There’s a story in one of the later Anne books. Anne of Green Gables has become Anne of Ingleside, a mother, and Mrs. Doctor. She has met some reasonable literary success, published, but by no means famous except among her circle.
A newly widowed woman comes to Anne and asks her to write her husband’s obituary. Anne is dismayed and shocked. She barely knew Mr. What’s-his-name! All she knows of him is that their interactions were cordial and he was a patient sort of man.
Anne does all right, I guess. She manages to write something and though it doesn’t exactly suit the widow, “too high-falutin’” it is admitted that Dear Mr. What’s-his-name would’ve thought it “real keen”.
I was asked recently to work a similar errand. A woman in my circle had gotten very ill. It was a Parkinson-like disease and I was around in the beginning as she became trapped slowly inside her own body. She was good friends with my father and a member of my mother’s Bible study. This is what brought me to mind for the assignment. And what was it to be? A last Christmas present, a letter from a dying mother to her sons.
I have known this lady long, but not well. Her sons I have not met at all. Like Anne, all I know is that this lady loved me well and was admired by people I respect. I thought about what I could possibly say on behalf of a woman whose mind I couldn’t know who has lived far past my own life experience.
I had only words of a mother to her children. I wrote it out. It was brief. I hoped it would be true words for a woman limited to squeezing once for “yes” and twice for “no”.
It was not the first time I have committed my work in blind faith to a greater purpose I couldn’t know.
I’m afraid the caregiver who had asked me to write the letter gave up hoping that it would come. I almost gave up myself when my computer refused to start up and let me send it off. But my husband stuck my over-heating laptop in the freezer and it stayed on long enough for me to send this one e-mail.
A week later I would find out that my e-mail arrived just as the caregiver was leaving to give the present. She printed out my letter and took it over to our sick friend. The letter was approved with tears and read to the sons, who had a final gift from their mother. She passed away the next day on Christmas Eve.
I can’t help but think, with all my ambition and all the blue castles I build in the sky, that this is the writing I do that will make a difference.
It seemed arrogant to presume I could write that letter. But I’m so glad I wrote it.