Hand written cards and letters are part of an ancient but rapidly dying art, hardly helped by the high ratio of people who like or love receiving them to people who find the place, paper, pen and postage to write them.  I mourn this demise while contributing only a drop-in-the-ocean response. 

Among the few people I know who still write by hand regularly is one of my brothers, whom we nearly lost in the course of the summer.  His handwriting is among the finest of anybody I know, and if mine is a faint adumbration of his, it’s because in our childhood he took the time to show me how to write. 

During the short, intense period when we swung between dread and hope, and he vacillated between life and eternity, I kept close by me the two last postcards received from him a few months earlier. They were a talisman, alongside a recent photo of him looking well and happy.  I put them in my handbag when I went out, or under my pillow when I slept. In the most desperate moments – the first 48 hours after his admission to the ‘reanimation’ department of one of the finest hospitals in Paris – I put them next to my heart.

The cardiac and cerebral shocks that led to this touch-and-go experience included a stroke (or was it two?)  Mercifully free of serious or apparently lasting negative effects, it nevertheless temporarily affected his capacity to write, either by hand or in using a keyboard (the former appeared easier to remaster than the latter, such are the quirks of the brain).  So it was a landmark, as well as postmark, event to receive the first post-illness postcard.

See the two samples for comparison, about six months and some interesting clinical-and-near-death experiences apart. 

And on the miracle of waking up in a hospital; that is, of waking up at all, see this example of a timeless afternoon.   

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