“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
These words, penned by Elizabeth Barrett in the mid-1800s to Robert Browning, still make me sigh. Oh, the depth and breadth of her love!
Yet, how many of us carve out time today to write actual love letters? Not just quick notes, e-mails, text messages, or Facebook entries… but longer, more developed expressions of love and devotion, captured forever in writing?
I asked some friends this very question.
All agreed: Life is sure busy in this high tech age. And many said they expressed affection to spouses through things like electronic messages and notes tucked into lunch boxes. Some leave little “sticky” love notes on computer screens. And of course, a husband or wife can always write “I love you” on the bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker.
Now, my friend Bryan is quite creative. He writes little messages of love to his wife on breakfast eggs (before cracking them). He also puts notes in his wife’s purse and sends text messages during the day. “We’re pretty sappy,” he says, “and ridiculous about it.”
Jayna and her husband write to each other on napkins whenever they pack a lunch for one another. “They’re very simple,” she says. “We usually say something like, ‘Have a great day. I can’t wait to see you tonight. I love you!’”
And when Wayne has to travel, he hides love notes all around the house for his wife. He’s especially proud of one creative way he expressed his devotion. “Once when I left early in the morning for a trip,” he says, “I left a sticky note on the toilet lid which read ‘I've flipped my lid over you!’ -- particularly poetic and heart-warming, I thought.”
All these are great ideas. But could there be an even better, more lasting way of expressing love?
“I want you to know that you mean all the world to me.”
Phyllis says it’s worth carving out time to write love letters, even when that time may be hard-pressed. She cherishes some letters her husband, Ken, wrote years ago. For example:
After 42 years of marriage, I am still learning how to affirm you. I want you to know that you mean all the world to me. As I think of the possibility that we might someday be separated due to death, it is hard to think of life without you.
I appreciate your deep love for Jesus and your desire to live a godly life. I enjoy your creative expressions with the piano and creative memories. I am thankful for the way you love your children and grandchildren. You have such a giving heart for them.
I am glad that you want to spend time with me. You always tell me how much you miss me after we have been together on a trip. You speak well of me to others. You encourage me in my work, especially when I am discouraged. You urge me to serve the Lord in whatever way I can. …
“I am very proud to have been Ken’s wife for almost 49 years,” Phyllis says.
“I want to watch your hair turn gray and your eyes looking at me like I was 25 again.”
Linda only wishes that she could have had 49 years with her beloved Corky. She seems too young to be a widow -- raising a son alone. She knows firsthand that there is power in the pen.
Several years ago Corky said that he didn’t feel well, she says. “But he assured me that he’d be okay and went to lie down in the bedroom.” A few short hours later, he slipped into eternity.
Although Corky was a quiet man, Linda says that he would write like a poet on special occasions, inside greeting cards. In one letter to her he wrote:
I watched you last night while you were sleeping and imagined I was dreaming. You are in my heart so deeply, so securely, that I can only imagine that if our treasures are in heaven that I am already there.
I know I don't speak these things to you when I love you or when you're cooking, cleaning, home from work and taking care of Adam and me, and you are a mess. But my love for you, your faithfulness, your giving yourself to me… is something that is spiritual. It can only be felt between 2 people who trust one another so much that they give themselves over to another person, trusting they will always, under all conditions, be taken care of forever.
I want to grow old with you. I want to complain of the grandchildren always being underfoot and not really meaning it. I want to watch your hair turn gray and your eyes looking at me like I was 25 again.
If I took my last breath today, I would have lived a lifetime.
… I will always watch over you and be with you. I love you now and forever.
“His expressions of love,” Linda says, “are a treasure now. I read them every holiday. It’s like receiving love from him from beyond the grave.”
“Just seeing her handwriting makes me smile.”
Over and over again, people who have lost a spouse shared with me the priceless value of love letters.
Karen never doubted Mike’s love. “But,” she says, “it is always nice to be told once again that I was loved and was special to him. Just seeing his handwriting brings back a sense of his presence, and his personality comes alive again.”
Tim understands the importance of feeling loved. “In the context of widowerhood,” he says, “love letters can give substance to memories.”
As he reads his wife Niece’s notes and letters, he says that he is taken back to a time when he was loved and in love. “[They] are a part of her that I can still have and hold,” he says. “Just seeing her handwriting makes me smile.”
Teri Elaine also smiles when she is reminded of how much Joe loved her. She keeps one of his letters in her Bible and reads it almost every day. “It is such a sweet reminder,” she says, “of his love for me and his love for God."
“The letters are a treasure to me,” she adds. “I notice every little dot and tittle. I can almost feel Joe’s physical presence with me as I read them -- they still take my breath away.”
A love letter takes us back to a human touch…a warm embrace…to fingers entwined and hearts beating as one.
Although they come with no price tags, love letters are precious treasures. Legacies of devotion to be passed from one generation to the next. Tangible reminders that there is no greater gift than love.
Used with permission of FamilyLife, a ministry of Cru, www.familylife.com. Copyright © 2009 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
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Walt and Ann Bealke have been married for a long time, just not to each other. They are now 5 years into their marriage (the third for each of them), and are seeing God redeem their pasts and build a Gospel-centered marriage.
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