I came across a letter my mom wrote me 20 years ago. I was working in Bangkok, Thailand, my first job out of college. She wrote the letter one day after I had called feeling depressed, homesick and lonely, thinking about giving up and coming home.

I managed to stick it out, and when it was time to go back to the U.S., that letter traveled back with me. Then it went from the West to the East Coast, back to the West Coast and then back to the East Coast again, pretty much everywhere I’ve lived since the day I received it. It’s been stored in suffocating attics and lonely storage units, under beds crammed in with God alone knows what else. But here it is.  

When I put it close to my face there’s a sweet, dry smell that seems to have a little of every year and every place I’ve been since she wrote it. The paper is still crisp, and it’s the same paper she sat down and held as she wrote with her legendary cursive. You can see the indentations where she pressed or crossed something out.  

Dear Mark,

…  Hope the weeks are going by smoother. Things probably haven’t changed that much but hopefully your ability to cope has reached a better point. Really wish you had called sooner. Not that we had solutions and I know you hated making that call but you may have been spared a little anguish. I’m so glad you did call — not that we wanted you to be miserable. You just have to know we are here for you through thick and thin. Really.  

Of course we want to share in the good news whenever it comes but things can’t always be rosy. You have to share the tough moments too, if only to get some off your mind or shoulders. We like to think we are always in command but I don’t care who you are, there comes a time when we all need someone, even if it’s just listening. …

I can’t help but think you are going to look back at some point in your life and see all you have experienced in Thailand as a very positive time — when you are far away from it and see it in another light.

Love and prayers,


She was right, including the last part: I’m far away from that moment and that person and see it all in another light. 

I’ve said this before, but as convenient as emailing, texting, Facebook and all the rest are, letters still seem like the best form of communication ever invented. A letter is an event. Even when the writer is gone, you still have their words right in front of you.  

Happy Mother’s Day to Mom, and to all our moms.