Know that you are loved
A Christmas letter to a dying friend
The following letter, written at Christmas in 1963, can be found in the book, Letters of Note: Love, in which it is reprinted by kind permission of Martha Freeman, granddaughter of Dorothy Freeman and editor of Always, Rachel: The Letters of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman, 1952–1964. The audio I’ve embedded, featuring a reading of the letter by Natascha McElhone, is taken from the Letters of Note: Love audiobook.
In 1953, nine years before the publication of her groundbreaking and immeasurably important exposé Silent Spring, pioneering marine biologist Rachel Carson received a letter from a fan named Dorothy Freeman that kick-started a decade-long correspondence through which they developed a deep bond. Their letters touched on every imaginable subject, and they spoke openly about love. Ten years after that first contact was made, four months before Carson died from a heart attack brought on by the cancer she had lived with for some time, Freeman, aware of Carson’s declining health, sent her beloved companion her annual Christmas letter—the last she was ever able to address to Carson.
Ten years, dear, since that first Christmas message. What can I say now, ten years later, that I didn’t say in 1953? The words may be different but the theme—I need you, I love you—is the same. As I needed you then for understanding, and for the kind of companionship that no one else has been able to give, I need you now as much, and even more. As I loved you then, for yourself, and for all you represent, I love you now—with warmth and earnestness and longing.
And so I give my Christmas thanks for this ten years—years that have enriched, yes, and even changed my life. Such years—of joy and sorrow for us both. As we shared the joys, no less have we shared the sorrows. Sometimes I wonder how I could have endured the depths without your sustaining love. Without you, in those shadowy days I know life would not have been worth living.
But I must not remember the darkness tonight. What I remember is the loveliness that has been mine because of you: the shared beauties of Nature in all its forms; the world of books and the people in that world; the companionship in music; but above all the living inspiration of you. For all this and so much more that words cannot express, my gratefulness knows no bounds. I can always reach into my memory for a lovely moment—if I tried to catalogue them I should never stop.
Yesterday at twilight the cloudless western sky was aglow with the burning orange which is at its best when seen through the dark silhouette of the spruces of our Maine forest. The diamond brilliance of the evening star was still an hour high. Below it was the first faint shimmering crescent of the young moon which is to be the Christmas moon—and which (oh, joy to be) we may share. At its tip a star punctuated the scene! No need to tell you of what happened in my eyes. There is promise in that moon for it reaches its full on Dec 30.
Whatever time it is when you read this, please know my arms are figuratively about you. So close your eyes and know that you are loved.
May your Christmas be a blessed one.
With all my love always,
A brief pause
I think this is the last Letters of Note newsletter for a few days as I have loved ones to annoy, unhealthy food to devour, and an overwhelming urge to log off. I’ll be back before you know it, but in the meantime I wish you all a pain-free Christmas. And if that’s simply not possible: hold tight.