18 August 2016

Always Send A Condolence Card

The other day I came across something on the intertubes that struck me, hard. It turns out to have been posted more than 10 years ago - on NPR's All Things Considered - but good things are still good, 10 and more years later. Except eggs. Eggs are not good 10 years down the road.

Back to NPR. Always Go To The Funeral. It's a lovely little essay which says just that: you should always go to the funeral, because it means so much to the living.

A couple of weeks ago, the father of an imaginary friend died. I've never met her in the flesh, though I sent her a copy of Jenny Lawson's book for her birthday last month, and she sent me a wonderful hand knit scarf about 10 minutes after we'd met online. She is indeed a friend, though until I've had a chance to hug her and share a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc with her she will continue to be imaginary. It's a term of art, yo.

Last weekend, the sister of a local acquaintance died. She's someone I know her mostly from Facebook because we poke sticks at similar town- and school-related issues, but I run into her at the farmer's market from time to time, so, not imaginary. I had never met her sister.

Stumbling on Always Go To The Funeral in the aftermath of these two arms-length deaths, something resonated deeply in my soul.

I would like, therefore, to offer a corollary, or perhaps a subtitle.

Always Go To The Funeral. And if you can't, Always Send A Condolence Card.

Honestly - get out a card, or your good writing paper, and a pen, and write two or five sentences, and put it in the mail with a live stamp on it. It is the least that you can do, and in my book, it's acceptable if you have never met your imaginary friend's father or your casual acquaintance's sister.

10 August 2016


1. Babysitter. One family paid me by check, $2 and $3 at a time. Another had The Story of O on the living room bookshelf.

2. Mail sorter at Publishers Clearing House. We sorted the incoming sweepstakes entries by hand - and ripped the corners off of all the postcards that had uncancelled stamps. I think I didn't buy a stamp for about four years.

3. Legal Assistant at a small family owned law firm. I sorted a lot of paper. When I became a mother upteen years later, that same lawyer drafted wills for my husband and me.

4. General office worker (typing, bookkeeping, filing) for a production music library. One day a tiny black cat wandered in the front door. She weighed 2 pounds on the mail scale. I took her home and my mother named her Peeve - her pet peeve.

5. European Sales Representative for that same production music library. I'm not sure that I earned them back the expense of sending me to London for four months, but I had a good time. The lasting result, though, is that I'm not allowed to give blood: too much time in the UK and I'm at risk of mad cow.

6. Records Department Clerk at a big New York law firm. Friday lunch was usually hamburgers and beer. On an extreme Friday, it was more than a pitcher of beer per person. Filing in the aftermath was not so good.

7A. Office Services Special Projects Assistant at that same big firm. Did I even have a title? I had a wonderful boss who set me loose on all sorts of odd projects, like finding a new cafeteria vendor and rethinking the office supplies department and planning alternate transportation in case the MTA carried through with a threatened transit strike.

7B. Teaching Assistant while in graduate school. All the undergraduates at Columbia had to take a basic music appreciation class, so all the graduate students in the music department had to teach it. I actually loved teaching that class; it taught me a lot about what I know and what I can do. But I never wanted to teach again afterwards!

(7A and 7B were contemporaneous.)

Somehow, I have never worked as a waiter or a sales clerk or any other job that requires regular interaction with the general public. It's probably for the best.

Your turn, if you haven't already.