HFH: Digital Correspondence

We’ve finished up the Plum Day festivities–quite a while ago, actually. And life’s getting back into a steady groove. Aya’s staying with us for a while. We love having her around–she adds a touch of class to our motley crew.


She even looks elegant at the breakfast table!

I had a few emails I’d been wanting to send off; both were combination gratitude-condolence messages. The gratitude I can handle. It’s the condolence that always gives me pause.


How can I express in words the compassion that I feel in my heart?

Do you remember how in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, the Elliots fell out of favor with the Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple for neglecting to send a letter of condolence when the viscount died?

It seems an old custom, yet it’s one of the supporting threads of shared connection. When a death isn’t acknowledged, and words of comfort–even if they’re just the standard words–aren’t written, then a chasm forms between the two parties, and at the next meeting, there it is, seemingly unbridgeable.


Words, even if they’re truisms, can form bridges between people that make it easier the next time they meet.

In other words, I’d better send out these emails before much more time elapsed!

The first one was to my email penpal Peyton Skinner, and by now we’d established an “open up, anything goes” type of correspondence, so I didn’t feel much concern about what to write. I knew I could just sit down, and let the words flow. Short or long, if the words were from my heart, the message would would be right.


Just let the fingers fly!

Hey, Peyton!

Ran into Saffron the other day, and she showed me photos of your redesign of your home. Wow! It looks so you! You know, the townhouse where Saffron lives with my uncle Jacob is also modern, though not nearly so spacious. That’s the home where I grew up, and I can see what a treat your kids are in for. 

Which brings me to… Congratulations! Saffron also told me about the twins. In many ways, I suppose that it’s lucky for both sets of twins that there are matching twin sets. For it might be a little lonely to be an only sibling of twins. One would always be wondering what special bond their twinned siblings shared that they missed out on.

I know there have been other changes in your family, too. And please know that my heart–and the hearts of all my roomies–reach out to you. We wish for you moments of peace, even in the midst of the chaos of life as a working single mom of four (who just happens to work as an astronaut), and in those moments of peace we wish that you feel connected with all those whom you love who’ve left this realm. Emma says there are times when she feels closer to her mom and dad now than before they passed over. I hope that you have moments when you feel so close to Anthony and your mom and dad that they are still presences in your life.

We also want to thank you for the cookies you sent for the Plum Day celebration! We loved them! We served them when the Alien family were here. And when I went to visit them the next morning, they were still eating cookies for breakfast!

All the best to you, Peyton! Saffron says just let her know if there’s anything she can do to help.

Love much,

Cathy Tea


Hit send… and off it goes!

I felt great when I hit send and thought of all those electronic pulses sliding through… what do they slide through? Cables? The air itself?

I needed some outside air before composing the next email I had to write.


I can’t think inside.

What was my purpose in writing this next message? Ok, condolences again. Yes, that’s a necessary form.

What else? What was pulling at me?


What am I trying to accomplish in writing this message?

Connection. I wanted to maintain connection where, maybe, connection was not needed. Emma heard from Olivia that Elder, whose father had recently died (thus the need for the condolence email), had gone to that same Desert Leaders program that she had joined.

From what I gathered, the program was about discovering who you were. It seemed to me that Elder already knew who he was. But it also seemed to me that life was opening up for him in ever new ways.

I felt a thrill when I realized what his being there meant: it meant he had become a young adult.

Oh, man. One impossibility removed.


Geez, he’s no longer a teen.

Then I realized that it must also mean that he wasn’t going to be heir of his family’s legacy.

Oh. Another impossibility removed.


And… he’s not the heir!

Yet, those impossibilities have both been removed, and he is there. He chose to go there. He signed up for that program.

Ok. Relax. He is not here. He chose to go there.

Ok. Do I have to write him an email? What if I don’t?

I imagined not writing him and checked in to see how I felt. My heart hurt.

I imagined writing him, and I checked in to see how I felt. My heart relaxed. I smiled.

Ok. What to write?


Write everything in your mind.

I sat in my spot, and in my mind, I wrote everything. How the right sole of my foot tingles when I think of him–or hear his name, or even when I see an elderberry bush! How I feel my pulse race just by looking at the sun and being reminded of his crazy mohawk. How those few days we spent together were brighter than anything I had ever experienced before–just because he illuminated everything!

How every morning when I wake, and every night before sleep, and every spare moment I get when I want to feel an inner smile, I look at that magical selfie that he had us take on his last day here, and how, when I see our smiles cheek-to-cheek, I feel his warmth radiating from inside of me.

I closed my eyes. In my mind, I hit send. I watched the electronic pulses of my thoughts and feelings flow through the air and right to him.


Watch the electronic pulses of your feelings and thoughts travel through space.

Then, I went home, and I wrote a nice, friendly, normal email message, sending him our greetings, our well-wishes, and our condolences. I didn’t even include one exclamation point or one smiley face. Just the kind thoughts that our household held towards him and the welcome he would always find here. And I hit send.