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We’ve seen the commercials featuring weight loss.  Heard the pregnancy news.  (Congrats!)  Read about the hugely successful clothing line, though I won’t attempt to walk in a pair of Jessica Simpson heels because I can barely step to the mailbox without an injury.  (Seriously, I’d end up in a neckbrace.)

So as I asked nagged my 8-year-old to write his thank-you notes for birthday gifts he received, I was reminded of one that I hadn’t written myself.  Hard to ask him to do something I had avoided for years.  That whole LEAD BY EXAMPLE thing haunts me at night.  How long does ONE tiny note take to show one’s appreciation?  Minutes.  If I post it on this blog, maybe 15.  I can spare that kind of time.  And it’s not that I’m lazy.  It’s not because I’ve forgotten.

It’s a little more complicated than that.

My thank you is belated gratitude from an act of kindness Jessica Simpson extended to me nearly 5 years ago.

It was August of 2008.

Jessica had stopped by WFMS radio to visit with the morning show before her concert that evening at the Indiana State Fair.  She was smiling the minute we met, and I recall thinking she was tinier than the already-small image I had seen on tv.  We commented on her platform shoes and how she keeps from falling as she reassured me that they are deceivingly comfy.

That’s like trying to convince someone that walking in stilts doesn’t look awkward.

As Jessica and her tiny dog sat down for an on-air chat in our studio, we were interrupted 10 minutes later by a dear co-worker who informed me I needed to take a phone call at the front desk.  I asked her to take a message, but her face told me it was urgent.

My thoughts went to my family.  My kids?  My husband?  Were they okay?

A natural when it comes to excessive worrying, I excused myself and dashed out of the studio to the front desk, where my sister was holding on the line for me to answer.  I grabbed the phone.

‘Deb, it’s me,’ she said.  ‘Are you sitting down?’  My heart plummeted to the pit of my stomach and I braced myself for bad news.  ‘No, but I’m with friends.  WHAT IS IT?’

‘Dad has died.  It isn’t good.  Do NOT LEAVE,  I’m coming to get you right now.’

A lot of that day is a huge blur, though I remember dropping the phone and sitting on the lobby floor with the echo of my sister’s words covering me like a heavy blanket.   I was stunned.  I don’t recall much after that, besides being moved to my boss’s office and asking (screaming) how this could have happened?  Minutes later, my sister and I were running out of my work, holding hands with heartbeats that surely couldn’t keep up.

Our family would change forever.

In the midst of the worst tragedy I have ever experienced, I received many cards from friends and family.  Some I see often.  Some I hadn’t spoken to since high school.  And then a random delivery from someone I had met briefly just before getting the tragic news:

Jessica Simpson.

She sent flowers, saying she was sorry for my loss and was thinking of my family.  The morning we met, I had left abruptly.  Jessica later told my co-hosts that she is close to her father, who was with her the day she stopped by, and couldn’t imagine the pain.  I appreciated her sweet gesture.

Here we are nearly 5 years later, yet I’ve never been able to say thank you.

I’ve certainly thought about her more times than I can count.  Every magazine cover.  Every tv commercial.  Every talk show.  Her autographed photo hangs above my computer at my desk and reminds me of that trying day.  I’ve berated myself for never being able to say thank you, almost as if the act of showing my gratitude somehow renews the grief that hit my family years ago.

Then again, how do you mail a note to Jessica Simpson?

So, I’m writing it now for all to see.  A fan for life, I appreciated her genuine sincerity in the midst of heartbreak and emptiness.  Though way overdue, I write this with much appreciation.

My heartfelt thanks, Jessica.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/simplistic-designs/2695424837/”>simplistic.designs</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;