A thought experiment that gave me good shivers

I’m lucky enough to be writing this from a bench in my parent’s garden (this is Grace/Snail…giving Leah the weekend off from her regular email writing duties!). This week, Everett, Graham (our dog), our wonderful au pair Shay, and I road tripped our way from Wisconsin to South Dakota. It was a LONG haul, especially towards the end, and I think my body is *just* starting to finally recover from the drive. It’s so so good to be home though and worth every mile of the journey.

Being home has me reminiscing about our childhood as well as that crucible of a month after Leah’s accident when she was in the ICU — I was home for that entire stretch, too. Time has blurred much of the intensity, but I can transport right back there when I want to.

Oftentimes, I would stay at the hospital with Leah late into the night. We always wanted to have someone there with her in the room, helping her feel safe, loved, advocated for. Our Dad usually took the shift of the early morning hours — so he and I would trade off around 3AM. He would take up the mantle of resting in the hospital chair next to Leah, or talking about philosophy, or listening to Joni Mitchell and smooth jazz. I would drive back home, say a prayer for Leah while looking up at the moon, and then tuck in for some sleep.

But I was ALWAYS excited to wake up the next morning. Honestly, it felt like there were champagne bubbles in my stomach. The excitement and anticipation of getting to go in and see my sister again was palpable. “Oh my gosh, she’s still here! And I get to be with her!” It felt like Christmas morning, a giddiness I don’t often experience in adulthood. The day might hold more surgeries or scary news but we had the gift of today, alive and together.

I remember sitting in a therapist’s office with Leah during her time at rehab, talking about this extraordinary feeling and gift of perspective. I vowed to hang on to that feeling always, remembering the absolute MIRACLE that we are given with each day we wake up and get to experience life with the people we love the most.

Of course, as so often happens, time makes things fuzzy and you start to get annoyed by long lines and people who don’t use their blinkers and the way your relative has that obnoxious quirk that you could definitely live without. The miracle is still there but, at least for me, I sometimes need help to refocus my lens. 

Enter: the thought experiment that made me cry (in a good way).

After a family dinner the other night, I started to think about those butterly-in-the-stomach mornings when Leah was in the ICU. My mind turned to people who have lost someone dear, someone irreplaceable. You often hear the sentiment, “What I wouldn’t give to have them back here for just one more conversation, one more chat over coffee, one more hug.”

We’ve had enough brushes with fate in our family that the reality of our mortality rings in my ears more frequently than the average bear. I try not to dwell on it too much. (Trust me, I’ve been there, and it’s the PERFECT recipe for a constant thrum of anxiety about the future!) However, I do believe there’s value in harnessing some of these thoughts to help me appreciate, really appreciate, the gift of being alive with these people of mine.

That was a long preamble to the thought experiment/mind magic trick: I briefly imagine that one of these people I love so dearly has died. Then I imagine wishing them back. Then, miraculously, HERE THEY ARE. We get to have this blissfully ordinary dinner together. We get to go on a 9 p.m. Target run. We get to sit there with our cups of coffee, talking about marketing strategies and looking at spreadsheets. I soak it in and revel in the now.

This same thought experiment can be applied to card writing.

Think of the people in your life, then imagine that one of them is no longer physically here. But wait! Suddenly, they’re magically back, just for this next week! And they’ll be able to receive the card you wrote them, turn it over in their hands, hold it close to their beating heart, and soak in your words. The absolute best time to write to someone you care about is always now.

Well, there you have it. Leah and I often joke that we’re the only card company you can count on to regularly remind you of your mortality, and I think I’ve helped fulfill on that promise once again. 😂

I’m so so grateful to be here right now, alive, with you. What. A. Miracle.

All my love from this garden bench where I sit,

Xo Snail (and Tiny, too)


PS. If there’s someone in your life whom you miss dearly who truly is gone, I’m so sorry. I know the heart pangs can reverberate for a long time. Holding you extra close today. May peace find you.

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Beautiful thoughts Grace. I just posted 15 cards and homemade post cards!

A lot of them were from my fabulous Tiny & Snail stash!

Just wish my mailbox would surprise me a little more often!!😁

Kathleen Lewanczuk

Beautiful thoughts Grace. I just posted 15 cards and homemade post cards!

A lot of them were from my fabulous Tiny & Snail stash!

Just wish my mailbox would surprise me a little more often!!😁

Kathleen Lewanczuk

Good shivers here too! So very touching and beautifully written. Thank you!


Thank you for so beautifully & genuinely sharing your heart with us. I needed to hear this!


A friend sent me a note on one of your cards. I looked at the back and immediately ordered some. Now I get your beautiful email and it really spoke to me. As soon as I run an errand and buy some stamps I will sit down and write to several people I have neglected. And hope to make a regular practice of it. I love your thought experiment!

Penny Juve

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