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The last birthday card

by Will Phillips

Contributed by Columnist Fannie Moore

The card appeared in my mailbox three days before my birthday. I knew immediately who it was from.

My friend, who sent a card every year, right on time, had done it again. This, in spite of her being seriously ill. But, it was something that she enjoyed doing and no matter how badly she felt, she had to get those cards in the mail.

Faye was the ultimate card sender; birthday, anniversary, get well, congratulations, sympathy, or just because. If she heard of someone being sick, she would go to great lengths to locate an address so she could mail a card. It might be someone she knew or the relative or acquaintance of someone she knew. I doubt there are many people who have not received a special card from the special lady.

She kept a supply of cards on hand and seemed to always have the perfect one. In later days, she had a friend who made cards for special events or special greetings, and she kept a supply of these on hand.

We were close friends for the past 30 or 35 years, but I have known her since our school days. She was ahead of me in school, but I remember her playing softball and basketball and her mother was always on hand to cheer her on.

Everyone knew that big voice from a little woman belonged to a devoted mother and avid sports fan.

After high school, she moved to Texas where she lived and worked until her retirement. Upon retirement, she and her husband moved back, to what to her, was home.

My neighbor was related to Faye and she asked me to help prepare a welcome home meal for the couple and have it at the new home when they arrived. We did that and I think that was the beginning of a long and treasured friendship.

We learned to love each other and were dear friends for these many years. We went to church together, traveled, visited, went to theater productions together and were dear friends. She and her husband became involved in church and community activities and became well-known in the area.

A few years ago, she was diagnosed with a terminal illness and fought it tenaciously for about 3 years. This did not slow her down very much and during all the time she was fighting bravely for her life, everyone continued to receive cards from her. She felt this was a service she could still perform, letting people know someone was thinking about them and wishing them well. 

Last year after Hubby’s bout with an undiagnosed infection, we began to be more cautious about visiting as we both knew how easily she could be infected. Since neither of us wanted that, our visits became infrequent, however we stayed in touch. I cooked and shared some of her favorite foods with her as she began to weaken. Toward the end, she said, “I’ve been thinking about your good vegetable soup, I think I could eat some of your soup.”

I took her the soup and as far as I know that was the last thing she asked of me.

By this time, she had already lost her husband and her daughters and others were helping with her care.

Then came the birthday card, I opened it up and a twenty dollar bill fell out. She had written her usual cheery note and instructed me to buy a book with the money. (She and I had been talking about books a few days before.) I called to thank her, but gently chided her for the expenditure, and she said, “I had an extra $20 so I thought I’d send it to you to buy a book or something else.”    

A couple of days later, I called to check on her and she had already taken to bed, all her fight and energy had been expended. The next day was my birthday and my family came for the day. After they left, I went over to say goodbye to my friend.

I went alone to her bedroom where she was resting. I gave her one last hug and told her I loved her. She said,  “Love you, too.”

Monday morning we were on our way to an appointment in Bossier when I got the call, the next day after my birthday.

My friend was gone, but she insisted I get that one last birthday card.

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