Pen and Paper

To write a good letter, take a handful of grit,
A plenty of time and a little of wit
Take patience to set it, and stir it all up
With the ladle of energy. Then fill a cup
With kind thoughts, merry thoughts, too,
With bright words, and wise words, and words strong and true.
Then seal with a love kiss and stamp it with care
Direct it to your friend’s heart and presto ’tis there.
— Anonymous

When I walk up the two steps to my apartment complex mail boxes, I know what awaits me: mail requests for the refugee and owl and river. There are the “good-life” catalogs I did not order. And oh, so many calendars I will never use.

Over the past two weeks, though, another kind of mail has arrived: real letters with my name written in pen. They have return addresses I recognize. Inside are flowered, scrolled designs with words of love and sympathy, grief and praise—every letter focused on the life and death of my sister Mary.

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This is as it should be, for Mary Paige Kennedy Boucher was not only a woman of kindness and creativity, she was also a letter-writer. Through her cards and letters my beloved older sister made it possible for us to read and touch what is gracious and good. Her faithful messages came to us through letters and cards: birthday, sympathy, thank-you, feast day, graduation, anniversary, and holiday.

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Even on her two-week genealogy trip to Ireland in 2016, Mary took time to send postcards. When my postcards arrived, her words invited me to come share her adventure: We took the Hop On—Hop Off bus around Dublin. Tomorrow we leave for Belfast and then on to the Glens of Antrim.

And, her holiday letters—single columned, elegantly formatted—are gems. She wrote at Christmas of 2013:

I love December! It is unchanging. The trees are stripped of their foliage
And stand naked, their inner designs revealed. Lights on trees, windows, and rooftops shine clear and bright on frosty nights. The air crackles and we are energized.

Year after year, with utmost faithfulness to family and friends, Mary sent cards and letters. She let her words be fully human, arriving snail mail, finding a temporary home near a birthday cake or Christmas poinsettia or Easter basket.

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Yes, Mary was a letter writer and the pen and paper messages revealed her unselfish, openhearted spirit. I read again her words on the Celebration of Life book mark:  bright words, and wise words, and words strong and true; letters sealed with a kiss and stamped with care . . .

And before I can call out “Mary!” presto, she’s here.

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6 thoughts on “Pen and Paper

  1. Beautiful dear Toni. With continued prayers and sympathy sent your way. Makes me want to write more letters. Treasure the ones I have. My mom’s last shopping list is on my fridge, in her handwriting. It makes me smile!

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    1. Thanks, Alan. Your own written memories of Mary touched my heart. We are so lucky to have Mary in our lives: caring, listening, faithful sister.

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  2. What a treasured topic and your words are so powerful.
    Mary’s hand-selected cards, wonderful enclosures (she really was a writer) and always with a personal note—were something to make my dwindling mailbox contents worth checking.
    They invariably were up on my fridge for months to enjoy. In fact, I still have her Easter enclosure up.
    You are spot-on —tangible treasures, but just remembering the years of care, whimsy and thoughtfulness this correspondence represents brings her close and will continue to do so.
    You and your family are in my thoughts as well. Take care.

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  3. I love this gorgeous response, Shirley, and will keep it for the family. Your words are praise and memory and I am grateful.

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