The conundrum of the Get Well Soon card

This week, an old friend contacted me that a mutual friend, his grandfather (whom he calls Jadek in the traditional Polish fashion) was in the hospital. His Jadek and I had only met a few times, but I loved him…as my old friend says, he never did meet a stranger in his whole life. The first time I met him, he clasped my outstretched hand in both of his, and looked me straight in the eye. It was at a time in my life when I was quite used to being invisible and ignored, and it struck me instantly. I was unaccustomed to being greeted with such warmth even by my family.

We soon connected on a mutual love of birds (this is a common way I connect with strangers, by the way), and we spent some time admiring a Great Crested Flycatcher in his backyard and looking it up in an old, worn field guide that he had.

Anyway, the point of this post is that when I heard he was in the hospital, I rushed to get a card to send to him and called the hospital, fumbling to figure out his name, since I had only known him as Jadek. But before I even had a chance to write it out, my friend let me know that he had passed.

And now the Get Well Soon card, cheerfully decked out in flowers, with a bumblebee buzzing across the front, seems to have become a symbol of my sadness over the whole thing.

Because here’s the conundrum of the Get Well Soon card…I can’t send it to my aunt, who’s dying of cancer.  I can’t send it to my grandmother, who’s dying of cancer. I can’t send it to my grandfather, who was just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I have many loved ones in my life right now who will not Get Well Soon. In point of fact, they will never get better.

You can’t very well send a Get Well Soon card to someone suffering depression, or a disability, or the loss of a dearly loved one. It seems like a command or a critique: why haven’t you Gotten Well Soon?

So, do I hold onto the card, in hopes (?) that I will have someone to send it to who will, in fact, Get Well Soon? That seems cynical because I’m just waiting for someone to get sick. But discarding* it seems just a little over-optimistic. It’s inevitable that a friend or family member will eventually get sick. And then the optimistic thing to do would be to hope that they Get Well Soon.

I find myself angry at this stupid card, and angry that I bought it, and that Get Well Soon cards even exist.

For now, I put the card in my desk drawer. I couldn’t bear to look at its bright colours and smiling bee. It seems so at odds with the sadness of knowing that sometimes it’s impossible to Get Well Soon.

*pun intended


10 thoughts on “The conundrum of the Get Well Soon card

  1. So poignant and beautifully written. Yes – rather than the instruction of ‘get well soon’ the hope of “feel better”. Over the years I’ve come to get rid of things like that – because I don’t like it when they surprise me when I open the drawer I’ve stashed them in. If I’m not feeling like I can throw it away I’ll leave it somewhere – like a public restroom and trust someone else may have a use for it. I’m so sorry for your loss. Go gently.

  2. So sorry for your loss of someone special in your life. As an . . . elder I find that often I am in the position of knowing someone I care about will not get better, it’s this time of life. If I had bought that card and suddenly found it inappropriate, I would just cut it up and make it into something I could use. I would cut out the flowers and the bee and glue it to a blank card or piece of paper and write a “Thinking of You” note to someone who needs cheering up, or a “Thank you” for some kindness. But I am a crafty* person who still believes in snail mail all the while writing daily emails. Something about getting a card or letter someone touched, held in their hand, it makes a different kind of connection. At least then it wouldn’t surprise you in the drawer as some unexpected moment. You always keep the warm memories of how he shared his love with the world.

    *yes, pun intended

  3. How difficult for the world to lose such a wonderful person. I think I understand your conundrum; I’ve been there too. When my favorite cousin had terminal brain cancer when we were in our twenties, I stood at the card display, at a loss. I finally sent a series of “thinking of you” cards until the end. I was touched to find out that his mother found them after he’d passed. He kept every one. They apparently meant something to him, as they did to me. He saw my affection in them and my desire for him to know I still cared. I wasn’t pulling back just because I knew it would hurt in the end. I still dream about him sometimes, and he’s been dead over 20 years…. I never buy “get well soon” cards any more.

    • It had simply never occurred to me before! I never thought there was any harm in a Get Well Soon card, but now they seem kind of evil. Thinking of you is a good alternative…I’ve been drawing and painting cards, but I can’t keep up…

  4. It’s so hard to know what to say to someone who will never get better, what comfort can you give? But I am sure that just feeling cared about helps those who are terminally ill and that your company meant something to your friend’s Jadek.

  5. I share your feelings about Get Well Soon cards. No one in my current life is in a place to receive one, either. And trying to find a suitable sympathy card is also challenging. Sometimes, there aren’t words (and I’m a writer!)

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