Toast & Finches

Letters of Condolence

a pile of pretty letters

I love letters, and recently there have been a great many letters exchanged — as you can see from the photo here. Letters from far-flung, eastern hotels on lovely, thick stationery. Handmade notes with tidbits of poetry and garden updates. Silly postcards and brief, but heartfelt birthday wishes.

There have also been notes of condolence. My sweet grammy passed away. She was the last of the grands, and a very good friend to me. As a kid, she let me run straight from the lake into the house — barefoot and sopping wet — and filled me with homemade pies, cookies and jam, another contributor to my lifelong love of good food. She indulged my eccentricities, allowing me not only to sleep in the musty room over the garage rather than in the house, but also to hunker down in an ancient feather bed there for hours, sometimes whole days, reading. Of course, we didn’t always get along: She insisted on good manners and took away my sweets the day I bit my older brother on the stomach for playing keep-away with a favorite barrette.

If we were somewhat aloof from one another in my terrible twenties, we reunited in my more thoughtful thirties. I had by then, finally, learned to ask questions. I discovered that she had led a fascinating life — a childhood in a pickle factory, the great depression, World War II. She would repay my interest generously, telling stories full of character and humor. I miss talking to her very much.

When she died, I received many notes from friends. The sentiments were all plainly stated; no elegant treatise, better places or metaphors. Most said something simple, along the lines of, “Sorry to hear of the passing of your sweet grammy.” Yet all were genuine and deeply felt by me. In those moments, it was so comforting to know that someone was thinking of me, and as odd as it might sound, to receive that acknowledgement of my grief in private. Knowing that, I will be more vigilant in sending notes of my own when circumstances arise.