I’ve just returned from a week in North Georgia helping care for my 90-year-old father. I had been with him during the last days of September and the first couple of days of October. When I arrived back there just 23 days later, he had become bedridden and less and less connected to our present reality. We had hoped for a different ending to his life.
It occurred to me during that last visit when September was changing the skies and some of the leaves began to turn yellow that I should write about how Dad enjoyed the cards that periodically came to him in the mail. His 90th birthday on September 6 meant more cards than usual, and there were also still occasional cards with words of prayer and goodwill. Even when his church began to meet in person again, he was homebound. But he was still able to dress and sit in his recliner and eat at the table.
My stepmother stacked those cards that came in the mail on the table beside his recliner and he looked at them over and over as if they had just come. These gave him several weeks of something to do and brought him a lot of joy even with his diminishing cognition.
But those cards didn’t just come in the mail. Someone, several someones took time to write a line or two. He read the words again and again. He looked at the pictures. People took time to give these gifts to my father and indirectly to my stepmother.
In these days when a quick text or an email that flies off our fingers (and thumbs) pulsing through space getting important messages across quickly, it’s good to also remember the art and science of writing.
I have three boxes of notes and cards that I’ve saved. These represent a good deal of culling because I decided I couldn’t keep them all. If I’m lucky I will have to clear out room again someday. If I do, I will take one last look and feel the happiness that the thoughtful little message brings. Someone thought of me, someone wanted me to know it, someone wrote it down.
Small things, according to Jesus, make a great impact. Could note writing be one of those things?
But what should I write? you might wonder. There is nothing wrong with “thinking of you, wishing you well, sorry you are sick, missing you, etc.” Don’t be discouraged by feeling short on words. Those words still came from you, from your own hand.
And also consider adding something about one more thing. For example, “I saw a young child on TV today with bright eyes. That made me smile. I hope imagining that makes you smile too.” Or, “I felt the warm sun on my skin today and it made me happy. Thinking of you makes me happy.” Maybe tell something funny on yourself, or ask the person if they like November weather. The point is not to expect a reply but to engage the person — it is about connecting with them, letting them know you are thinking about them and wondering what they think.
Sending and receiving written notes may be special blessings in the weeks and months ahead when weather and the virus keep more people in. And the gift is not just for the receiver. Writing our thoughts improves cognition and fosters a more positive outlook. And possibly one of the greatest benefits to the writer is that it requires unplugging from other distractions, clearing the path for us to be a blessing.
So don’t be afraid. Write because you care. That would be enough. But guess what? That won’t be the only blessing.