Why Do We Write to the Dead?
Sunshine, photographed, and many of the children at The School in a Cart in Cubao, the Philippines, have written letters to their friend Dave, who was murdered in his sleep on the city streets this past May. Their letters express their sorrow, their confusion and disbelief, their anger and guilt, and their faith that Dave lives on in spirit and can read their letters or at least know what is written on their hearts.
So, why do we write to the dead? Saying good-bye is ingrained in our daily human existence, across all cultures, whether to the dead or to family members when we step out to do some shopping. We feel incomplete, shaken, panicked even, if we leave someone we love for an extended period of time without saying good-bye, without an embrace or a kiss. We need that closure and the comfort that comes from a sense of connection despite distance. Yes, even if that person has died.
But is a letter to the dead purely for ourselves as we work through our grief and long for closure? Maybe not. Most letters to the dead are written as if in conversation, as if the diseased were right there, reading them over our shoulders. Our words come from our hearts, and whether we believe in the after-life or not, our hearts tell us that love transcends time, matter, and is ever-lasting.
So sudden was the stabbing and Balong (Dave) was gone. We were sad for what happened to my cousin (Sunshine considered Dave a cousin.) He was our cousin and we loved him even if he was naughty and hard-headed. Why did this happen? He did not do what they thought he had done. He did not break the car window. I could not accept that this had to happen.
I hope the one who did this will be caught soon. May his conscience bother him! There were many kids around but why was it that it was you the culprit saw. I wished you went home with Kuya (big brother Jordan.) I wished you did not feel sleepy and did not leave your house.
Don’t give up. I will get even for you. You were not only a cousin, you were a good friend. I know you and Kuya were always together. I hope you are happy in heaven. Don’t be said because we will get the one who killed you so that you will then be happy. We love you very much, cousin and best friend.