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.