It’s happened to me perhaps twice, possibly three times. The first time was a lovely German lady, who sadly died of breast cancer. Her daughter wrote to me and told me. It was terribly sad, but I was touched and humbled by her daughter taking the time to write to me, a stranger to her. I cannot begin to express how grateful I was for that.
Should one send an angry letter, especially to a penpal? I once got a letter from a penpal informing that I am boring, and that she did not want to write to me any more. I was terribly angry and dreadfully hurt. But I calmed myself down and did not reply to her letter, except to return photographs she had sent me. After all, she was entitled to her opinion and if she had decided that I was too boring to write to, then okay. Actually, she was pretty boring too, but I would never have said so. I would have gone on writing for as long as she wanted to. But then I’m funny that way.
A while ago I received an angry letter from a penpal, who is also, of course, no longer a penpal of mine now. I remember taking it out of the mail box and being so excited, for letters from this person were few and far between. I was delighted to receive a letter from her; even one a year would have been a joy. But when I got into the house and opened the envelope, and read the short, terse note, I cried. I am not ashamed to say that, I actually wept.
I was confused, not able to remember if I had written anything that would have merited such horrible, bitter words. I know I have a Swiss cheese brain, but I could not think of anything. I am still sure that she completely misunderstood something I had written. It is true that the UK and US are two nations divided by a common language., as someone wise once said. Sometimes I can say, and write, something which is a throw-away comment, not meant to be serious, and find that I am, indeed, taken seriously.
But whatever it was, I wish to goodness that the lady in question had either not replied at all, ever, or had taken a while longer to think about what she was writing. Did she ever know how much hurt, confusion and how many tears her words caused? Did she care? Probably not. For if she had then she would have remembered the saying, that if you cannot say anything nice, then it is better to say nothing at all. Honesty? Sometimes it is overrated, if the result of one’s proud honesty to make someone else cry.