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Letters from Afar

"In a man's letters his soul lies naked." ~ Samuel Johnson

My most treasured possessions are hidden away in a box, tucked back on a shelf in my closet. They are not displayed prominently for others to see, nor do they hold any monetary value. But they are very valuable. They are love letters from my husband. Letters that were written during his time at Basic Training when we had no choice but to communicate through written word. They are beautiful and heartfelt, filled with love and longing. Our letters to each other during that time expressed our feelings for each other...feelings that many times went unspoken. Sometimes they were apologies for past mistakes, or promises for the future. I remember daily taking time to sit and write him a letter, filled with what the kids were doing and how things were at home, but also to tell him that I loved him, missed him and appreciated him. Those letters to each other were all we had and they were what got us through those long months with little phone communication.  While our time of letter writing was brief, only spanning three months, I have a bundle of probably 50 or more letters. To me, they are priceless.

The communication with this deployment has been much different than our previous times apart. We've only written a handful of letters. With the availability of Internet overseas (although not good at times), we have been able to have almost daily contact, sometimes talking multiple times throughout the day. Through Facebook, email, and Skype, we are almost sure to find each other somehow.  To hear his voice and see his face on the computer screen has many times provided relief during this stressful time. Our kids have shown him the things they have made at school and been able to feel like Daddy was still a part of their daily lives. And for me,  just to see his face after a few days of no communication was all I needed to keep me going. 

While I am so grateful for these forms of communication, and would not want to go without them, they lack a certain depth and emotion that written letters provide.  When we talk over Skype, we tend to talk about daily life and the things that are going on at home. Chatting over Facebook allows quick communication, but many times the messages get mixed up or our words get misinterpreted. Sure, we told each other "I love you" and "I miss you," but not in the same depth you would profess these sentiments in a letter. When writing a letter, the sender isn't talking directly to the recipient and does not face immediate response to what they have said. While many times I want the quick response to a question or comment, there are times when I want to express my thoughts or feelings without worrying how the other person will respond. Will he think I'm silly for feeling this way? Is what I say too mushy or needy sounding? Unfortunately I am not good with expressing my feelings verbally, so to be able to write them in a letter is liberating. To tell my husband how much he means to me through these letters, and to read his words to me stating the same, helped keep our marriage and love strong during the months apart.

To me though, the most valuable part of writing letters is the physical aspect of having them. Receving a letter in the mail from my husband while he is away is as physically close to him as I can get. It is something that he touched and took time to write. I touch the words on the paper and know they are his.  Once he placed a flower in the letter, a weed that he had picked in a field during training. It was dried and in pieces when it arrived to me, but it was still beautiful. It showed that he was thinking of me, even when he was busy far away. Knowing how busy he is during this deployment makes the letters I receive from him now even more special.  And when days pass with no communication, touching and reading those letters brings him close.

I imagine someday, passing our letters to my children and grandchildren. They will see the love that we shared and the commitment we had to each other, even when far apart. In some way the letters are our history, our legacy, as well as that of our family. And that is more valuable to me than any other  possession.

How do you stay in touch with your SO when they are deployed or at training? Do you prefer communicating over the Internet, or the old-fashion letter?

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