Does distance make the heart grow fonder?

Graham Kerr holding two packaged stacks of cards
Aug 05, 2016

Does distance make the heart grow fonder?


Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world

Question #34
Rite of Passage Twelve –Flying Solo–
1958 –I am twenty-four years old


Q: Separated: has a large distance ever separated you from your loved ones? How did it feel, at first…when so much about you was new?

Treena and I had been married almost three years to the day when I had to take off for the other side of the world -New Zealand. We both felt the separation acutely and six months seemed an eternity…at first!

And then everything was new…everything!

For the word new, read adventure coupled with the certain feeling that we were leaving painful memories behind as I, like some kind of covered wagon pioneer, was setting out to carve out a new life in a new land.

I simply didn’t understand that whilst I was submerged in the new that Treena, with two-year-old Tessa, was stuck firmly in the old –counting off the days!

When I was single I wrote to Treena every day and she responded. What wonderful letters they were. How deeply we expressed our love and counted off the days until we would be married.

Why then, after such a brief period of three years, did I not write more often and …why did her letters (with so little news) gradually peter out?

Whatever a man sows…he reaps…right?

Within days of my arrival I was ‘up to my neck’ in a completely new way of life. English was the language, spoken with a soft twang, but everything else was unfamiliar…including the way that others saw me, and, for the most part they appeared to be unimpressed by this ‘POM’ (Prisoner of Mother England)…the ‘E’ (as in POME) was left off in New Zealand being more historically correct in Australia.

Yes, I was new to them –and desperate to be accepted!

So…what about now?

I did try so hard…so hard that I took Treena’s distance for granted. I have made a large number of pretty obvious mistakes in my life and I am grateful to have this opportunity to use them to highlight some of the common traps in our shared journey. This mistake was to start a chain reaction of choices that would go from bad to worse over the course of the next seven years…choices that became extremely ugly for another ten awful pain filled years.

Until relief came!

I look back now (isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?) and I know that my not finding time (or words) to write to my beloved wife and daughter was the single worst mistake of my life. Yes, I must admit that it beat all the rest into second place.

Love is such a fragile thing; it needs the daily attention that a prized houseplant needs in the dead of winter. Especially when separated by both time and such an immense distance.

I wonder if you would allow me to use this error as a springboard and take a dive into your pool?

Words are so important and when handwritten on a card, or even a one-page letter, are such treasures. Now that Treena has begun her ‘long sleep’ I can go back over our later years’ letters and cards and they remind me of how grateful I am for her love and the ability to eventually share mine with her.

I have our love in writing. Please consider joining me; go beyond the texts and emails, put your love on paper…and do this often?

Graham Kerr holding two packaged books

P.S This week I read Treena’s poem Jesus Was His Name


  1. Graham Kerr Says: 5:46 pm

    My dear Brandon, what a joy to hear of your understanding of how much your beloved means to you. I am more aware than ever just how much Treena meant to me…and means to me, because her passing does little to diminish her influence. My sadness…bordering on self-pity lasted until God reminded me that gratitude for all the years of loving and being loved was a great gift and when seen as such would overwhelm the tendency to confuse natural grief with self-pity. May I encourage you to make the most of every single day together; what grace…what gratitude!
    Upstreaming with joy these days…

  2. Brandon Newell Says: 2:00 pm

    Dear Graham,
    My thoughts and prayers are with you. I have been a fan of yours and Treena’s since I was a kid, from Minimax to this blog. I just learned of Treena’s passing, and want to offer my condolences. I have always loved both of your stories, the books and shows, and the sincerity of your love for each other. I am married to a wonderful woman, whom I would be forever lost without – actually, I would be lost without having ever known her. Because we have had the privilege to know and love very special people, they will always be with us.
    I wish you well, I still have a postcard your and Treena signed years ago, in an old cookbook your wrote.
    Keep cooking Graham! Life is the spice that flavors the world.
    Brandon Newell (Kansas City)

  3. Jean Says: 10:13 pm

    A second thought on separation – Back in 1979 my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I, her only surviving daughter, lived 45 minutes away. She wanted desperately not to go into a nursing home or hospice but to stay in her own home. Without a second thought I opted to move in with her and care for her for the estimated 6 months she had left. My husband agreed and came to visit us on weekends. It was incredibly hard being apart. After only a few weeks we moved Mom into our home which was much better for me as caregiver. Separation of a married couple is never a good thing even when necessity dictates so. Always determine to keep it temporary.

  4. Carol Ritchie Says: 9:43 pm

    Love Saturday’s with Graham! Solid, sound advice from your personal experience. Words matter, especially when they are hand written in a precious note. I recall a time where I was frustrated and felt I had to fix a situation. I asked for advice from a trusted source, and their solution was simple, write a short and sweet letter simply telling that person that you loved them, and continue to do so. Since I was so fired up in fixing the issue, that advice puzzled me at first. Years later, the person (with the issue I was trying to fix) recalled all of the caring notes he had received from the person that gave me that advice, and I got it! It is most important to express your love and care. Thank you for sharing your experience. We are so lucky and blessed to be inspired by your work in so many forms, print, blog, being able to share and learn from other comments and feedback. Saturday’s with Graham are an exciting addition!

  5. Caren Fisher Says: 9:40 pm

    Your latest blog brings tears as I can identify with your writing. Commitment we pledge in a relationship is a fragile gift we should be vigilant too daily. I am forwarding your e-mail to my husband as food for thought. As always your inspirational messages are most appreciated.

  6. Lynn Severance Says: 4:53 pm

    A few weeks ago, I went to retrieve a journal I had kept (handwritten) in 1979. Opening the cover, I saw, in somewhat frail handwriting, an inscription from my grandmother who had given me the blank journal to take on my trip. Just seeing her precious handwriting filled me with “her”. I had forgotten that she was the giver of that gift.

    I treasure handwritten correspondence to me and, equally, some letters exchanged in years before I was born. My grandfather (husband to my grandmother mentioned above) wrote to her when on business trips in the early 1920s. These business trips were an anomaly of what we know “now. They were but the distance from Seattle to where Graham lives about an hour and a half north. And the penmanship is impeccable as the style my grandfather learned in the late 1800s.

    I have some handwritten letters my father sent to my mother during his oversees service in WWII when they were awaiting my birth.

    Beside handwritten expressions from others, I find great joy when reading through a journal I kept when traveling. Seeing my own handwriting takes me back to the actual spot where I wrote the entry and feelings flood me that match what I felt at that time.

    Graham gives a great exhortation to stop and become more personal in regards of handwritten exchanges. They have a deep power to bring a loved one close.

    Inside my Bible I carry and very small scrap of paper slipped on my desk when I was teaching third grade:

    “Miss S. You are nise Chris C”

    What a treasure, as I am sure many parents have experienced to have a love note placed where it was sure to be found.

    Perhaps I needed to work harder teaching Chris spelling skills — but surely he got the heart part right!!

  7. Kerryn Says: 12:58 am

    WOW! Graham, thanks for sharing your past regrets, so that your readers have the gift of making sure they don’t recreate those same regrets! 6 months living apart in another country sounds horrendous to me!!! Somehow it helps me cope in my current situation of living apart from my wonderful, beloved & dear hubby (DH) & family! It’s nearly 9 months since I had to move out of home, so that my DH & eldest son could renovate our house for sale. I have MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities) amongst other illnesses, so staying at home with the renovation chemicals would have made me incredibly ill. I’m boarding with a friend & her family in her upstairs bedsit (large room). We never anticipated that the renovations, sale of our home & relocation would take this long!!! It’s a 30 minute drive from our home to where I’m living & it’s been horrifically hard to only see my DH twice weekly. I’ve only seen my adult sons every month or 2. This awful situation has DEFINITELY made the heart grow fonder for us! It’s more like dating when we see each other & lots of beautiful texts, emails, phone calls, post-it-notes & ecards have been sent to each other. My illnesses make it hard for me to write physical paper letters & cards, so they are rare, but we’ve also sent a few of those. Living apart from my DH has been awfully isolating with many tears. Receiving DH’s loving & uplifting words & receiving hugs when I’m in floods of tears have been unbelievably reassuring. Without those written words & twice weekly visits I’m not sure how I’d cope!! We’re nearly at the end of this ordeal & truly ready to move into a new home together to start the next chapter in our lives more in love than ever! We’ve discussed many times how “distance makes the heart grow fonder!” God bless you Graham!

  8. Jean Says: 12:31 am

    P.S. This is why I enjoy blogging so much. Each week is like getting a letter from Graham! And others I blog with. Without meeting we have become friends. We share thoughts, feelings, ideas in a way which may never otherwise be expressed. We form bonds and affections – with many miles between us – and with faces we will never see – except I love your videos! I have an affinity for writing/sending cards. Written words are more easily expressed than spoken. Thoughts are clearer. There is joy in sending – and I hope receiving. I’m always touched when receiving a card. I feel honored and respected. It’s a wonderful habit.

  9. Jean Says: 12:16 am

    I remember when my older brother went off to serve in the military. I was pre-teen and he was just 20 something. I was so heartsick for him and missed him terribly. Back in the 60’s writing was the only communication available to military families. I wrote pages and pages to him expressing my longing to see him again. I remember the thrill of receiving a letter from him – which did not come that often – I know because of his duties and also of the many letters he probably wrote to other friends and families. It is moving to go back and read them over again. Unfortunately they are all gone. My husband and I are fortunate to have never been apart. I know I would not have been able to bear it. I remember during our courtship how each day seemed an eternity until we could be together – which was every night – we lived only a few blocks away from each other. He was working and I was in school. I kept a silly calendar and marked each day if he called, if we went out, if he wrote, etc. – that I still have. I loved him so that I kept a box of everything he touched or we shared together. He didn’t write many letters but the few he did and cards are still close at hand. They are a good stake in the ground of the foundation of our relationship and reading them over again re-ignites our flame of commitment. Be blessed always by your stockpile. It’s good you both managed to become stronger and closer because of them.

  10. Sally Andrews Says: 11:39 am

    I feel affirmed Graham. I am a true believer in the written word and have a penchant for cute cards. As I go around our home, I’m always coming upon a card I’ve written for Stephen just to tell him something I love about him. Or how I’m looking forward to something or one I’ve sent him when I’m traveling to say I miss him. I’m glad he’s kept them and I hope it brings him as much joy as it does me sending them.. I don’t mind getting all his emoji’s on text messages, but there’s something about the effort to sit and write something that makes you feel so much more valued, rather than a fleeting thought.

  11. Darlene Says: 6:27 am

    Wisdom is what I see in your words. Thank you again for inspiring me to write to my husband. I really needed to hear this today. I look forward to the new wisdoms of truth God brings forth from your journey.
    God bless you and keep your way straight.
    Love in Christ
    Darlene Vaningan

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