A Tale of Two Notes

putting cards in the mailbox

It has been a difficult week here in Nova Scotia. While all of us were continuing to hang on to the roller coaster that is COVID-19, last Sunday morning news began to surface of unimaginable gun violence in our small towns and villages. Many of us have simply let go. Stunned, grieving and weeping, we are all struggling to move forward.

That Sunday morning, with the majority of the details of the violence still unknown, I was on the phone, having one of the hundreds of delightful conversations I’ve had over the years with my dear friend, Mary Savage. Mary and I first met when I was 20. She was an entrepreneur, at the beginning of growing her own real estate brokerage. I became her office manager and … 41 years later the friendship continues.

In this conversation, Mary happened to share a story that speaks of a small action we all can take to support the people in our lives – anywhere in the world – who are experiencing grief, loneliness and sorrow.

What is this action? And what is its impact?

Alone at home, my friend Mary has been “going through stuff”. One of the boxes she opened contained letters and notes from when her husband and my friend, Bob, died of complications from leukemia.

“There’s a note here from your friend, Janet, “ Mary said. “You need to tell her how much I appreciate her note. It was just the right length and had all the right words. Even now, it gives me pleasure to read it.” 

Bob died 21 years ago. And yet that card, that short note of words that expressed support and caring, still elicits joy and gratitude.

Also this past week, I called the nursing home where my mother-in-law, Norma, lives. This nursing home is a two-hour drive from our house and we haven’t seen Norma since early March. She is moving toward the late stages of dementia and we miss her terribly.

When I called and asked how she was, I was told, “She’s great. She’s sitting in the sunroom reading all the notes she receives. They make her very happy.” 

I’ve been sending her a note almost every day. They include a lovely picture – a flower, a sunrise, a cat – and three, clearly printed sentences. The first sentence is always about the weather (one of her favourite topics). The second relates to something we are doing or have done, like a walk on our neighbourhood trail. And finally, I’ll tell her how much we miss her, love her and hope to see her soon.

Handwritten notes are powerful communication. They do take a few moments longer than an email but their ability to convey support, love and connection is huge … and long-lasting.

These days, we are all wanting to express our support and encouragement to others. This week I encourage you to grab a pen and paper … and put your words in the mail.

If you want to send your words immediately to those impacted by mass shootings here in Nova Scotia, you can visit this website: https://novascotia.ca/iga/stronger-together/

What about you? Is there a note or letter you’ve received that continues to bring you joy? Do share in the comment section below.


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8 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Notes”

  1. Hi Mary Jane. Always love your tried and true Sunday night inspirations. ❤️ This one really spoke to me. I was so excited with my new Halifax Paper Hearts custom designed cards that I received in early March. I had planned to send them out as thank you‘s for my clients’ events that took place in the balance of 2020. Now that it is unlikely that any of these meetings and events will take place, I need to change my strategy. Now the tone will be different. They will be my “How are you doing?” Cards. I plan on spending time each week selecting a few clients to check in with kindness and caring. Thanks for this reminder of how important a hand written note can be!

    • First of all, WOW that you have cards from Halifax Paper Hearts. They will be so fun to send to people. And second, you’ve inspired me. I do have quite a few of my own The Phone Lady cards I could be sending into the world right now. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, Kimberley.

  2. What a good article and a reminder that “some times the old ways are the best ways”. Hand written notes, especially during a time where we have more time on our hands, is a perfect idea.

  3. Hi Mary Jane. As a teacher and literacy consultant, many of my students and their parents have sent me letters of appreciation. The students talk about how they have been able to succeed in school and beyond because I was able to address their learning needs. Most parents speak of their joy in seeing their child reach their potential. I have saved all of these letters in a special box and when I feel discouraged with my work, I take out my box and read the letters. I see them as gifts of encouragement and am always motivated to never stop what I do. Letters are powerful tools!

    • Thanks so much, Penny, for sharing your story here. I also have a box (maybe two) of cards I’ve received over the years, going back to my high school days. They mean a lot to me.

  4. Hi Mary Jane. Thank you for this wonderful column. At the start of the pandemic, I purchased 20 postage stamps with no real vision as to how I would use them. I ended up making and sending a few Easter cards, a letter and card to my aunt in NB who turned 97 last week, and a couple of care packages to my six-year-old nephew. The shootings left me feeling bereft, but also grateful for all that I have. Today I wrote the short but clear letters to two dear friends, expressing how much they mean to me and how much they bring to my life. I have more to write to some very special people, and I have the time and the desire to do so now. Again, thanks for touching on the power of the written word xox

    • Thanks SO much for these lovely words, Skana. What a great idea to write to our dearest friends and tell them how much they matter. You are making me realize I have a lot more writing to do!


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