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Happy Birthday, Janice!

In case you didn’t know, Janice Jarriel’s birthday is March 23. I thought about finding an Elvis impersonator to drive to her Tattnall County home and surprise her with a spirited performance. I also considered hiring a pilot to fly an airplane over the farm pulling a big banner that reads, “Happy Birthday Janice!” But since I am a writer, I decided my column was a better way of wishing my aunt a happy day and telling her how much we all love her. For those of you who don’t know her personally, there are many beautiful things about my aunt. Today, I’m sharing just one.

Through the years, she has sent out thousands of greeting cards. Thousands. Everyone in the large Jarriel and Lynn clans gets cards from my aunt. In my lifetime, she has sent my husband and me hundreds, each with a special handwritten note inside that ends with, “We love you.” “I’ve sent cards for over 30 years,” she told me last year. “I’ve always loved to get greeting cards and notes myself, and so I started sending cards to family members and a few friends to stay connected and let them know that we love them and think about them. At the beginning, I only sent Christmas cards and birthday cards. If someone had a death in the family, I’d send them a sympathy card. If someone we loved was sick, I’d send them a get well card with a note.”

Through the years, the list of recipients grew exponentially, and at some point, Janice added anniversary cards and Valentine’s Day cards to her kindness cards campaign. “I started sending the cards to members of our church [Cedar Creek Primitive Baptist Church] family, too, and people we know in the Cedar Creek and Pine Grove communities,” she added. “I send cards to my classmates from Collins High School and Wallace’s classmates, too.”

She told me she only sends between 20 and 50 personalized cards each month, though most of us think it’s more than that. She drops each one in the mail so that it will arrive at the recipient’s address on or around the actual day of the anniversary, birthday, or holiday. Receiving one of Janice’s cards is like standing in a beam of radiant sunshine.

She has told me that these simple acts of kindness are a priority in her life — part of her faith. It is in her everyday actions that Janice Jarriel glorifies God. It’s not really about the cards. It’s about making sure others feel loved and remembered several times a year.

“I send the greeting cards to be a blessing to others,” she said. “But it has become a great blessing to me, too.”

“Aunt Janice’s cards have meant a lot to me over the years,” remarked Caroline Foskey Hammann, a niece who lives in Brunswick. “I was always amazed at how she consistently remembered my birthday every year, but then I was continued from page

completely blown away when she added my anniversary, my husband’s birthday, my two children’s birthdays, not to forget Valentine’s Day and Christmas. Her warm signature of ‘We love you,’ is always a comfort. She has a gift for touching our lives with the small, meaningful things that matter so much in our busy world.”

Another niece, Linda Jarriel Reagor noted, “After my late husband, Jimmy, was diagnosed with dementia, her cards took on an even greater meaning for me. I missed the special feeling I got when Jimmy would remember my birthday and all the other special occasions where cards mean so much. But Aunt Janice’s cards always reminded me to hold onto the memories. Her unfailing thoughtfulness and love truly helped me in those challenging days. Her kind heart is unmatched.”

Her great niece, Les-Lea Jarriel Ellison, of Jacksonville said, “Aunt Janice carries with her the desire that not one of us is to be forgotten. She always remembers us and celebrates life with us.”

Today, most people use Facebook, Instagram, or text messaging to shout out an easy, quick “Happy Birthday” to a loved one, but where’s the personal touch in that? In a world where buying, signing and sending greeting cards has become a lost art, Aunt Janice doesn’t plan to stop sending her cards and messages any time soon, and I, for one, am happy about that. Her gestures mean the world to so many of us.

Her cards — overflowing with love and kindness — are never wasted. May they continue to bless the people who receive them, and may they continue to bless the giver, Janice Jarriel.

So, Happy Birthday, Aunt Janice! We love you, too!

A handful of cards from Aunt Janice to Amber.

Amber and her Aunt Janice at their family reunion.

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