One night, long after bedtime, Sophie begged me to write a letter to my dad, her late grandfather. "You promised we could do it tonight," she said. I watched her take scissors to paper and tape the little pieces together to very meticulously make a pair of butterfly wings. "It's too small for me to write the words," she said, holding up her invention. "You write it for me, Mama." That first night, she instructed me to write in block capital letters, not cursive, so that Papa would know it was really from her, even though I wrote it. "From your grandaughter, Sophie," she dictated. "I'm in first grade now. I'm almost six. Grandma misses you very much. Write me back."
She's been writing about a letter a day to the man she called Papa, the man she's been speaking to daily since before she took command of the English language. Not knowing how to send a letter to someone beyond the physical, she held her letter up that first night and asked how we would send it. What was Papa's address? Where was his mailbox, anyway? I was confused about sending the letters myself, and so I suggested burning the letter outside. "The smoke will send him your message," I said as convincingly as I could, and then heaved a giant sigh when she agreed.
Last night she wrote the letter herself: Papa, I don't know what heaven is like. Do you have information? I've lost two teeth. Love, Sophie. She decorated and clipped the tar out of her missive and handed it over. "It's really hard to ruin it after spending so much time making it," she said. "It makes me sad at first, but I really want to send it." So under a twilight sky, the two of us watched the letter take a flame, and then take flight to wherever it went next.