A little over three years ago, I was honored by Lauren Elizabeth Kelley’s mother Sue, who asked me to write a Palanca letter for Lauren Elizabeth Kelley. The Palanca letter is a tradition in Catholic schools and they are written by people closest to a young adult who is about to graduate high school. It is a letter of encouragement and inspiration which is given to the young adult while they are on a spiritual retreat during this rite of passage for them.
This is the letter I wrote for Lauren Elizabeth Kelley.
Daniel Kim November 7, 2009
49 Floral Street
Newton, MA 02461
I am honored that your mother asked me to write a Palanca letter for you. As you know, you and your family are very special to me and I consider all of you as part of the family I have chosen for myself.
I want you to know that I think you are a beautiful person and I am proud to be one of your friends. You do have the good heart and generous and kind spirit that I consider to be a necessity to be a beautiful person—as well as being one of the prettiest young women I know. Please note that when I use the word beautiful, I do not mean just the more commonly accepted definition of physical appearance. To me, physical appearance is only a part of what makes a person beautiful. If one does not have a good heart and isn’t generous and kind in nature, they can never be beautiful, no matter what they look like.
You are a very intelligent young woman—although there are times you seem to do a very good job of hiding that fact—like most teens. However, I am sure that you will be successful in your future ambitions, and with a little more experience, will have the self-confidence to believe in yourself as much as I believe in you.
You are a gracious person, and I hope that as you grow into adulthood, you learn to keep that sense of grace about you. I hope you continue to give of yourself and continue to be generous, especially to those less fortunate than you. To be gracious, even under the worst of conditions, was something Gee showed me, and I believe you are capable of that kind of grace yourself.
I hope you continue to inspire your family and friends to be better than they would be without you in their lives, and that you carefully choose your friends to be of that same caliber—people who inspire you to be a better person than you would be without them. Remember to surround yourself with people who love you for who you are, unconditionally, and to love them back, for who they are, unconditionally, and remember to treat them well.
You are fortunate to have family and friends that truly love and support you, and that you love and support in return. I know, as I am one of them. I warn you to be wary of ever taking those people for granted, and to always be sure to let them know how much they mean to you as often as you can. And whenever you have doubts or need help, take advantage of the fact that you do have us around—talk to us and let us help you.
I have been blessed to get to know you fairly well since I moved back to the Boston area. Watching you grow into the person you are today has been one of the greatest joys of my life. I hope that you recognize your inherent qualities and habits, both good and bad, and work on improving the the former and reducing the latter, so that you grow into the person I see you capable of becoming in the future, .
Be well and know that you are loved.
As always, your friend,
Beloved of Gee,
Twin to David
I wrote this letter as one of Lauren Elizabeth Kelley’s good friends—someone her mother had asked to be Lauren Elizabeth Kelley’s protector, advisor, confidante, and mentor. When Lauren Elizabeth Kelley’s parents, John and Sue, basically checked out of Lauren Elizabeth and Johnny Jr.’s lives a few years earlier, I had basically been asked to step in to act as an intermediary and to guide and protect the two older Kelley children as I could. I promised Sue I would do my best for these two young friends of my—the two eldest children of two people I had considered family for over a quarter of a century.
I think this letter also shows the love and caring that I have had for Lauren Elizabeth Kelley all of her life. My devotion to her family and their trust in me is evident as well. In some ways, I feel that I must have failed in some way for Lauren Elizabeth Kelley to have become the drug-addicted alcoholic that she has been for the past seventeen months. For her to deny the years of love, caring, devotion, loyalty, friendship and trust is horrific and I can not understand how it is even possible for her to do this.
I will abide by the amazing woman that the young Lauren Elizabeth Kelley I write about in this letter has grown into—a woman that is smart, strong, good, kind, sweet, feisty, stubborn, honest, beautiful, gracious and compassionate. To have known her as a child and watched how she has grown and changed over the years really was a joy and an honor.
I have loved Lauren Elizabeth Kelley all of her life in some fashion. I will always love her—I do not know how to not love her. She has been a part of my life for more time than even my twin brother. I have loved Lauren Elizabeth Kelley longer than I knew Gee, Su, Shelley and Yoon combined. I have cared for her all of her life. I have been close friends and confidantes with Lauren Elizabeth Kelley for many years—years during which she and I trusted each other with our hopes, goals dreams and fears.
Lauren Elizabeth Kelley is the woman I love most of all. She is the woman I have asked to marry me and I hope to spend the rest of my life with, even if it means walking beside her on her long road to recovery from addiction and alcoholism for the rest of my days. I know who Lauren Elizabeth Kelley truly is—she is strong, beautiful and capable far beyond anything the drug-addicted alcoholic could possible imagine.
I know Lauren Elizabeth Kelley loves me for she is one of the most honest people I have ever known and she would not have learned to tell me “Sarangheyo” or told me “I love you” unless she truly did. I know that Lauren Elizabeth Kelley would have never spoken to me about all the topics having to do with us starting a life together unless it was what she wanted. I know Lauren Elizabeth Kelley would have never asked me to see the claddagh ring I had bought for her unless she were ready to accept it and all it stood for.
I believe in Lauren Elizabeth Kelley. I have faith in the amazing woman that loves me. I trust the incredible woman I love. I hope that she will fight her addictions soon so that we can start on the future we had talked about together.
Lauren Elizabeth Kelley—trust yourself, believe in yourself, love yourself and fight your addictions—follow your heart.
I can not believe that Lauren Elizabeth Kelley could have succumbed to her addictions. The amazing woman that loves me is too strong, too smart, too stubborn and too brave to have fallen so easily to her addictions. I believe that the incredible woman I love still is there fighting to beat her addictions. I pray she finds her way back home to me so that we can start on our future together.
God Bless you Lauren Elizabeth.
May God watch over you and protect you from all harm—even that you cause yourself.
I hope God gives you the strength to fight your addictions and the wisdom to see the truth about what the alcohol and drugs are doing to you.
I pray that God grants you the serenity and peace you will need to love yourself once again and to forgive yourself for the things your addictions have made you do.
I ask that God helps you find your way back to being the amazing, beautiful, intelligent, feisty, stubborn, strong, and devout woman He wants you to be.
Finally, may He grant you the ability to see yourself as I do and let you remember who we are to each other; let you remember the years of friendship, love and devotion we once shared; and give you the strength to make amends so we can start the future together we talked about last June.
All this in Jesus’s name I pray.