The Sacred Path of Love: Letters from 1967 & 2020

July 12, 1967

Dear Esel,

After your bus left, I couldn’t face the apartment, so went to the cycle shop. Maybe mindless people could make me forget. No hope. I finally got the strength to sulk back to the pad. I cleaned up and everything reminded me of you. You in records, dishes, packages, New York Times, fan, closet…me.

I had to leave and went to the Royal Palms. As I entered, “Don’t You Want Somebody to Love” flooded the place. Then “Groovin’.’’ It was too much. I went home, drank too much, and cried. Then I wrote this letter….

Depressed, I went outside to smoke weed. Ineffective. No sharing. No Elaine, no fun, no joy, no music, no desire. I wonder how life can work without you.

                                                Love always, Vic


                                                                        July 12, 2020

Dear V within my heart and memory, wherever you may be,

You wrote this letter 53 years ago. My response from then is gone. I have many handwritten letters from you but have only read a few since you died 12 years ago. I opened the manila file that says “Vic’s Letters” and looked for the letter you wrote when I left Ithaca to go to graduate school. I wanted to be with you, but you were afraid to commit. My heart was broken, but I left anyway. You needed space to figure it out. I needed to step into a new life at Berkeley. That’s what I had wanted—before I met you.

You spent that summer traveling and going to a conference in Germany. You wrote many letters, all filled with longing. When you returned to Ithaca in September, you asked me to come back. Yes! I wanted our love more than graduate school. Your letters were a lure.

Opening each love letter now means opening grief. I miss you the way I missed you in California and the way you missed me on that trip. The ache softened in time, but it’s always there. An emptiness that wants your beating heart. You still support me with our home and money we saved for retirement. You support me inwardly in dreams, in memory, in my continuing love.

There were times in our 42 years together when you thought, “Why did I marry this bitch?” Or I thought “This guy takes up too much space.” We didn’t avoid the hard stuff and we knew how to talk things through and forgive.

You called our love the Sacred Path of Marriage. Our souls connected and trusted the bond would hold. We made it a priority to protect that bond.

I didn’t know it would hold after you died, but why shouldn’t it?

I walk with dogs you never met on trails you created. I hang my garden tools in the barn you designed and loved. The barn smells like chainsaw oil and drying firewood the way it did when you were here. I live in the house where we lived and loved.

In some letters, you wrote about Vietnam and racism. The world is even crazier now and it’s hard to endure alone. I have our sons, two soulful men, and friends and dogs, and deep roots, but I miss you every day.

Eternally, Elaine


Do you have old letters from someone you love? Does reading them soften your grief or open wounds too hard to endure? I’m reading Vic’s letters slowly, because each one takes me on an emotional journey. It takes time to digest the feelings and absorb the gratitude. For other posts about a love note found by accident at a time when I needed Vic’s support, see A Love Note from Beyond. For my advice to a dying man who asked me what he could do to support his partner, see Please Leave Love Notes When You Die.

  1. So moving, Elaine. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Harriet. Each letter sends me on a journey. I remember George asking me what to do for his partner when he knew he was dying. I told him to write her a note or letter. I wonder if he did.

  2. So lovely. I do relate! Miss Richie daily! Every hour. Every minute…… I love your love!

  3. Wow. Your letters help as I watch my beloved walk down the path of dementia every day. It’s a slow walk but is filled with my memories of young love and that glue that still holds us together, today.

  4. Beautiful Elaine. While the grief soars the memories do too and may they sustain you. Yes, I have many letters faithfully kept. They certainly bring up memories of times past. Thank you for sharing this with us .. Love, Susan

    • Thank you, Susan. Trusted, deep soul Love is a blessing. When I read Vic’s letters, I know why I still love him. He was a theoretical astrophysicist with a Pisces heart and knew how to speak the language of love. Active Imagination works well when responding to his letters.

  5. Just beautiful, Elaine. What a lush banquet of memories you have at your fingertips. I imagine they’ll still be nourishing your soul for the rest of your life.

    • Thank you, Jeanie. As I just wrote to Susan, Vic had a great theoretical mind, but was well versed in the language of love. I’m grateful for techniques of Active Imagination so I can work with my feelings and responses to his letters–but I’ll pause again before opening another. This one is enough for now.

  6. I don’t have a lot of love letters from my relationship with my husband but two weeks ago while cleaning out my mother’s desk (for the 3rd time) – yes the family still keeps the home in CNY for vacations – I came across letters from grandparents to each other between 1931-1935. What a treasure for the generations following them. As was the custom then, my grandmother would take my mother and aunt to the countryside in Chenango county east of Hornell to visit and stay with her sister or one of two brothers on their farms for 6 weeks. Leaving my grandfather who I never knew back in Hornell working for the Railroad. And as also the custom then, not much in favor now, they wrote weekly letters to each other. I never knew what their relationship to each other was as a couple. Never knew what the emotional atmosphere and social environment was that surrounded my mother growing up. Their letters were filled with such common daily intimacies, loving greetings and good-byes, thoughtful concerns and well wishes, feelings of missing ‘you’, small delights and gentle joking – and suddenly I knew my grandparents for the first time! Your letters from Vic will I can only think be such a treasure for your children, their children and theirs to come. How lovely that you have kept them – they will carry your love together forward into the next generations thus extending the essence of that love far into the future.

    • Hornell isn’t far from where I live and Vic taught at Colgate which is even closer to Chenango County–so I know the countryside of your family home. It’s wonderful you found those letters and now they’re preserved. I don’t have any of the letters I wrote Vic, but do have all the letters I wrote my mother. And she had a file of letters from my dad sent during World War II without her responses to him. I didn’t save my mom’a letters to me, but saved my letters from Vic, so we have a partial record of various relationships. Vic wrote often when he was away, so I have our email correspondence from more recent times. My son saved all of Vic’s computer info on a hard drive, so my responses to him must be there for em to explore when I need to. I have a few beautiful love notes from his last teaching trips just months before his death, and my responses, too. Someday I’ll pull all the pieces together. Maybe!

  7. Elaine, you approach Vic’s love letters with heart and soul. Hand and mind, too. There is something so deliberate and tender about the manila folder you handle. I can see the love in the photos. And you prove the truth about Vic: “You support me inwardly in dreams, in memory, in my continuing love.”

    So, his pet name for you was “Esel”!

    • Marian, he had many pet names for me and an early one was Esel or sometimes just E. The manila folder is precious and I should scan the letters, but I should also digitalize all his many slides because he loved photography. Instead, I’m wrestling with my computer or taking dogs for walks or collecting milkweed leaves for Monarchs. Or writing. I believe love supports us forever if we’re willing to feel the longing and grief, too. I’m willing. I also feel continuing love for Vic as a support that doesn’t hold me back in any way. He wanted me to make my own decisions about new relationships (that never happened, but I hoped it would), where I would live, and all that. He knew our sons would be supportive to me, and they are.

  8. Beautiful, Elaine. I could feel the longing. I remember loving and missing, loving and writing and being grateful. The sadness love brings is just as stunning as the bliss.

    • I agree, Robin. There are different paths in grief, as you know. One is to distance ourselves from the person we loved so much, but that’s not my way–and I think with a child’s death it would be nearly impossible to take that path.

  9. He couldn’t write well, part of a learning disability that went undiagnosed in those dismal days, probably dyslexia, along with a stammer that made him an easy target of kids and teachers alike. His scrawl is distinctive, but he didn’t like writing, so I don’t have much of it. All I have is a love note from an earlier time, just a 8×11 piece of paper folded four times into a little paper card with an ink-jet printer stock photograph printed on the front and signed on the inside with just his name. A commercial greeting card for Valentine’s Day–again, just his scrawled name inside. And a piece of paper from more recent times, one side a webpage printout of a recipe for “Perfect Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs” and the blank side with a tortuous penned request to “Please take down the Apple Pealer it is abouve the sink.” It was probably before the days of texting, a request so that he could peel some apples with the old-fashioned apple peeler, the type the leaves you with a single spiral of peel and a naked apple. Most likely it was for a baked apple dessert. And scraps of paper with phone numbers without names. The sevens always look like a shepherd’s crook. He could always tell by the digits who the number belonged to.

    It brings a surrealism back to the forefront of my consciousness that it’s halfway to four years, now. I’m struggling to decide what to do with this place. Half of me wants to go, while half wants to stay, just like half of me wishes he were here and half of me is glad he isn’t, because the pandemic would have targeted him.

    • Dear Kind Joe, You’re helped me so much with cochlear implant encouragement and given me a sense of hope. Each of those handwritten notes are little treasures, just because your partner wrote them. I know that kind of apple peeler. I agree the experience is surreal–so gone and so with us at the same time. I understand thinking about the pandemic problems with our lovers. What if Vic had to go through a stem cell transplant or die without me there? I’m glad we didn’t have to face that.

      Let me know what you decide about your home. I thought I’d leave here, but Vic found a helper for the land when he was sick and that man stayed on to get the firewood in and clear the snow and do other jobs that come up with an old farmhouse. I love being able to walk out the door and be in nature. I looked at places in town, but when I realized how expensive the smallest apartment would be and how detached from nature even if there were trails nearby, I decided to stay here. I’m glad I did, especially in these covid times, but that was also a decision to be surrounded by memories of Vic. When we first met, we had a fantasy of the place we wanted to live, and we created that place. I’m always glad to be home.

  10. Honestly, in answering your question Elaine, this opens up my longing for someone who loves me that much. That there would be letters of love, clear and true. An authentic embodied soul, present in my life to stand the test of time, even after transitioning. It may never happen for me, but I love that you have such a rich and soulful love still to rest in.❤️

    • I have good fortune, Erika. I wish you the same, but we have our unique destinies. A whole set of circumstances bring about a blessing–or a disappointment. I’m an emotional woman and many men couldn’t stand that, but then came this guy Vic who was raised by an Italian mother, an Italian grandmother, and three Italian aunts. He was used to emotional women. Thank you for being glad for the love I get to carry. I’m lucky I’m not afraid to feel grief, too. Blessings to you and your four-legged family.

      • Your memories and the current-day response are a kind of flower that I am visiting in a curated garden. Sweet flowers catalyse all kinds of thoughts and feelings. So, while I have my mix of inner responses, there is also a joy that this kind of love is in the world. So thank you for sharing it, Elaine.

  11. You have the very special gifts of love and independence. By sharing your story, you vitalize that energy to my heart. I am very appreciative dear friend.

    • Thank you, Marie. You’re right.I have the gifts of love and independence. My love for Vic made my strong with him and stronger on my own. In dying, he freed me to become what I might not have become if he stayed. Of course, I’d rather have him here, but I knew as he was dying that I had a new life to discover on my own. It makes me glad to know you’re just down the hill.

  12. This piece is both wonderful and hard, sweet and sad. I have always admired how you keep Vic so close even after his death. I love that you still talk to him.
    “I walk with dogs you never met on trails you created”. I cry and my heart aches for what you face daily. Your story stimulates all the loss in my own life, and the profound mystery of life. What are we doing here? How long do we have? And what will we do with our time?
    Thank you for continuing to write. each piece a little gem.

    I have my mothers writings. I can only read a little at a time. I need the space between them to digest them. She writes about things she never spoke when she lived and it makes me ache not to be able to talk to her about her deep feelings. I have mixed emotions when I read them. Since we cannot talk now, it leaves those things hanging in some indescribable unresolvable space. It is a space I am not sure I like. I think sometimes I need to read them with someone else present to somehow buffer the feelings.
    I have one old worn plastic bag with a few letters from people in my past, lovers and friends. I cannot figure out how I feel about them either. Why do I keep them?
    I will be gone, my kids don’t know these people and so they will be tossed. Yet I keep them in a dark desk drawer and read them once every ten years if that.

    My mother told me that her aunt kept all the letters that my mother’s lover sent to her when she was away in Venezuela visiting her mother, my grandmother.
    Her Aunt did not forward them to her. My mothers family didn’t want her to marry him. He was a penniless piano player. And so my aunt hid them behind a brick in the basement of their home in Los Angeles. She told my mother many years later after she was married to my father, who they loved. I went to that house some years ago just to look at it from the outside. I sat imagining my mother living there. Looking at the vista she must have looked at a zillion times.
    A caretaker appeared and we talked. I told him about the letters wondering out loud if they might be found. He said the entire basement had been sheet rocked and the brick covered. So there they still sit. I wonder if they will ever emerge.

    • Years of Jungian Active Imagination and a love of conversation even though I live alone = talking to Vic or I always think of him as the Vic within me–that positive masculine energy that accompanies me through life and helps me find and articulate my way. In the past, you mentioned the hidden letters your aunt never sent to your mom. I hadn’t remembered how the story ended. Of course, if your mom had married that lover, there wouldn’t be you and your sisters. What an imaginative story this would be to write and tell.

      My mother didn’t share her feeling nature (I take after my dad and paternal grandmother), so her letters to me were about outer things such as a museum visit or seeing a new country–more the naming than speaking of her inner reaction. She didn’t bring in the human element or her subjective response to anything other than to say she loved Paris or London. That part of her nature didn’t change until she had dementia and her feelings began to flow, but there was no writing then. I’m glad we had those last conversations where she expressed grief about my dad’s death for the first time, but you have a stash of letters about events and feelings not shared when your mom was alive. I can’t imagine how that would feel other than sad to not be able to talk to her about those things now. You could try what I’m doing–Active Imagination style–which is to respond to the letters in writing as though the other person would receive your response. And who knows?

      Thanks for your kind words, Lauren. If nothing else, my writing is persistent. I’m forever grateful and bonded to you by all the love you shared with me and Vic during his illness and death and afterwards. He loved you like the sister he never had and loved laughing with you.

  13. So touching Elaine. What a treasure you two had and continue to have with each other.
    I am a Pisces as well. I can feel his deep love for you.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Big hugs to you, holding a space for him to continue to be.


    • Ah, Janice. So sweet. Pisces people have gentle hearts. Vic was very connected to Catholicism as a child–and then went on to explore many traditions, especially Tibetan Buddhism. It was so important in his last months to explore the Piscean Christian story of suffering and rebirth. He had plenty of suffering then, so there was a sense that renewal was coming. It did when he spent time with the Dalai Lama 6 weeks before he died and then it was time to go. Thanks for commenting.

  14. Such a heartening letter Elaine. Yes, I keep old letters – both sent to me, some I wrote but never sent. Bittersweet for sure. Be well. <3

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Debby. So much of this life is bittersweet. I hope you and your husband are well and staying safe.

      • Thanks Elaine. We are doing our best. Hubby’s health issues are an ongoing concern, especially when doctors still don’t open their offices. I know I’m tired of the madness. Mostly I just keep plugging away, but sometimes all ‘this’does get to me. Stay well my friend. 🙂

        • It got to me last night, Deb, when I learned my close friend may be evacuated in the CA fires. She may already have left her home, but I don’t know yet. There’s no arguing with fires. I agree it’s a hard, hard time to have health problems because doctors aren’t available and hospitals feel unsafe. Keep plugging. This summer, I feel I’ve lost my steam, but it will return. You stay safe, too.

  15. What a beautiful and poignant post, Elaine. As your dear friend Susan remarked, “This piece is both wonderful and hard, sweet and sad.” I smiled as I read what you wrote about Vic in one of your replies — that he was a “theoretical astrophysicist with a Pisces heart and knew how to speak the language of love.” What a remarkable combination!
    Thank you, once again, for sharing so deeply and honestly from your wise heart. Anne

    • Thank you, Anne, for continuing to read and comment. It helps me to know you’re out there reading my posts. I never know when I’ve gone too far, shared too much, become too mushy or leaned toward bragging about a relationship not everyone gets to experience in this life. Thank you for grounding me in what matters–the language of love.

  16. The only letters or writings I have from my daughter that were written to me are from when she was very young. But I can hear her voice when I read the songs and poems she wrote as a young adult, and they transport me back to the times I spent with her, trailing her through the halls of Strong Memorial and sitting over sushi and chicken wings in local restaurants. When she died, I couldn’t imagine living without her. But finding her words made all the difference. There were no love letters. But I felt like I was holding her heart just reading her poems.

    • It seems like her poems and songs and writings are love letters she left for those who love her. And many seem to forecast her future. I’m grateful you have them. You’ve gone deep into yourself and your relationship with her through exploring the writing you found after her death. It’s a treasure.

Leave a Reply