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The Slice: Sad news arrives in thoughtful packages

Mon., March 24, 2014

People can be so thoughtful.

Haven’t you found that to be true?

Every now and then, I receive a note or phone message from a family member of one of my faithful correspondents, informing me that my email pal or phone friend has died.

It’s sad news, of course.

Often, I recall specific conversations or column items associated with that person. And it can take time to process the idea that I will not hear from him or her again.

But then, time after time, my spirits are gently lifted by another thought.

Wasn’t that extraordinarily decent of the family member to contact me and share that solemn news? Wasn’t that kind and considerate?

Saying “Thank you” hardly seems adequate.

Sometimes these notes are brief and to-the-point. On occasion, though, the people contacting me tell a few things about their departed relatives.

Once in a while, I learn about facets of someone’s life that I wish I had known.

Sometimes the relative offers a broader, more detailed context for a family story my late correspondent had shared with me years ago.

I would like to think that I have always been aware that it is a gift when the newspaper’s readers tell me their stories. But when hearing from those who not only loved the story but also the mother or uncle who told it, well, that makes an impression.

“We miss her,” wrote the daughter of one of my contributors last week. “We miss her generosity, intelligence and humor.”

It’s not always a relative who contacts me. Sometimes it is a friend or acquaintance who had seen the departed’s name in my column multiple times over the years.

“Thought you would want to know,” they say.

I guess it’s natural, after learning of a death, to think back and wonder. Could I have been a better friend? Did I treat that individual with compassion and respect?

They are serious questions. They deserve serious answers.

Of course, all we can do is redouble our efforts to be our best in encounters with those still among us.

But we can take heart in the knowledge that there are role models out there.

For me, they include the kind souls who sit down at their computers and write, “Dear Paul, I have sad news.”

Write The Slice at P. O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; email

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