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Sunday, May 23, 2010

THE LAST LETTER

On one trip up the highway, I came upon the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and several wreckers winching the remains of a semi up the cliff. I parked my rig and went over to the quiet group truckers who were watching the wreckage slowly come into sight. One of the Mounties walked over to us and spoke quietly. "I'm sorry," he said, "the driver was dead when we found him. He must have gone over the side two days ago when we had a bad snowstorm.
 
There weren't many tracks. It was just a fluke that we noticed the sun shining off some chrome. "He shook his head slowly and reached into his parka pocket. "Here, maybe you guys should read this. I guess he lived for a couple of hours until the cold got to him." I'd never seen tears in a cop's eyes before. I always figured they'd seen so much death and despair they were immune to it, but he wiped tears away as he handed me the letter. As I read it, I began to weep. Each driver silently read the words, then quietly walked back to his rig.
 
The words were burned into my memory and now, years later, that letter is still as vivid as if I were holding it before me. I want to share that letter with you and your families.

Bills Letter
December, 1974

My Darling Wife,

This is a letter that no man ever wants to write, but I'm lucky enough to have some time to say what I've forgotten to say so many times. I love you, sweetheart. You used to kid me that I loved the truck more than you because I spent more time with her. I do love this piece of iron-she's been good to me. She's seen me through tough times and tough places. I could always count on her in a long haul and she was speedy in the stretches. She never let me down.
 
But you want to know something? I love you for the same reasons. You've seen me through the tough times and places, too. Remember the first truck? That run down "ol' cornbinder" that kept us broke all the time but always made just enough money to keep us eating? You went out and got a job so that we could pay the rent and the bills. Every cent I made went into the truck while your money kept us in food with a roof over our heads.
 
I remember that I complained about the truck, but I don't remember you ever complaining when you came home tired from work and I asked you for money to go on the road again. If you did complain, I guess I didn't hear you. I was too wrapped up with my problems to think of yours. I think now of all the things you gave up for me. The clothes, the holidays, the parties, the friends. You never complained and somehow I never remembered to thank you for being you. When I sat having coffee with the boys, I always talked about the truck, my rig, my payments. I guess I forgot you were my partner even if you weren't in the cab with me.
 
It was your sacrifices and determination as much as mine that finally got the new truck. I was so proud of that truck I was bursting. I was proud of you, too, but I never told you that. I took it for granted you knew, but if I had spent as much time talking with you as I did polishing chrome, perhaps I would have. In all the years I've pounded the pavement, I always knew your prayers rode with me. But this time they weren't enough. I'm hurt and it's bad. I've made my last mile and I want to say the things that should have been said so many times before. The things that were forgotten because I was too concerned about the truck and the job. I'm thinking about the missed anniversaries and birthdays. The school plays and hockey games that you went to alone because I was on the road.
 
I'm thinking about the lonely nights you spent alone, wondering where I was and how things were going. I'm thinking of all the times I thought of calling you just to say hello and somehow didn't get around to. I'm thinking of the peace of mind I had knowing that you were at home with the kids, waiting for me. The family dinners where you spent all your time telling your folks why I couldn't make it. I was busy changing oil; I was busy looking for parts; I was sleeping because I was leaving early the next morning. There was always a reason, but somehow they don't seem very important right now.
 
When we were married, you didn't know how to change a light bulb. Within a couple of years, you were fixing the furnace in a blizzard while I was waiting for a load in Florida. You became a pretty good mechanic, helping me with repairs, and I was mighty proud of you when you jumped into the cab and backed up over the rose bushes. I was proud of you when I pulled into the yard and saw you sleeping in the car waiting for me. Whether it was two in the morning or two in the afternoon you always looked like a movie star to me. You're beautiful, you know. I guess I haven't told you that lately, but you are.
 
I made lots of mistakes in my life, but if I only ever made one good decision, it was when I asked you to marry me. You never could understand what it was that kept me trucking. I couldn't either, but it was my way of life and you stuck with me. Good times, bad times, you were always there. I love you, sweetheart, and I love the kids. My body hurts but my heart hurts even more. You won't be there when I end this trip.
 
For the first time since we've been together, I'm really alone and it scares me. I need you so badly, and I know it's too late. It's funny I guess, but what I have now is the truck. This damned truck that ruled our lives for so long. This twisted hunk of steel that I lived in and with for so many years. But it can't return my love. Only you can do that. You're a thousand miles away but I feel you here with me. I can see your face and feel your love and I'm scared to make the final run alone. Tell the kids that I love them very much and don't let the boys drive any truck for a living. I guess that's about it, honey. My God, but I love you very much.
 
Take care of yourself and always remember that I loved you more than anything in life. I just forgot to tell you. 
 
                                                                                                      I love you, 
                                                                                                      Bill

By Rud Kendall 

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