Thanks to social media, the impact of a note can suddenly reach thousands with its message of love or acceptance. This year, several letters and notes about love, acceptance, and being gay went viral. While this tends to happen from year to year, all of them rightfully reached a larger audience than the intended recipients thanks to the powerful messages they contained.
These are the letters that moved us the most in 2013, reminding us of the power of the written word.
A Love Letter from One Soldier to Another
In 1943, American World War II soldier Brian Keith met and fell in love with a fellow soldier, Dave, while stationed in North Africa. The two shared laughs, intimate moments beneath the African night sky and tears when their time came to an end. After being separated by the demands of war, Brian penned a letter of love and yearning to a man he'd never see again.
This is in memory of an anniversary — the anniversary of October 27th, 1943, when I first heard you singing in North Africa. That song brings memories of the happiest times I’ve ever known. Memories of a GI show troop — curtains made from barrage balloons — spotlights made from cocoa cans — rehearsals that ran late into the evenings — and a handsome boy with a wonderful tenor voice. Opening night at a theatre in Canastel — perhaps a bit too much muscatel, and someone who understood. Exciting days playing in the beautiful and stately Municipal Opera House in Oran — a misunderstanding — an understanding in the wings just before opening chorus.
Drinks at "Coq d'or" — dinner at the "Auberge" — a ring and promise given. The show 1st Armoured — muscatel, scotch, wine — someone who had to be carried from the truck and put to bed in his tent. A night of pouring rain and two very soaked GIs beneath a solitary tree on an African plain. A borrowed French convertible — a warm sulphur spring, the cool Mediterranean, and a picnic of "rations" and hot cokes. Two lieutenants who were smart enough to know the score, but not smart enough to realize that we wanted to be alone. A screwball piano player — competition — miserable days and lonely nights. The cold, windy night we crawled through the window of a GI theatre and fell asleep on a cot backstage, locked in each other’s arms — the shock when we awoke and realized that miraculously we hadn't been discovered. A fast drive to a cliff above the sea — pictures taken, and a stop amid the purple grapes and cool leaves of a vineyard.
The happiness when told we were going home — and the misery when we learned that we would not be going together. Fond goodbyes on a secluded beach beneath the star-studded velvet of an African night, and the tears that would not be stopped as I stood atop the sea-wall and watched your convoy disappear over the horizon.
We vowed we’d be together again "back home," but fate knew better — you never got there. And so, Dave, I hope that where ever you are these memories are as precious to you as they are to me.
Goodnight, sleep well my love.
A Note of Support from Father to Son
In March, a note from a father to his son caught the hearts of many internet users when it was posted to Facebook and spread around social media. The note contained an admission of overhearing a son's plan to come out to his father. Instead of waiting for that conversation to work itself out, the father offered a few words of support and a need for orange juice. Just because he's gay doesn't mean he can't still complete his chores.
I overheard your phone conversation with Mike last night about your plans to come out to me. The only thing I need you to plan is to bring home OJ and bread after class. We are out, like you now.
I’ve known you were gay since you were six, I’ve loved you since you were born.
P.S. Your mom and I think you and Mike make a cute couple.
Words About Love Lost
In the 1920s novelist Vita Sackville-West engaged in an affair with Virginia Woolf. Virginia later turned the romance into the novel, Orlando. Before she did Vita wrote a longing letter for her former flame, who she was separated from after join her husband in Persia in 1926. (Orlando was published in 1928.)
I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way. You, with all your un-dumb letters, would never write so elementary a phrase as that; perhaps you wouldn't even feel it. And yet I believe you'll be sensible of a little gap. But you'd clothe it in so exquisite a phrase that it would lose a little of its reality. Whereas with me it is quite stark: I miss you even more than I could have believed; and I was prepared to miss you a good deal. So this letter is just really a squeal of pain. It is incredible how essential to me you have become. I suppose you are accustomed to people saying these things. Damn you, spoilt creature; I shan't make you love me any the more by giving myself away like this—But oh my dear, I can't be clever and stand-offish with you: I love you too much for that. Too truly. You have no idea how stand-offish I can be with people I don't love. I have brought it to a fine art. But you have broken down my defences. And I don't really resent it.
However I won't bore you with any more.
We have re-started, and the train is shaky again. I shall have to write at the stations - which are fortunately many across the Lombard plain.
Venice. The stations were many, but I didn't bargain for the Orient Express not stopping at them. And here we are at Venice for ten minutes only,—a wretched time in which to try and write. No time to buy an Italian stamp even, so this will have to go from Trieste.
The waterfalls in Switzerland were frozen into solid iridescent curtains of ice, hanging over the rock; so lovely. And Italy all blanketed in snow.
We're going to start again. I shall have to wait till Trieste tomorrow morning. Please forgive me for writing such a miserable letter.
A Lesson in Acceptance from One Generation to Another
The father's note to his son expressing support for his son coming out is a rare viral story that warms the heart. Everyone hopes that their coming out story is met with similar love and acceptance. However, when one son came out to his mother, he was met with a parent who wanted nothing to do with him. The sour moment was turned sweet when his grandfather stepped in, proving that age does not deflate understanding, love or inclusion. He stood up for his grandson like every parent should.
I'm disappointed in you as a daughter. You're correct that we have a "shame in the family", but mistaken about what it is.
Kicking Chad out of your home simply because he told you he was gay is the real "abomination" here. A parent disowing her child is what goes "against nature".
The only intelligent thing I heard you saying in all this was that "you didn't raise your son to be gay". Of course you didn't. He was born this way and didn't choose it any more than he being left-handed. You however, have made a choice of being hurtful, narrow-minded and backward. So, while we are in the business of [disowning] our children, I think I'll take this moment to say goodbye to you. I now have a fabulous (as the gay put it) grandson to raise, and I don't have time for heartless B-word of a daughter.
[If] you find your heart, give us a call.
President Obama's Homage to a Leader Who Came Before Him
On the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, President Obama penned a 272-word letter in praise of the generations that sacrificed so much in order to create a more equal nation. Following a historic year in the advancement of gay rights, Obama wrote "Lincoln’s words give us confidence that whatever trials avail us, this nation and the freedom we cherish can, and shall, prevail."
In the evening, when Michelle and the girls have gone to bed, I sometimes walk down the hall to a room Abraham Lincoln used as his office. It contains an original copy of the Gettysburg Address, written in Lincoln’s own hand.
I linger on these few words that have helped define our American experiment: “a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
Through the lines of weariness etched in his face, we know Lincoln grasped, perhaps more than anyone, the burdens required to give these words meaning. He knew that even a self evident truth was not self executing; that blood drawn by the lash was an affront to our ideals; that blood drawn by the sword was in painful service to those same ideals.
He understood as well that our humble efforts, our individual ambitions, are ultimately not what matter; rather, it is through the accumulated toil and sacrifice of ordinary men and women — those like the soldiers who consecrated that battlefield — that this country is built, and freedom preserved. This quintessentially self made man, fierce in his belief in honest work and the striving spirit at the heart of America, believed that it falls to each generation, collectively, to share in that toil and sacrifice.
Through cold war and world war, through industrial revolutions and technological transformations, through movements for civil rights and women’s rights and workers rights and gay rights, we have. At times, social and economic change have strained our union. But Lincoln’s words give us confidence that whatever trials avail us, this nation and the freedom we cherish can, and shall, prevail.