Peterson: Found note sparks memories

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 4, 2011

By Harry Peterson
for the Salisbury Post
This is far from the beginning of this story, or should I say a very small part of a story that I may never know the beginning or the end.
My part started the morning of March 10. It was a typical day for me, working my way home from Virginia to Salisbury.
There was one thing one my mind that morning other than the drive home, and that was a wonderful, sweet friend of mine, Nancy Christensen, was back in Minnesota at a funeral for her brother who died over the weekend of a sudden heart attack.
It put their whole family in great sorrow and I felt a heavy heart for the family members and friends who had gathered there that morning to deal with their grief and say their condolences.
I have found myself more sensitive to other people’s grief and sorrow over the years. I don’t know why. Maybe my age, or maybe learning from my wife to care more for other people, or maybe becoming more mature in my 50s.
Either way, the tears have flowed more for me in the last few years than during my entire life over sad events, friendships and sometimes things I’ve missed in my own life.
I made it home late that day and did my usual routine of unloading, unpacking, kissing my wife, petting our dog and checking my work messages. Dinner came and went. At that point the family dog, Prince, looked at me with those big, brown eyes and I knew it was time for his nightly routine. When we left the house it was already dark, and we would always walk on one side of the street though the neighborhood and back home on the other side.
On our way back home is where my story turns. I glanced at Prince leading the way and noticed something off to the right of him lying on the ground. As we got closer and it came into view, it looked at first like some sort of gift-wrap ribbon with a note.
At first I thought it was some trash that got blown away from someone’s yard on garbage day. I don’t know why, curiosity I guess, but I bent down to pick it up and give it a quick glance. I read it very briefly on both sides. It had a child’s name on it, and it looked like a birthday card or birthday wish from his mother.
Just a piece of paper that littered my way. I placed it back on the ground, and yes I know I should have thrown it away at home since it was trash, but for that I’m sorry. I started to walk again and was about 50 feet away and it hit me hard what I had just read. I turned and went back and picked it up again and read it a second time with much wider eyes.
The note said: “Happy Birthday Mattman! I wish you were here with us. You are always on my mind and forever in my heart. You’d be 14 today … a teenager. I wish with all my heart you are happy & are at peace. Love you so much My Mattman. Love Momma.” It had a picture of a broken heart.
At the other end of the note, attached to the ribbon, was a deflated black balloon. I realized in a split second what I was holding in my hands.
It felt like a wave of emotions flowed over me for the second time in one day.
“Why me?” I asked myself. I pictured a loving mother writing a heartfelt note to her dead son, getting into her car and driving to the store to get a helium-filled balloon with a black curling ribbon.
The memory of my mother with a pair of scissors, scraping them along that ribbon to curl it and make bows for gifts at Christmastime came to mind. Funny how being at the site of something else brings old memories back.
I finished my walk home with Prince, holding my find like a sacred scroll from the Bible. I really didn’t know how to act. I walked in our home and handed it to Carolyn and said, “Just read what I found on the way home.” I walked around the corner into the laundry room and broke down like a baby, not being able to stop the tears.
I felt the sorrow of all the people at the morning service of my dear friend saying her last words to her brother at his funeral, and also the sadness of a loving mother who missed her son, and all she wanted to say was, “I love you and I miss you Mattman.” One more time, she released her balloon into the heavens so her son might read the love his mother still had for him.
Life: Enjoy it with all your heart. Hug your family members and friends. Tell them, “I love you.”
I never get tired hearing that in my life. Life really does go by quickly, so do what you can to help others.
Death. It comes to all of us, and every day is a treasure to behold. Death is needed so that we can live on forever.
Sorrow: Sometimes we need it to feel human. It is a test of our well being and strength to give us more understanding of ourselves. I have learned in my life that time does help heal all wounds and sorrow. Remember, true friends and family are there to help you and each other through times of trouble.
Peace: Something we are all looking for and hope we find someday. How will we know? Maybe we get it a piece at a time. Maybe for me a small piece would be to meet Mattman’s mother or just to know my friend in Minnesota is happy and her heart is mending. If this story touches someone’s heart, I’m glad, my job of writing it was a success. My heart was touched twice that day.