Monday, July 9, 2012

keeping each other alive

mangosteens
Already eight years have passed since I first made the acquaintance of the frail Mrs.K. In our very first exchange of words, she told me she would become 86 years-old the following week.  She also told me that it would be her last birthday. I responded, How can you know this? It is in God's hands, and when the time comes, it comes, but not before. I had recently survived a very difficult period of broken health, and though I was the younger by nearly 40 years, I hobbled about insecurely on a cane, just as she did. We looked quite the pair.

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.

17 comments:

  1. Beautiful. One of the things that helped me decide to try etegami was the idea of sending them off in the world - no matter now matted or blotch or imperfect - and know there was somebody on the other end. Better than email, honestly...

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  2. Hi,Debbie,
    So beautiful story. You're very lovely. I feel every day is a precious bonus and want to live it fully.
    Cheers, Sadami

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  3. Your moving story and your realization made such an important point! Some years ago I came to Japan to study a meditation form called Naikan. (The kanji for this mean "inner looking"). It is a study of giving and receiving. What good fortune we have to be able to give with this humble art form. I love it that the receiving is an intimate part of this transaction. Thank you for reminding us with this post.

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  4. What a great story and a great post' title!

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  5. What a wonderful story. made me smile & feel like crying, all at the same time!

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  6. A great story and a great lesson. Thank you.

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  7. A beautiful story, told with humor and grace. Thanks for sharing.

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  8. What a poignant lesson! You tell it so well and so honestly. The truth of the tale is in how much it reverberates inside each person who reads it. Thank you for this reminder.

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  9. Thank you for this story Debbie. I have so appreciated how you have welcomed us newcomers and made us a part of the group. That does continue the chain of caring cards going out into the world.

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  10. This story really touched me, Debbie. A beautiful message, and so eloquently told. Mrs. K is right...we ALL look forward to seeing your latest etegami! I hope both you and Mrs. K are well.

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  11. AAAAAAAWWWWWWW!!! You know I have goosebumps. I feel the same way. I sometimes do not know how much my work means to others. I always thought it was in my mind. Your etegamis are beautiful and what treasures they are. More than anything else, your friendship with Mrs. K are the stories of novels.

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  12. Oh my, what a lovely, lovely story which happens to be true!

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  13. Beautiful!

    Actualy, both your giving and her receiving were an act of LOVE. It's love that was giving her "the will to live" and love that truly keeps us all going, as the source of life. This is what hit me.

    Wonderful story full of teachings and meanings. I wonder what church you attend, but if I pry please don't mind and don't bother answering!

    I'm glad I subscribed to your blog!
    Best thoughts and wishes!

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  14. What a beautiful and moving story. To give and to receive - both these abilities are something really worth to master.

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