We were the only two on Heritage Hill. Me in my surgical mask and a postal worker in his blue uniform. I wanted to shake his hand him, but instead, I lowered my face mask and yelled,  “I appreciate you.”

“Thanks, and I’d appreciate it if you stayed six feet away from me,” he hollered back.

Neither rain nor snow nor global pandemic will keep this courier from his appointed rounds. He’s delivering a very heavy load in his weathered leather bag.

Sympathy cards.

You’ve probably been writing a few of your own—make that trying to write — during this Covid-19 nightmare.

The amount of deaths is like six degrees of Kevin Bacon. But it’s not six degrees; it’s two. And it’s not Kevin Bacon—it’s the Grim Reaper. And the deaths are limited to people. The casualties include ma and pa businesses, graduation parties, and baseball season.

Though times are changing, sympathy cards are basically the same. They are still nestled between the Get Well and New Baby card section at the grocery store, with overly-loopy cursive fonts. The more expensive ones have embossed roses or lilies, and a bit of glitter that you can’t remove no matter how hard you try. And the card you really want? Well, the envelope is missing.

Plus, there is never a good place to write a note in a sympathy card, probably because there is never a good note to write.

What you really want to do is put a hug in an envelope, but you cannot. Instead, you try to soothe their pain with painfully written sentences:

Sorry that you had to slaughter all your pigs because the meat plant closed.

Sorry that you loss your job couldn’t file for unemployment because the state’s website was down.

Sorry that the year-long around-the-world-cruise to celebrate your retirement was called short fifty-one week’s early.

(That death of the cruise happened to the elderly couple sitting next to me on the plane)

Last week, I had to write my hardest sympathy card yet. It was for the family of a friend named Steve.

Steve was a guy of few words, talking with eye rolls and grunts as he washed pots in Jesus People’s kitchen. He wouldn’t laugh at my jokes, only my attempt to make grits, which were hopelessly lumpy.

“These wouldn’t be fit for wallpaper paste,” he’d mumble.

Steve jumped out of a window during the COVID 19 lockdown. Some say it was drug-related because he was a former tweaker. Others think he went stir crazy.

The local cops said there was some bad meth going around.

We’ll never know.

Once while in the kitchen, Steve shared with me his story including the recipe for Shake and Bake meth. Every step, from the measuring to the stirring, would have to be completed with tedious precision. If not, you could end up with a catastrophic explosion.

“Just pick up a box of this and that, and you could cook up a batch,” Steve nodded.

“I think I’ll stick to grits.”

Last week, I tried to patch up the hole Steve left in the world with a few forever stamps and glittery cards. One for his mom, one for his sis. But the clunky language kept getting caught in my ink pen. What do you write about a guy of such few words with such a tragic ending? Finally, my pen told me.

Lump grits.

I forgot all about the card until last week, when the social distancing postman delivered an envelope to me. I examined the envelope. It was a thank you note from Steve’s sister.

My lumpy grits made her laugh.

Take a moment to put down your remote and reach out to someone with clunky or lumpy words stuffed in envelope. By sharing our stories, our burdens seem lighter.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *