Cathy in Florida

There were two accidentally related emails in my morning download that I’d like to tell you about. To truly appreciate what happened, though, there’s a bit of backstory. In September 2007, I ran the following reader letter in True.

Cathy in Florida enjoyed my “slug” (title) on a recent Headline of the Week:


That’s The Way It Always Happens

Man Married, Sentenced On Same Day

AP headline


Cathy in Florida wrote:

My husband and I went to Michigan for my brother-in-law’s wedding. My husband was best man and therefore was asked to give a toast after the wedding. My husband has an interesting sense of humor, one of the reasons I love him, and found and used the following toast: ‘Paul, take Shell’s hand in yours. Now put your other hand on top. Cherish this moment for this will be the last time you will ever have the upper hand.’ The entire room burst out in laughter, with the bride’s father, who has been married 4 times from what I understand, saying ‘hear, hear!’ loudly a couple of times as he laughed.

Keep up the good work Randy. Yours is the one publication that I turn off the radio and anything else that makes noise while I read it. I feel it deserves my full attention. It is definitely a day brightener to this disabled person who doesn’t have enough contact with the outside world. I have cystic fibrosis, and am, at age 46, am no longer able to work. Actually, I haven’t worked for 7 years now. I have other publications I received in email, but yours is the only one I read on a regular basis. Fortunately, we are doing well enough financially that in spite of my medical bills, that we are able to afford a Premium Edition. And if money were so tight that we couldn’t afford it, I would find a way to cut back on something so as to pay for what I consider a necessity.”

I’m happy to bring a little light into your life, Cathy — just as your letter brought some into mine.

Spreading the Joy

At the time, another Premium subscriber was so touched by Cathy’s letter that he went to my shopping cart and paid for a year’s renewal to Cathy’s subscription as a gift. When I sent notice of that to Cathy, she replied:

Gee, I’m just speechless. Wow. That is so incredibly nice. Please extend my heartfelt thanks to that kind soul. You know, I didn’t write the letter so that anyone would feel like I was looking for a handout or that I couldn’t afford a Premium subscription. That never even occurred to me. Gosh, that letter is so touching, it’s brought tears to my eyes. Wow. Please feel free to forward this message on to them. How so very kind of them. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I forwarded that message over to the other reader.

The Update

Which brings me to the first email this morning:

This is Ernie, Cathy’s husband. She unfortunately succumbed to a long battle with Cystic Fibrosis on September 10th. I am sure she would want someone to get use out of her subscription, so please feel free to gift the remainder of it to someone who is unable to currently.

I replied with my sympathies.

Though I was reasonably sure Cathy shared the issue with her letter with him, I sent him a copy so he’d have it. And that’s when I opened the second message from this morning’s mail, but this time I’ll withhold the reader’s name, another Premium subscriber for some years, which she sent in response to a renewal notice:

“I love the Premium editions, [but] can’t afford to renew it.”

Paying it Forward …for Cathy

Of course, you know what happened next: I transferred the remainder of Cathy’s subscription to the other reader.

Ernie could have just shut down Cathy’s email and not said a thing, but I guess that’s just not what the husband of a gal like Cathy would do. Instead, he remembered how much Cathy loved True, and took not just the time but the emotional energy to write, and to think of someone else at the same time. Now that’s a “wow”!

And if that’s not quite touching enough for you, the guy who got Cathy the gift renewal? A couple years later his own wife died, from cancer. The price of his gift was not a big deal to Cathy, but the thought behind it sure was: with his gift, he let her know she had touched him, and clearly touched the lives of many anonymous readers around the world.

And with her death, someone else gets the rest of her subscription. It took me but a minute to transfer it, but the good feelings will last a long time.

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16 Comments on “Cathy in Florida

  1. Randy, personally I think this is indicative of a distinct personality trait that your readers share. As I’ve read through readers’ comments over the years I noticed they tend to be thoughtful, considerate, and rational: sadly traits that seem to be getting rare in the bigger scheme of society in general.

    You and your readers flat-out rock.

  2. I had been unemployed for a year and a half when a little money came my way. Even though I was looking at declaring bankruptcy (which, in fact, occurred several months later — and the lawyer charged me $1,200.00 IN ORDER FOR ME TO DECLARE BANKRUPTCY!), at the time this money came in, it meant I had more than what I needed in order to eat for a while, and when I looked around to find something to do to give myself a treat, I sent in the money to purchase a premium subscription. I’ve never regretted it, and now that I am employed, I will continue. It is by far the best value as a treat for the cost I have ever spent. And it isn’t fattening, immoral or illegal.

  3. My sympathies go out to Cathy’s husband and family. And, my thanks to him and to you and your readers for paying it forward with the gift subscriptions. I’m a recipient and enjoy every issue. Thanks and blessings to all.

  4. Dammit man, I’m a guy. I’m not supposed to cry. My wife read it to me while I was doing the dishes this evening. Dishwater & tears aren’t a perfect mixture….

    Seriously, thanks!

  5. As I read Cathy’s story, I was taken aback by her age. It’s not impossible to live 48 years with CF, but it sure ain’t easy. I lost a dear friend over three years ago to Cystic Fibrosis. Carol made it to the “ripe old age” of 43. She understood things about priorities and people and appreciation that most of get most of the time… but often let slide as we go through our normal, healthy lives. The spirit of Cathy’s emails reminded me of Carol, and I can only imagine that the loss of Cathy was just as striking as when we lost Carol. Warmest regards to Cathy’s husband.

  6. I am so glad to hear (AGAIN) that in this soulless corporate world that there are people who are still kind and think of others.

    I grew up in a world where people were thoughtful of others and helpful. I see so little of this that I sometimes despair for our country and world, then I read of selfless acts in This Is True and it gives me another good day.

    I ramble. Thank You for your publication, I wait for it and greedily read it as soon as it gets to my inbox.

  7. What a beautiful world we live in when there are letters from folks like Cathie and follow-ups like the ones from the guy who sent the gift for Cathy’s new subscription. Randy’s reply; then the heartbreaking letter from Cathy’s husband Ernie, with his continuing gift of the unused subscription, to be passed on.

    This is truly ‘Mighty Stuff’ made for folks just like you and of course me. God that one did pluck on my old heart strings, and brought a lump to my throat. Thanks to you and the team for these stories, they make the world seem like a special place to be.

  8. Oh man, I did not want to start out my Saturday morning workday crying. It’s refreshing to know that no matter how dumb and senseless people can be, sometimes there are little touches of good, too. Keep up the faith.

  9. This is True stories are so often about the absurd; it’s nice when there are pieces about the generous, thoughtful people in the world. See also HeroicStories!! And, despite the perception of so much selfish/bad/evil in our everyday lives, it’s important to remember that, as Anne Frank observed, “People are really good at heart.” [hope I quoted her accurately!]

    If Randy will allow it, I’d like to offer a plug for ModestNeeds.org. Anyone who has a dollar (or more) to contribute can help people who are living paycheck to paycheck. MN thoroughly vets all requests and sends money for approved applications to the creditor, not the applicant. Even if you can’t contribute, you’ll be heartened by the organization and by the wonderful people involved in it. I’ve been blessed to be able to be a regular contributor since 2002 and have never been disappointed.

    Peace – and don’t forget to vote on Tuesday!!!

  10. Wow! This is true makes my week!

    There are truly kind, wonderful,loving and generous people out there! I too can not afford the premium edition but one day I will. I am amazed by the number of angels we have in our midst. One just has to look.

    On a brighter note, I founded a small non profit pet rescue and have been is dire straits keeping everything going.

    Today, a generous woman walked up and donated $100 to our organization! I’m so grateful, I’m speechless, and that’s no easy feat.

  11. Your story about transferring the remaining issues to someone that may not be able to pay for a premium issue inspired me to do that for someone of your choosing.

    I am not a premium member anymore because of the economy and the financial trials I have been facing, but I was a premium member for my Aunt. She loved to read your issues and since she had no computer, I would print the issue out, enlarge it for her and send it to her (along with your other publications – yes, you gave me permission to do so).

    Well, my aunt passed this summer after a brief battle with cancer and I would like to donate on her behalf a year’s subscription. Please let me know how I can do this.

    OH yeah, I’ll upgrade now for myself because one does get hooked.

    How about that? Good job.

    To give a gift subscription, just note in the comments it’s a gift, and who it’s for. If you want me to choose who gets it, just put that in there, and it will go into a special pool. Thanks! -rc

  12. I just wanted to pass my sympathies along to Ernie, and thank you for sharing this story with us. It definitely is heartening to know there still are a LOT of good folks in this crazy world.

  13. You were right about having a tissue handy. The story, particularly the last part from Cathy’s husband, was very moving. I’m glad her sense of humor and This is True brought some joy into her short life.

  14. Community is about caring. Thanks for the community, Randy. In community there are no handouts, only help-alongs.

  15. This Is True is about the sublimely absurd and the shallow end of the gene pool where the obliviots live and play. The “normal” stories always make me laugh. We forget the deep end where love, compassion, trust and the like reside in deep quantities. Obliviocy isn’t the norm, people like Cathy and Ernie and You, Randy, are the real norm. And This IS True.

  16. This post did indeed bring tears to my eyes, Randy! My heartfelt sympathy to Cathy’s husband, Ernie, and best regards to that years-past kind-hearted donor! Even though I’m saddened that Cathy lost her battle with this horrible disease, I am heartened that she no longer has to fight for each drowning breath and can now breath with ease in Heaven! It’s definitely a testament to the kind of person Cathy was that her husband could even think through his grief of passing on the gift of “True”! God Bless!

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