I believe in sending cards. Not the prefabricated, gimmicky ones with nothing more than a quick note and a name signed on the bottom, but sincere communiqués that lift another’s spirits.
The cards started pouring in after I “met” Dana. We had found each other online on a young adult cancer message board. My boyfriend had just been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and I was frantically searching for someone with whom I could connect. Dana had been diagnosed with AML a month prior and was undergoing a similar chemotherapy treatment plan. She and I understood each other instantly.
Then the card exchange began. Two or three times a week, I’d put a card in the mailbox for her, only to find that she’d sent me one herself. Dana’s consistency amazed me. Here was a girl who was in the hospital being treated for leukemia, and still, she somehow found the time to bombard me with cards.
I memorized her penmanship, her style; we had never spoken on the phone, but I could hear the tone of her voice through her writing. And when we finally had our first phone conversation, it was like talking to a sister I hadn’t seen in years.
Through every round of chemo, radiation, CAT scans, MRIs and test results, the cards kept coming. They were my constant source of strength. I would read them to my boyfriend at his bedside, using them as proof that since Dana was getting better, so would he.
It didn’t work out that way. While Dana finished up her chemo, my boyfriend was sent home for hospice. He passed away not long after.
The cards kept coming. Each one was filled with words of love, support and comfort. It was like she was here with me, holding my hand and being strong for the both of us. After being through the most painful experience of our lives, we were starting life over, and we were doing it together.
Dana is my best friend. She lives in Chicago and I’m in Phoenix, but the distance doesn’t faze me. I believe it was a twisted stroke of fate that brought us together, but it was our similarities and experiences that kept us friends. We have the same, silly sense of humor that can keep us laughing for hours, we share the same life philosophy (to live honestly and fearlessly), and it’s eerie how our lives always seem to synch up.
It’s been over three years since my boyfriend died. Moving forward with my life has been hard, but I know that he’s always with me. Dana’s life has also moved forward, and this fall, she is getting married. Between careers, graduate school and weddings, we are busy girls, but we always find the time to talk or e-mail every day.
But sometimes, life gets really hectic and we can go days without talking. I never worry, because I’ll open my mailbox one day and there it will be: a card.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.