My First Sympathy Card

In the course of time, Nahash king of the Ammonites died, and his son succeeded him as king. David thought, “I will show kindness to Hanun son of Nahash, because his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent a delegation to express his sympathy to Hanun concerning his father.
When David’s envoys came to Hanun in the land of the Ammonites to express sympathy to him, the Ammonite commanders said to Hanun, “Do you think David is honoring your father by sending envoys to you to express sympathy? Haven’t his envoys come to you only to explore and spy out the country and overthrow it?” So Hanun seized David’s envoys, shaved them, cut off their garments at the buttocks, and sent them away.

  • 1 Chronicles 19:1-4

For this is what the Lord says: “Do not enter a house where there is a funeral meal; do not go to mourn or show sympathy, because I have withdrawn my blessing, my love and my pity from this people,” declares the Lord.

  • Jeremiah 16:5

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

  • 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

As for the Scriptures, King David sent his emissaries to the Ammonite king, and they were humiliated.  I could write a post about bad advice, misunderstanding a genuine gesture, etc. But all David had in mind was sympathy.  The second talks of sympathy not being given, but that is not the case here.  My wife is in Jesus’ presence at this moment.  All is well, and the last Scripture speaks of that.

The card may require a lot of explanation, but the pictured greeting card was the first sympathy card that I received after my wife passed away about one month ago.  It arrived either the day after she passed or the following day.  The couple that sent it must have gone straight from church to the store to get the card.

The couple in question were members of the Sunday school class, over twenty years ago, when my wife and I joined the church and that class.  Soon after we joined the church, the teacher quit and I took over.  One of my pages is about changing the name of the class from the Adult Video Discussion Class to the Video College of Biblical Knowledge – for obvious reasons.  But of this couple, the husband is one of those, when someone is struggling with a biblical quote, he knows the quote, the book, chapter, and verse.  And he has great insight.  His wife is very quiet.  I think she took a few years before she said any comment in class.  My wife talked of nothing else on the way home from church that day, about how this woman was finally comfortable.  Over twenty plus years, we got to know them well, but we learned more about the wife with their greeting cards, birthdays, holidays, etc.  Almost all the time, it was something funny.

I am so grateful that they sent this card, for more reasons than being consistent.

On the inside of the card, the picture was of an “Eternal BINGO” hall resting on the clouds.  The greeting was “Your Loss is the Great BINGO Hall in the sky’s gain…”  And they wrote that my wife always liked her funny cards!  To be honest, when my wife recognized the address, she tore into the card, wanting a good laugh.

Of all the sympathy cards, the rest were the usual Scriptures and well wishes with the added words of “We are praying for you and your family.”  Very safe.  Very thoughtful.  Very welcome.  But the one funny card had a hidden treasure within it.

It is a Yinzer Card.  The explanation of their company mentions two kinds of people, Yinzer and jagoff.  The second of these “terms of endearment”, only for people in Pittsburgh, is a vile, vulgar expression, but only in Pittsburgh can you turn something so vile and vulgar into a term of endearment.  People proudly have bumper stickers or the front auto plate with that word.  I have mentioned Yinzer in the past, meaning someone who uses Pittsburghese.  Yinz comes from “How are Yinz” meaning “How are you ones.”  Saying that and “Dahntahn” instead of downtown, and you are a Yinzer.  Of course, you would have to be from Pittsburgh or is it Picksburgh or Pixburgh, and root for the Stillers (Steelers) to understand.  I do understand that I have to be a Yinzer before I can refer to the city at the other side of the state as Filthadelphia (Philadelphia).  There seems to be a few rules.

The idea about putting fries on a sammich (sandwich) is that one local restaurant chain puts the fries on their huge signature sandwiches, and if you insist on having the fries on the side, the order taker yells, “Naked” and then all the patrons “Boo” in derision.  We do not want our fries in the sandwich, and we do not wish to be ridiculed, so we never went to that restaurant chain.

But Yinzer cards are meant to be funny and you have to have travelled through Pittsburgh to get the joke half the time.  This card baffled many lifelong Pittsburgh natives.  They would look and complain that these were not pictures of people, but caricatures, and cartoonish, almost likeness of the person.  I have only lived in Pixburgh for a little over a third of my life and I could name seven of the caricatures, a lot more than the locals.  And the couple who gave me the card were from out west, like Rocky Mountains out west.

This sent me on an internet search.  Note to all who do such things, you have to get the search criteria specific and get lucky that the search engine does not ignore half the search request.  I kept getting local, living artists instead of famous deceased artists.  But I finally got my quest down to one.  Then the library downtown, excuse me dahntahn, was having a special tribute to a local playwright and my quest was complete.

You see, in just one silly card, I had a chance to laugh in the midst of the sorrow.  I heard from dear, dear friends who remained in character, even in hard times.  And best of all, for moments when I had nothing better to do than to search for pictures of historical Pittsburgh figures, I was distracted by a silly card, instead of weeping when I was most vulnerable.

This one silly card helped me through, not that the sincere well-wishes of the others were not helpful.  Those showed how much impact my wife, and her ever-present smile, had on everyone around her, most knowing that she had to have been in a lot of pain.

If you are from the Pittsburgh area, you should easily get over half of the people pictured, but I will start with the back row and move forward for all of you who might not have even visited the town.  Who knows, you might have seen one of their paintings hanging in a museum, rooted for them in sports (or listened to their commentary), or seen their television show, or used a condiment of theirs on a hot dog.

Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) was born in Allegheny City, PA (now part of Pittsburgh).  She was an artist, painter, and she lived mostly in France.  I finally got a search that mentioned her.  The photographs were inconclusive until I saw a print of a self portrait and the bow in the hat and on the dress were identical.

August Wilson (1945-2005) was born in the Hill District of Pittsburgh.  He was a playwright.  He was given the “title” of the theater’s poet of Black America.  He was the last to be identified, but I would not know what T. S. Eliot and Neil Simon look like either.  Playwrights are behind the scenes type people.

Henry J. Heinz (1844-1919) was born in Pittsburgh.  He was an entrepreneur and the founder of Heinz.  You might have used his ketchup or eaten his pickles or canned vegetables.

Next Row forward:

Roberto Clemente (1934-1972) was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico.  He died on a plane just off the coast of Puerto Rico that was destined for humanitarian aid to Central America.  He played baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he was voted into the baseball Hall of fame.  If you mention the number “21” to a Pittsburgher, they will probably reply “Clemente.”  That’s with the Stillers and the Penguins in town also, along with a few colleges.

Mister (Fred McFeely) Rogers (1928-2003) was born in Latrobe, PA, to the east of Pittsburgh and still in the area.  He was the television host of a children’s show.  Everyone loved Mr. Roger’s neighborhood, with him changing his shoes and wearing his signature sweaters.  He was influential in getting the funding that started the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), dedicated to teaching children and quality entertainment.  Mr. Rogers also was an author and producer.  And oddly, he was a Presbyterian Minister.  You could count on his programming to be wholesome.  And if you did not recognize his caricature, you should have at least recognized the puppet, King Friday XIII.

Art Rooney Sr. (1901-1988) was born in Coulter, PA, in South Versailles Township (pronounced Ver-Sales).  Coulter is on the Youghiegheny River (pronounced Yock-uh-gainey), upstream of the confluence of the Monongahela River and the Allegheny River which form the Ohio River.  And with a little Yinzer abbreviations, the Yock goes into the Mon before you get to the confluence.  He is best known as the original owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team, but he had ownership interest in horse racing tracks and in the Pittsburgh Penguins NHL franchise.  His first love was baseball, providing financial support to the Homestead Greys of the Negro League.

The Next Row:

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) was born in Pittsburgh.  He was an artist and leader of the Pop Art Movement.  There is a museum of his works on the North Side, not far from the football and baseball stadiums.

Sophie Masloff (1917-2014) was born in Pittsburgh.  She was the first female mayor of Pittsburgh, and from those who remember her, she was a character.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was born in Dunfermline, United Kingdom.  He led the steel industry growth in the USA.  He started in the telegraph industry, then the railroad, and then after investing in a new oil company in Pennsylvania, he ventured into the steel industry to support the oil company.  He rapidly expanded the steel works in the greater Pittsburgh area with the Carnegie Steel company, becoming U.S. Steel upon his retirement.  When he retired, he tried to give his money away, but he kept making it too quickly.  As a philanthropist he built libraries, museums, and universities, while starting various special interest funds.

Front Row:

Myron Cope (1929-2008) was born in Pittsburgh.  He was a journalist, but his biggest claim to fame was as a radio personality, announcing the Pittsburgh Steeler games.  He invented the Terrible Towel that they wave on game day, and part of the proceeds of Terrible Towel went to the Allegheny Valley School for children with mental and physical disabilities.

So, there you have the answers to what could have been a quiz.  But more importantly, the card gave me a chance to think about something else while I got used to living in a house all by myself.

I would not suggest a funny sympathy card in most circumstances, but with friends that know each other, and know the love expressed in the funny card, this was a gift that went beyond a cartoon printed on cardstock.  It showed God’s love.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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