Wouldn’t It Be Something?: Letters From the Heart
November 6, 2017
In 2010, Dennis Depcik lost his wife, Maggie, after 40 plus years of marriage and a long battle with cancer. It was after this tragic event that he made a discovery about the power of handwritten letters. The experience inspired him to write a book. Wouldn’t It Be Something is the result of three years of painful, yet cathartic work. In his book, Dennis explores the lost art of letter writing and the effect letters had on the early days of his courtship with his wife. Mr. Depcik will speak about his book and his experiences writing it at the library on Monday, November 13 at 7 pm in a program called Letters from the Heart.
Creating a Bond
Dennis and Maggie’s story goes back to the mid 1960s. Dennis was enlisted in the U.S. army and received training at Officer Candidate School. Maggie was a high school student living in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago. As the conflict in Vietnam escalated, Dennis caught a break when he was assigned to the Armed Forces Courier Service in Europe. Based in Heidelberg, Germany, Dennis was tasked with transporting top secret and classified information across Europe. At home in Bridgeport were his friends and family, including his sister-in-law’s younger sister, Maggie. At the time, Maggie was someone who barely registered in his mind—an insignificant kid, as he would later recall. “Maggie was my sister-in-law's kid sister and I never had any interest in her because she was seven years younger than me,” he says. He paid her little thought even after she began sending him letters in Europe.
Dennis answered Maggie's letters and their correspondence continued. Maggie graduated high school, got engaged (to a different soldier), then broke off the engagement while the bond between her and Dennis grew. They essentially fell in love through their letters to each other. They married in 1969.
Over the course of four decades of marriage and four children, Dennis forgot about this formative part of their relationship. It wasn’t until after Maggie's passing that he wondered what had made Maggie fall in love with him all those years ago? One day he found the answer. “After she passed away," Dennis explains, "I was going through our bedroom on a particularly bad day when I was thinking about her, and ended up finding this box in her closet that had all the letters in them. That brought back the whole experience that we had through our letter writing.”
The box Maggie saved was filled with 119 letters sent between the two of them when they were so far apart. While the letters were difficult for Dennis to read, the experience was immensely helpful to his grieving process. The letters were his wife's voice, recreated through pen and paper, speaking to him again. “A handwritten letter is uniquely the person who wrote it," says Dennis of the experience. "If you have a handwritten letter or note from someone you care about deeply, that is uniquely that person. For me, nobody could make the same soft curves of Maggie's S's or the gentle loops of her L's.”
Love and Loss
It took Dennis three years to complete Wouldn’t it be Something. When friends asked him why it took so long, the answer was obvious to him. He had to learn how to write a book, a big enough task in itself, while also grieving for his wife. “It was so difficult to read Maggie's letters because it hurt so much,” Dennis recalls. “I couldn't read more than one a day and sometimes I would go several days without reading any.” Adding to his difficulty was getting them ordered chronology—not an easy task given Maggie's dislike of keeping the letters in their original, post-marked envelopes.
In the end, the process was cathartic for Dennis and it gave him the opportunity to tell people about his wife. He can personally attest to the power of handwritten correspondence to change lives and give hope, especially to those in the military, at boot camp or stationed overseas, as he was himself.
Register now for Letters from the Heart, Monday, November 13 at 7-8:30 pm.