When I told her that I painted etegami, her eyes brightened. I promised to send her an etegami birthday card, and before I knew it, I was sending her a new etegami every week. She often sat at the reception desk at our church, and as soon as I walked through the door on Sundays, her sad face would get animated and all she would talk about was the etegami of the week. Another year passed, then another, and another, and Mrs.K was still at the reception desk each week. I began to flatter myself with the thought that in some way my weekly etegami was giving her the will to live.
One day, there was a frantic message on my answering machine. It was Mrs.K asking why I hadn't sent her the usual weekly etegami. She said, Are you ill? Will I see you on Sunday? Is there anything I can do for you? I was quite sure I had sent her an etegami that week as usual, so I didn't know what to make of it. Had she gone senile suddenly? I wondered.
She was so relieved to see me on the following Sunday. My etegami had turned up after all. Someone had laid it on the shoe cupboard, and it had fallen through the space between the cupboard and the wall. It suddenly hit me. Mrs.K graciously and joyfully received each etegami I sent her, because she cared about me! My weekly etegami assured her that all was well with me. Perhaps subconsciously she believed that she was helping to prolong my life by being the recipient of my etegami.
I had to laugh. At myself. For my arrogance in thinking only of the value of my gift to her. Until that moment I hadn't considered the great value of her gift to me. For each etegami there is a sender and there is a receiver. It is not truly etegami without the both of them.