In 1964, more than forty years after losing his own leg in a childhood accident, award-winning cartoonist Al Capp – creator of the wildly successful Li’l Abner strip – generously sent the following letter to a young fan who had recently become a fellow amputee. It’s beautifully written, and one can only imagine just how valuable such an empathetic letter of support from a personal hero must have been at that time.
May 28, 1964
Master Mel Dinker
Columbus Hospital – Room 276
3321 North Maryland Avenue
I understand you have lost a leg and of course you are not exactly happy about it.
I was about your age when I lost mine, and I have learned a few things since then which you probably have not yet had time to find out for yourself.
The main trick is not to keep remembering what you’ve lost, but all the rest you have left. When you can do that, other people will too, not because they are afraid of hurting you, but because it just won’t be important.
The next step is to get to be the master of your artificial limb and to start doing all the things you did before, just as soon as possible. I will not tell you that your artificial leg will do the job your real one did, anymore than glasses are better than eyes, but it does a pretty darn good job, and soon enough it will mean no more to you than glasses do to those who wear them.
Of all the major misfortunes that can happen to the human body, the loss of a leg is perhaps the least. I don’t expect you to know that now, but you will know it.
(Signed, ‘Al Capp’)