WWII letters found behind Saskatchewan wall reveal message of love in Langford
VICTORIA - Derek was renovating his attic in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, when a bundle of papers tumbled from behind a wall. "I was shocked to say the least," Derek recalls. "It was pretty surreal to see this."
The collection of papers included Christmas cards, children's drawings and letters from the Second World War. "I'm a huge history fan," Derek explains. "So, I was super excited to see it as well."
The letters were written on the frontlines by a solider in Europe to his family back in Canada. When Derek realized how personal they were, he dropped them off at the local legion, in the hopes of reuniting them with writer's relatives.
The secretary-manager at the Legion had a record of the letters' writer. "His name was Corporal Sydney Wilson," she says. "And I discovered from his file that he did come home [after the war] to his family."
Before she had a chance to find the family, a local writer named Connie just happened to drop by and share a poem she had written for Remembrance Day. The poem was about being a child and having her father return from five years at war as a stranger.
The poem concludes with, "I was seven and I knew you weren't supposed to talk to strangers."
"It took my breath away!," the secretary-manager says. She reacted that way for more reasons than one.
"She said, 'You're not going to believe this'", Connie the writer recalls. "And she put this package in front of me."
The package contained the papers that Derek found. You see, the writer of the war letters was Connie's dad. She had never seen the letters before.
"I actually thought, 'he's going to talk to me now,'" Connie says, wiping away a tear. "And I don't know that I want to hear what he has to say."
In Langford, Connie's younger brother, Gary, is reading one of the letters for the first time. It begins with, 'My own darling...'"
"I've never heard him call my mother darling!" Gary says with a laugh. "Never! That wouldn't be him at all. It's surprising to see that."
Gary says his dad never expressed feelings of affection. Yet, his letter is filled with it. Gary reads how much his dad missed his mom, sister and him – and how much he loved them.
"I get a little emotional," Gary says fighting back tears.
Since the letters were discovered, Gary in B.C. has been talking to Connie in Saskatchewan. They've discussed their childhood, and his service in the Navy.
"We both reflect on the fact that war looks glamourous," Connie says. "But there is a cost."
Yet, the gain of seeing her dad's war letters is providing healing for Connie, through forgiveness and compassion. "I saw him as human with his own struggles," she explains. "He did the very best he could."
After I show Gary the letter, he shows me a picture of his family on his computer. He hopes the discovery of his dad's writings will help connect him and Connie with their five younger siblings who were born after their dad returned from the war.
"Nowadays, everybody's far away," Gary says. "I hope it brings everybody closer together."
When he looks at the children's drawings that were also discovered with the letters, Gary recalls installing the insulation in the attic with his dad with his sisters playing nearby.
"They probably stuck them behind the insulation," he smiles.
Letters sent from war, striving to unite a family, have been discovered now as letters of love, achieving it.