“When Life Gets Out of Hand,” Nov. 29, 2016

Sometimes things get out of hand. A little. Or a lot.

Does that ever happen to you? What’s the thing you need to do or it just won’t get done? Yard work? Laundry? Paying bills?

For me, it’s mostly the mail.

Writing a weekly column, as I have for 25 years, invites a bit of correspondence _ emails on my computer, comments on my website and a P.O. box stuffed with cards, letters, you name it.

I wish you could see it.

My usual practice is to read comments and emails as they arrive and answer as promptly as possible. I pick up snail mail at the P.O. once a week or so and spend a few hours going through it, reading every word, replying to a carefully selected few with sincere, barely legible, hand-scrawled notes.

I would love to answer each note personally. However, I don’t expect to live much past 100. I’d need another 100 years, at least, to answer all the mail.

I once I heard from a reader who said if I couldn’t reply to her personally, she’d appreciate a response from my “staff.”

Staff? All I had was a cat. I read that note to Miz Kitty (named for Amanda Blake of “Gunsmoke,” a show I used to watch with my grandad.) She gave me her usual catty look and hopped into her litter box.

Anyhow. I’m not the most diligent person on the planet. But I do try to answer mail. Or I did, until recently.

Months ago, in a moment I’ll not soon forget, I rolled my ankle, broke my foot and tore things I can’t pronounce.

Funny, isn’t it, all we take for granted until it starts to hurt?

For eight weeks, I sat in a wheelchair with a boot on my foot, watching my husband gamely do, not only his usual chores, but most everything I had previously done myself.

Except the column. I didn’t break any fingers. I could still write. So I wrote about breaking my foot and having to learn to be willing to ask for help.

Two weeks after the accident, my younger brother died unexpectedly in his sleep. And for a while, I forgot, more or less, about the pain in my foot.

I wrote a column about my brother, who he was, what he meant to me, how I regretted missing his memorial service.

That’s when the mail began to get out of hand. Hundreds of you wrote to offer your kind condolences for my broken foot and my broken heart. Many of you shared stories of injuries you have suffered and loved ones you have lost.

None of us, it seems, is a stranger to heartache. It helps to remember we’re not alone. Thank you for the reminder.

In recent months, I’ve read all your emails, saving most to answer “someday.” I’m doing the same with snail mail, taking a small dose each day, like a multi-vitamin pill. Talk about good medicine. I highly recommend it.

The mail, of course, is still out of hand. But I’m working on it, giving thanks for each word and for every soul who cared enough and took the time to write.

Soon, I’m having surgery to repair an ankle that refuses to heal on its own, and put things I can’t pronounce back where they belong. Prayers and good wishes will be most appreciated. But please don’t feel the need to email or send cards. Unless, of course, you really want to.

Here are a few of the many lessons life keeps teaching me:

1. Never underestimate the power of kind words to bring comfort and healing and hope.

2. Never hesitate to send a note to someone in need. It’s the best and the least we can do. Keep it simple. A heartfelt “I’m sorry for your loss” will usually suffice.

3. Never expect a reply from someone who is grieving or in pain. Simply offer grace.

If ever, God forbid, your life gets out of hand, just remember two things: First, you are not alone. And second, it was never in your hands to begin with.


  1. Iris Wiggins says

    Sharon, I am most thankful that you did not injure your fingers and you can continue to write though sorry for all the pain and suffering with your foot injury. I look forward to my Sunday paper and your column which gets my week off to a great beginning as we recognize our lives as your readers in your writings. Thank you for meaningful and wonderful words of life.

  2. Kate Sciacca says

    Extra prayers for you, your surgery and all your intentions.

  3. Marion Ingber says

    Prayers for your successful surgery and a swift recovery.

  4. Kate Findley says

    Please continue to write and bring joy and strength for all that need it. I am so sorry for the loss of your brother. Wishing you the best for your surgery.

  5. Karen Lewis says

    I too lost my only brother a couple of years ago. I still grieve and miss him. Even more huge was the loss of our son, eight months ago, a firefighter/paramedic to suicide because of PTS (commonly added Disorder), a horrible, physical and mental illness caused by things beyond their control. Your comment that I read just now – coincidentally showing up on Facebook was so needed by me today – on one of those especially bad days. THANK YOU!
    “If ever, God forbid, your life gets out of hand, just remember two things: First, you are not alone. And second, it was never in your hands to begin with.”

  6. Kathy Herrington says

    Sharon, I love how you always share your heart with your readers. You make me smile, laugh, think harder about life and cry. I hope to meet you someday, if not here on earth maybe I can meet you in heaven. Praying your ankle surgery is successful and that God will speak peace to your broken and grieving heart. Hugs from my heart to yours.

  7. Elaine Mccaffery says

    Sharon I know your heart is still hurting from the loss of your brother and for that I’m sorry. Praying your surgery goes well and your recovery speedy. Thank you for your columns ,it’s like hearing from a dear friend. I look forward to reading every week.

  8. Having had my arm “rearranged” as you so elegantly put it, I sympathize. I took a dive over a tiny little bitty bump in the sidewalk, just hours before I was to leave on a cruise. As a matter of fact, I was packed and ready to go…just walking in to have breakfast. Alas. Spent the next 24 hours in a hospital.
    Now equipped with plate and screws…I faced months of rehab. Please know that–when you get to that part–I know you will write about the sadist who will work on your foot. I look forward to reading what you will be saying about that fun…and forwarding it to the monster who tortured me into having a functioning arm again. Much love!

  9. Corie Hughes says

    My sincere condolences for the loss of your brother. And so sorry for your injury. Praying for a successful surgery and that you will soon be back on your feet. Words of wisdom for sure on the power of kindness . I am so happy to have found you again. I became a fan of your column when you wrote for the Monterey County Herald. I believe your column was called Window on the Bay. I purchased your book and met you at a local book store back then. I remember Coach Randall and his passing . I enjoyed your stories of growing up in the south. I am a Texan and could relate. After 30 years, I left the Central Coast last December after I retired. I lost my husband in 2010 and my life changed with the loss. So last year I decided to move back to Texas. New beginings for me. I look forward to reading your column again…… Thanks for sharing.

  10. Vanessa LeClear says

    You’re in my prayers. I know how precious siblings are to us, and losing one is like losing a piece of our hearts. I have some experience with a broken ankle and subsequent surgery; and the helplessness is probably the worst pain of all! I will be praying for healing for you.

    I really appreciate your comments at the end of this article. Nothing hurts more than feeling alone in our grief. I’ve felt it intensely and I try hard to never let anyone else feel that way. I can only ask God to forgive me for those times I have.

  11. Debbie Szabo says

    Sharon~~ I am so very sorry for the loss of your brother….and I will pray that your heart and your ankle heal soon. God Bless you and your family during this very sad time. Very sincerely, Debbie

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