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Today had to buy a card for a friend in palliative care (ie. the care you get when there’s not a lot more care to give) & I went into the newsagency looking for something cheerful on the outside & blank on the inside. Like a lot of people I’ve met who work in advertising.

But I digress.

J.’s birthday is coming up, & all, but the family feels he probably won’t make it. He’s old, had cancer a couple of times, still doesn’t make dying right if you ask me, fcking dying, what a fck it is.

Anyhow, I skipped the birthday cards with their ‘so you’re turning 12’ messages or their ‘gosh you’re over the hill, gramps’ messages, all meant to be entertaining & uplifting. Then I passed the ‘for a wonderful friend/brother/mother’ stuff. I also passed the ‘with sympathy’ and ‘sorry to hear about your troubles’ and ‘just writing to say hi, so, HI!’ and ‘condolences on your recent loss’. Skipped the pictures of flowers (HUNDREDS of pictures of flowers), the little blue teddy bears & ALL the cards on ‘your engagement/wedding/recent addition to your family’ (god how different dying is), pictures of babies & anything by Anne Geddes. Not because Geddes is inappropriate for an occasion like this (though she is), but because I can’t stand those fcking cards. Wittle babies on gweat big pumpkins, gah, hand me a bucket, my pumpkin soup is repeating on me. Naked babies look like larvae, ever noticed that? Funny, pudgy little things. They don’t look like dying men at all.

Paused by the ‘sorry to see you’re leaving’ cards. Whoa. Brain freeze moment. You know, they don’t make cards that say ‘sorry to hear you’re dying, buddy’. Of course they don’t. Why would they. What a fcking awful thing to have to send a card for.

In increasingly baffled and repetitive circles, I shuffled through the shop. ‘Time to kick up your heels!’ said the cards. ‘Have a great retirement, you lucky bastard’ they cried. ‘All I got you was this lousy card!’ they smirked.

There are even cards for divorces nowdays. ‘Guess now he’s gone I can tell you how much I always hated that stinking rat’.

But none for dying.

Cards for being in hospital, cards for ‘coping with long-term illness’ (no, I’m not making this up), cards for lovers. Gary Larson cards were conspicuously absent. Also, don’t think I saw any religious cards. Good. I don’t like religion. Flowers, lots of damn flowers (they’re quite nice, too, I sent Mum one of those cards last week, just because I saw her favourite flower on a card, thought she’d like it), but nothing that didn’t have too many damn layers of meaning or were too godDAMN trite. Can’t tell him ‘hope it all works out’. It won’t. Can’t say ‘bummer, man, that sucks’ because what dying person needs to read that, for chrissake.

And J. is a hilarious old buggar, great yarn-teller, has reduced me to tears with his stories of drunken exploits & his Elvis impersonations (“Again!” I’d shout. “Again!”). Need a card that’s funny. He’d even be OK with the ol’ gallows humour stuff, I reckon, if I could find something, *something* that would make him smile.

Finally bought a card. On the front are two nerdy looking kids in shorts up to their armpits & glasses thick as coke bottles. It says, ‘Some days are hopscotch kinds of days, some days are being beaten at poisonball kinds of days’. Inside it says, ‘Hope this is a hopscotch kind of day’.

Man, I hope that freaking card’s OK.