How long is a piece of string?

Posted on in Everyday Inspiration  ·   2 Comments

I recently received a letter from my dear friend June in England and was asked ‘if a piece of string is your life, how long is it?’

About 20 years ago, I was working in community relations and engaging with the public. A gentleman in his mid 60’s came up to me and asked me about a bus to an attraction in North Vancouver. “Excuse me,” in his British accent, “sir, do you know how I might get a bus to Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge?” He was a kind looking man and we briefly chatted as I tried to figure it out. I just looked at him and said, “Look, if you come back here at 2:00pm, how about I take you there.” In a surprised look, he asked if I was sure about that and I said yes. He said if it was alright to bring his wife and I replied, “Of course!” Well, they both came back at the time agreed and finally asked one more time if it was alright. Well, we went off, with my assistant, Jackie, to Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge and dropped them off while I went to another area to work for half an hour and told them I would be back. Sure enough, after half an hour, we came back and they were just coming out of the park and I dropped them back all the way to where I picked them up. On the way down June asked if I could give her my address…which I did.

June and Keith thanked us for being such gracious hosts and 2 weeks later, I received a card from June. Instead of reading it and putting it away, I wrote a letter back to her and after 20 years, we still write letters back and forth…yes, write! There is a reason I share this little story. See, after 20 years, I can reflect back on how my cousin John and I stayed with them when we visited England, how when I graduated from University of Exeter, I had June and Keith at my ceremony, how any time I go back to England I make a trip to see them and we have exchanged numerous letters…all because I picked them up and took them somewhere and they trusted me as I trusted them.

Well, the last letter I received from June a couple of days ago was a bit of a challenging one. She is now in her mid to late 80’s. Keith has had bowel cancer and it was a difficult time but he managed to get through it but now, June has inoperable cancer. She shared it with me in her letter. It is a difficult thing to read but at the same time, her letter was full of sweetness and love. From someone who feels she has done much and experienced much. Both Keith and June, up to quite recently, were avid travelers. They have been to so many parts of the world and met so many wonderful people. They have both lived a fulfilling life and know they are loved by so many people around the world. What I also appreciate is how they are storytellers. When we meet, it is a room full of stories around tea, a meal and laughter.

My thought was to see if I could manage a trip to England this year to see June because of what she wrote in her long letter. Let me share with you a couple of parts that June wrote –
2016 has not been a good year for me. For Keith, he received a letter and had better news, the hospital telling him he was completely clear of bowel cancer – he is over the moon as you can imagine. I am so pleased for him. As for me, though, I too have cancer but not so straight forward I’m afraid. It would appear to be inoperable and exactly how long is not sure – how long is a piece of string?! Of course I’m hoping for a cure but we shall have to wait and see – what news for you for 2017 – Sorry Sam, but with any luck, I’ll see 2017 out!!

Later June wrote –
– We told two of my grand daughters how we met and they loved it. We often regale them with stories of our travels but this one really struck a chord because of the length of our friendship

Finally June ended her letter with this –
– The heavens shown on us when we met don’t you think? (yes June the heavens did shine upon us that day!)

So I called today to find out how June is since reading her letter that I got a few days ago. I thought that she had found out about the cancer and perhaps I could share with her that I might try and see her in April if I could manage a trip. Well, the doctors were over and it was not looking good as Keith shared with me. It was funny, we write to each other but rarely call. We don’t use our modern conveniences and part of it is because we feel there is some level of sanctity of the written word and we chose to write to each other. We write or visit…we love our extremes. A trip might not make it in time. Time, how much have we left and how much of her string is left?

In a world where we are easily becoming less connected and it is moving at a rapid pace, there is a need to stop and to write to someone to tell them how much they mean or to just share. Email, facebook post or any other means are easy to do, but a letter never goes away. It also shows you took the time for someone. I still hold my grandmothers letters from 40 years ago. So talk to strangers (but be careful), don’t be afraid to share and perhaps it is important to start writing a letter. I hear from so many people who have never received a letter in their life and how much they would like to have one. If there is a hunger for this, then let’s feed our souls.

I am not sure how long of a piece of string June has left but I know that there is this huge ball of string that has been rolled up with all our memories, stories, visits and laughs. It would appear that she is on a sunset but all I can do is thank the universe for allowing us all to meet. How it was random, we all trusted each other and how they have been a part of my family. All because of a simple smile and taking the time to talk to each other. I think I will just go and write June a letter now.

2 Comments for "How long is a piece of string?"

  • David Macdonald says:

    A lovely story, connection, and relationship, Sam. Thanks very much for sharing! I have some lifelong friends from unexpected lifts and visits – I am more grateful after reading this.

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