Love by Mail

By Diane Brinkman

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    “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).

    Every day last autumn when mail was delivered in Baytown, Texas, one six-year-old boy found a letter addressed just to him. “It would make me happy when I wasn’t feeling too happy,” says Lance Brunson, who was confined to his home with complications from a severe skin disease.

    The letters were from an “older” friend, eleven-year-old Sarah Ferguson, affectionately called “Little Miss Sunshine” by Lance’s family. Sarah has been writing and sending letters to Lance since mid-October 1988. “She has really been a beacon of light for us,” says Joy Brunson, Lance’s mother.

    Sarah first learned about Lance’s condition from her mother, Melanie Ferguson, who had taught Lance in Primary in Baytown Ward, Houston Texas East Stake. Sister Ferguson and Lance’s classmates put together a card to send to Lance after his illness forced him to stay at home. Sarah liked the idea and decided to send one too—and has kept sending them ever since.

    “I try to give Lance something to do, something to make him happy,” Sarah says. She admits she finds some of her ideas in greeting cards, but her letters are original, with handmade cards, puzzles, quizzes, riddles, and art lessons.

    The rare skin disease Lance has is caused by some of his internal organs—kidneys, pancreas, spleen—not functioning to capacity. It causes severe itching and burning and peeling skin. For a time, Lance couldn’t stand to wear any clothes and could only wrap up in a sheet or blanket.

    His mother says, “For one period of six weeks, Lance couldn’t sleep for two or three days at a time. He would lie for days curled up in the fetal position. It was his worst time. And during this time, Sarah’s letters arrived daily. Sometimes Lance was too sick to look at them, but he would smile when we showed him the letter. And most often that was the only smile we saw from him all day.”

    “If we didn’t get any other mail, we always got Sarah’s letter,” Lance says. “Even when she was sick!” he exclaims. “When she had a bad case of flu, she still wrote every day.”

    Lance’s gratitude to Sarah is spoken with childlike simplicity, “Thank you for sending me all these letters. I love you.”

    What does Sarah think about her acts of kindness? “It’s not that special, really,” she shyly comments. However, the community of Baytown feels Sarah’s heroic efforts are special. She was featured in a local newspaper story and honored by a civic service organization that awarded her a plaque now hanging in city hall.

    Ask her why she kept sending letters daily for those first few months, and she answers, “Because Lance’s mother appreciated it so much and said it made Lance happy. Besides, I know how it feels to be sick and at home. My father has been sick ever since I can remember. I know how he feels. It gets boring, and you need something to keep you busy.” Sarah’s father, Ira, has been going through operations and skin grafts for the past nine years after suffering severe burns in an accident at his work.

    Sister Brunson expresses her appreciation for what Sarah has been doing for Lance. “She is sacrificing her time, talent, and energy for my child,” she says. “The humble spirit of this incredible young lady has richly blessed my home and family.”

    Lance is feeling better now. He attends school and church some of the time, and he was well enough to participate with Sarah and other ward members in a road show last spring. But his trials are not yet over. He has days when he is in great discomfort. And, although he sees Sarah more often now, he still gets a letter at least once a week from her.

    Because of the six-year age difference, Sarah and Lance don’t have a lot to talk about with each other. But one night last spring after the road show practice, Sarah softly said, “Good-bye, Lance.” And Lance turned and smiled at her and simply said back, “Good-bye, Sarah.” Lance’s mother comments, “Although it was just a brief farewell, you could see this bond—a look in their eyes that they have shared something. A great deal of love passed between them.”

    Photography by Peggy Jellinghausen