Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
The dead will keep your secrets.
Interests/Topics: family, teenage angst, music, death, identity, grief, LGBTQ
Curriculum Connections: English, Music
Dear Marilyn Monroe,
I thought of you while at a funeral last weekend. Well, truthfully, I was actually thinking about my mom, who died four years ago, and then I thought of you. You see, my mom was a really independent woman who believed that girls can do anything that boys can do. She never had a lot of patience or empathy when I clung to her for comfort after a heart-wrenching breakup. She believed that women should be able to survive on their own: “A woman needs a man like a goldfish needs a bicycle,” she’d claim. I, of course, never failed to remind her that she got married at 20 and hadn’t lived a day on her own since. Nevertheless I did get her message—self-love and acceptance is more important than finding my identity within a relationship.
That message led me to think of you, Marilyn. I’ve always sensed such a sadness from you. It seems that your identity was so wrapped up in the men that you dated that you didn’t know how to be content with yourself. I certainly don’t blame you for this; you became a pawn that was passed around circles of powerful men. It’s too bad that you didn’t have the opportunity to truly blossom on your own.
Laurel, in Love Letters to the Dead, struggles with her own identity when her beloved big sister dies tragically. Her sister had been her role model; her one true friend. Laurel has no idea how to face life now that May is gone, so she pours out her thoughts in letters to others who have died young. Writing love letters to the dead has a great advantage: your darkest secrets will stay in the grave.
The dead tell no tales.
Dear Kurt Cobain,
Mrs. Buster gave us our first assignment in English today, to write a letter to a dead person. As if the letter could reach you in heaven, or the post office for ghosts. She probably meant for us to write to someone like a former president or something, but I need someone to talk to. I couldn’t talk to a president. I can talk to you. (8)
Dear Judy Garland,
I wish you could tell me where you are now. I mean, I know you’re dead, but I think there must be something in a human being that can’t just disappear. It’s dark out. You’re out there. Somewhere, somewhere. I’d like to let you in. (11)
Dear River Phoenix,
My mom went away, too. I know how it feels to be sorry for something you can’t say. If I could have walked through the screen, I would have taken you in my arms. And I know what you meant when you said, “The road never ends.” I know a road like that. It’s the last road I drove on with [my sister]. (83)
Dear Kurt, Judy, Elizabeth, Amelia, River, Janis, Jim, Amy, Allan, E.E., and John,
I hope one of you hears me. Because the world seems like a tunnel of silence. I have found that sometimes, moments get stuck in your body. They are there, lodged under your skin like hard seed-stones of wonder or sadness or fear, everything else growing up around them. And if you turn a certain way, if you fall, one of them could let free. It might dissolve in your blood, or it might spring up a whole tree. Sometimes, once one of them gets out, they all start to grow.