How Get Well Cards Helped Grandma Find a New Purpose in Life

This is a tale of one woman’s date with destiny and how simple greeting cards, a get well card, actually changed her whole outlook on life.

It all began on a late summer day three years ago. I received the dreaded call that my 84-year-old mother had fallen and broken her hip. We had no choice but to sell her home and move her into an assisted living facility since she could no longer manage on her own. My kids thought I was the devil incarnate for sending Grandma to “that awful place.” And truth be told, Grandma wasn’t a happy camper during those first few weeks. But then everything changed!

My cousin Carly, bless her soul, decided to pay Grandma a visit. She was bombarded with a litany of complaints ranging from the bland food to the poor housekeeping. Carly tried to comfort Grandma by telling her that things would get better, that everything in life has a purpose and she would soon realize that she was sent to the assisted living facility for a good reason. Grandma didn’t believe any of it and thought that Carly was just trying to cheer her up. But one day she saw the truth in her niece’s words.

As it happened, Joan, one of Grandma’s fellow residents, came down with a nasty cold. She had to take her meals in her room until she felt better. Grandma missed her terribly since they shared the same dining table. So Grandma decided to slip a get well card under Joan’s door. Well, by the time Grandma got back to her room, her phone was ringing. It was Joan thanking Grandma for the beautiful and thoughtful get well card. Grandma later told me, “You would have thought I gave her a million dollars!”

And the rest, as they say, is history. From that day forward, Grandma felt that her reason for being there was to spread some cheer and to make her neighbors feel the joy of knowing that someone was thinking about them and wishing them well. She found that the best way to do this was to send beautiful greeting cards. Not only does she send a get well card to those who fall ill, but she gives out birthday cards and other types of greeting cards too. I guess Grandma will always complain about the bland food (“I’d like to introduce the cook to a spice rack!” she’s been known to say). But three years later, Grandma is a much happier camper and still sending those greeting cards to every one of her neighbors who can use a little bit of sunshine in their day!

Personal Birthday Cards Kept as Treasures in Grandma’s Scrapbooks

My vivacious grandmother, who would have celebrated her 100th birthday last November, kept a busy social calendar. In the Roaring Twenties-era storage trunks that she secured with worn brown leather belts – buckle and all – I recently came across a set of her beloved scrapbooks, which she had begun in high school and continued to fill throughout her life. What struck me was that in each book, amid the newspaper clippings, letters, and photographs that meant so much to her, she had dedicated several pages to personal birthday cards that had been given to her and that she especially treasured.

As attractive as these assorted birthday cards were, I knew this wasn’t why she had held onto the greeting cards. She was touched by how the birthday cards were personalized. All of the birthday cards were inscribed with a loving, handwritten message from one of her friends or family members. “A friend no finer could I find; while I’m no poet, I hope you love me enough not to mind…” reads one in flowing script. Another, from her father, expresses how proud he is of the “strong and resolute young lady” she has become. I found a few poignant business birthday cards from coworkers, one of whom wished her “a birthday as gorgeous and inspiring as you are,” this in the midst of Grandma Tjo’s grueling cancer treatments.

For most of these greeting cards, it likely took the senders only a minute or two to write good wishes to my grandmother. I wish they all knew what that meant to her.