I reconnected with my long-lost pen pal last week. I hadn’t spoken to him in 30 years. We were pen pals from the time I was 7 until age 16. I lost touch with him when I went to college. I met him through my Aunt when I was a little girl. My Aunt Chris was amazing. She and her friend, Martin King, took me to see movies and plays. We sang and talked and hiked. We took pictures of things. It was my entry into the arts. It was the first time of many that I felt stimulated, seeing plays and watching people create. Aunt Chris and her friend treated me like a normal person, not a little girl, and I felt so grown up when I spent time with them. Martin moved away and joined the military, then the seminary. This is when I became his pen pal. We would exchange handwritten letters. As a little girl, my mom would get the mail. Mom always knew when a letter from Martin came because the handwriting was so distinct. Sometime in high school, my letters started getting returned and didn't make it to him, so I stopped writing. One day, as I was graduating high school, I heard from Martin again. He sent me a graduation proclamation prayer. It was so nice. After the air force, Martin had gone to the seminary and became a priest. He then went on to become a Chaplain for NATO and was back in the military for a while.
Thirty years later I found myself wanting to find Martin King, my long- lost pen pal. I specifically wanted to track him down because my godmother/aunt passed away over the weekend. I have been having a really hard time with her passing. Although she had been sick for years, I wasn’t prepared for her passing and the grief I have been experiencing was immense. My siblings and I were sharing stories about Aunt Chris when the story of Martin came up. I thought she and Martin had dated before he joined the military and seminary. In fact, I was convinced they had dated. I took to the internet and through a bunch of Google searches, I tracked him down. He is now the head pastor at a church in Portland Oregon.
I wasn’t sure if it was him because his name was so common, Martin L King. I looked on the website for the church and there was a welcome letter from the head pastor, Martin King with his signature. I shit you not….it’s that same handwriting, the distinct signature I remember from so many years ago on his letters he sent to me.
I just knew it had to be him. I called the church, left a message and sent an email.
The next day, I got a voicemail message from him. He said “How can you think for one moment that I have ever forgotten you? You stole my heart and you’ve never given it back, so it’s still out there.”
I called him back and we caught up on life in the beginning of the call. It was so nice to hear his voice. I retreated into being a wide-eyed curious little girl learning about the arts all over again. It felt awesome. We talked about race, religion, spirituality, Portland, NATO and all sorts of other interesting topics that come up with someone you haven't spoken to in thirty years.
It came to the point in the conversation when I had to deliver the news about Aunt Chris. I told him she had passed over the weekend very early in the morning on Easter Sunday. He was sad. He said Aunt Chris was his buddy. He then said a prayer for her. We prayed together. I am not religious, but Aunt Chris was, and I felt compelled, in this moment, to pray with my pen pal for his buddy and my Godmother. I know Aunt Chris would have loved that moment. It was really nice. He said he was happy she passed on Easter, as it was a holy holiday for Aunt Chris and the catholic church. He had assumed she would have wanted it that way.
I asked how he and Aunt Chris had met. He said they met because they worked at the mall at separate stores. According to Martin, Aunt Chris had a crush on a guy that worked at the tuxedo shop in the mall. Being a good mall friend, Martin tried to hook Aunt Chris up, but the tuxedo shop man was not interested. A friendship was born. That solved the mystery of if they had dated—they did not. He was her wingman, her buddy and prepping to go to the seminary. We chatted a little while longer about his experiences in the church, military, traveling and life since. He told me the reason I got returned mail was because he was in an undisclosed location at one point in the military. He could send but not receive mail. That solved another mystery.
He also said that I always made he and Aunt Chris feel so special because as a kid, I wanted to be around them all the time and I asked them so many questions. I told him, it’s rare I am praised for my curiosity or question asking, so that was nice to hear. People usually are very annoyed at all the questions I ask. A couple days later he sent me an email telling me that he said mass for Aunt Chris and dedicated the whole ceremony to her and our family. I found that to be so kind. I am happy I reconnected with him and I know Aunt Chris was looking down smiling on us the whole time.
(This was written back in April and edited recently for post.)