How do you sign off your emails? How do you say good-bye in the age of electronic communication?
It’s a surprisingly complicated question.
Traditionally, of course, when you write a letter by hand to someone, you might sign off by saying “sincerely,” or perhaps by saying “with love.” Ending a letter with those words was almost like ending a prayer with the word “Amen” – it was intended to show that we are invested in the words we have written or spoken.
But in the world of email – in the world of back-and-forth electronic communication – it’s complicated. Ending an email by saying “sincerely” feels too heavy and formal – saying “with love” would often be way too substantial.
Some people will sign off an email with the light sounding “cheers.” And in a way that word works because it’s quick and light – it matches the not-too-significant nature of most of our emails. But on the other hand, if you’re not the kind of person who would say “cheers” in everyday conversation, it may feel odd to sign off an email that way. Continue reading
We read this morning from Deuteronomy, chapter 24: “When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back and get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings. And when you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow.”
In that ancient culture, of course, there was no social safety net anything like what exists for us today. There was no tax-funded medical system with hospitals; there was no framework of employment insurance for when you got laid off; there weren’t non-governmental organizations providing skills training; there were no pension benefits for the elderly. In that ancient culture if there was any kind of social safety net, it was simply your family. It was through your immediate and your extended family that you had a home and property and protection and food and work. And so if you didn’t have a family, you were profoundly vulnerable – you were at risk. If you didn’t have a family you were without protection and without support and almost invariably without a livelihood.
This past week I was in Ontario for a couple of days to attend the funeral of an uncle of mine. His name was Andy, and he was 59 years old. After a two year battle with cancer, he died at home a week and a half ago surrounded by his family.
I wasn’t terribly close to my uncle Andy. He was almost a generation younger than my father. Also, my family never lived in very close proximity to my uncle and his family – growing up we would usually see them once or twice a year. It had probably been 7 years since I had seen my uncle.
Over the past two years, however, I received regular updates about my uncle’s battle with cancer. As I read those emails, and then as I attended the funeral service last week, one of the things that struck me was the amount of care that my Aunt Lucy provided. Particularly in the last months and weeks of her husband’s life she offered an intense level of care. She comforted Andy, fed him, washed him, gave medicines, cried with him, laughed with him. Caring for her husband was my aunt’s preoccupation, with increasing intensity over the past year. Continue reading