To Whom It May Concern

By Levi MacallisterJanuary 12, 2016

Last Thursday was the five-year anniversary of the day my dad called to tell my mother that he loved her, and that he loved my sister and me, and that we may not see him again. He checked himself into a hotel room fifteen minutes from the other end of that phone call, positioned himself on the bathroom floor, and went home too early.

I’ve been reading through journal entries a couple of pages down from the Cottage Health System Visitor Pass stickers that I pasted to the days leading up to that one.

5 East. That was his wing in Santa Barbara’s psychiatric care unit during Thanksgiving week when I checked into it to visit him 1,879 days ago.

I found this entry from January 12, 2011:

My dad has been gone for nearly a week now. He left with nothing. Two months ago, I visited him in the hospital…and then I visited him in another one. I kissed him when he came to the Christmas Eve service that I read at – maybe the last time he’ll ever see me perform. We watched The Polar Express together. He opened presents with us.

I got drunk on New Year’s Eve, alone, while my dad got drunk at home, alone. 

He was always alone.

We are just waiting for a phone call to give us the freedom to mourn with all that we are. 

I want to weep, but there’s some hope that maybe he’s still alive somewhere.

But I feel like my heart is lying to me. You know it’s always deceitful above all things.

Two weeks later, we were free to mourn.

To Whom It May Concern,

If you’re in pain today, you’re not the only one. And that doesn’t minimize the suffering either one of us has to endure, but we’re both in pain and alive together. And I’m thankful for you. God, I’m thankful for you. For your life.

Maybe we’ve never met. Maybe you’d say I’d say different if I only knew. If only someone knew.

The holidays are hard for me, and the New Year always brings death into the periphery (or forefront) of whatever life it is that I’m supposed to be seeing. It’s not that I don’t believe it’s there; it’s just that sometimes my faith feels more like cataracts than clarity.

I can get so caught up in my head.

Maybe you can, too.

This Thanksgiving, I thought a lot about my dad. I tried to put my phone down. I tried not to sell my way through Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

I needed to remember that people are not commodities. Tragedies aren’t commodities, either.

Sometimes, I find myself with the same ants beneath my skin that my father had, but I tried to actually be with my sister, and her new husband, and my wife.

With my grandpa, who is trying to remember me. With my grandma, who still remembers him.

With the uncle who used to wrestle me to the floor and made a beeline toward me for a bear hug the day he arrived for the funeral. With the uncle whose garage smells like the cigars he smokes. With my cousins and all their comings of age, and my aunts and all of their giggles.

With my mom, and her new fiancé.

Can you believe it?

Five years to the month past weeping at a funeral, and we come to gather for laughter at a wedding.

Redemption and new life and joy and new love, and my mother’s eyes are shining.

The contrasts are sharp.

I wonder whether there’s more black or white on your canvas today?

“Living kills you, you know?”

My friend said that the other night, ringing in the New Year. I think it was a joke. We’ll call it truth.

Living kills you.

I didn’t love 2015. It felt like a wash. It felt like too much to drink on too many nights. It felt full of fear. It felt categorized and paralyzed by that fear. And disillusionment. And atrophy. It felt like foggy mirrors and frosted windows. It felt like too many fights with my wife, too little trust in my heart that she’d love me if I was who I am. Too much of trying to make people like me like me love me love me. Too much of a twitch for validation. Too many thoughts on giving up. Too scary close to coming back to the places that make death more enticing than life.

I know that a ball drop isn’t salvation, but I also know that I don’t want to stay in these places. And I know that it does drop. And I know it drops with other people who are living and dying at the same time, but we’re alive.

I want to dance with you.

My friend gave me a journal to write in for the New Year. This was handwritten before it was transcribed because another friend took to theme 2015 “analog” and reminded me that if time is money, it’s an exponentially higher currency, so I’m trying to slow back down and out of the frenzy. They’ve both seen me in all of my death and life and the headspaces in-between, and I’m thankful for their love.

Maybe faith will move mountains, but love has moved my heart, and I think that would prove to be the greater miracle.

I wanted to write to tell you my story today and to say thank you for being here. And to say that I love you.

I hope it’s something.

I understand if you struggle against feeling like it isn’t. Maybe you wrestle with whether you’re worthwhile.

I understand that struggle, too. And today I’ll be the one trying to remind myself that my entire identity isn’t wrapped up in how many people love me back. I wanted to write to say thank you and I wanted to write to say I love you and I wanted to write to say that you are valuable above and beyond what I stand to profit off of your resonance with these words.

You matter.

No matter where you find yourself in the contrast of this year, or how long the shadows seem to grow, or how many thank you for yous you receive that don’t quite seem to convince you that they mean it or that their meaning it means anything to you, or how shitty life gets, and no matter how many bad words you use for bad things they never seem to quench the thirst for what’s beyond the circle –

I beg you –

You are loved today.

Crafted into all of the molecular fabric that is exactly, purposefully, intricately who you are and uniquely everything that you were designed to be.

It’s next to impossible for me to consider myself designed and grafted into a family. But my wife keeps reminding me, and the spirit keeps speaking comfort:

“Mine – and I delight in you.”

To Whom It May Concern:

We delight in you.

Leave a Reply

Comments (43)

  1. Samantha Fike

    thank you. still struggling with SH, feeling alone. Wanna reach out for help, but my mom says not to. argh

    Reply  |  
    1. KJ Brooks

      Reach out. It makes all the difference I put it off for years and qlmost lost my life to it. Even if you just need someone to listen, I’d be happy to talk.

      Reply  |  
    2. Merisa

      I’m here…because I reached out. Please…reach out…

      Reply  |  
    3. Levi Macallister


      I’ve got to be honest with you: my heart breaks at that family dynamic. I hope that there will be freedom from shame for both you and your mother to experience healing in the place of any silence or fear that stands in the way of it. I know this community of people would be the first to speak life into yours. Love.

      Reply  |  
  2. Bonnie

    Thank you

    Reply  |  
  3. Jessica

    ❤❤ thank you

    Reply  |  
  4. Payton McFann

    Your words always move mountains. Continually praying over you and your family. Thank you for sharing kind, encouraging words even when your own heart is breaking.

    Reply  |  
    1. Levi Macallister

      You’re awesome, Payton. Thanks for following my stuff for so long. Hope you and your family are doing well this year.

      Reply  |  
  5. Hannah

    Needed this today, and didn’t even know it.

    Reply  |  
    1. Amanda

      Fuck. Same.

      Reply  |  
      1. Levi Macallister


        Reply  |  
  6. L

    This really cuts deep to read. I have had a lot of internal struggles recently, and even though I have been honest with those closest to me, they get angry. Furious even that I am thinking the way I do. I try not to, but it comes and goes in waves. One day it’ll be soft, lapping at my toes. The next day it will be crashing into the rocks as gigantic tidal waves with undercurrents that sweep my off of my feet. I haven’t learned how to deal with these thoughts. They come and they go. Those around me haven’t learned either, if I am honest I find that I lose them more and more. They disappear off into the beach in search of a milder storm. And it hurts. And I have to keep pushing forward. I have to find some other way to calm the waves.
    This cuts me deep. In both the figurative and literal sense. I have scars on my wrist that show the proof of my internal struggle. These scars tell stories about the life lessons I have learned, the new and the old relationships that have started and ended, and how I have maintained my promise to try and keep trudging forward. Reading this broke open those scars and let everything flood out. I considered ending it this week. I sat there and weighed my options. I made my former lover hate me because I told him how much I was hurting. My hurt has become his hurt. And no matter what I do with my honesty and my choices, I will hurt him either way. But I learned something else, that even if I did end it to stop hurting him and those around me, the waves would never be calm. They would submerge those around me. And I don’t know what is worse. The thought of me drowning while I try to save myself, or the thought of everyone else around me drowning while I stood by and caused it.

    Reply  |  
    1. Levi Macallister

      Hey “L”,

      not sure what you’re whole name is, and maybe that’s intentional – I’m no counselor, but from experience, I think it’s probably indicative of something else, too… and I guess the first thing that comes from my heart to yours is, “You can be fully known.” I believe that. I know what it’s like to feel like you’re dragging the ones you love most down with you, and perhaps it’d be easier to just cut them loose, or cut yourself loose, and let them go. But I don’t think that’s reality – and I don’t think they probably mind loving us as much as they do. Love always hurts, I think. There’s always a sacrifice there. That’s okay. I hope that you will not give up. Know that there are a ton of people in this community who can and want to be there for you in the times that you feel like no one else is, too. You’re not a burden.

      Reply  |  
  7. Aaron A

    Broke into tears reading this. Thank you, Levi. You have always been an inspiration to me as a writer, a man of God and someone who fights depression. On this side of heaven or the next, I hope to meet you someday.

    Until then, I’m so thankful for you and your words. This post gave me the strength and love I needed today.

    Reply  |  
    1. Levi Macallister

      Thanks Aaron,

      it’s always astonishing to realize that I spend so much time telling others that they are not alone, and then, like a shock, I realize that neither am I – and largely thanks to responses like yours. Appreciate your encouragement and love.

      Reply  |  
  8. Cerisse

    This is beautiful and so relatable. Thank you..

    Reply  |  
  9. Valerie

    Hi Levi, thanks for sharing. We haven’t officially met but we know some of the same people. I heard about your fathers passing when it happened and mourned even though I had not met him. I came across you and your work a few years later but didn’t know you are related. So it was intense when all the dots connected. It is a crucial message you share. Thank you for doing so. I’m stoked for your mom too. Blessings.

    Reply  |  
    1. Levi Macallister

      Thanks Valerie. 🙂 My mom’s so happy.

      Reply  |  
  10. Madison

    It’s nice to feel wanted. Thank you. YOU are so loved.

    Reply  |  
  11. rachel Ponce

    Wow, Levi…what an awesome to talk about your dad… Jesse, Gabe and I loved him so much…. We worshiped, prayed, and talked with him so often….He taught us about depression and how to understand it… Gabe has gone through alot of depression and he made us truly know how to intercede for him…. We miss your dad… but we know that one day we will see him and very , very soon…. he was truly a part of our hearts……and a great brother in the Lord… The last conversation I had with him… he asked me are you Mad at me… I said “ofcourse not? ok then, because I consider you the sister I never had…… shortly there after was that unthinkable day…. I know he is resting in our Lord’s arms… thank you for sharing this….. Mrs. Ponce

    Reply  |  
    1. Levi Macallister

      Thanks for responding, Rachel. I know it’s been a while since I’ve seen you guys. My poor dad – that brings me to tears. He always thought someone was mad at him. I wish things could have been different, and I miss him. I can’t wait to see him again. Love you – please tell your family the same.

      Reply  |  
  12. Vicky

    My father committed suicide by drowning in 1971. I was a little girl. My step-father died of natural causes last Sunday. The grief never goes away but I m a grateful that my mother found happiness with a man who made the choice to help her raise her children. My step-father was a wonderful man.

    Reply  |  
    1. Levi Macallister


      I’m sorry to hear about your losses. Both of them, of course, but maybe especially this recent one in light of its newness. I pray you and your family are comforted today, even in the midst of pain.

      Reply  |  
  13. Alan

    I needed this today. Thank you!

    Reply  |  
  14. Ben

    Heck yes, buddy. This is awesome. Thanks for speaking up and out.

    Reply  |  
  15. Julia

    Aching with you. I’m sorry. Thank you for your bravery. Peace and love to you.

    Reply  |  
  16. Michaela

    Thank you. You have such a way with words, and it changed the outlook on my day. Much love

    Reply  |  
  17. Veronica

    Thank you.

    Reply  |  
  18. Andrea

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for writing this. For living this, and feeling the feelings so that you could put them into these words. And share these words with us. Wherever you are tonight, it feels like you’re sitting in my bed with me, writing this words onto my heart.

    I see you. You are so loved.

    Reply  |  
  19. Someone

    Thank you.

    Reply  |  
  20. Timothy Mark Wyatt

    I have to say, I have had the hardest year of my life. I almost died, a few of my friends almost died, and to my hearts distraught my father died. Yet, you have been a pillar to help me through. Listening to you and hearing your art. I feel as though I’ve known you all of my life. You’ve helped me more than most of my close family and friends could ever wish to. If I ever got the honor to meet you I feel as though I’d just run over to you, embrace you, and sob. Thank you for everything. You don’t know how much you’ve ministered to me the last few years. I’m happy to say that because of your influence I’m going to be helping to teach freshmen at the high school that I graduated from the art of spoken word and its importance as art and expression. With all of my sincerity and thanks.

    Reply  |  
    1. Levi Macallister


      thank you for the words, my friend. I’m sorry to hear about your father. I’m thankful that you’re still here. I’m excited that you’re working with your gifts and talents and interests to help others do the same. It’s an honor to have been a part of your life in some way – even though I never knew it. Perhaps we will get the chance to meet someday. Let’s share a pint or something (that always just sounds so much cooler than “lets have a beer.” I feel like I’m a Peaky Blinder or something). Much love, brother.

      Reply  |  
  21. Another L

    Thank you to the ones who share their stories. It does help. I go through major bouts of depression especially during the holidays. Now that I know of this website, I come here often for hope and to help lift this heavy cloud that hangs over me. Thank you, and to those who are struggling and struggle, we’re all here for each other. We are a community.

    Reply  |  
  22. careless666

    I’ve been through hell and back I’ve danced with the devil gave my utmost n now I’m sitting in my bathroom in an apartment with a man I’ve married out of love in love back again into through above and under…who is he? Who am I? Two children..i look into the mirror and all I see I am a ghost of myself ..I’m fading..and the word to get “back “….. back ? Back ? Back is so far now .further than two seconds ago..when my own mother prayed and said to me ..we just want you back ..that killed me over and over I never left to be back i was always gone

    Reply  |  
  23. Donna, Greg's friend

    I so appreciate how you want people to know they are valued …that they matter. Each life, each story, our Father has made each one, and we are more valuable than the sparrow.

    Reply  |  
  24. Amber Davis

    I needed this today. thank you for sharing <3

    Reply  |  
  25. Lexi B

    I needed this today. My journey for recovery begins again. ❤️

    Reply  |  
  26. Ari

    I this this is the most heartfelt loving and motivating letter I have ever read to a person that doesn’t even know who I am. Thank you. Thank you for stepping out and reaching into my very soul to remind me who I am and who I am becoming. To try and not be too hard on myself and to give myself grace and to seek God above all. So thank you and Godbless you in a million different ways.

    Reply  |  
  27. bastcilkdoptb

    Hello.This post was extremely interesting, especially because I was browsing for thoughts on this topic last Thursday.

    Reply  |  
  28. Ulviyya

    Thank you,
    and I delight in your words.
    I hope the spirit never ends leading you,
    You are used in great way Mr. Macallister
    And I am thankful for that.

    Reply  |  
  29. Clarissa

    I love this, I love the pain, the truth, the emotion behind this. It shows me and others that not only are you willing to be honest with people and how you are dealing with it. But you are honest with yourself, and letting yourself out onto a poem is your way of grieving. People think that isn’t the way to go, I didn’t either. I thought it was a sign of weakness.
    I didn’t want to become that weakness.
    When I was 8 years old I was adopted into a loving Christian family. That family is the reason why I am here today.
    I was in and out of foster families for 4 years.
    Not only did I think that there was no such thing as love. I didn’t understand what to do in reaction to love.
    All I understood as a child was hate and neglect.
    But to see myself, grow so much hatred for my biological mother.
    Makes me feels ashamed. Why do I have to live with the aftermath of what my mother did.
    Why am I filled with so many medical diagnoses? But it was you Levi who helped me understand and be okay with what life is now. You came to my private school and performed some of your poems. It was beautiful and eye opening. Thank you. After all if you are not enjoying life you aren’t living,
    -your existing.
    So may God Bless you and have a safe grip on yours and your families heart
    To whom it may concern,
    You are loved.

    Reply  |  
    1. alexandra

      hey. i am an adoptee too and relate to many of these things — loss, questioning of self-worth, fear of abandonment, lack of connection to others, just to name a few. i loved this post (huge fan of levi) and this response because this is similar to how i responded. thanks so much for validating that for me

      Reply  |  
  30. N

    You are a superhero…

    Reply  |  
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