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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Writing a Letter (handwritten correspondence) (10/21/10)

TITLE: Understanding
By Sarah Elisabeth


The familiar handwriting on the envelope stopped me cold. The letter was from Alice, postmarked two days prior. The rest of the mail tumbled to the floor.

The tremble of my fingers made a jagged line across the sealed flap. As if removing a sacred relic, I pulled out the single white sheet and opened it between my fingers. I released the envelope as my hand sought out the nearest chair. It was located against the wall of the entryway, a chair I never used. I thanked God for it today.

The words were just legible. I knew Alice had written it with a vibrating pen.

Dear Ms. Lois,

By the time you read this, you should have heard that I’m dead. Don’t feel bad, you did all you could. You’re a nice neighbor and that’s why I wanted to write you this letter.

You listened to me scream frustrations when my parents wouldn’t listen to me say “I love you.” It doesn’t matter now.

I’m not saying everything here. That stuff I’m saving for the note my parents will find when they find me. Not that they’ll care then.

Thanks anyway.


I dropped the letter to the floor and wrapped my arms around my knees, great sobs shaking my body. It was several minutes before I could lift my head.

The letter stared up at me like an accusation. It showed where I had failed.

I turned my face to the ceiling, my voice squeaking the questions. “God, why did you bring Alice into my life? Just so I could watch her destroy hers? What more could I have done?”

The replying silence was as condemning as the letter scratched out on notebook paper. Deep inside, I knew. I had not done everything. I had not told Alice the truth.

Two hours later I stared at the blank sheet of stationary. The French swirls in the corner matched the waves in my brain.

“Just start,” I murmured to myself. “Dear God, you know I can’t. I can’t do this.” I closed my eyes, bit my lip. Three deep breaths. “I can do this. I must. For Alice.”

Dear Alice

With the first words written, I knew I couldn’t pause a moment. I had to tell the story. The image of Alice lying in the hospital bed, head bandaged from the gunshot wound, drove the darkest moment of my life into the light.

You’re not alone. You’re not the first. When I was nineteen years old, I attempted suicide.

My pen slipped between my fingers. I gripped harder.

I never told you of my experience because I was ashamed. No one in my life now knows of my past. I vowed it would always be that way.

If I had told you that is how I came to know the Lord, and that’s what has brought me to this place of joy, hope and peace today, things might have been different for you now. But that, as with all things, is passed. There is a future for you, dear one. With the Lord’s help, we’ll face it together.


This letter would be waiting for Alice when she recovered. I believed by faith she would.

My confession might give her more questions than answers, and the prospect of discussing my horrendous childhood made me sick. But could she heal without it?

A gentle air of relief tingled my spine. Thoughts emerged that Alice was not the only one in need of revisiting my past.

I folded the letter with the care of a US soldier folding the flag. Indeed, I hoped it would be the first step in Alice’s freedom. It was for me.

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This article has been read 743 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/30/10
You did a wonderful job on a very difficult subject. The more and more I talk about my past suicide attempts the more I open up. Hopefully someone will read your story and reach out for help. You may never know the difference you might make in one's life by penning these words.
Caitlyn Meissner11/01/10
I'm sorry I didn't find this sooner. What a good story! I liked how you wove the topic into it, and how you handled the hard details of an attempted suicide.

The only thing I wondered about was why a shot to the head didn't kill her? I'm glad that it didn't, but it almost seems like it should have.

Thanks for a great story. :)
Rachel Phelps11/01/10
Sarah, your writing is so clear and evocative that there are moments I forget I'm reading and just experience the story - masterful work in this one.

I agree, the shot to the head seemed a bit far-fetched, which threw me out of the story a bit. Still, excellent writing, friend!
Verna Cole Mitchell 11/01/10
Your excellent story is a good reminder of why parents need to listen to their children and how God uses our personal experiences to help others.
Lyn Churchyard11/02/10

A very moving entry. I could feel your MC's emotions. I don't see any problem with the gunshot wound to the head. It wouldn't matter if God said, "Live, I'm not finished with you yet."
I love your ending.
Pamela Calhoun11/03/10
This story really touched me. I had an adult foster care home and housed a gal that had shot herself in the head and didn't die. I was there to see her struggle through recovery, and able to see her come to believe that God wasn't done with her yet. Thanks for bringing back some bittersweet (mostly sweet) memories.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 11/04/10
Congratulations for placing 7th in level 4 and 11th overall!