...in a letter that spoke volumes
I think I know just about everyone who reads Wrights Lane and for that reason I have not hesitated to bare my soul on several occasions since launching the site. It is good for a writer to feel comfortable in that way.
Today is a different story, however. I have been weighing the wisdom of sharing some very personal, heartfelt and intimate thoughts expressed by my father in a letter to my mother on the eve of their 10th wedding anniversary, May 6, 1943. The letter runs the gamut of emotions -- loneliness, love, sadness, satisfaction, faithfulness, commitment and, in the end, living testimony. It is a reflection of a 43-year-old man of deep faith and conviction. It is not often that you get this type of inside look at a person.
I teased readers of my "Dresden site" with a very superficial reference to the letter and my dad's wishes for the type of life he hoped I would lead. I also explained that the letter was framed in a time of war (World War Two) and that, due to gasoline rationing, he was only able to make the 18-mile commute from Dresden to his place of business in Chatham once a week, generally on weekends. The week-long absences from home weighed heavily on him, but it was just one of a number of sacrifices Canadians had to make in those difficult post Depression times when resources of the country went almost entirely to the war effort.
As I write this introduction, I am still not sure about reproducing the letter in detail. Is this what my father would have wanted? What is to be gained? Does anyone really care? In all likelihood I will never know the answers to those questions, not even after I click the site's "publish" button.
For now, here goes! If nothing else, through this fascinating read, you will get to know my dad a little better and maybe even understand a bit more about his son. With any luck, after all is said and done, it will make your heart feel good, as it does mine.
Monday, May 3rd/43
My Dear Grace:
The nearness of May 6th possibly justifies this letter.
You see, a person is at times apt to feel just a bit lonely under these circumstances and yet, too, there are a number of things I find very comforting. The fact that you and Dick are well and fairly comfortable is a source of downright pleasure to me.
I often think back to the time we were on the *"Terrace". I can see myself working on a customer and hearing you sick in the back. I could hardly get the customer out quick enough to get back there, even though I did no good. I also well remember the night you went to the hospital and the night we brought old Dick back to the "Terrace" for the first time. I remember his cowlick, how pale he was when we finally moved out of the dark, dingy apartment, and how unaccustomed he was to so much light for a while.
I remember too the renovating we had to do to our house in evenings when no one was around. Of course there was unpleasantness along the way at various intervals and the memory of how close we came to going under financially still lingers. I could do very little to turn things around and was getting no where. I was afraid.
Grace, I prayed hard for God to make our little business a success and to show me the way. I have continued to do so ever since. We are not millionaires but God did hear my prayers. We did not go under.
I also prayed to have you when I was 18 years old. And I prayed that my mother would live long at that time. She was so sick. I prayed that in the end I would be with her. She was spared to me a few years longer and I was with her when she passed away.
I prayed for you and Dick and for our home and family life. In spite of rather unique circumstances, we hang on and keep together. All my prayers have been answered so far but I still need the help that only God can give. Help me to continue to pray Grace.
Your mother called me into her room just before she passed away and hung on to my hand and asked me to pray for her release. She was a Christian and knew what she wanted, and I did as she requested. Return the favor Grace. Pray that I might be allowed to keep our home together and never bring shame or sorrow on you and Dick. Pray also for my faithful workers at the shop, that we may render the best of service and continue to give good value for people's money...Only through the grace of God can any of this happen.
"Without me ye can do nothing."**
I prefer staying here at nights because I am among so many familiar things -- your davenport and chair and mirrors, Dick's picture, etc. I have been blessed with some good help too, so you see my prayers have been answered. God gave me you and all these wonderful people to help me.
I realize that this is a small business compared to many but it is paying now only through the mercy of God. Quietly and when you are alone, thank Him for that, Grace.
Keep this letter for Dick. Actually it is a testimony of my life from the time I was 18 years of age. Every word is the truth and as I have actually lived from that date. Positive proof that God does answer our prayers. "Ask and it shall be given unto you, seek and ye shall find."**
I am going to ask that you do not refer to this letter when you see me. Some times I am not quite up to much, shall I say "sentiment"...You know, such times as one is sort of full inside and apt to break down. Just let's live on together and pray for me and teach Dick to pray for us both, and himself, as he goes through life. This letter, when he reaches an age to understand, shall serve as my testimony that that is the way to live.
You know all too well the facts and events that I mention here and can verify what I have said.
All my love to you both this tenth year, our anniversary, May 6th coming.
* Terrace-- the small second-floor aparment, adjacent to their business, that Ken and Grace lived in at the time.
** Biblical references.
FOOTNOTE: Ken sold (gave away?) his business in Chatham two years later and returned to barbering in Dresden where it all started. He went to join his mother in his 53rd year. He continued praying to the end.