30 November 2009

My 92-year-old grandmother is having to move from her assisted living facility into a nursing home because she needs more help taking care of herself than the assisted living facility can give her. We moved some of her stuff out of her apartment into my mom's house and on Thanksgiving we decided to bring out a box of old photos and letters to look through them. One thing I found really hit home and I thought would be a good thing to mention, this being the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season. It really made me think.

My grandmother has in her possession a number of photos, letters, and so on that belonged to her mother, who was born in 1894. We were enjoying looking at old photos of my great-Grandmother and her husband---we found a photo from 1912 when she was a schoolteacher, her wedding photo, some photos of my grandmother when she was very young, etc.--- when we came across some letters and newspaper articles.

One of the letters was written from my great-Grandmother's brother to my great-Grandmother and her family. It was dated mid- September 1918 and he was in France working as a mechanic for the US armed forces, during World War I. The letter itself was rather mundane; he mentioned things he had been doing and asked about a family reunion that had taken place. I read the letter, set it aside, and started looking through the other things.

A few minutes later, I found his obituary. It seems that he fell ill with "neuritis" and was in hospital for 2 weeks; he died on October 16, 1918---just about a month after he wrote the letter. I have no idea what neuritis is; perhaps it's one of those diseases that are treatable nowadays. I could not help but wonder how long mail would have taken in 1918 to go from France to the U.S. Possibly my great-Grandmother received his letter right around the time she learned of his death---that might explain why she kept the letter (and why my Grandmother did as well). But what really struck me was here was a young, apparently healthy man writing an upbeat, normal letter to his sister and her family. He had no way of knowing that within a month of writing that letter, he would be dead. None of us have any way of knowing how much time we---or those we love---have here on earth. It is a very sobering thought, and it should make us treasure every moment we do have with our families. Because the truth of the matter is, we don't know how long we will have them with us. I am thankful and so grateful to God for every day I do have with my family.

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