Unspoken Word

A Portland native pieces together an anthology of second chances

By Rachel Ritchie November 9, 2009 Published in the December 2009 issue of Portland Monthly

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Many times, our greatest regrets are not about things we’ve said, but rather those we didn’t. Perhaps no one knows this better than Jackie Hooper, a 23-year-old Portland native who in March began compiling letters from Oregonians who responded to this question: if you had another chance to tell someone something, what would it be? Hooper initially sent the request to Oregon schools, retirement homes, churches, and even prisons, but she received responses from across the country. The project—which comes on the heels of local author Megan McMorris’s similar effort, the book P.S. What I Didn’t Say: Unsent Letters to Our Female Friends—has so far resulted in about 400 letters penned by writers of all ages. Hooper is shopping for a publisher and hopes to print a selection of the letters within the next year. Until then, you can read letters like this one—or submit your own—at The Things You Would Have Said blog. Just keep some Kleenex next to your keyboard.

Dear David,

I’ll never forget the morning we camped outside the newspaper office to get the first look at the early edition. We prayed not to find your name on the draft list, but our prayers were not answered. I cried the day you left and promised to write every day. Since you couldn’t receive mail for 30 days, you got all of my 30 letters all at once.

I know that you remember these things too. But I’ve never gotten to tell you how much I regret not waiting for you. I didn’t mean for things to change, but they did. We were so young and I was stupid. You came home on leave and helped me to move two states away, even though I was leaving you.

I heard later that you had married and had a little girl. Afterwards I heard that you had divorced. I’m sorry for calling you and then hanging up when you answered. I just wanted to hear your voice.

A friend from school called and told me you had cancer. She called again to tell me you had lost your battle. When she sent your obituary, I saw the same sweet face that I had loved so well. You hadn’t changed.

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