We’ve got this problem, see. We’re human. And like all humans, we’re imperfect. We make boneheaded mistakes, say stupid things, are rude to people we love and sometimes we’re not honest- even with ourselves. Sometimes we just need somebody to help us refocus, to figure things out, to provide some perspective, to talk straight.
For nearly 50 years, we’ve been able to turn to you for this sort of thing.
Most of us have never personally written to you, although countless thousands have. But reading the letters you receive from readers and, more to the point, your common-sense answers, has been a staple of our lives. You’ve been an institution, Ann, part of how every day begins.
Now you’re gone. What are we to do?
For one thing, we can take this opportunity to thank you.
Thank you for entertaining us for all these years, for being a constant in an ever-changing world.
Thank you for your honesty, including the times you confessed to messing up on the advice you’ve handed out, which has happened from time to time. Nobody’s perfect, not even Ann Landers.
Thanks for the great one-liners we’ve borrowed from you. Like “Wake up and smell the coffee” and “Nobody ever drowned in his own sweat.”
Thanks for the wise counsel, as when you told us:
“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” And, “Too many people today know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
Thank you, too, for the humor, like when you told that woman, “You need that guy like a giraffe needs strep throat.” And, “The trouble with talking too fast is you may say something you haven’t thought of yet.” And especially, “Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.”
On a personal note, thank you for the advice that you offered at dinner one evening many years ago in Austin, Texas. You had spoken to a gathering at the LBJ Library and afterward, my wife and I were among the guests of Lady Bird Johnson. She had invited a bunch of newspaper folks to meet you. Most likely, with all your travels and all the people you encountered, you wouldn’t remember. But we’ll never forget.
At some point, you were asked to recall the best piece of advice you’ve ever given.
“Be kind,” you said.
Be kind because you never know the heartache and troubles others face. Never be envious, you advised. In your experience, even the most privileged have their share of sorrows.
That fit well with something else you once said:
“If you have love in your life, it can make up for a great many things that are missing. If you don’t have love in your life, no matter what else there is, it’s not enough.”
Finally, thank you for the words of hope you once offered in a column:
“Dwell not on the past,” you said. “Use it to illustrate a point, then leave it behind. Nothing really matters except what you do now in this instant of time. From this moment onward you can be an entirely different person, filled with love and understanding, ready with an outstretched hand, uplifted and positive in every thought and deed.”
Those are words to live by, Ann. We’re going to miss you.
Copyright, 2002, Jeffrey C. Bruce. All rights reserved.