A Chance to Say the Things You Wish You'd Said

A website offers a modern-day twist on Letters to Juliet

In the movie Letters to Juliet, which opened May 14, a young American named Sophie travels to Verona, Italy, where Romeo and Juliet met. There, she meets a group of volunteers who respond to letters penned to Juliet seeking romantic advice, and discovers a letter that’s been lost for 50 years. Soon, the letter’s author Claire arrives with her grandson to find her long lost fiancé—and tell him what he didn’t have the chance to hear decades earlier.

It’s a story line that will resonate with many viewers. Who hasn’t wished for a second chance to tell someone how we really felt about him or her? Or apologized for something we said or did years ago. Such unfinished business can linger in our minds far longer than we want.

Jackie Hooper knows that as well as anyone. Last year, when actress Natasha Richardson died suddenly from a tragic skiing accident, Hooper—a big fan—found herself preoccupied by thoughts of the two sons and husband Richardson left behind. The 24-year-old Portland, Ore., resident began to wonder what she would say to loved ones if she knew they might be gone the next day, or to those she’d already lost. She wished that she’d had a chance to ask her grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, how she’d survived the experience and tell her how courageous she thought she was.

After she spoke with friends, Hooper found such regrets were more common than she’d imagined. Yet there was no real outlet—except, perhaps, a therapist or a diary—to express the things they wish they’d said. So she created one. Hooper’s website The Things You Would Have Said features a new letter each day from someone who wants to get something off his or her chest, or conscience, in writing.

Since she launched it last summer, the musician and writer has received more than 500 letters from people of all ages and walks of life. The letter writers range from a 76-year-old Jewish woman who wrote to the nanny who cared for her when she was a child in Vienna, Austria, during the Nazi occupation to a man who wrote of his regret for letting the love of his life slip away 30 years earlier because he was struggling financially and too ashamed to let her know.

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