Do you keep all the cards you receive? I do. When I have spare time I even paste them into scrapbooks in all their lovely glory. Behind each sentiment or floral cover, I cherish the words written by my friends. I especially love the ones from my late husband with his signature and phrase. He ended each missive to me with the symbols: “Alpha, Omega. Infinity.” Which means: you are my everything and I will love you forever.
Those inside notes are priceless, but we should not forget the message that adorns each cover. Do you peer at your cards and ponder the thoughts of the individual that made each purchase? I do. You see my mother rarely writes more than a sentence in every card she sends. She does not think her words can say what she wishes to say. So she ponders each card until she finds the perfect one that matches her love of her daughter. She buys that one. She mails that one. I know to read the cover very carefully.
My mother depends on cards like the ones Hallmark makes to tell me how much she loves me. Due to the plethora of choice in the birthday card isle she always picks the perfect one. And so it goes for my son’s births and other momentous events in my life. But in the summer 2009 Hallmark failed my mother.
Hallmark failed my husband too. There are no hospice cards. For two months after Fred was hospitalized we received a tower of “Get Well Soon” cards. Fred rejoiced in each of these cards and they filled the hospital rooms, reminding Fred of all his friends who cared for him.
When we went to hospice, the cards stopped. We would get the occasional “Thinking of you” with the blank inside and few words from the sender. Or God forbid, we would get a “Sympathy” card. Fred raised his eyebrow with dark humor and would say: “I guess they don’t realize I am not dead yet.”
So recently, during a twitter chat sponsored by TEDMED, we were having a “Great Challenges” discussion about how to have an end of life conversation. I suggested Hallmark needed to make hospice cards. The group thought it an excellent idea, and I immediately set up a petition on change.org.
I encourage you to sign the petition here: Hallmark: Create Hospice Cards.
Soon people asked me why not start my own card line; after all I am an artist. I responded, I was not doing this as business venture or as an attempt to have Hallmark use my work. When I was asked how do we encourage people have “the conversation.” I said the answer was Hallmark creating hospice cards. They have an amazing reach into every corner of America. If they create a card on this topic they will open up the conversation nationwide.
Some other people asked why a petition? Why not ask Hallmark directly? Well, I have been trying to do that for a year. I called them directly and went through several layers of customer service and was told they would report the idea. As I have several friends in the Kansas City area I also tried back channel contacts to no avail. I have learned as an activist, sometimes you must be disruptive to be noticed. Only when you are noticed can you be heard.
I began tweeting about the petition and Hallmark did respond that they had appropriate choices in their Gold Crown Stores.
I used their internal search engine to find a hospice card and found nothing. Here is a screen shot of my search:
Soon after we had 50 people sign the petition and a Hallmark spokeswoman responded to us:
"We agree that a card can help people support loved ones going through difficult situations and their caregivers, and Hallmark has many choices for this need within several different card lines. If you're having trouble finding one, we suggest visiting a Hallmark Gold Crown store and asking a sales associate to help you find a card for someone in hospice care. Thank you for your caring hearts."
I don’t think this response really addresses our request. I am well aware that Hallmark makes blank cards and all occasion cards. We need cards about the end of a life just as much as we need cards at the beginning. We need the script that Hallmark so lovingly provides in almost every other moment in a life.
We need a card that my mother can send, a card that will say all the important things. For there are so many people like my mother in this world, so many people who can have this important conversation if Hallmark just leads the way.
No one should die with an empty mailbox.