The Letter: My Journey Through Love, Loss, and Life

The Letter: My Journey Through Love, Loss, and Life

4.3 18
by Marie Tillman
     
 

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In 2003, Pat Tillman, serving in the US Army, hastily wrote a "just in case" letter to his wife, Marie. When he returned on leave before his departure to Afghanistan, he placed the letter on top of their bedroom dresser. For months it sat there, sealed and ever-present, like a black hole through which Marie knew her stable life would be pulled if she ever had

Overview

In 2003, Pat Tillman, serving in the US Army, hastily wrote a "just in case" letter to his wife, Marie. When he returned on leave before his departure to Afghanistan, he placed the letter on top of their bedroom dresser. For months it sat there, sealed and ever-present, like a black hole through which Marie knew her stable life would be pulled if she ever had reason to open it. Then, in April 2004, Marie's worst nightmare came true. In the days following his death, it was Pat's letter that kept her going and, more than that, it was his words that would help her learn to navigate a world she could no longer share with her husband.

In THE LETTER, Marie's talks for the first time about her journey to remake her life after Pat's death. In it, she recalls meeting and falling in love with Pat when they were kids, his harrowing decision to join the army after 9/11, and the devastating day when she learned he'd been killed. She describes how she withdrew from the public spotlight to grieve, learning along the way the value of solitude, self-awareness and integrity in the healing process. And, finally, Marie recounts her work to rebuild her life, including founding The Pat Tillman Foundation, an organization established to carry forth Pat's legacy of leadership, and her decision to step back into the public eye in order to inspire people to live with meaning and purpose.

Filled with the lessons Marie learned and the wisdom she gained since Pat's death, THE LETTER is both a heartrending love story and an inspiring tale for anyone, young or old, whose life has taken an unexpected hard turn — and who struggles to get back on the right path.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this wrought and thoughtful memoir, the widow of Pat Tillman—the professional football player who fatally joined the Army—navigates lost love and possibilities. Adventurous by nature, Pat left the Arizona Cardinals shortly after 9/11 and enlisted just months before his wedding to the author. His grandfather fought at Pearl Harbor, so Pat believed he needed to do something more meaningful with his life, and Marie acquiesced. “By asking him not to go, I would be asking him to be someone he wasn’t.” The couple had been high school sweethearts, spending 10 years together before his death and highly publicized memorial service. Officials first announced that he had been shot in the head by enemy fire in Afghanistan. Later, after a series of difficult investigations—including a frustrating hearing with Donald Rumsfeld—the cause of death was deemed “friendly fire.” In a “just in case” letter that Marie kept on her dresser during his deployments, Pat asked her one last favor: to continue living. “Emotionally guarded” by nature, she shuns the spotlight and moves from the West Coast to New York City, where she goes through the stages of grief out of the media spotlight. Though chronologically jumpy and slightly distanced, Marie makes her way back West as a wiser, more compassionate, and well-traveled single woman. She successfully honors her husband’s legacy while offering solace and hope for those in anguish. (June)
Kirkus Reviews
The death of Pat Tillman, who put his NFL career on hold to serve his country, was a double blow to his wife. Upon joining the Army after 9/11, Tillman was first sent on a tour of duty to Iraq and then deployed to Afghanistan, where he was killed. Though the first reports claimed he had died a heroic death under enemy fire, soon thereafter a different truth emerged: He had been killed by friendly fire. Marie Tillman had to face not only the loss of her husband, but the fact that the Army had attempted to turn his tragic death into a public-relations coup, awarding him a Silver Star. In this moving debut memoir, the author describes her struggle to deal with grief and to come to terms with the cynical abuse of his sacrifice. She offers a nuanced portrait of Tillman, who, even in college refused to accept the role of jock. When he decided to leave the NFL for the military, he refused to talk to the press because he didn't want to be made into a symbol. Although they were "disconnected from [their] previous lives," they were "focused on being part of…this greater cause." The Tillmans were not deterred by their belief in the illegality of the Iraq War, and they remained committed to his decision to serve. An inspiring account of the author's difficult decision to become a public advocate for military families.
Maria Shriver
"Marie Tillman's moving memoir, The Letter, is a story of profound courage. It takes courage to walk out into the unknown to reclaim one's life after a tragedy. It takes courage to live in a public way with such private pain. And it takes courage to share one's journey with an open heart knowing that it will bring comfort and connection to others. Marie's courageous example will inspire so many to recognize their own power to be architects of change."
author of Into the Wild and Where Men Win Glory Jon Krakauer
"The Letter is a candid, eloquent account of unthinkable loss, its incapacitating aftermath, and Marie Tillman's long, lonely journey back to daylight. Graced with illuminating vignettes of her marriage to Pat Tillman, the ambivalent Army Ranger who was killed in Afghanistan by his comrades, The Letter is both a heart-rending elegy for an extraordinary man and an indispensable road map through the wilderness of bereavement. It's a brave and wonderful book."
New York Times bestselling author of God Never Bli Regina Brett
"Marie Tillman's gentle memoir of love and loss is an important reminder to all that life isn't measured by its length, but by its depth."
New York Times bestselling author of In An Instant Lee Woodruff
"Marie Tillman's elegantly written memoir weaves together a love story with the life affirming lesson that grief's tributaries can flow toward healing and acceptance. This book reminds us that it's possible to move past trauma without forgetting or letting loss define you. This is a must read for anyone who has worked to overcome life's sorrows and embrace its triumphs with grace."
From the Publisher
"Marie Tillman's elegantly written memoir weaves together a love story with the life affirming lesson that grief's tributaries can flow toward healing and acceptance. This book reminds us that it's possible to move past trauma without forgetting or letting loss define you. This is a must read for anyone who has worked to overcome life's sorrows and embrace its triumphs with grace."—Lee Woodruff, New York Times bestselling author of In An Instant and Perfectly Imperfect"

Marie Tillman's gentle memoir of love and loss is an important reminder to all that life isn't measured by its length, but by its depth."—Regina Brett, New York Times bestselling author of God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours

"The Letter is a candid, eloquent account of unthinkable loss, its incapacitating aftermath, and Marie Tillman's long, lonely journey back to daylight. Graced with illuminating vignettes of her marriage to Pat Tillman, the ambivalent Army Ranger who was killed in Afghanistan by his comrades, The Letter is both a heart-rending elegy for an extraordinary man and an indispensable road map through the wilderness of bereavement. It's a brave and wonderful book."—Jon Krakauer, author of Into the Wild and Where Men Win Glory

"Marie Tillman's moving memoir, The Letter, is a story of profound courage. It takes courage to walk out into the unknown to reclaim one's life after a tragedy. It takes courage to live in a public way with such private pain. And it takes courage to share one's journey with an open heart knowing that it will bring comfort and connection to others. Marie's courageous example will inspire so many to recognize their own power to be architects of change."Maria Shriver, Journalist, Author & Activist"

In this moving debut memoir, the author describes her struggle to deal with grief and to come to terms with the cynical abuse of his sacrifice...An inspiring account of the author's difficult decision to become a public advocate for military families."—Kirkus

"In this thoughtful memoir...[Marie Tillman] successfully honors her husband's legacy while offering solace and hope for those in anguish."Publishers Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780446571456
Publisher:
Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
06/26/2012
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
553,908
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Marie Tillman is the founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation which inspires others to create positive social change through its leadership programs and scholarships for veterans, active servicemembers, their families, and college students across the country. She lives in California.

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Letter: My Journey Through Love, Loss, and Life 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Alycille More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book and finished it in two days. I fell in love with their love story from reading Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer and couldn't wait to read Marie's book and hear about her love and life with Pat. I expected a little more about their relationship and time together. I loved Pat's letters to her and wish there were more to read, although I understand those are private letters to Marie. He was clearly head over heels for his wife and his words were refreshing and romantic. As a girlfriend of a soldier I know how much those letters mean. This book was more about Marie learning how to live again after Pats passing. I admire her strength, bravery, and determination to follow Pat's request for her. And I appreciate her willingness to share her experience so open and honestly. I wish her the best and love for her in the future.
Closet_Romantic More than 1 year ago
Amazing book that makes you look at life from a different perspective.  It's a story of true love and true loss.  It makes you think about what a military really goes thru.  Definitely take the time to read this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book from start to finish Marie's story is an uplifting one for all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I agree with 7/12/12 Anonymous real story about love and uplifting too. My husband & I read the book at the same time and had some good discussions.
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moonbeamKM More than 1 year ago
The Letter is a moving, compassionate and an extremely honest reflection of a couples life, and a wife's ability to overcome fears, shyness, and guilt after her husbands death.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Readers get a perspective that otherwise went without notice. Good reading. Eye opening on numerous accounts.
Livesvicariously More than 1 year ago
The story is beautiful, sad, and inspiring. It's much more than that, but my words really wouldn't do it justice. Especially for anyone struggling to deal with loss, I would highly recommend.
Heidi_G More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars A quick read which chronicles Marie Tillman's days and years after the death of her husband, Pat. I, too, read Krakauer's Where Men Win Glory and wondered what the family perspective would be. Because of the title, I'd expected "the letter" to be more of a significant player in the book; however, it ultimately becomes just the right focus. As a former Air Force officer who dealt with mortuary affairs, I saw the anguish of loved ones left behind and wondered what their lives would be like once the military stepped away and life had to go on. Marie tells of hiding away, of trying to stay out of the spotlight but still keep Pat's memory and Foundation going, and of fearing returning to the social and dating scenes. I appreciate Marie's candor and willingness to let us in on her world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago