In his book, The Five Letters Every Christian Should Write: Reflections on Life, Death, and Spirit in the Age of Covid, a close family friend, Rev. David E. Gray, Senior Pastor of Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church, recommended readers write a letter to their parents, God, a significant person, a future generation, and oneself.
With my son Gregg’s encouragement, I wrote those letters over the course of a year to my parents, who died too early in the 1960s; to God; to my dear wife, June; to the next generations; and to myself.
I was deeply moved by this and found the experience to be meaningful and richly rewarding. The letter to my wife, June, is over twenty pages, with many pictures and memories recounting our adventures together over the 58 years of our marriage so far.
The letter to God was also especially significant. I had recently reread the C.S. Lewis classic book, Mere Christianity, and was inspired by its clarity and logic. Since then, June and I have begun attending a local church, after a long absence. We find it comforting and uplifting.
Inspired to go further, I also wrote a sixth letter to my sister, Ann, who has meant much to me and with whom I’ve grown closer over the years. She was deeply appreciative.
Recently, Gregg and I did a webinar for the Vail Alliance for Purposeful Living in which I shared how meaningful this letter-writing experience has been for me. We heard from several that they now plan to write their own letters.
I also gave a eulogy recently for a good friend who passed away unexpectedly. I realized that I hadn’t told him how much our friendship meant to me while he was still alive. So, I committed to write more letters to people, alive or dead, who have meant much to me. Just because someone has passed away doesn’t mean they aren’t present with us.
As David noted in his book, you don’t have to be a Christian, or even a believer in a higher power, to write your own letters. Your belief may be in the power and beauty of nature, or in community with fellow human beings.
If you start with writing just one letter, you may find that your experience is also deeply meaningful and surprisingly satisfying, both for you and the recipient (if you choose to share it).
Along with David, I encourage you to start writing one of your letters soon. Let me know how it goes. God bless.
Bob Vanourek and Gregg Vanourek are leadership practitioners, teachers, trainers, and award-winning authors. They are co-authors of Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations (a winner of the International Book Awards, and called “the best book on leadership since Good to Great”), based on extensive research and practice, and their interviews with leaders in 61 organizations in 11 countries. Check out their manifesto on Leadership Derailers (and how to avoid them) and sign up for their newsletter.