By Vicky Joy Demonteverde | March 25, 2021
The first letter appeared on the day the sunset was bleeding red, perched on the foot of a tombstone below a dying tree. Don does not have a habit of reading mysterious letters offered to the dead, but this one doesn’t even have an envelope, just a plain white paper folded thrice, with creases that looked like someone held on it for a very long time. It only contained one word. A question. Written in blue ink, “Why?” it asked, and nothing more. Don thought he’d read it to the deceased recipient, thinking it would be a waste for a letter to go unread, and the resting soul there might be happy to hear what’s in it, but it wasn’t a particularly good letter. It wasn’t even a particularly good question. Maybe whoever was laid there below his feet would understand, but he didn’t, so he contented himself with having offered his services and went on his merry way.
The second letter appeared a week later, still on the same spot but now weighed down by a yellow flower, carefully folded inside a white envelope. Don saw it as he was about to return the first letter he mistakenly brought with him. The letter gave no return address and smelled faintly of coffee, and so Don asked permission from the deceased to open and read it aloud for him. This time it contained four words, written in black ink in a white tissue paper with a coffee stain on it, the dark ring dried stiff but still smelled strongly of the drink. It said “I’ve missed you terribly” and nothing more. Don thought whoever was in this tomb must have been terribly loved, if he was terribly missed at his passing. Don inspected the yellow flower. It was wilting slightly, like someone plucked it up and looked at it for a very long time, reliving an old memory, before putting it down.
The third letter appeared on a rainy day, rolled inside a bottle, amidst the growing grass around the tombstone below the dripping dying tree. Don arrived just as the sky was clearing, his shoes caked with mud and the tombs still wet and shiny from the rain. It took him a while to dry his hand so he won’t damage the paper, and when he unrolled the letter inside was a blue feather. It read “Today I saw the blue bird you always talked about. It was perched just outside your window, like you said it did. Today your room would be empty, but I will keep your favorite things. I will take care of them, like you took care of me. Today, I still miss you terribly.” And Don smiled a sad smile, and told the man in the grave that he was a lucky man, and pledged to read to him the letters if more would come.
And every week more letters appeared, some short, some long, written on all sorts of paper. There were torn notebooks, bottle labels, stationaries or just plain paper. It was always handwritten, in blue or black or red ink, sometimes in pencil. But always the letters came. Sometimes there are trinkets, like a shiny rock, a broken glass, a picture of green grass, a guitar pick, or a candy wrapper that smelled of caramel. And always Don read it, out loud, for the letter recipient’s soul in the graveyard. He kept the letters in a shoebox, wrapped in plastic and hidden under his bed. Some nights, when he was lonely, when the shadows reminded him too much of the past, Don read the letters. One day, he thought, one day he would be worthy to receive this kind of letters too.
Then one day, three years after the first letter appeared, Don arrived on the tombstone and found that no letter appeared. Instead, by the tombstone, in the looming dying tree, sat a woman with flowing raven hair, tears in her eyes, and a ghost of a smile. They both knew that it was Don that read the letters and it was the woman who sent them. Don nodded his greetings, like a proper man does, and the woman whispered her thanks, nothing more.
Nothing else was said, but they both knew, everything will be alright, in a way. Don sat beside the woman and looked up in the heavens, between the dying tree’s dead branches, and noticed a bud, a small green bud. The dying tree was dying no more.