Outside the Circle

Cindy Milstein

Love Letter


I’m not sure I’ve ever received a better love letter (though I’m happy to be proven wrong in the future!). Nor a more startling one, and one that truly warranted “Be still, my beating heart!”

Out of the blue, a friend forwarded a letter with some other, mostly junk-mail. As I flipped through one piece after another to toss, a pristine envelope with a familiar hand appeared, as apparition, as ghostwriter, as if out of the grave.

My first thought was, “How could she send this?” Some nine months ago, I held my second (chosen) mom’s right hand, her writing hand, her beloved hand that often held my hand with tenderness, as she died; I helped wrap her into white envelope of cloth; I accompanied her still body through sublime Michigan countryside to crematorium, and eased her journey to ash. How could pen, paper, card, and hand reach out to me?

I stared at her name, in her script, then her room number, the room I’d helped move her in to and spent countless precious hours with her in, late into the evening, we night owls both, and she a wise one. I don’t recall breathing for what seemed minutes; I don’t remember if my heart was throbbing with confused anticipation, ache of absence, or fear of this spectral letter, or if my heart was cold and quiet as a gray-granite gravestone. I stared at it. Placed it with somber care in the middle of my cleaned-off desk, as if altar. I went to sleep, woke, stared at her handwriting more reverently, bewildered by this message. I went about my day, or ghostwalked through it. And finally, as dusk fell, slowly sliced open the envelope.

“Love” emerged. A twinkling heart swung gayly from a tiny silver thread (like Mary, who never failed to wear precisely the right costume jewelry for her palette-perfect thrift shop outfits, and whose eyes were piercing-twinkling, curious, mischievous, guiding stars). Two hearts entwined, embracing each other. And on all three other pages, words from February 2015, meant as salve for an especially hard time in my life, meant as harbor, assuring me of my strength and her love, her as my chosen family, always there.

Always here. In this letter written then; maybe now.

For love remains, or rather, love lives, lettered into us.

* * *

(Photo by Cindy Milstein; love letter by Mary Burks, October 2016.)

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This entry was posted on October 21, 2016 by in Dispatches from Life.
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