The Card

I’ve held this birthday card in my hands many times before. We are in early March and the card is ready to embark on its outbound journey to New Zealand. I run my fingers along its slightly worn edges like the pages of a well-loved book. Carefully handled, there are many more miles in it, figuratively and literally speaking, as it travels 7,000 miles between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Kerikeri in the North Island of New Zealand. The picture on the front of the card is delicately hand painted; a wooden lattice woven basket with a goldfinch perched on its handle, terracotta flowerpots carelessly stacked beside it, and everywhere there are primroses. “Marga was my primrose baby,” Mum used to say, referring to my sister’s April birthday.

While sorting through my mother’s things in 1999, after she had succumbed to cancer in January that year just after my birthday, I came across a box of cards for every occasion, amongst which was the primrose card. She had found this particular card some months beforehand, as was her way, always keeping an eye out for just the right one for each person and each occasion. I instantly knew she had picked this card for Marga and realized, sadly, that she had not been able to send it herself. Leaving it blank, I enclosed it in an envelope with my own birthday card, with a separate note explaining where I had found it, and sent it on its first voyage across the Pacific Ocean to my sister.

The following year, I received two cards from New Zealand on my birthday, one from Marga and one, still blank, from Mum—the primrose card. Over the last 12 years, it has journeyed back and forth twice a year between us. We take it in turns, either eagerly awaiting its arrival or sending it on its way, and it never fails to make us smile and remind us of the remarkable woman my mother was; a force to be reckoned with, a warrior, and champion for others, yet never for personal gain or recognition. She was a no-nonsense woman, genuine, passionate, and true to who she was. She made a tremendous difference in countless people’s lives and her legacy of helping others continues to reverberate around the world today. In our own lives, we are reminded of, and inspired by, the intensity she brought to every part of her life and ours.

I call Marga on April 28th to wish her a happy birthday. “It hasn’t arrived,” she says. I immediately know by the tremor in her voice that she is referring to the card. “I’ve spoken to the post office in Kerikeri,” she continues as I feel the impact of her words, “and they tell me there is nothing they can do from this end.” “Oh, no,” I mumble, feeling as if we are losing Mum all over again. “I’ll go to my local post office tomorrow to see if they can follow up from here.” We are both devastated and despite the birthday wishes and a chat about family, there is an underlying uneasiness. What if we never see the primrose card again?

The next day, I go into the post office in Sechelt on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, just a short ferry ride away from Vancouver, where I now live. I am the only one there—it is a quiet day in a small town. I explain my problem to the woman behind the counter; I want to track a piece of unregistered mail, sent seven weeks ago. She is sympathetic, but after checking all options and searching the back room, she tells me there is nothing the post office can do, as I didn’t register the card and there is no tracking number. I am dismayed—it had never occurred to me that it would go astray. Usually a very private person, but overcome by a wave of sadness and emboldened by a burst of determination, I do not easily accept the status quo. I launch into the story of the primrose card, and its significance to me and to my sister. The woman behind the counter is visibly moved and willingly drawn into our plight to find it. She immediately resorts to creative visualization. “It will turn up within a week,” she assures me, “it happens all the time when people come in to enquire about missing mail.” I want to believe her, but I am skeptical. She is observant and kind. “If it doesn’t turn up within seven days, come back and I’ll do another search.” “Thank you,” I say as I head for the door. “You won’t be back,” she adds with a smile.

I go home and try to immerse myself in everyday life as I wait out the week, pouring everything I have into affirmative thought. On the fifth day, Marga calls. She is jubilant—the card has arrived! We talk joyfully for an hour and are reminded of how important family is to us and how significant small gestures can be. The card Mum bought so many years ago carries its share of emotions as it travels year after year across the miles. I acknowledge once again the deep well of love within each of us and the power of the human spirit. I feel renewed and invigorated, and acknowledge that it is time for me to return to what I have always believed in; to make each day count, to let kindness guide me, to act upon my intuition and to express myself meaningfully in every aspect of my life. The primrose card has had an even more profound impact on me this year.

Maybe a trip to New Zealand to spend time with my sister Marga is in the cards....

Category: Death

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