The Lost Letter

What happens when a love letter is delivered 35 years late? Despite the heartbreak of her youth, Trudy Quinn has made something of herself. Being a mom to her college-age daughter, April, and now the president for a foundation that enables impoverished young women to go to college fulfills her. And she’s not giving up on her estranged marriage just yet, either. At least, she and her husband Kenny are banking on the counseling they put in before he deployed for a year in Iraq and the time apart to offer them a fresh start. But then Trudy receives a letter…one that would have changed her life if it had been delivered back in 1975. Its contents explain the reason the boy she planned to marry suddenly disappeared from her life. And then the media gets the whiff of a tantalizing special-interest story, and Trudy’s phone rings with a voice she hasn’t heard in thirty-five years. Only, Richard Vanderveer is not the shy boy from the Netherlands anymore. He’s a wealthy and world-renowned floral and food entrepreneur, and he wants to set things right. But will his attempt to do so provide much needed closure and bring overdue peace…or destroy the life Trudy has worked so hard to create?

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There are no valid statistics on the volume of mail lost by the US Postal Service each year. They do, however, have mail recovery centers set up in Atlanta, Saint Paul, and San Francisco to facilitate the challenge of trying to sort the millions of pieces of mail sent to them each year, called dead mail, and get it delivered to its designated recipients. A lot of lost mail is simply put in wrong boxes or people move and leave no forwarding address or incorrect addresses are given.

Often in the news we hear about unusual or untimely mail delivery. In 2010 a letter mailed 100 years ago from the maiden voyage of the Titanic was found . The letter, written by a young doctor to his mother, had been mailed from Cobh, known as Queensbury, the last port the Titanic visited before continuing its journey on the ill-fated voyage. The doctor didn’t survive but his 100-year-old letter did.

Lost love letters have always intrigued me. A glimpse at someone’s heartfelt letter written to a significant other, decades ago, captures my imagination and leaves me longing to know the outcome. Did the undelivered letter make a noteworthy difference? Could it have changed someone’s life if it had been received?

Occasionally, we are privileged to learn how lost love letter stories unfold. A couple living in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, recently received a letter sixty years late. It was the proposal letter sent by a US Army serviceman to his sweetheart. He had married her anyway while on military leave. In 1993, a young French girl and British boy attending school together in England sparked a romance that lasted for six years but ended when a letter was misplaced. After finding the letter 1 ten years later behind a fireplace mantle, they made contact and their reunion led to marriage.

And then there’s the story of a lady I’ll call Trudy, whom I met through a longtime friend in Lynchburg, Virginia. Hearing of my interest in lost letters, Trudy shared with me the letter she received in May of 2010. The envelope was postmarked August 15, 1975. After reading it, I knew there was a tale longing to be told. With her permission, this is her letter’s story.

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