The other day, I received a letter from a dead man — my father, Kraig Keller. It was addressed to my grandparents when he attended a little-known college called Northeast Missouri State. I hardly knew my father — he passed away when I was five years old — but my grandparents kept his letters for well over 20 years, before they graciously passed it along to me. What a wondrous surprise it was to experience the words on the page, typed by typewriter no less, and to peer into the soul of a father I had barely known. Although I might not remember him, I can still hear echoes of his words, see his reflection, and hold on to what he has left behind. It is a mystery for me to discover — his writings and recollections shed light on the man he was. They were clues that would have never existed had he simply decided penning letters were not worth his time.
It got me thinking. When I am gone, what physical evidence will I leave behind of who I am? We will all leave memories imprinted on lives we have touched, but as any historian will tell us, the concrete is more valuable than the abstract. What will it reveal to us — who we are? Many of us do give glimpses of our lives through our efforts so often shared by social media. But do we want the only physical testament to our existence to be an impersonal web page? Or should we make an effort to sit down and really put pen to paper and let the words flow from the fountainhead?
In an increasingly digital, frantic world, the importance of being able to sit down and pen a heartfelt and thoughtful note to loved ones cannot be overstated. Take the time to write meaningful things to people — write back and forth. A family member might be a call or text away, but in years to come having something to look back on in the form of a sincere letter will be worth it — for both you and your descendants. Even better, keep a journal or a diary to record your daily thoughts, activities and actions. Take time to write down your innermost thoughts. You can be your own historian, if only for yourself, and be able to look back and see how far you’ve made it. Not only this, but research conducted by the University of Rochester reveals that journaling and writing is an excellent way to relieve stress, manage anxiety and let emotions out in a safe and secure environment.
As our professors are known to say, “This is important, so write this down.” Our lives are the most important thing we have to give to other people, so be sure to take just a moment to write it down. As I learned, you never know when a message from the past can pave the way to a brighter future.