cherie has been on my mind so much lately. the last time i saw her, we were in the closing circle of our commonweal retreat, tears staining our faces, our hearts open with gratitude, chins up high and eyes clear, taking in the group of women, some of us bald, cherie in a wheelchair. we were going around the circle and sharing all the things that each person did that touched us, that we remembered, that we loved. cherie received all of those, a gentle and knowing smile on her lips, like she had a deep secret that all of us would learn over time. she thanked us. she said we were like little packets of love that she’d carry in her heart.
she died later that month.
i started writing love letters to strangers this year. little packets of love.
on the first of the month, i get an email with 4 or 5 stories in them. sad stories. heart-wrenching stories. real stories, now that i think of it. we all have stories.
a man rowen who came out as transgender and attempted suicide last year. a woman named lala who is deaf, has leukemia, and just left her abusive husband. a teenage girl emma who is getting bullied in high school. kathy, who is caregiving for her husband in the final stages of his life. and devon, facing kidney disease and wondering if her fiance will marry her in the end.
what do i say to these people?
what little packets of love do i send them, a stranger, writing from my kitchen table in san francisco?
i won’t tell them to be strong or keep their chins up. i won’t tell them that they’ve got this. that things will get better. i won’t tell them that i know what they are going through, or that someone will come and save them. empty statements and false promises don’t help. we know there are no guarantees.
rowen might follow through and commit suicide. lala might go back to her abusive husband. emma might end up a hermit from all the brokenness. kathy might fall apart after her husband dies. devon might not recover from kidney disease or get married.
so i’ll sit there, doodling on the letterhead, until i have to empty the dishwasher or go to work or otherwise be occupied and my time seems to be running short.
and i’ll start writing. i’ll write about the weather in san francisco, how the light of the city – maybe it’s the moisture in the air – is golden and thick. how my cat whiz plays fetch but only with his stuffed monkey. i’ll write about the cerulean blue color of the snap pea blossoms in my backyard. and how my favorite sea creature is a leafy sea dragon. i’ll write about my life with cancer. and how i just learned how to make homemade ricotta cheese.
and i’ll write about what i’m still trying to learn and what cherie likely knew. and i think it’s this:
there’s beauty in the world. and if you can’t find it, create it, create the little packets of love. on the days it’s impossible, persevere.