Dear Readers – The question from a still-grieving man who’d found his late brother’s old love letters from an ex-girlfriend, touched a nerve in many of you. Here are some of your responses:
Reader #1 – “The surviving brother considers his brother, his life and wishes, with great sensitivity and kindness. What a wonderful brother he continues to be.
“His family and friends should encourage, support, and facilitate his journey through grieving without casting judgment, or derailing him from following his heart on this.
“Your two-step process of outreach is the least intrusive thing… simply to first enquire, without expectation, whether his brother’s former friend would like to have the mementos.
“And if so, to send them on without delay or expectation. But in offering them, he should explain that such things are too painful to keep and, if they’re not desired or there’s no reply within 90 days, they’ll be destroyed in an appropriate manner.
“My sister's high-school boyfriend was diagnosed in mid-life with a deadly cancer. I connected with him a year before he died, and was gently able to reintroduce him to my sister.
“As adults, they were able to privately reflect on their lives and times spent together. A chance to say good-bye to one another was created before he died.
“I was then able to send my sister a steel box of mementoes from their past relationship. I'd salvaged the box from a household flood in my late father's basement. Worthless they proved not to be.
“From the same flood, I was also able to salvage some items that had belonged to my late step-mother. While I had a very close friendship with her, there was never much of a relationship with her children from a previous marriage.
“Nonetheless, it seemed the right thing to offer some items back to her family as they related to their lives.
“In return, I received one of the greatest gifts in my life in the form of a lovely letter of thanks, acknowledging that I was very close to my stepmother, and she to me, and that the mementos were indeed very meaningful.
“I say, reach out, offer the letters.”
Reader #2 – “That the man’s late brother found those items to have precious, nostalgic memories of his youthful love, and saved them even after each married someone else, means they were still very special to him.
“Since he died years ago, and his former love has also lost her husband, I see no harm in contacting her to see if she wants them.
“It’d likely be a lovely reminder of happy, younger days. If I were the woman, I’d love to have them. I think it’d be wrong to destroy them without asking. She’s their rightful owner after the recipient's death.
“I work with elderly and dying patients a lot. One of their great comforts/distractions is the ability to re-visit happy, youthful memories. Do not deprive this lady of that chance.”
Reader #3 – “The brother shouldn’t have read those letters. He should put them away and store them.”
Reader #4 – “I disagree with the man’s daughters who say he should destroy the letters, because this late brother left a wife and children.
“The decision to destroy resides with the brother's friend. It's the right thing to do, to contact her and let her know. She may treasure them - or not.”
Reader #5 – “An old boyfriend found me after 50-plus years. We had had a brief romance while I was away at school in his hometown and after I returned home, we corresponded awhile.
“We now live far apart, and spoke on the phone a couple of times. I asked him a lot of questions because I’d blocked from memory much of that time, which hadn’t been my best.
“He said he’d kept my letters and would send me photocopies. I was grateful, as they filled in some of the missing pieces in the jigsaw puzzle of my past.
“We didn’t stay in touch because I soon realized that he probably wanted to hook up with me (!), as my husband had suspected. But that's okay.
“I occasionally reread those letters and have seen that things weren't quite as bad as I remembered, and that I was responsible for some of it and could have improved the situation.”
Tip of the day:
Saved love letters and mementoes from the past rightfully belong to the person who sent them, once the recipient passes on.