A Letter That Tore My Heart


I felt as if the words in his letter tore my heart. That’s what happened this past week. My emotions were wounded and sore. I didn’t expect that I would feel this distressed as I read more about my ex-husband’s life-threatening illness.

Then I remembered the irritating letters he wrote to me in 2005 and subsequent years. I seldom responded. My intention was to separate, to forget him and I did most of the time.

Our divorce, five and a half years ago was almost a trivial event, one that I barely noticed. Unmarried to him, I was protected from middle school parents that I feared would come after him financially, entwining my assets with his.

But now it’s different. His life is in danger with a fast growing cancer that has spread. Even if the Medical Director at the prison had acted immediately, so much time has passed since the promised surgery should have occurred, it may be too late. He may be biding his time until the final days, the end that we all eventually face. I understand that he wants more years, free from being locked up, with some happiness and a healthy body.

For a few weeks I felt sympathetic, sad for him and angry at the prison system. And then another envelope arrived. The message inside was just like the old times, wanting money for an operation, saying he hadn’t really done anything to harm anyone. I’d been won over by his expressive writing in earlier letters but this one jolted me back to reality. I thought of Susan’s statement long ago, when I whined how his notes were so nice.
“They’re just words,” she said.
And I’ve responded, many times, “She was right”.

I used to think that his punishment was too severe until I really began to think about those girls in the photos. He implied that they hadn’t been harmed. They weren’t people he’d met, or looked at. He thought of them merely as images on the computer screen. He still doesn’t get that they weren’t just children in pictures. They were real girls who had been sold or kidnapped and lived a life of horror, without hope of escape.

He’s back where he always was. I don’t blame him for wanting whatever money he hopes might save his life. Today, though, I again see him as the person he’s been all along.

I searched for a middle ground by looking at different ways of understanding his words, separating them into: What is said? What is heard? What is meant?

1. What is said? His words were written on the page. He wrote that he would like me to ask my father for an enormous amount of money so he can have an operation that he believes would save his life, on the outside. He said that he didn’t do anything really wrong and his crime is victimless.
2. What is heard by me? More of his manipulation, rationalization and unwillingness to face the reality of what is happening.
3. What is meant? “Help me save my life. I’m not that bad.”

This separation of words makes me more sympathetic and understanding as I try to isolate the meaning behind each statement. It doesn’t change the situation, but does remove my revulsion.

About writerladyjane

I'm a writer with a finished memoir, titled Images. Most of the blog posts relate to the general subject of my memoir and are about my experience of Federal Agents entering my home and arresting my then-husband for child pornography, as well as the following two years of threats on me. There are also posts that are of a lighter nature and some to do with my travels, especially a trip around the world I took with my daughter. I have an MFA in creative writing from Fairfield University and live in Westport, CT.
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4 Responses to A Letter That Tore My Heart

  1. Morgan says:

    Jane, what a complex set of issues and emotions you continually navigate. Your hardnosed assessments coupled with your inevitable compassion must help keep you balanced during these difficult pleas and transactions. Your writing about them – and yourself – is beautiful and illuminating. I applaud your strength – AND your compassion.

  2. Lynda Shannon bluestein says:

    I keep encountering more examples of the truth that is often hard to accept: the best predictor of the future is the past.

  3. liz lamberton-kesten says:

    Dear Jane, I admire you so much. You are right on the money. To have & then express your feelings & emotions so articulately- which are so human & they reflect the kind, compassionate, empathic person that you are. You are also right on the money to know that this man is not only sick, & yes, has harmed others in all the ways you outlined, but, after all these years (he’s had a lot of time to think- confined behind bars) is not able or willing to acknowledge what he did was wrong, immoral, illegal, & hurtful to so many people. It’s very sad. I support your assessment 100%. You have friends including me who will be there for you if you need confirmation that you’re doing the right thing. What a sad waste of a human life that has so much talent and creativity to offer the world. Love to you, Liz LK xox

  4. Wow…Thank you for your honesty and willingness to share your experiences and feelings so openly about this whole situation. Most people don’t stop and think about how something like this affects these people’s families. His words and behavior is the one thing that has held me back from communicating with him. I think I need a dose of your compassion and courage 🙂 and writing skill!

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