In 1969, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Anne Sexton wrote the following, overwhelmingly heartfelt letter to her 15-year-old daughter, Linda, after battling mental illness for much of her adult life; a battle, in fact, that saw her take up poetry on the advice of her therapist. Sadly, just five years after this emotional missive was penned, Anne took her own life. She was 45-years-old.
Wed — 2:45 P.M.
I am in the middle of a flight to St. Louis to give a reading. I was reading a New Yorker story that made me think of my mother and all alone in the seat I whispered to her “I know, Mother, I know.” (Found a pen!) And I thought of you — someday flying somewhere all alone and me dead perhaps and you wishing to speak to me.
And I want to speak back. (Linda, maybe it won’t be flying, maybe it will be at your own kitchen table drinking tea some afternoon when you are 40. Anytime.) — I want to say back.
1st, I love you.
2. You never let me down
3. I know. I was there once. I too, was 40 and with a dead mother who I needed still.
This is my message to the 40-year-old Linda. No matter what happens you were always my bobolink, my special Linda Gray. Life is not easy. It is awfully lonely. I know that. Now you too know it — wherever you are, Linda, talking to me. But I’ve had a good life — I wrote unhappy — but I lived to the hilt. You too, Linda — Live to the HILT! To the top. I love you, 40-year old Linda, and I love what you do, what you find, what you are! — Be your own woman. Belong to those you love. Talk to my poems, and talk to your heart — I’m in both: if you need me. I lied, Linda. I did love my mother and she loved me. She never held me but I miss her, so that I have to deny I ever loved her — or she me! Silly Anne! So there!