THOUSANDS of letters to the editor arrived from Rae Miller Heneson over the decades. Sometimes as many as three or four a day, three or more times a week. We published some of the best, but there was always a problem.
Ms. Heneson, who died last week at 80, insisted on sending us handwritten missives on scraps of paper, in penmanship that often defied interpretation. She became the bane and delight of our letters editors.
Upbeat and cheerful, Ms. Heneson continued to mail us her hand-written thoughts until recently. We last published a Heneson letter on Aug. 11, 1998. It mixed thoughtfulness with humor:
"As Monica Lewinsky smiles her youthful smile, the dry cleaners of American must be screaming in righteous indignation. Imagine if all of us got stains of various types and instead of rushing to a cleaner, we'd hide them in a closet for future blame."
Her musings looked for the positive, especially when the seasons changed, as in this March 26, 1997 letter: "God and Mother Nature (is there a Father Nature?) give us a kind of beauty no matter what season. There is always a reason for hope and faith."
Her messages were designed to lift our spirits, to make us want to contribute something to others.
In a 1996 letter, she noted, "I do not wait for a holiday" to write a poem or hug someone. "Life is far too short and uncertain.
"Flowers on a coffin are beautiful, but I'd rather see them and give them while I'm still alive and able to smell, enjoy and touch their beauty."
Rae Miller Heneson touched us with her words of encouragement. She was one of our most loyal letter writers. We will miss her wit and wisdom, gleaned from a dedication to making her part of the world -- and ours -- a friendlier place.