I had very specific plans for when I came home last night:
watch Apollo 13, “take care” of myself,
and go to bed by 10.
Only one of these happened.
For most of the day, I was out & about in lots of conversation with
lots of people, expending lots of up, outgoing energy, and I wanted to counter it with
some quietude. Before coming home for the evening, I was in a coffee shop,
finishing up some extra work, and addressing cards for some friends.
I didn’t have the address for one, so I texted her for it,
and told her that I must have 10 of her envelopes at home with her address on
it; in fact, I had one of hers on my mantle.
She asked me which one, but I couldn’t recall exactly, and
told her I’d send her a photo of it when I got home.
This, was the first domino toward the hijacking of my
I did come home, take a photo and send it to her, a lovely
decorated envelope with stickers and curly-cues and kind words, like all of
hers. Next to it on my mantle (well, the top of a bookshelf, really) were a
card from the director and one from the assistant director of the play I was in
in April, with deliciously glowing, appreciative, complimentary, and supportive
words. Such kindness and such a reflection of my being “seen” by them, in one
of my aspiring avocations. The last one up there was a thank you card from my
best friend on Long Island’s wedding, thanking me for being there and what a
treat it was to have me there, literally in her bed, the night before the
wedding, and helping/watching her get ready the next day; that it wouldn’t have
been the same without me.
You can see why I keep these things.
But, it was also time to probably pack them away, do some
cleaning. And I wanted to send more photos of my friend’s envelopes to
her, since I knew she was in a space to need her own (literal) sparkle reflected back to her.
And, down the rabbit hole we go, into the desk drawer where I keep
cards, envelopes so I can remember return addresses (yes, I know there’s a
better way), and art inspiration bits, like postcards from galleries or pages
torn from magazines.
I’ve known this drawer needs attending to. If, god forbid, I
were to croak, it would be hell for the person cleaning it out, and I know
they’d just trash the lot, since, who keeps someone else’s old greeting cards.
But, also, it’s unusably full at the moment. Because in it,
too, are all the cards I received when I was initially diagnosed with Leukemia
in late September 2012, and also a host of them came in around the
Hanukkah/Christmas season that year.
I’ve been avoiding having to carve through them. Because how
can you discard those messages?
When I was sick, I lined all the cards up on the walls of my
hospital room. I taped every single one up around me, to remind me of the
network of support and love that I had. Each card, a message of love, faith,
healing, fortitude, just for me. You couldn’t come into my hospital room
without immediately knowing that I was loved. And how f’ing important was that.
This was not the room of a dying woman. This was not the
room of a woman told she had a 40% chance of living through the next 5 years, even with treatment.
This was not the room, either, of a woman who looked like a patient, despite
the baldness, weightloss, and IV stuck into my arm and chest. I wore jeans and a
sweater, like everyone else. I was a human, not a patient. I was a woman loved,
not a pity case.
How rallyingly important was that to know, feel, and
remember every single day.
But, when the trips to the hospital were finally over, and
it was time to reacclimate to living in my apartment full-time, what to do with
I’m a keeper of things. Sentiments, magazine pages,
interesting rocks I find on a mountain or beach. I wouldn’t say I’m a hoarder,
but I do have a bag of gently used tissue paper in my closet … but it’s folded
neatly and in color blocks, so it’s okay, right?!
I also have a bag in my closet of the covers to theater
booklets of plays I’ve been to; movie stubs; plane tickets; the brochure for a
place I went camping or an attraction I toured.
The trouble is, I’m not a scrap-booker, so I just kinda
carry this bag of non-chronologically ordered “crap” with me from home to home.
But, that’s okay. One day, like the cards, I’ll go through them.
But, last night was for the card drawer.
It was slow-going. I had to take a deep breath before taking
the rubber band from around the batch of 2012 holiday cards. I knew this was
going to take a while and probably bring things up.
But I began. And with each card, I was reminded of why I’d
kept them until now.
Here’s the one from my college classmate, now in LA, saying she’d
enclosed a gift card to Trader Joes.
Here’s one from a former colleague saying she loves getting
the bloggish updates I was posting then to my lotsahelpinghands website.
Here’s one handwritten from an Etsy company saying “a friend”
was thinking of me and wanted me to stay warm. This, I remember, accompanied a
package of 6 “chemo caps” ranging from thin to thick, the one I wore most, a
fuzzy leopard print that kept me feeling fun and warm. I still don’t know who
sent those, as there was no name. Thank you, whoever you are.
Last night, with each, if I knew the sender and their cell number, I
took a photo of the card, and sent it as a text with a note of thanks to them.
Each text, a reminder to us both of what friendship means, even for people who
It was nearly 11 when I finally decided to stop. I’ve
barely made a dent into the drawer. But was able to cull a few things out,
deciding that with some, having a photo of them now is enough.
At the closing of this activity, I found myself in soft tears of
gratitude. So many people surrounded me
with love. With funny cards and sentiments, with crazy wacked-out envelopes, with heartfelt messages of hope and healing. And only a handful of these folks
were people I keep in regular touch with. So many people came out of the
woodwork to support me.
I was told once during the time I was sick, that I had no
idea how many people were rooting for me. I agreed. I knew I had no idea, and I
knew that was astounding and one of the greatest showings of human generosity
that I’ve witnessed.
I had priests, rabbis, Muslims, and Buddhists praying for
me. My mom’s hairdresser and my Aunt’s student. I had a class of
kindergarteners praying for me.
I remember, too, when I was sick, trying to figure out how I
could send thank you cards to everyone who’d contacted me, but I could only
handle a few.
In this retread through the cards, in sending them back out
to their sender with my note of thanks, I hope I am closing that loop of love,
and letting you all know:
Your prayers worked, and I love you back.