I didn’t know it at the time, but 48 hours was all the time that I had left with the most extraordinary woman I had ever known. That woman was my mom.
As I reflect back, the night before she died was no different than any other. But the next day and every day since, has never been the same. Mom had now been diagnosed with cancer for the second time in her life. The first time she would beat it, the second time, she wouldn’t.
This time mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer, which would eventually metastasize to her liver, and take her life in 2008.
I am the youngest of three children and the only girl. To say that my life was shattered when my mom died would be an understatement. My mom was my best friend and when she died, I wanted to die too. I felt sad, empty and alone all the time. One day my mind was really on this loop about taking my life, I couldn’t stop it. But as I was imagining how I would end it all, the thought of a postage stamp popped into my brain.
You see, in 1994 I was hired as a Letter Carrier for the United States Postal Service. I absolutely loved my job and I worked my way up from letter carrier to my current position in communications in Sacramento, CA.
But before my ascension to my current position, I delivered mail, walking from door to door every day. It was a job I loved. It provided me with a great team of co-workers, good income, the benefits of working outdoors and interacting with great customers on a daily basis.
One day while I was delivering mail, I noticed the postage stamp. I had seen one every day for nearly the past 15 years, but that day for some strange reason, it made me think. It made me think of its purpose. I wouldn’t come back to that thought until years later when I was contemplating suicide, after my mom’s death.
I reflected on the one main purpose of the postage stamp. Yes, it allows your mail to be delivered, but its main purpose is to stick to its recipient until its job is complete. The postage stamp never deviates from its purpose. It has only one goal and it fervently sticks to its goal until it is realized. The postage stamp never ever gives up. Henry Wheeler Shaw said it best.
“Consider the postage stamp. It secures success through its ability to stick to one thing till it gets there.”
That one statement got me to thinking. If the postage stamp has but one purpose in life and it never strays from that purpose, then how could I stray from mine? How could I end my life before I accomplished my purpose and achieved my goals? How could I just give up?
Over the next several weeks, I would come back to this analogy again and again. It never left my mind. As I began to contemplate my purpose, my thoughts of suicide subsided. I was always an avid reader, so when I read that it only takes 21 days to form a new habit, I decided to do something unheard of. I decided to get up at 4 a.m. for 21 days straight and go to the gym before I went to work, that was in 2009 and today, in 2017, I still keep up the same routine.
I credit the postage stamp with saving my life.
When you think of something saving your life, a postage stamp doesn’t exactly come to mind.
But, for me, the postage stamp helped to reorient my thinking. The postage stamp allowed me to reframe my negativity. Instead of continuing to feel sorry for myself, I asked, “How can this situation benefit me?” Obviously, the postage stamp wasn’t the only thing that saved me, but it has played a major role in my life for the past ten years and whenever I’ve felt like giving up on anything, I reflect on its purpose and it keeps me going.
So, let me ask you, what comes to your mind when you think of a postage stamp?
When I think about it, postage stamps are the ultimate ambassadors for their name country. The postage stamp is the most widely known postal symbol the world over. The postage stamp is well-travelled. It travels from country to country representing the past, present and future of its nation.
The primary function of a stamp is of course, to pay for mail, but if you take the time to really examine a stamp you’ll have the opportunity to learn about many subjects on a vast array of topics. You can learn about your family history and even trace your genealogy through postage stamps. Postage stamps can also help you in your resolve to never ever give up, no matter what life throws at you, as it has done for me.
Postage stamps are small in stature but touch every aspect of our society. They are true miniature masterpieces.
What is your favorite postage stamp?
My favorite postage stamp is shown below. It reminds me of giving, because mom was the ultimate giver.