Over the weekend, I learned my old doctor passed away. I hadn't seen him since I was in college and still technically living at home-- let's just say John Hughes was still producing movies. He was a good doctor-- a really good doctor. He and his wife (who was also his head nurse) became friends with my parents, so I did get to know him a bit outside of his practice. I always trusted him. (As an aside, it seems I've always been very lucky with doctors...)
Because I am who I am, I wrote out a sympathy card. I didn't know if his wife would remember me, but I wanted her to know that even after 22 years, I still remembered them and their role in my life. And even though it felt a bit self important, I mailed the card to the street printed in the obituary, signed as both my married name and the daughter of my parents.
Today I received a strange call from my hometown. It was his wife saying that my card touched her deeply, and she wanted me to know. I'm not sure what I am more blown away by-- the power of my simple card, or the power of her simple call.
My adult life is defined by maintaining relationships. My bestfriend often jokes about the size of my Christmas Card list, and wonders just what someone has to do to get removed from it.
I like to check in on people, and leave them little notes and surprises. A colleague and I made a commitment to leave little treats in everyone's mailbox once a month, because we thought the staff needed it. And while the internet has made it easier to send quick messages, I do still like mailing cards the old fashioned way. Relationships matter to us because what good is it to have good news to share but no one to share it with? Or to have had a horrible day and no one to let you cry on their shoulder. Relationships matter, even if it's been two decades since the last interaction.
And without getting ourselves into a 'thank you for thanking me for thanking you' feedback loop, I am really glad she took the time while she was grieving to let me know that card mattered. And if you're ever wondering, send the card. If you want to send it, they will remember you, no matter how long it's been.