Earlier this fall, I learned about an exhibition coming up at the Van Gogh Museum in the summer of 2020 called Jouw Mooiste Brief, or Your Most Beautiful Letter. The organizers plan to celebrate the slowing dying art of the handwritten letter, honoring the many letters that Van Gogh wrote to this brother, Theo. Their call for letters read as follows:
VanGogh’s letters are world-famous. He wrote about love, inspiration and brotherhood. We would now like to put a letter you cherish on display at the Van Gogh Museum. Have you received a special letter that touched your heart, made you angry or made you laugh out loud?
As soon as I read this, I knew exactly the letter I would send. It was a letter that my dad had written to me in 1994 on the eve of my going to Stanford University Art Museum for a job interview (a job I was eventually offered but ended up not accepting. Long story). The letter reads as follows:
The very best Light for your adventure going to Stanford. Remember if it is Right, it will come to you Right. Don’t be afraid you will be all good. And I love you! I am taking care of myself and I like my life very much! It may seem strange from the outside yet I am perfectly happy!
Here are some things for you to read on the plane. May God Bless You always in your life and on your way.
What made the letter so memorable was not the first receipt of it back in 1994. It was that on the night Georg died, September 26, 2013, I went into my closet to look for his will. I pulled out a box and my eye was drawn to a blue-colored file folder. I opened the folder and right there in front of me was Georg’s handwriting, and this letter. Keep in mind, the man had JUST DIED a couple hours earlier. The portion of the letter that begins “I am taking care of myself…” took my breath away. Still does. His blessing at the end is with me every day.
The organizers at the Van Gogh museum asked us not only to send a photo of the letter, but also the reason why it was meaningful. I am honored and excited that they will include this letter in their show. Georg loved Van Gogh and I think he must be happy to know that his words will be on display in the museum.
And, because I had shared the call for letters on Facebook, I learned yesterday that one of oldest and dearest friends from grade school, Galia Peled, also had her letter accepted. She told me that it was my dad who inspired her to read Dear Theo back in high school. Galia grew up in Bloomfield Hills, MI, and has lived her entire adult life in Israel. I asked her who her letter was from and she wrote:
It was a letter my husband sent me shortly after the outbreak of the first Lebanese war where he was fighting on the Syrian front, and I was pregnant with our first daughter.
Clearly, Jouw Mooiste Brief is going to be an incredibly diverse and thoughtful exhibition. I hope I will be able to return to Amsterdam to see it for myself.