What is the third message that arrives on the Winterbottoms' doorstep in Walk Two Moons?

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In Sharon Creech’s novel Walk Two Moons, the protagonist is a young girl named Salamanca Tree Hiddle, or "Sal." Sometime before the book opens, Sal’s mother had left the family, following a devastating miscarriage that sent her into a bout of depression. After her mother’s departure, Sal’s father moves the two of them off the family farm because it holds too many painful memories for him.

In their new home, Sal befriends Phoebe Winterbottom. There are parallels between Phoebe’s situation and Sal’s in that Phoebe’s mother also leaves her family for a time. Separately, Phoebe’s next door neighbor, Mrs. Partridge, is an elderly woman who has been leaving secret messages on Phoebe’s doorstep.

The third secret message reads, “In the course of a lifetime, what does it matter?” This message would seem to suggest that people should concentrate on the things in life that are most important and not be hampered and constrained by the trivial. The message causes Sal to think about what she believes is really important in life. She realizes that how a person treats his or her mother is extremely important.

When Sal accompanies her grandparents on a road trip in search of her mother, the reader finally learns what happened to the mother. Sadly, she was involved in a fatal bus crash and the family is really going to visit the site of the accident and her grave. Although Sal has difficulty facing the finality of this, at the end of the novel, she must confront the reality of her mother being gone and begin to heal.

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