Last fall, Abi reached out to me to ask whether I would allow her to use some of my writing for some new greeting cards she was planning to create for Outwrite Design Co, the company she started shortly after her diagnosis. Aimed at spreading joy while giving back, 10% of Outwrite’s proceeds went toward programming designed to help young adult cancer fighters form personal connections through First Descents.
Would I allow her to use my writing for this? Abi didn’t have to ask. I wanted her to have all of them. Which would she like? She responded, totally stoked about the possibility for a “collaboration,” and gave me her top picks, with this one at the top of her list.
It's the utmost beauty of words that they can help build bridges between people.
I wrote those words. I like them. believe them to be true.
And yet, they hadn’t quite resonated until this very moment, this moment in which I sit in front of my computer to share a letter to Abi just hours after her long, courageous battle came to an end.
On Sunday, after learning of Abi’s sudden hospitalization, I felt the urge to write her. I reached out to John and asked him to please read my letter to her when she woke up from her nap (she’d worked hard for that nap, believe me). I hit send on the below, hoping it’d reach her at a time when she needed beautiful words, when words could be a comforting blanket, a warm embrace from afar. I decided to let Max Ehrmann’s beautiful words do most of the talking (as I often do in difficult times) and I sent her this:
Dear beautiful Abi,
I think of you often. I regret that I don't always reach out when I do, but I do hope you feel my embrace and positive thoughts from afar. Especially today, I wanted you to feel it. And hear it, in this case, since I've asked John to read this to you.
The word "beauty" means a lot to me, not merely because of its meaning, but because it's a beautiful word in itself: simple, elegant, timeless. It sparks that inherent desire to be mesmerized by something, to take pause and simply admire. Ever since I was young, I've called my mom "Beauty." You might know that from some of the things I've written about her over the past several years. I believed she embodied the word so purely. I've long debated whether or not to get "Beauty" tattooed on my wrist, but, I'm not sure the Beauty I know would approve (she wasn't a fan of tattoos...so alas, no ink yet for me). You get the point though. Beauty. It's near and dear to me. I consider true beauty a rarity, especially these days, when the world has seemingly become so saturated with noise and superficiality.
But you, my dear, you're the real deal. You're rare and true. Simple. Elegant. Timeless. In your darkest, most trying times, you have remained so. You have not only been beauty, you have shared it with and passed it on to others. Myself included. You have chosen me to be among the few who get to bask in that beauty you radiate. It's an honor, really. Thank you.
Today, as I was thinking of you, having learned of your hospitalization, I found myself recalling some lines from my favorite poem of all time, "Desiderata." Ever since discovering it 15 years ago, I have read it countless times and shared it with dozens of friends, as I've deemed the words necessary for them to read or hear. I like to believe that through the sharing of these beautiful words by Max Ehrmann, I too have been able to spread some beauty.
I hope these words reach you today, should you need to be reminded of all that's good in the world. And I hope you know that you are among the things that remind me of that, too.
Sending you a huge hug and beautiful thoughts for a speedy return home.
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.
Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952
I don’t know for sure whether Abi got to hear those words on Sunday, but I do know they reached her. And while I wished that her speedy return would mean back to her beautiful place in Norfolk, I know they did guide her home.
Today, I write her one more. For good measure.
Dear beautiful Abi,
Our friendship was cut too short, but I hope you felt it true and deep in its existence. Thank you for choosing to share some of your most special moments with Sean and me. Thank you for introducing us to your family, your friends, Codenames and your favorite Argentinian (hola Silvi!).
Thank you for encouraging me to do a keg stand at 33. For the first time ever. And at a Christmas party (in July), nevertheless. Thank you for teaching me how to eat the right s’more the right way. Every bonfire from here on out will be exponentially better. Thank you for giving Summer so much love despite her multiple attempts to jump on you (she just liked you that much!).
Thank you for reminding me of the luxurious simplicity of a good, cozy blanket.
Thank you for reminding me of the utmost beauty (and power) of words.
May these find you home.
Rest up, beautiful girl. We’ll all be here loving, daring, making and living, just as you would. Just as you did.
Photos: Memories of a beautiful moment with beautiful people. Abi’s Christmas party in July.