Family, friends and anyone receiving mail from me know that my usual signature is ‘Hugs’.  Sometimes it is ‘love and hugs’ or ‘lots of hugs’ but somewhere the word ‘hugs’ will appear. It was our younger son who turned me on to hugs and in whose memory my signature is delivered.  In fact, when I hear of something particularly happy or sad, or needing that little bit of extra, you not only get my hug but a ‘Damien hug’ also.  Close friends will call and tell me that they need a Damien hug when they encounter one of life’s more challenging moments.  Damien hugs are special.  He gave the best hugs.  They are happy hugs and also healing hugs.

Hugs are wonderful.  You cannot give one without getting one in return.  Talk about a win-win situation. I am so in love with giving hugs that I almost got myself in trouble because of that.  I give them freely, often and always with a smile.  When I cannot give them in person I send them in snail mail,  emails and messages. Even my voice mail ends with a suggestion to hug someone.  One unexpected and dear friend I have is a result of an email hug.

Here I was sweating over a letter asking for support for one of my community volunteer projects.  This was perhaps the tenth iteration of this most important missive.  I wanted it to be the best ask ever.  Outline the project, say why I believed this person was the most appropriate for the task, show a commonality of purpose, emphasize the positive, and predict a most favourable outcome and personal reward in helping to make the project a success. It also had to be grammatically correct, persuasive and not overly long. Phew.

I had been told that all I had to do was to put the request in writing and forward via email it to a particular address.  Once I decided on the final version,  I took a deep breath and clicked ‘send’.

Feeling good about a task accomplished and reasonably done well I decided to print the letter and put it in the relevant file. Yes, I keep hard copies.  I have no idea where that paperless society is.  Smiling complacently, I looked at the printed copy and gasped.  My wonderful painstakingly written, grammar perfect letter boasted ‘Hugs’ above my legible full signature.

After the moan, the groan and swear words in English and languages I did not know, I could only become philosophical.  I rationalized that I had aimed too high, that I would not have received a positive response in any case and so this mistake was from the philanthropic gods preparing me for  the let down.  I resigned myself and began to winnow my lists of contacts to select a second choice.  Well, I reasoned, I already have a letter that I can  edit, I would not have to start again from scratch. Faint consolation.

Surprise, surprise!  Almost one week later I received a call.


“May I speak with Paula de Ronde”

“This is Paula”

“Ahem, do you always close your letters of requests with hugs?”

Omigosh, here we go. Do I tell the truth? As I hesitated, I heard a laugh.

“It’s OK.  I really needed a hug that day and then came your letter and my day brightened immediately.”

A huge sigh, and in my relief, I gushed: “I wanted the letter to be perfect and was totally distraught.  I could hardly believe my eyes at what I had done. I thought this was it, a harbinger for me to prepare myself for a negative reply.”

“That’s interesting, as I thought this was an omen that I should say yes to your request.  It is yes, and by the way, you may send me hugs anytime you wish”.

We have been sharing hugs whenever and wherever we meet and our messages always end with ‘hugs’.

Among Damien’s personal effects was this laminated card.  It says: FREE HUG COUPON; Good for a minimum of one HUG; Redeemable from any cooperating HUMAN; A Hug improves anyone’s appearance; (and the small print reads) “Greet one another with a holy hug” Romans 16:16


The Meander:  The reverse of the card is an article entitled Hugs Called Good Medicine . The social scientist lists many benefits and says: “You need four hugs a day for survival, eight for maintenance and 12 for growth.”   Here is a hug for you.  Now you only need 11 more. Oh heck, here are some more…



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