Monday, April 12, 2010

My Special Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches

Picture by Nancy Reeder

My cousin Nancy sent a nice big Easter package with gifts and games for our grand daughter, and there was also a sealed brown paper lunch sack for me. When I opened it, out came a mini-jar of jam and a single serving container of peanut butter, and a copy of this story:

My Special Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
As a young girl I took many family trips. I have many fond memories of these trips. But it is my own special little trips close to home that I cherish and remember the most.
There were days when I just couldn't deal with things and would want to "run away from home."
My beautiful loving mom would sense the need for me to follow through with my plans. I am sure she realized it was my way of coping with what ever was on my mind that day. I would say to her, "I think I'm going to run away today, Mom." With her sparkling green eyes and loving smile, she would reply, "I can help you pack if you want me to. Would you like me to make you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?"
Together we would pack a brown paper sack with some clothes as well as make that peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Mom would give me a big hug and kiss, then say, "I love you," and "You are always welcome to come home."
You have probably figured out by now that I only went to the end of the front porch. She was a very wise woman.
I am 62 years old and dealing with cancer. Yes, I feel like running away, but I think I will have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead.

You can stop reading this right there if that's enough for you.

I sent this story to several friends with this added message:
My cousin Nancy is fighting colon cancer now, and she knows that my husband and I are going through our own hard times, and she wanted to cheer us up by sending us this story and the peanut butter and jelly. She did.
Her wise, beautiful, mother was my father's sister, my aunt Vivian, whom everyone called Chick. Chick had multiple sclerosis and passed away at the age of 43. Chick was in a wheelchair all of Nancy's childhood, and I can see why Nancy might have wanted to run away sometimes.
As I thought about this, I thought, you know, this reminds me of the emails that come around on the internet, and, just for the fun of it, I'm going to put this out there, and ask the people to whom I send it to pass it on to people who might enjoy it, and then see how long it takes for it to come back to me from a complete stranger who has read it and been cheered by it. Then I can say to Nancy, "Look, your story has been cheering people up around the world." And that might cheer her up.
  Probably won't hurt peanut butter and jelly sales, either.
  Are you game? Two requests: send me an email saying "thank you, Nancy" at:,
 and I'll forward it to her, and then please pass it along. The thank yous will tell her what an important person she is, and passing it along - well, we'll see what that does! Thank you!
blessings, love, hugs
Well, I sent that out last night, and as of this morning I've had over 30 replies from people saying thank you to Nancy for this story. I started to forward them to Nancy, and then realized that I would be clogging up her email inbox, so I started copying and pasting replies into a word doc. Then I copied all of them (so far) and pasted them into one email to Nancy.
My cousin Nancy is an extraordinary person whom I have loved, admired, respected, and looked up to my whole life. She has tackled life with good humor against great odds and adversity, and she still keeps plugging away – even when she'd rather run away.
As I read people's replies to Nancy's story, I found myself tearing up. That's not unusual these days; my husband is ill and the challenges of getting along are sometimes dire. But the way people pull together to provide encouragement, inspiration, and love to one another in the hard times – man, that's almost enough to make me revise my occasional conclusion that people are no damn good.
Thank you, Nancy, thank you, everyone who is being touched by Nancy. Sometimes when you're somewhere past the end of your rope all it takes is one person to love you, understand how you feel, and make you realize you're not facing your troubles alone, to help you regain your grip.
So thank you.

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