Rarely a week went by during the last decade that I didn’t receive a handwritten note in our Tuesday’s mail. There, scattered in with a pile of bills and magazines was a small note that shone brightly from the rest like a beautiful rainbow. I found myself looking forward to each Tuesday.
The notes came from Carol Beall, a sweet, vivacious lady. She was a faithful viewer of my television spots; to call her just a fan would somehow shortchange her.
Each note came complete with the visual markings of peace, happiness and love. Shiny and sometimes glittered stickers adorned the usually pastel colored envelopes like a carefully decorated valentine created to make your favorite person feel special. And it worked with me each and every time.
The first time I met Carol in person was many years ago at her husband’s dental office. Dr. Beall, or Buck, as she lovingly called him, was one of the few dentists in town who performed the dreaded root canal. Over the years, I visited him several times to have one.
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“I hope you know my wife adores you,” he said on several occasions.
On one visit to Dr. Beall’s office, he said, “I mentioned to my wife you were coming in today and she’s dropping by in a few minutes. She wants to meet you in person!”
Through the waiting room, past the front desk and down the hall, I heard Carol’s very distinctive voice.
“Where is Mark?” she asked the ladies who worked there. “Which room is he in? I have just got to meet him!”
The door swung open and Carol came in like a ray of sunshine. Before leaving the room, she turned and said, “Buck, you better take good care of him!”
I usually saw her once in the spring when she purchased my latest cherry blossom T-shirt and then again at one of my Christmas performances. I would also bump into her other times when I was out and about at one of the restaurants or stores we both frequented.
She always made me feel like a movie star as she screamed from across the room when she noticed me.
I rarely saw Carol when she wasn’t in one of the colorful T-shirts I designed. When she wasn’t, she was still covered from head to toe in bright, happy colors -- just like the beautiful notes she always sent. Carol was genuine, and I never saw her without a smile that lit up her entire face.
She always wore a peace sign in the form of a pin, necklace or earrings. Her personal anthem was peace -- and she was a perfect ambassador.
As much as she loved the things I painted and created, she loved my Sunday columns even more.
“You are a great writer,” she would always say while reminding me she had taught school for many years and would know. “We must have had the same mother,” she wrote in many of her weekly notes. “We were taught the same values and experienced many of the same things growing up.”
Each beautiful note I received from Carol was guaranteed to feature a butterfly, bumblebee and peace sign. If any of these weren’t actually printed on the card, she took care of it by adding stickers featuring them.
Every Tuesday when I opened her card, I could hardly wait because I knew I would be uplifted after reading it. I often wrote her back to tell her what she meant to me and sometimes sent her boxes of the notecards I designed featuring bees and butterflies.
Most of her notes began with the words, “I know you get sick of me writing but I just couldn’t help myself. After reading your column this morning, I didn’t even need to go to church!”
No matter who we are, everyone relishes appreciation of our work. Her weekly cards became like electricity energizing me throughout the rest of my week.
During the last year, the notes stopped coming as frequently. When they did, I could see Carol’s handwriting was not as precise as it once was.
Her health was failing and her illness was attempting to smother her bright light and colorful spirit. But Carol was strong and was not going down without a fight.
The last time I saw Carol was this past spring. She saw me on the other side of a restaurant and, leaning on Dr. Beall, slowly managed to come to our table. She was feeble and her smile, although still there, was not as bright. I went to my car to get her my latest T-shirt. She kissed me on the cheek.
Shortly after that, the beautiful notecards stopped coming.
Carol passed away last week. I was extremely sad when her daughter gave me the news. I know Carol is now at peace and as free as one of the sparkling butterflies she loved so much. Carol ended every note I received from her with these words: “peace, love, happiness, butterflies and bees.”
Although I’ll miss her weekly inspirational notes, I’ll never see a butterfly and not think of her beautiful spirit and constant anthem of peace.
MORE WITH MARK
“The Mark of a Pencil”: Mark’s first one-man art show in 25 years will be on display Aug. 1-31 at the Macon Arts gallery, 486 First St.
Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him at instagram.com/markcreates; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.