My heart melted when I came across this story. What a beautiful, lasting gesture. I thought about his sweet wife looking down from heaven with such LOVE. Please read the full story.
Heart made with LOVE
When Janet Howes died suddenly 17 years ago, her devoted husband Winston decided he wanted to create a lasting tribute to her.
The farmer planted thousands of oak saplings in a six-acre field – but left a heart-shaped area in the middle, with the point facing towards his wife’s childhood home.
And as the remarkable picture here shows, his romantic labour of love has now grown into a mature meadow, a peaceful oasis where Mr Howes can sit and remember his wife of 33 years.
THE LAST VALENTINE
Several days ago I rummaged through my jewelry box. The action evoked a ton of memories. The bejeweled necklaces, lovely rings, bracelets, earrings – all Valentine’s Day gifts from my husband Ernest throughout our 48 years together. All accompanied with cards that were the best Hallmark produced – and thank God for that. Ernest was born and raised in Argentina, and just like Desi Arnaz, he fractured the English language.
I enjoyed the beauty of the jewelry and the many perfume vials – but they are only material possessions. I then raised my eyes to view the most cherished of all Ernest’s valentine gifts. Hanging on our bedroom wall. His last valentine gift to me.
It was Valentine’s Day 2003. I drove into our garage after attending my exercise class. I viewed hanging on the garage wall, in front of my car, what appeared to be the Styrofoam cover of a cooler. As I gazed closer, I noted that a heart was drawn on the Styrofoam in a red pen with the words “Happy Valentine – I love you forever – Me.”
I removed the cover from the wall and quickly entered the dining room where Ernest was seated next to his walker. I smilingly questioned him, “This is what I get for Valentine’s Day?” With his usual impish grin, he lifted both his hands toward me, palms up, and said, “It’s the best I can do, for I am your prisoner.”
Indeed he was! For the last five years Ernest had battled cancer and the “monster” had left him seriously debilitated – totally dependent on me. Seven months later, Ernest passed away.
A few months after Ernest left this life, my youngest son, then age 36, was organizing the content of the garage and barreled into my kitchen waving the Styrofoam cover demanding, “Hey Mom, what do you want to do with this? It was in the garage!” I turned and gasped for I had forgotten about “my last Valentine.”
I held it close and it suddenly became the most valuable Valentine I have ever had.
The cover now hangs on my bedroom wall, reminding me each morning, upon my awakening, of Kahlil Gibran’s words from “The Prophet” – “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
Mary A. Ale, Santa Ana (found on the ocregister.com)
Photo credit: Tiffany Farley
LOVE letters to NY
I looked down at my shoes as people filled the train, and then I saw her. I saw her beat-up unlaced construction boots first. I followed the shoes, laceless hole by laceless hole, all the way up to the face of an old woman. She was tiny. She had a slight slump in her shoulders. She wore a bright red cap. Wisps of gray poked out from beneath it.
As I watched the woman, I thought about the letters my mother wrote and how she must have known an ordinary piece of loose-leaf paper morphs into a love letter when a person puts her self into it. Then I remembered the notebook in the belly of my bag. I would write the woman a note and give it to her as I exited the train, I decided. I could drop it at her feet.
I pulled the notebook out of my bag, turned to a new page, and began writing a letter. The words spilled out of me.
When I looked up, the woman was gone. I left the letter in my notebook, unsure of what to do with it now that she would never know that it was meant for her.
After I wrote that letter, more letters to other people I observed came marching out of me, one by one, until soon I had filled up the notebook.
Back on the train, just a few days later, the plan became clear. I was going to leave the letter I wrote to the woman on the subway for someone else to find. Then I would scatter other love letters all over New York City. And once I had set each one in its place, I would write even more. And you want to know why? Because it made me feel something.
I tried to imagine what would make me pick up a letter if I found it on a random subway train or in a coffee shop thinking it might have been for me all along. I settled on something simple: If you find this letter … then it’s for you. I wrote those words on my first letter. I folded the letter and placed it behind me. When I got to my stop, I planned to let the letter slip down onto the seat as I walked away.
I left the letters everywhere I could. I was playing Juliet to the city.
At Grand Central Terminal, I waited for the subway doors to open and then busted out of my seat quickly. Darting through the doors, I kept walking faster and faster once my feet hit the platform. My nerves surged. There was a whiff of adrenaline as I got farther away from the train, disappearing into the city.
During the fall of 2010, I kept tucking and leaving, tucking and leaving. I left the letters everywhere I could. I propped them on bathroom sinks. I slid them into coat pockets in department stores. I left them in fitting rooms. I would stick them into the seats at work when I would attend large meetings. I was playing Juliet to the city.
When 24-year-old Hannah Brencher moved to New York after college, she was hit by depression and overwhelming loneliness. One day she felt so alone, she wanted to reach out to someone. And so she put pen to paper and started writing letters. Letters to complete strangers.
But these weren’t sad letters about how she was feeling. They were happy letters, all about the other person, not her. She would write messages for people to have a “bright day” and tell strangers how brilliant they were, even if they thought no one else had noticed. Brencher began dropping the notes all over New York, in cafes, in library books, in parks and on the subway. It made her feel better, knowing that she might be making somebody’s day through just a few short, sweet words. It gave her something to focus on. And so, The World Needs More Love Letters was born.
The World Needs More Love Letters is all about writing letters – not emails, but proper, handwritten letters. Not conventional love letters, written to a real beloved, but surprise letters for strangers. They don’t necessarily say “I love you”, but they are full of kindness (that’s the love Brencher’s talking about) – telling people they are remarkable and special and all-round amazing. It’s the sort of stuff that most people don’t really say out loud even to the people they care about, let alone a total stranger.
Brencher’s initiative has now exploded. She has personally written hundreds, if not thousands of letters. Last year, she did a Ted talk. In it, she talks about a woman whose husband, a soldier, comes back from Afghanistan and they struggle to reconnect – “So she tucks love letters throughout the house as a way to say: ‘Come back to me. Find me when you can'” – and a university student who slips letters around her campus, only to suddenly find everyone is writing them and there are love letters hanging from the trees.
Now there are more than 10,000 people who join in all over the world. Sometimes, they write letters to order, to people who are lonely and down and just want someone to tell them that everything will be OK. Mostly, though, they scribble notes and leave them somewhere unlikely, for somebody to find.
In the months that followed, Brencher started her own site,MoreLoveLetters.com, about her project, inspiring others to write and leave letters in their own communities. Now the website connects her both to strangers in need of love letters and to those who want to write them.
About a year later, a woman wrote to me about her friend Briana, a single mother struggling to pay the rent. I typed out Briana’s story and published it on the website, encouraging anyone who read it to mail me letters of encouragement for Briana. I decided that at the end of the month, I’d send Briana a bundle of love letters.
A week later, my heart sank as I walked into the town post office and unlocked PO Box 2061. It was nearly empty. There was just a single yellow slip.
“This was left in my box,” I told the man at the front of the post office.
“Oh, box 2061,” he said. “You got too much mail, dear. We moved you to a bigger box.”
I walked away from the post office with a lot of mail—and a big idea about human beings: mainly that if you give them something to do, a mission, they will show up. At the end of that month, I marched the love letter bundle for Briana to the post office and mailed it off to her.
“They show you’re not alone and that you’re not struggling for nothing.”
A week later, I got a thank-you e-mail from Briana’s friend. “It’s not that the letters heal you,” she wrote. “They show you’re not alone and that you’re not struggling for nothing.”
After such an amazing response to Briana’s story, I was encouraged to continue. I’d post a new story on the site and then check for letters at the post office every couple of days. The postal worker would emerge from the back room with a heaping stack of letters or a mail crate, sometimes two.
I read every letter, then bundled it up with a note explaining how hundreds of people around the world had come together to write the letters now sitting in the hands of someone who didn’t expect to get mail beyond bills and coupons that day.
Most of us are good. I know that’s always up for debate, but it feels as if, at the core, we are good. And sometimes we lose. We fight for things. We lose the fight for things. We fail. We get lost. Sometimes we don’t show up at all.
We make mistakes. We hurt the people who mean more than the world to us. And we get hurt. We get rejected. We fail tests. We oversleep. We break promises. We break hearts. We doubt ourselves. We drink too much. We laugh too little. And we are hopeful.
We found out about Luke (not his real name) from his daughter. She got a rush of surprise one day when she came home and saw a package waiting for her. She knew it was the love letters she had requested for her father. Luke was in his last round of chemotherapy and having a rough morning when the bundle arrived.
Luke and his daughter sat together for hours and read every last one. She wrote, He was filled with so much energy after reading those letters—he’s even begun to make a collage out of them. He plans to frame the collage and hang it proudly on the wall of his office.
Then there was the soldier and his sister. He had the dirt of both Afghanistan and Iraq deep in the grooves of his boots. PTSD hung on his shoulders like a cloak when he finally came home. We mailed him a bundle. One day he called his sister, crying—sitting on the floor and unable to speak—over the letters strangers had sent cheering for him. She told me that one small act had renewed her faith in humanity.
Above all stories, I will always go back to Matt’s from Ohio. He e-mailed me one night about two years ago. Matt told me he was getting older. His family and he were disconnected. He didn’t have many friends. He was starting to believe he’d leave nothing behind and he’d be forgotten.
The message was sent with no return address attached. There was no way to write back to him, but I hope he reads these words:
Matt, I want you to know: You were wrong to think you’d be forgotten. And I was wrong to think people couldn’t walk into our lives and shift our histories in an instant. Because you did that for me.
From the book If You Find This Letter by Hannah Brencher. Copyright © 2015 by Hannah Brencher. reprinted by permission of Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., simonandschuster.com.
I think this is a great idea—I told my daughter about this story & she lit up. She grabbed her lap top & talked about how kids in middle school could use some good letters. She typed up her own letter & we made some copies. Her and her friend secretly have been slipping them in lockers to brighten kids days. Middle school is tough.
Where can you send some love? Drop a LOVE note somewhere. anywhere.