Thanksgiving will be bittersweet for me this year. It will be sweet because the last few months have been some of the best in my life. And bitter, because two days ago Kenn died–a man who displayed Christ’s love to me when I needed it most.
How did our relationship begin? Typically a spontaneous visit to a spouse’s great-uncle’s home two thousand miles away in California would be a casual meeting, and nothing more. But over the course of an hour, Kenn and I decided that corresponding with each other sounded interesting.
And how might we correspond? Email? No. I’m much too nostalgic for that. And Kenn was forty years my senior. Handwritten letters, folded up within lined notebook paper, deliberately addressed, deliberately stamped, and physically placed into the mailbox; it was the only acceptable way.
So here I am, two days after his death, submerged in a pile of his handwritten letters, wishing I could receive one more.
Our letters began in 2005 and many of them discussed issues of faith and spiritual growth, and many provided encouragement. But I want to share excerpts of the last few letters. I wrote Kenn a letter in Jan. 2008, in which I described my challenges with marriage and the revelation of Caleb’s special needs. This was part of his response:
Your letter, with its news about Caleb, and you, and your struggles, as an individual and couple, has moved Louise and me deeply! We can sense…how painful it is for you to live faithfully and hopefully…
Another letter from Kenn, August 12, 2008:
How you are managing to do it all, it seems to me, is a powerful witness to where, how , and on Whom you’ve centered your lives and your marriage. I haven’t written for a while, so this is “overdue”, but I want you to know just what I think about you, how often I think about you, and how happy I am for you. Louise and I often include you in our prayers…
Months later I was at a breaking point. I had not a soul I desired to reach out to–no friend, no family, no wife. I was too embarrassed and scared to share my struggles with fatherhood and marriage, work and lack of contentment with others. But I shared them in a moment of weakness with Kenn.
And Kenn responded:
Please see, together, a marriage and family counselor, now. You are now in my special prayers, as I am folding these pages, I will ask God to invest my words with His Wisdom and Power, so that they are communicated to you…
I rejected that plea, but during my deep struggles I never forgot the Christ-like love he shared with me through that last letter in 2008. I shut myself off to the world instead of listening to Kenn. Had I listened, my marriage might have been mended years earlier.
I never wrote to Kenn again. I think I was too embarrassed. Embarrassed at who I had become–an automaton fulfilling my manly responsibilities, devoid of emotion or concern for others. I was broken.
Maybe one last letter, since it has been so long and so much has changed in my life, might have filled this void I tearfully write about now. But that’s only a selfish desire; it would only serve as salve on a wound caused by my lack of concern for a dying man.
Kenn believed in the risen Christ, and Kenn’s faith was a bulwark I couldn’t ignore or forget, even after our correspondence ceased. Speaking to him now would only benefit me, help me deal with regret. But as for Kenn, he’s not melancholy over our sporadic correspondence. Instead he is in heaven, rejoicing at the throne of Christ.
And I couldn’t be more thankful for anything today.
Kenn, if you read blogs in heaven, know that I took much from you and gave too little. You didn’t seem to mind. And some day, I hope to do the same for a young man like myself, pour into him, pray for him, so that he might drink and become wise, and know all the promises Christ has to offer. I’ll pull out all our letter then. Because I know there I will find inspiration in your sincerity, love, and faith in Christ.
See you in eternity, Kenn.