I have a poor history of writing letters, much to my mother's consternation. She raised me better than that, I assure you. The only time I wrote faithfully was when my buddy signed up for the U.S. Marines. I stopped writing letters after his death in Afghanistan. Truth is, letter writing is very emotional and extremely personal, and the one person I believed I could write letters for, died before I could send the last one.
I may never recover. The last letter I wrote still haunts me.
There's another letter that haunts me, but for a completely different reason. Sullivan Ballou penned the most beautiful words to his wife. His story and that letter I heard for the first time in September of 1990. To this date, I have yet to come across anything that has affected me so deeply. "Sara, my love for you is deathless..." Sullivan wrote on July 14, 1861. He died a week later, on July 29, 1861, from wounds received in the Battle of Bull Run.
Please follow the link and read the letter. It will impact your life.
So, forgive me for being emotional. I wanted you to know, dear readers, what this prompt conjures up for me.
I offer the following in response: The Last Postcard
“Tara, I’ve some bad news about Uncle Jim,” Momma had tears in her eyes.
I knew what was coming next. My heart was going to break. Uncle Jim was an easy man to love, though most found him a hard man to like, especially when he drank. He wasn’t always a drunk. Apparently, there was a time before the bottle when he was the pride of the family.
There was no need for her to say anything additional, but she continued, “He died, two weeks ago. He was trying to save a family from a burning building…”
Momma said once Grandfather believed Jim was the only son-in-law worthy of the title until Aunt Jolene and Cousin Grace perished in an apartment fire. Momma watched it happen on the news channel. Jim had to hear about it from his commanding officer while they were in Grenada. Momma said that he was never right after that. He slipped into a bottle before I was born and then after my third birthday, he simply disappeared. I was the only family he spoke to after that.
He’d send me a random postcard, or he called when I was the only one home. I remembered the last conversation we had, about my dreams to attend an old world university, but there was no way we could ever afford the opportunity. We lived in Wilcox Springs, population 530, jobs 14. My uncle Jim may have been running from the pain of his past and this forsaken town, but it might’ve been the best thing he ever did after he crawled out of the bottle.
“Fire claimed him?” I asked Momma hoarsely after the silence grew too much for me to bear. “I think somehow he would’ve wanted that.”
“He’s left this for you,” she said, pulling a postcard out of the legal-looking envelope.
Too stunned to cry, I inspected the postcard, recognizing his terse script. Remember, Tara. I turned the postcard around to view the peaceful grounds of Trinity College. “This is enough,” I said honestly.
“Honey, that’s not all,” Momma whispered, catching my gaze as she offered me the documents in her hand.
I took the communication delicately. The black words on white background played games with my vision momentarily. “To Tara,” I read aloud, shaking, “who reminds me of all that Grace would have been, I give all I would have given her had she survived me, to be held in trust with a small monthly stipend, and the remaining in full upon successful completion of a degree from Trinity College, or other higher learning facility of your choosing.”
“That sneaky drunken fool made a fortune and he’s left it all to you,” Momma said without venom, tears dancing happily in her eyes.
I clutched his last postcard to my heart and refused to let go.