My stash of sympathy cards, get well, and "thinking of you" cards was totally depleted. How long had it been since I bought a pile to have on hand? Not long, I sigh.
Sympathy Card #1
Late Tuesday afternoon my father called to tell me a dear friend of his, a former colleague, had just died. In spite of Harry's many health problems, he had called my father on the East Coast every morning at 9:00. He had done that since my mother died fourteen years ago. Their conversations were brief, but the connection was deep. I am so sorry for Harry's family, but I am also sad for my dad. He will listen for a phone call that can no longer come.
Sympathy Card #2
A dear friend emailed to say a cousin whom she counted as one of her treasures had died in an accident while biking in Ireland. I didn't know this woman, but had heard my friend talk about her. My friend is one of those people who holds loved ones close and this will leave a hole in her heart.
And then there are the get well and "thinking of you" cards I need to send: a friend with pneumonia who was told by her physician this is a "big deal;" another friend who has lost part of herself and her life because of a dementia-like condition, and a spiritual directee who struggles with many health issues, and others. I think about the friend who has rheumatoid arthritis and all those I know who need knee or hip or shoulder surgery. The list seems to grow every day.
The sales clerk at the gift shop where I replenished my stack of sympathy and other cards commented on my choices. "I'm sorry you need so many of these cards." She is a young woman, and I hope her life has been relatively untouched by loss. I responded, "I am 69, and I am beginning to understand both the blessing and the burden of a long life."
The blessing is the ongoing gift of life, of living, of engaging, growing, of deepening. The burden is carrying loss and suffering and change and saying good bye.
I didn't say all that to the young woman, for she will find out soon enough for herself. We wished each other a good day, and I returned home.
You grieve what you love,
You love what you grieve.
What kind of card do you wish someone would send you? I would love to know.