Mysterious Ways: Love Letters Returned

She thought her journal—filled with love letters to her husband—was gone forever.

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- Posted on May 27, 2021

A leather-bound journal rest on a rustic wooden table; Getty Images

It was strange to see my husband’s name in the paper, even if just the county news. “They even spelled it right!” I said. Adlai laughed.

The article was about Adlai’s pickleball group. He’d taken up the game, a combination of ping-pong and tennis, in retirement. He and some friends had cleaned a poorly maintained tennis court at the park.

I played too. Adlai and I both loved spending time outdoors. We often went camping to celebrate special occasions. In fact, our anniversary was coming up.

I felt a pang of loss. I couldn’t help thinking about my journal.

Adlai and I had married in our forties. We had a tradition going back to our newlywed days. For birthdays and anniversaries, instead of giving each other cards with preprinted messages, we wrote letters. For nine years, I’d written almost all of mine in a leather-bound journal.

Four years ago, for our eighteenth anniversary, we had gone camping in the Adirondacks, at our favorite spot in Stillwater Reservoir—site #9.

We’d gone for a hike, then returned to exchange our letters. But the campsite had been destroyed by a bear. Our cooler was empty, our tent shredded. Worst of all, my journal was missing. We searched for hours and prayed, but it felt hopeless.

Adlai and I still wrote each other on birthdays and anniversaries. But what I wouldn’t give to have back those nine years of letters!

A week after the article on Adlai’s pickleball group ran, I came home from work to find a car I didn’t recognize in our driveway. Two strangers—a man and a woman— stood on the front porch with Adlai.

“Mary Anne, you’re not going to believe this,” Adlai said, holding up a weather-beaten leather-bound book. My journal! The woman and her husband had found it weeks earlier in the underbrush at Stillwater Reservoir campsite #9, damaged but still legible.

“I knew I had to return it,” the woman said. A newlywed, she’d been moved by the love letters. “I only had your first names. Then I saw that article in the paper. I just knew it was the Adlai from the journal.”

The woman had looked up Adlai’s address online and come over. I was so glad she did. I hugged the journal as I squeezed Adlai’s hand. Getting back those love letters was the best anniversary gift I could’ve imagined.

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