Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Condolence Letter

I found this letter in the early 1980's.  I find it incredibly beautiful. I was assured that it is authentic.  

Dear Child:  
I condole with you.  We have lost a most dear and valuable relation.  But it is the will of God and nature that these mortal bodies be layed aside when the soul is to enter into real life.  It is rather an embryo state, a preparation for living.  A man is not completely born until he is dead.  Why then should we grieve that a new child is born then among the immortals, a new member added to their happy society. 
That bodies should be lent us is a kind and benevolent act of God.  When they become unfit for these purposes and afford us pain instead of pleasure, instead of an aid, become an incumberance and answer none of the intentions for which they were given; it is equally kind and benevolent that a way is provided by which we may get rid of them.  Death is that way.  
We ourselves prudently choose a partial death.  In some cases a mangled painful limb which can not be restored, we willingly cut off.  He who plucks out a tooth parts with it freely since the pain goes with it.  And he who quits the whole body, parts at once with all pains and possibility of pains and diseases it was liable to our capable of making him suffer. 
Our friend and we are invited abroad on a party of pleasure that is to last forever.  He has gone before us.  We could not all conveniently start together.  And why should you and I be grieved at this since we are soon to follow and we know where to find him.  
Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Grandmother's Surprise

I can remember as a young graduate student, one of my greatest surprises came from my Grandmother.  She threw me a curve that still makes me smile.  I was studying adult developmental psychology at Syracuse. I was fascinated by a concept called the Life Review.   As elderly people come to the close of their life, they begin to reminise.  Memories from childhood come back.  Recollections of important life events are pictured as clear as if they happened yesterday.  Reminiscing allows us to consider and measure our life.  This in turn allows one to find acceptance with their life (or despair).  Just at the time I was studying this, my grandmother started reminiscing about her life, exactly as described in the textbooks.  I was captivated. 
My Grandmother, Annabelle, was born in 1890.  She was my mother’s mother and a sweet soul who loved me dearly.  She was a modest and very proper old lady.  By the time I got to intermediate school, she was slipping me five dollar bills.  She would always hand it to me with a wink, like we were being sneaky together.  She would take me to downtown Rochester to see a movie and have lunch.  During the summers she would visit us and sleep in the other bed in my room for a couple of weeks.  She would do anything for me. She heartily agreed to be interviewed by me, if it would help me in any way.  It was fascinating to see the life review happen live.  Her history was fascinating to me.  She told me a great deal about my family history, where I came from and who I was. 
Her father was a Barge Captain on the Erie Canal.  He disappeared when she was a child.  She told me that he never came back.  The truth I learned many years later from my uncle.  My Great Grandfather was a two-gun-toting riverboat captain who gambled.  He got in a fight one night, out in the mid-west and killed a guy.  He ended up in prison for years.   He came back as an old man, just before he died.  The family thought it sounded better to just say he disappeared.  
Her mother had to raise 7 children all alone at a time when the world was not very forgiving.  She talked about the suffrogate movement happening in Rochester where she grew up.  She told me about moving to Detroit after she was married.   She and my grandfather, Wesley, moved west because Henry Ford was offering $1 a day.  When they got there, they found a place to stay and he went to work for Chrysler.  She remembered insisting that they find a new apartment and move the very first day he worked.  A beer truck had made a delivery to their building, and she wasn’t going to be seen living in a building where the beer truck visited. 
She told me her life story.    She went on and on for almost two hours.  I was fascinated.  I was learning history, but I was learning my history.   As we started to wind down, I asked her if she had any regrets in life.  This very proper woman thought for a moment.  “Yes, just one.  If I had it to do over again, I  would have never married your Grandfather.  I would have lived with him until I was sick of him then I would have kicked him out.