This is a personal request to all NEA/UEA/JEA members from NEA VP Lily Eskelsen. See Ruel Eskelsen's obituary.
"My Dear, Dear Friends,
"The outpouring of love and kindness overwhelms me and my family. You did not know that my gentle Ruel suffered depression to the point that finally he could not think through the pain. I found him when it was too late when I came home from work on Friday. It has taken me these days with my son, Jeremy, and my sisters and brothers and our Mom to work through what happened. There are, of course, no answers when there is the darkness of mental illness. Ruel did not decide to end his life. The mental illness took my sweet husband away.
"I have had so many of you ask what you can do. I woke up at 3am this morning thinking of a way that only you can help. I need you to write a letter.
"Our second son, Jared, is in prison for theft. We adopted Jared when he was only 4 and he was already being treated for conduct disorders. Jared is not violent, but throughout his life his has acted out of anger for the abandonment, neglect and abuse he suffered in this early years. He steals. But I have always known him to be kind and generous and he was very, very close to his father. He called us twice a week just to hear a friendly voice, and he loved talking to Ruel about the latest book he was reading. He was hysterical when I had to tell him that his father was gone.
"Jared is not allowed to go to the memorial service on Saturday in Salt Lake City. He has not reached a level where he is allowed such a privilege. I am not angry. I want you to know that the Utah Education Association made personal appeals to the Governor and that the NEA made personal appeals to Senator Hatch and Congressman Matheson. I want you to know that the Governor, the Senator and the Congressman all put aside partisanship and generously tried whatever they could do to help. I am grateful to them all for the attempt. But the law could not be put aside, and I accept that.
"But you know that my friend, Dennis, is always asking us: When someone says, 'no', what can we do without anyone’s permission? In this case, we can show Jared that he is not alone. Not really. I am asking anyone with a pen and a piece of paper to write my little boy a short note telling him that they know he loved his Dad and that his Dad loved him. He loved going to his basketball games and he loved taking him camping and finding constellations of stars, all of us lying on the trampoline looking up at the night sky from the backyard, and he loved cooking dinner for him, even the time it upset Jared that he was making a ham stir fry and Jared cried because he thought he was cooking a 'hamster' fry.
"I write to Jared three times a week. Imagine if he got thousands of letters, all reminding him that he is loved. Jared may not receive any cards with glitter, glue or objects taped on. A simple card or better yet, a note, would make him feel the love that he will not be able to feel personally on Saturday. We are having the service video-taped, and I promised him that when he is out, our family will all sit together and watch it with him so that we can laugh and cry and hug. This is a great comfort to him.
"When his birth mother died he was 3, his foster family did not take him to the funeral. He talked about that when he was older. For a long time, he thought it meant she wasn’t really dead and that we were hiding it from him. It will be so hard for him to miss this service, and he understands that there are consequences for the action that put him in jail. He takes responsibility for that and does not blame anyone but himself. But this pain is bad enough. I don’t think I could bear it without all the arms that have held me in these last days. He has no one to hold him while his brother and I prepare things here. I wanted him to feel arms holding him, and now I want to do the next best thing. I want each of you to hold him in your love for me and for Ruel, and he will feel it as each letter comes in.
"Will you do this for me?
"You can reach him at:
Inmate #42555. Offender #141478
Utah State Prison
P. O. Box 250
Draper, Utah 84020
"Be sure that if you send a card, it has no glitter or glue. Please do this kind thing to bring some peace to a child who has had precious little peace in his life. And please pass this on to any other person who might help.
"I love you all,