senses, that is not that I have sight but not hearing. Rather, I have both, but I’ve not my other half to share them with. I’m a diminished man in this world of helicopters and sand. Diminished by half and exposed without my bride who carries my shield.
The sand here is as fine as ash. Like a thought, or a puff of filmy air. My showers wash away the sand. The sand washes away my sleep. My sleep washes away the night. The night washes the sun, so that it may come back to you clean. But nothing washes away our love: not our bitterness, not our sorrows, nor our remorse. Because our love comes from God. The white robes need no cleaning. It is we who are covered in sand.. The ashes burn and the pain is real, but only half as strong as when we are united. Because pain is good. Our sufferings make us more like the Cross that carries our burning. We pain in distance. We pain in closeness, but at least in closeness we pain together and not apart. But pain leads to love. Only the fools and the worldly try to escape, while we escape the world and instead remiss the language and chase the Word. The touch. This touch. Yours and mine.
And though this touch is a one-sided palm, the prayers you submit to God are more sensual than any caressing either you or I can offer one another. Our best is still all we can give back — to ourselves, to the other — and we receive much more in return.
There is a road that stretches from my heart to yours, and there’s no need to drive to travel it. Our hearts will lay the distance but our touch will span the course. This letter — which is more than just a letter — comes from my end of the road to yours. It does not walk on water, but flies over the ocean, hand-delivered by God’s providence. And may my touch heal your bruises, soften your heart and ease your mind. May you sleep through the night so I can receive a healthy sun. Our distance is no more than just a shadow. We’ve been farther apart before, when in the same room. My touch has been less caring when under the same sheets. So our distance is only as far as we wish to make it.
But may this time in distance offer us a teaching in closeness, so when our bodies return to the same presence, we may remember how much we wanted that touch from worlds and suns away.
It’s not safe to fly alone. Less safe still to pray as such. So may we fly together in prayer and cherish this touch of our bumping hearts, because even though you have your sun and I have mine, they really are one and the same.
When you fear the loneliness, come to me and send back your own touch. Send back the pen that steers your heart and abandon yourself before me just as I forsake my body before you.
Rely not on the typed font, but bring the hand that bears the pond,* and hold your heart firm by the hand that carries one sword.*
There are clouds in the water,* and if your tears should dampen your heart, may my eyes cherish every droplet. You are my pond, and this is my touch. I wish to swim through you, and bathe in your love. i wish to guard my pond with my life, using the only sword I’ve ever known to strike with. May we let God fight all our battles, so they’ll never turn to wars. And may our only wars be in allegiance to one another and to the One who cast our armor.
To you, Heather, I send this letter.
To you, Heather, I send my touch.
To you, Heather, I send my heart.
With all the love I can muster,
9 July 2008
*The references to the pond, clouds in the water and the sword are allusions to poems I’ve written Heather when we were dating and when I asked her to marry me.
Here is a blog post about another military wife who received letters from her loved one while he was deployed to Iraq. It’s pretty cool to see the recipient’s perspective on this.
What about you?
Have you ever written a poem to someone you loved? How did that person receive it? Are you planning on using the magic of words to convey your love for someone soon?