I admit at the outset that I am a romantic. When I say romantic, I mean that I believe, as William Wordsworth wrote: “One impulse from a vernal wood/May teach you more of man,/Of moral evil and of good,/Than all the sages can.” The one who does not connect with the universe that he or she is a part of through emotions must surely be a cold, hollow, and ultimately lonely human being.
I enjoy books in which the author attempts to explore the meaning of life by reflecting on one’s own search for meaning. I think that what I find in these books, as well as in certain poetry, is a sense of what the Germans call Sehnsucht, a longing for something in life that is always there, just out of reach and undefined. There is a touch of this in Alex Woodard’s FOR THE SENDER: FOUR LETTERS. TWELVE SONGS. ONE STORY. (Carsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc., 2012).
Alex Woodard is a successful singer-song writer from the coast of southern California who divides his time between his beach home and a second residence in the mountains of Idaho. Woodard offered to write a song for anyone who preordered an album he was working on and sent him a letter telling their story.
A year went by before the first letter arrived. It was from “Emily.” Emily told of how she met her perfect companion, her soul mate. They were happy together until he died. Each year since, on the anniversary of his death, Emily writes him a letter telling him how much she cherishes the memories of their time together, and how much she still misses him. Normally the letters go unread into a drawer, but not this year. She included the most recent one with her letter to Woodard.
Emily asked Woodard to write a song for her and her deceased soul mate because, as she put it, “I think your songs are gifts. Pieces of yourself used to help other people with their stories. So, here is a piece of myself. It is all I have to share in return for the wonderful thing you are doing with your music and your talent.” Emily’s letter helped Woodard cope with the loss of his close friend and companion a black Labrador named Kona.
Three more letters arrived from individuals telling their stories. One is from “Kim,” the director of a homeless shelter for children. She tells her story of her own life on the streets, of being raped, beaten, addicted to drugs, and of loneliness and shame. Because of what she has experienced, she can help others to overcome their feelings of hopelessness.
Another is from “Alison,” who is working as a medic serving in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She sees things that even nightmares shy away from, but also beautiful things. She learns much about herself from those who cannot begin to imagine a world like that from which Alison came.
“Katelyn” writes about how she was able to overcome the despair she felt after her husband, a policeman, was killed in the line of duty. Life can go quickly from a pasture green to a burned over field, but new life and renewed meaning can take root and grew where once only ashes lay.
The four letters inspired twelve songs. The letters and the lyrics of the songs are found in the book. Included with the book is a CD of the songs. I found both very meaningful.
THE SENDER is suited for the individual who is trying to make sense of a world that is often filled with more questions than answers. It is ideal for anyone trying to cope with some personal loss. It would, I believe, make an ideal gift.