Monday, August 29, 2011

The best letter

An amazing thing happened yesterday as I was going through boxes from our basement.  We've been working really hard to finally--FINALLY--empty it out.  For the last eight years, since we moved into this house, our basement, /which technically is no more than a cellar, has been the storage/catch-all/shove-it-down-there-and-don't-think-about-it-again place in our house.  For us, our kids, even Grampie and Thyrza.  Needless to say, that space under our floors could give hoarders a run for their money. 

Well, perhaps I exaggerate, but just barely.

But because the girls are moving in stages down the freeway to Seattle (they spent their first night down there last night but will be back up Wednesday, down again Thursday, etc), we thought it was time.  More than time.  Just plug our noses and dive into the whole sorry mess of the thing and rid ourselves of all those things we've been carting around with us for two moves, at least.  For no earthly reason.
At least some of those things have no earthly reason.  For example, I began collecting teapots when I was about ten years old. By the time we moved into this house eight years ago, I had 70.  Seriously.  Why on earth anyone needs 70 teapots is beyond me now.  In our last house, we had a rather large kitchen, and the teapots lived above the cabinets where they were on display all the time, gathering dust, of course, but always in sight.  This house has no such display area, and I've long-since lost interest in collecting any old teapot for its own sake.  So I set all my teapots out on our table Sunday and divided them into keep, give away and get-rid-of piles--and boy, was I judicious.  Cut the collection in half yesterday alone.  I know 40 teapots still seems like a lot to most of you, but it's a whole lot better than Beve expected.

And then Beve brought up a box full of letters.  I began shuffling through them, and when I saw one, I began to cry.  For a very long time, I've thought this letter was lost. See, I've had the letter that precipitated it, so couldn't imagine where the partner could be, if not lost. And when I say lost, I mean it's been 20 or more years since I last saw it, so surely it has been long gone. Right? But there it was, in a completely unexpected place. And the minute I saw it, I knew EXACTLY what it was.  It's definitely THE most treasured letter of our lives, and perhaps the only letter Beve and I got from him.  The letter, you see, is from my dad.

When we got engaged in 1984 in Holland and Dad had just had cancer surgery, we each wrote him a letter.  Not to Mom and him, but privately.  And these two letters are his responses to ours.  So today, I thought I'd share pieces of those letters with you.  February 15, 1984
To me he wrote: 
(First, a page about what he was doing in his recovery, which was reading James Michner's Space, and working with his coins--he'd come across several $20-$30 ones, and was excited about that, but was already tired of not feeling well, anxious to get on with radiation, and confident that the next surgery would be successful in 'replacing [his] colostomy (which is rather sad, since it wasn't successful).'
I am happy you now have a love, in Steve, to make your life complete.  Love for him and for your children to come will become the most important to you.  I am saddened to lose my place of prominence in your life yet happy because that is what I want for you and the way it should be. 
I have always understood my mother's feelings about loss of her children's love but she doesn't seem to understand that a parent's job and love is proven complete when the children turn to their spouse and own children.  Anyway, I know we will always remain close and caring, but never think that I will be hurt if you put Steve or your children first.
As I may have said before, I can't think of anyone who would be better for you than Steve.   However, love is much more important than who WE think would be good for you. Since I can truly tell from these letters from both of you, the love is deep and strong, the being right for each other is just an added bonus.  I am so very happy for you.  All my love, Daddy

To Beve he wrote:
Certainly "Dad" sounds fine with me if you are comfortable with it.  Actually, I really prefer Dad over Dick from my children or children-in-law, so I am pleased that is what you want to call me.
I am pleased and excited about marriage and future life for you and Carolyn.  I give my blessing enthusiastically. I cannot imagine anyone who would be better suited for Carolyn. Aside from the love you obviously have for her, you are on the same wave length with the Lord.  And nothing can be more important than those two things...
I have always wanted that Carolyn use her full potential and not waste it by standing in the shadows.  I can see the two of you as full partners, each pushing the other and being fulfilled by the other's deeds and contributions.  You both have wonderful gifts and you both need to use them in service for the Lord.  I am counting on you to see to it that Carolyn doesn't waster hers.  I am sure she will do the same for you.
I love forward to seeing you in April (A hug is expected, rather than a handshake) and to the wedding on May 12.  All my love, Dad

It may seem pretty personal for me to write these letters for all the world to see, but I have two reasons.  The first is for those readers who are my family, so you can hear Granddad's voice, because it's inimitable and sweet, and will help you remember what kind of man he was, how he loved his children.  I was blessed to get such a letter for the simple reason that I was across the ocean in the age before cell-phones, when he was stuck at home recovering, and something important was happening in my life.  But he would have spoken such words to any of us--or any of you--if you'd gone to him at such a time as that.  That was the quality of his love for each of his beloveds.

Secondly, I think of how we all long to know we are so loved by our Fathers.  How we long for such letters of knowing, affirmation and encouragement.  But here's the thing:  We have that.  Not all of us have a Daddy like I had.  I realize that.  I understand that that there are some out there for him this post points out a painful reality that cuts more closely to the heart than most.  And Jesus calling God Father does not fill such people with joy as it does me, because a father has been the instrument of pain and sorrow.

But Jesus fills up the Name of Father.  He teaches us who a Father can be.  What He really is.  A Father is one, is THE one, who loves the world--LOVES YOU--so much that He sent His only BEGOTTEN son to die for His hoped-for-adopted children.  Think on that a moment.  Think about how much God the Father loves you.

Then think of the amazing words He's written you to show it.  The words you can read every day, the one that is "God-breathed", living and active, able to pierce between bone and marrow.  That's piercing into the deepest places in your life.  He gave you this beautiful, amazing, heart-breaking letter of love.  And you can read it every day.  And I'm here to tell you, it'll change you if you do.  My daddy's letter may be a treasure to me, but  the Word of God is better--it's our Holy love letter.

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