When was the last time you wrote a letter or note, put a stamp on it and mailed it – a thank you note for a wedding or shower gift; a note to a host or hostess for their hospitality? For most of us, regrettably, the art of crafting a handwritten letter is falling by the wayside. It’s so easy to make a quick call, shoot off an email, text or post something on Facebook or Instagram. And, for the majority of people who are between the ages of 7 and 70 that is sufficient. But what about someone who is older, or who never had the opportunity to get tech savvy? The world can become a very lonely place as they wait for the U.S. mail to arrive each day and receive nothing to remind them they are important and loved by someone who cares enough to write them a quick line.
I recently had an epiphany about the value of what we dismissingly call snail mail, when someone close to me who has Alzheimer’s disease shared that she didn’t understand why she didn’t have more visitors, calls and letters. The calls and visits are easy to explain. Even though we call her once a day, several times on bad days, and we visit as often as possible, the problem is, she can’t remember those calls and visits except for a few moments after they are over. The memory of them is gone so quickly, it’s as though they never happened. But letters and cards she can hold in her hands, and read over and over again. That’s when it hit me – the importance of the written word – honest to goodness ink on paper. While it may seem inconvenient and unnecessary for anybody who regularly communicates electronically, for someone who never entered the electronic age, a good old-fashioned letter can be a lifeline to the present.
One of the most frustrating and agonizing things about Alzheimer’s disease is that we feel so helpless to do anything to make things better for those we love. We can make sure their physical and medical needs are met, but filling the emptiness of their hearts and souls is not so easy. Taking up the habit of writing letters and sending cards is something we can do that is more lasting than all of the calls and visits we will ever make.
If you know someone who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, try dropping them a line – just a few words to let them know you remember and miss them. Postage, at least for now, is still less than $.50. That’s a pretty good bargain when you realize it can give them something of you they can hold on to long after the memories are gone.