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A Thank You Letter to Harper Lee

Dear Ms. Lee,
This letter is much too late. This letter of gratitude should have come to you decades ago, from my fifteen year old self. You should be reading this, well and alive, but instead, it your passing that has inspired me to write this. Upon hearing of your death, I was with my children at a restaurant and it came to me through a ticker on CNN. Then, a montage of photos followed and I nearly choked on my own sadness.
It is without doubt that you left an indelible mark on so many people with your book, To Kill a Mockingbird. I proudly consider myself part of that group. I read your classic when I was fifteen years old and it truly changed my life. From a young age, I've been a reader. Being surrounded by words is more comfortable for me than people. The way a sentence can both break and mend my heart is a high I cannot shake. To some, I spent too much time with my nose in a book as a child. But, I argue, the books are what taught me how to live. I met characters from wondrous and ordinary places, faced real life drama and joy, and cried from happiness and sorrow while reading. The world through books made sense to me.
I was, and still am, a very sensitive person. I've never been able to handle injustice, hurt, or pain well. I always root for the underdog, no matter the odds. I always hope for the best and give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Reading about Scout and how she navigated through her young life, I finally felt like I found someone I could understand. Growing up, I had the same questions Scout did about injustice, ethics, and humanity at large. I felt the same curiosity Scout did and loved my mother as much as Scout loved Atticus. 

Atticus. Where do I even begin to thank you for creating Atticus? He is beyond words for me. I'm tearing up even writing about him. Atticus is, and was, my moral compass in so many ways. His guidance with Scout has transcended the pages of your book and has come alive in so many lives.
Since I was fifteen, I've reread To Kill a Mockingbird every year. Every time, I find something new to think about, savor, or question in that season of my life. It saddens me that so much of your life has been questioned, scrutinized, and insulted as you chose to live it. The headlines I'm seeing have nothing to do with the remarkable gift you've left us in your classic, but only to do with your reclusiveness or health. No matter, you will forever be my hero for writing a book that changed my life. Your words will forever be whispers of humility, compassion, and justice in my life. May you rest in peace, Harper Lee. You will eternally live on through your words. Thank you for being brave with your words and being courageous in living life as you wanted.


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