Unopened Letters

Mr. Elijah was about sixty-five years old when he killed himself. He simply got up one morning, neatly laid his slippers on the window ledge and jumped 30 stories to his death. Everyone in the neighborhood talked about it, and the obvious conclusion was that he just couldn't take it anymore. His wife had died of cancer years before and they had no children, so he lived alone. He never had any visitors, and over the years I had watched his countenance go from friendly and open to surly and withdrawn.

My earliest memories of Mr. Elijah were when I was about four years old. My mother and I had just moved into the neighborhood. I suppose that because he and Mrs. Elijah had no children of their own, they took every opportunity to dote on me. I would spend hours with them talking about all the interesting things four-year-olds talk about in the bliss of eating vanilla ice cream. They also gave me stuffed animals and hats and scarves that Mrs. Elijah had knitted for me.

However, when I began to attend kindergarten my visits with the Elijah's became less frequent. Soon we would only see each other in passing as I gave the highlights of my new experiences in school. As the years progressed, contact with them faded even further into the blur of school and extracurricular activities.

I was about eight years old when Mrs. Elijah had passed on. I hadn't been seeing her around much anymore, and when I did, I noticed that she looked different. Although her warm smile had not changed one bit, her eyes looked weary and she was pale and thin. When I came home from school one day my mom told me that she had died that morning. We went to take some food over to Mr. Elijah's apartment and keep him company. The moment I walked in I felt strange. The warmth and life which used to be so present in their home was gone. Everything seemed dark and alien -- even Mr. Elijah. He sat in the favorite chair where Mrs. Elijah used to bring his meals each day, just staring out of the window in a daze of shock and disbelief. His face was haggard and covered with razor stubble. I didn't know what to say, so I sat there while my mother tried to make conversation and get him to eat. He never even looked away from the window, so we just sat there with him in silence for a little while before leaving.

That experience was too unnerving for me, but my mother would continue to bring over meals and make sure he was okay. Soon he stopped answering his door, although my mom she said she could hear him shuffling around inside. Eventually Mr. Elijah did come out of his house. Now and then I saw him going to the store and running errands, but he was never the same again. He stopped speaking to everyone and became a recluse. A few more years went by and things began to change as old friends moved from the neighborhood and new people began to come in. Mr. Elijah, once a robust man had shrunken considerably but continued to wear his old clothes, which were dirty, tattered and hung on his slight frame. The new kids were scared of him and made up stories about him hiding in dark corners trying to snatch them unaware.

My mother periodically tried to visit, but he was aloof and refused to let her in. I will never forget the last time I saw Mr. Elijah before his death. He had a shopping bag in his hand and was walking towards our building. I gave my usual unreciprocated greeting as he mumbled something under his breath, never even looking up at me. I looked down and realized that he had gone to the store in his house slippers. The same slippers that were sitting on the ledge of his window after he was gone. My mother, the only person known closest to him, was asked by the authorities to identify his body. Afterwards, my mother and I were allowed to search his apartment to help find contact information for any relatives or friends to notify of this tragedy.

There was nothing around but boxes of old dusty books and pictures taken of him and his wife throughout the years. As we were about to leave, I noticed a black trunk under his bed and we pulled it out. It was filled with what seemed like hundreds of unopened letters, many yellowed with age. The return address was from C.S. Elijah -- neither Mr. nor Mrs. Elijah's initials. As we opened up the most recent letters we discovered that Mr. Elijah had a younger brother. From what we could make out, there was a situation that caused a rift in their relationship many years ago but his brother had been persistently seeking reconciliation throughout the years. The letters were absolutely touching, filled with recollections of their years growing up and all the love and fun they shared. He always ended each letter with a yearning plea for his big brother to contact him but maintained that he would continue to respect his wishes to never see him again. Enclosed in some of his letters were notes, cards and drawings from his children to their uncle. The youngest was just a little older than I was. There were letters with birth announcements, school and family portraits, holiday cards, birthday party and graduation invitations, and more. My mother and I were so engrossed in this discovery that we barely noticed the tears streaming down our own, let alone each other's faces.

As soon as Mr. Elijah's brother had walked into the apartment, I felt as though I was transported back in time. He looked just like I remembered Mr. Elijah as a young child. Oddly, it frightened and comforted me at the same time. Behind him was his wife and their three children -- two girls and a boy. They now ranged from their late teens to early twenties. Suddenly my mind shot back to all the hours I spent sitting where they should have been, eating ice cream and telling their stories. My stomach dropped and my eyes began to sting from rising tears.

The sadness and pain on Mr. Elijah's brother's face was almost tangible as he silently walked around touching his brother's things, picking up familiar items, staring at and holding them as if trying to recapture his brother's spirit. His wife and children followed at a close distance, but my mom and I respectfully stayed behind to allow the family their space. Moments after going into the bedroom, his brother let out a loud anguished cry, breaking down into wrenching sobs. Immediately I knew he had found the open trunk full of letters. "Why? Why?", he agonized. "Didn't he know how much I loved him? He never opened any of my letters!" He now began wailing in distress. His wife and children were also crying. At this, my mother and I decided to leave, unable to fight back our tears. Once outside the apartment, my chest began heaving in sobs as I buried myself in my mother's comforting arms.

Fifteen years later as I clearly recall this, I think how Mr. and Mrs. Elijah tried to substitute me for their own family who just wanted so desperately to share their lives with them. It still saddens me to know that Mr. Elijah did not have to die despondent, alone, lonely, bitter and angry. He had so much and yet he never knew it because he refused to open his letters.

It also makes me think of how God in His undying love, longs to share Himself and His life with us. Each day that we mercifully awaken with the breath of life is His plea of reconciliation, and each night that we retire without acknowledging Him and His word is like having an unopened letter with an invitation to receive our heart's desire. It is my prayer that none should pass from this existence without ever knowing what they truly could have had. Please open up His letters and read them. God Bless.

"And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19

Melanée Addison

Melanée Addison is 32 years old and currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts. "My inspiration and desire in life is to allow to God reveal Himself through the outpourings of my heart and mind, my actions and the words of my mouth". If what I write touches someone, then praise The Lord, "for it is God who works in us to will and act according to his good purpose" (Philippians 2:13)

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