The warmth of paper

My mother recently died. This post, however, is not about her death. It’s about others’ reactions to it. My wife has a colleague who I know and who I often find irritating. No big deal, just an annoying guy. He’s smart, he’s good at what he does, but he has a habit of getting in your face a little too much at times. To be fair, he can also be quite funny.

Without telling me, my wife let him know about my mother’s passing.

A few days ago, an envelope addressed to me arrived at our house. At first—and this is how sad our world is—I thought it was one of those direct marketing appeals where they imitate handwriting on the envelope. Right? Because how often do you get a handwritten envelope these days? A few at your birthday and at the holidays, but as for the day to day, not many at all. I didn’t recognize the last name on the return address. For that matter I could barely read it, it was written in such small letters.

Turns out it is a handwritten note from my wife’s colleague. Sincere. Heartfelt. (He had lost his mother not that long ago.) And on nice quality paper, cotton fiber, watermarked, ivory in color. It’s the kind of paper you enjoy holding in your hands. It has weight. It has meaning in and of itself. And all of those qualities translate into warmth and concern.

And in that moment, as I read his words, I realized I had to totally revise my thinking about him. I’ll forgive his brashness, his aggressiveness. Just because he took the time to write a handwritten note. On good paper.

(The image above is a picture I took of part of the letter. The actual color does not translate into the photo, unfortunately.)

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