When You Can’t Hug People, Hug Trees

Several days ago, one of the most incredible women I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing passed away. Cindy had a sharp wit, big personality, and boundless love for those around her. Losing her was and is painful. Especially now, grieving is hard.

“What do I do?”

I’ve been imagining how Cindy would’ve answered that question.

First, she would’ve said that it’s okay to grieve, that I shouldn’t resist my emotions, even the negative ones. She once told me, “I feel my emotions. I address them but don’t let them control me or my day.” She would’ve coupled that with the age-old adage “This too shall pass”, something my mom has said to me many times over the years.

Cindy often urged me to do what made me happy, especially when I was confronted with personal challenges. For me, writing has always been one of my greatest sources of happiness. In this pandemic, I’ve been writing quite a lot. I started journaling again and even found some snail-mail pen-pals. Until today, I’d forgotten that Cindy once gave me that exact advice, knowing my love of words: “Let it all out on paper. Even write me a letter!” I reckon she’d give the same advice as I try to grieve her passing. I wrote to her family, offering as much love as I could fit in the envelope and, today, I’ll write a letter to Cindy.

But there are some things I just can’t write, some words I just don’t have. Cindy would’ve said, “Go hug someone.” After all, hugs say the things we don’t have words for. Cindy was a gifted hugger (and I don’t use that phrase lightly). Her last advice to me was “keep hugging trees”, something I’d been doing for the last few years to stay grounded, connected, and energized. So, even though I can’t hug her, I can hug a tree (and my mom and dad, of course!).

And while the grief shall pass, Cindy’s energy—her words and hugs—shall live on. She believed in “planting the seeds” so that’s exactly what I shall do, literally and figuratively. Someday, I’ll have another tree to hug… named Cindy.

With that, I’m going to go write a letter, hug a tree, and plant some seeds.

Wait, first…

Thank you!

Thank you to the United States Postal Service for never ceasing to deliver letters, cards, packages, and baby chicks (yes, they mail those!). They deliver to every address in the United States, unlike shipping companies like UPS and FedEx.

These days, USPS workers are facing an astronomically high level of demand and putting their health and safety at risk each day. Sadly, they’re also under threat of bankruptcy, as John Oliver explains in a recent episode of Last Week Tonight.

I write “Thank you, postal workers” on every envelope I put in the mailbox. An 11-year-old girl did even better by writing directly to her mailman and she got a pretty epic response. Read or listen to the story on NPR.

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