Headline, October 17 2023/ ''' LIFE LESSONS LIVE '''


LIVE '''

HER BEST GIFT OF ALL - OF Course - WAS  letting me into her life. In the closed-off silos of modern life, an open door to another life is an astonishment, a block of gold that should be mined for all it's worth.

She had Googled me. ACTUALLY she had Googled herself, and because we have the same name, it was me who popped up on her screen.

Curious, she went to my website and read some of my essays. Then Jennifer Graham in Lucas, Ohio, composed an email to Jennifer Graham in Hopkinton, Mass.

'' This is going to seem weird,'' she began. It was late in August when I opened her email. Sitting at my desk, I looked out on a woebegone garden : bedraggled tomato plants with yellowing leaves, tiny green gourds that would be frost-killed long before Halloween.

Summer was wilting under my watch.

But in my inbox, this Jennifer was pulsing with life, cheerily explaining how she had found me, and that she, too, was a writer with four children,  so how could she not reach out?

She was funny and self-deprecating, spelled everything right, used appropriate punctuation and -crucially- no multiple exclamation points.

She attached a couple of columns she had written for her local newspaper saying, '' Yes, I am forcing you to read my writing, something I never do anymore. Thank you for your attention to my current neuroses. ''

So of course, I read her column and wrote to this other Jennifer Graham, who, at 51, was two years older than me. I told her about myself and sent her an essay I had recently published about how shocked I'd been to encounter a Jennifer in the obituaries for the first time, claiming that we Jennifers were too young for that indignity.

Jennifers belonged on the sports pages, in weddings, the business section, maybe science and tech.

Thus began a wonderful friendship enabled by technology and by parents who had chosen the same name five decades earlier, a time when your friends lived on your street, or went to your church, or were married to men who worked with your husband.

It was a time when you could live your entire life without encountering anyone with the same full name as yours, unless you were a boy named after your father.

THE INTERNET greases conversations by freeing it from the awkward constraints of in-person interactions. When you're miles apart, you are not going to run into each other in the cereal aisle or at the middle school concert.

Before she and I started corresponding, Jennifer would send herself emails with reminders of things she needed to do. Soon she begam mistakenly sending them to me. One morning, I opened an email from her that said, '' Schedule gutter cleaning.''

Our emails were a combination of stand-up routines, pep talks and confessions.

Then, in April, after we had been exchanging messages rapid-fire for eight months, she wrote : '' I haven't been feeling well. Most likely have an ulcer that has perforated posteriorly.''

But it wasn't an ulcer. Nor was it gastritis, kidney stones or a kidney infection. Two weeks later, she wrote, '' There's something wrong on the pancreas. Could be a benign cyst, could be worse. ...... spots on CT scan. I'm being sent to Columbus for biopsy.''

Helpless, so far away, I thought all I could do was listen. I sent care packages, which she appreciated, and conveyed the requisite thoughts and prayers. We continued to email each other. But the one thing that mattered, I didn't do.

I didn't go to Ohio.

I had lots of excuses. We didn't really know each other, after all. We were ''just'' cyber friends. I was 700 miles away, a 10-hour-drive without traffic. Also, I was a single mother with four children still at home. Going to Ohio would have been complicated and expensive.

In June, she wrote, '' Wanted to take a moment from my busy schedule of taking pain pills and accepting tuna casseroles at the door to write to one my favorite peeps. '' She was actively dying but still funny as hell.''

Throughout the summer, the emails continued, though there would be a change in their substance. We did not talk anymore about her coming to Boston with her son to see Cleveland play the Sox, or the fabulous book we would write together called '' Dear Jennifer '' [her idea].

Then one day, too quickly, I got a notification on Facebook from Jennifer's daughter : '' I'm Macenzie, and I'm the other Jennifer's daughter. I wanted to message you and let you know that my mom passed away this morning.''

It was the day before Halloween - less than six months since her diagnosis, 14 months since she first wrote to me.

SHE WAS FURIOUS about dying at age 52 with children not yet grown, but she wasn't going to let that spoil her last months of living or keep her from spilling love onto everyone she encountered. Even someone she had never actually met.

Throughout our correspondence, Jennifer sent other small gifts, including a jug of precious maple syrup painstakingly tapped by her husband.

The other Jennifer also gave me a mantra that will serve me as long as I live.

Always go to OHIO.

I learned from her - and from my regrets in the years since - that 90 percent of love is showing up, that we should not daily or rationalize when our friends are in need, even if they are '' just '' cyber friends.  We should take every opportunity to make a cyber friend a real-life friend.

Life is short. Type fast. Then get in the car and go.

It's good advice for anyone. Always go to Ohio. Or Montana. Or Georgia. Wherever your Ohio is. And when you get there, tell them that a couple of Jennifers sent you.

The original Jennifer Graham - the best of her kind - would like that.

For this masterpiece the World Students Society thanks author Jennifer Graham.

With respectful dedication to The Global Founder Framers of !WOW!, and then Grandparents, Parents, Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. See You all prepare for Great Global Elections on :  wssciw.blogspot.com and Twitter X !E-WOW! - The Ecosystem 2011 :

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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