Songwriter pens a letter a week to create connection during COVID

Dec 17 2020, 6:06 pm

The Friendly News is a collaboration between TELUS and Daily Hive. Together, we’re creating a space for important, feel-good community stories to be told, where Canadians can immerse themselves in uplifting news and articles featuring community leaders giving back during a time when we all need it most.

Written for Daily Hive by Shelley Hamilton, a Juno award-winning Nova Scotian born, Toronto-based singer, actor and “reluctant writer.” Her latest claim to fame is being one of the few black female country singers in Canada. 


My love/hate relationship.

I love for it because I’ve always loved words and how they can translate so much on a piece of paper… Immortalized. Documented. And then the hate is because it IS documented. And if I am writing it… ME… Well then it’s there for me to judge, and for everyone else.

So… I would say I am a reluctant writer… I write because I have a passion to do it. I guess because I’m a singer words are music to me and whether I’m singing them or writing them to someone — it is emotion.

Writing, and the passion for it, came from my mother. Others would’ve thought of her as poorly educated for she only had her grade 8, but in our home I saw her read voraciously, educate herself through her children’s text books, and read us bedtime stories from Kipling. So encouraging, to me, she was the RBG of penmanship, showing me how, as a leftie, to have a right handed slant without smudging the ink.

Shelley Hamilton

Shelley Hamilton / Paul Wright Studio

So, as a love letter to my mother, I decided to write 52 letters to people this year, one a week. But I wanted to go true old school, something she would have really loved, so I finally opened up a calligraphy pen set I had with quill feather pen, inkwell, stamp and wax seal. I was truly loving the meditation and time with each person through pen…

Then – Covid.

Everything halted. But the writing – did not. To let that one person know when least expected – you are seen. You are loved. Writing these letters has taken me through so many emotions of love and appreciation for people I know and don’t know.

covid letter writing

I sent notes of gratitude to all the caregivers on my mother-in-law’s long term care floor with a facial treatment to pamper mask worn skin.

And to the new neighbours I haven’t met yet, but letting them know we are still community.

I’ve thanked my doctors for keeping me well during my years of illness, and still doing what they do on the frontlines.

When Canada’s largest mass murder in Nova Scotia happened, it’s been so hard to mourn this tragedy, wanting to be back with my family, and it has been heartbreaking for the Maritimes.

I’ve written to friends there as well, sending them a hug, and embracing my home through words that are hard to say. My mouth has been numb to translate this pain, but the pen is still working.

As of writing this, I’m at number 46. I don’t know how many more I will write, but I have loved and cherished every moment I’ve taken to write them.

Loved the moments that the ink has run from my tears. Loved the messages & phone calls back to let me know how touched they were from getting a letter – with sparkles that fell out of the paper like candy rain.

But what I think I love the most, is that unbeknownst to me, this task had a purpose — it kept my creative heart sane. While I could not sing – I emoted through pen, and it gave to others what I usually give through song – connection.

covid letter writing

I’ve written one to my mother-in-law who is dying from complications from dementia, for what I want to say to her that she will never hear. And when she passes, which as I’m writing this to you could be any day, I will read it to her, her body released, her spirit free to hear me.

And… I’d like to think that this, right now, is number 52. This one is not written with the Calligraphy pen, but it has the same feeling of taking a pen and dipping it into that inkwell. All that long thought.

Because I get to write this to more than one person. And I say to you – bravo beautiful one for surviving this year. I hope you’ve had others that were kind to you, that made you laugh at moments when we thought we could not find joy. I hope you are well. And safe. And I want you to know that right now, in this very moment, that even thought we haven’t met, I am sending you love, energy, and I hope you feel me giving you a warm hug. And if you do, keep passing it on – maybe… in a letter.

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