Monday, November 28, 2011

So much to be thankful for...

This has been one of the most memorable Thanksgivings of our family's history. Our families came to the States from Austria in the 50's.  My parents moved to Michigan, while my aunt and her family moved to Ohio.  Her sons, Carl and Herbie, are my only first cousins and we have always been close.  Our families made many trips back and forth to spend time together.  But, over the years, as our offspring married the numbers have grown and it has been increasingly difficult to coordinate schedules and space to accomodate everyone.  Thanks to finding a vacation home large enough that was available for this holiday we had a chance to reconnect and bond in a very special way.  Hopefully, times like this will help the young people in our family maintain the ties that were started so many years ago.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The lost art of letter writing

In our current state of texting abbreviation and emoticons is proper English and letter writing going out the window?  I can't remember the last time I received an actual handwritten note or letter in the mail.  And I admit I don't write them much myself anymore.  Recently, in a flurry of cleaning out closets in preparation for a garage sale, I found a box of old photos with some special letters I had saved over the years.  One caught my eye and I was reminded of an earlier and more gracious time, which we seem to have lost these days. 

More for myself than anything else I am going to reproduce it here for preservation's sake.  First, a little background information.  My husband and I have been visiting Stratford, Ontario for years.  There are so many delightful little towns with bed and breakfast inns.  One in particular was in Kleinburg, in which I discovered a quaint little card shop.  The owner and proprieter was a genteel elderly lady named Mary.  I was drawn back again and again to speak with her over the next few days.  We shared our faith and felt a kinship despite the disparity in our ages.  Upon departing, we determined to stay in touch through the mail.  The last time I saw her was in 1985 and our correspondence dwindled, but I never forgot her.  Then in 1990 I received the following letter. It was typed on fine, thin paper on a manual typewriter.

"Dear Mrs. Wunschl,
After making business calls, my beloved Mary came home in cheerful mood at 3:30 on Friday 16 March and we had tea; around 8 o'clock our evening meal. At 11 she said she was going to bed. I continued with tasks till midnight. 

Mary did not appear for breakfast next morning. I went to her room and found she had died in her sleep. For me it was a shattering blow, because arthritis, as far as I knew, was her only malady. There is much evidence that Mary had no idea her pilgrimage would end in 1990. In her engagement calendar there are entries till September. On the other hand she was ready at any moment to meet her Redeemer, than whom she loved none more.

On the wall alongside her bed hangs a plaque Mary had had made, on which is the Latin prayer of the saintly Henry VI. The English version runs:  

      'Oh Lord Jesus Christ, who hast created and redeemed me, and
      has brought me unto that which now I am; thou knowest what
      thou wouldest do with me: do thou according to thy will, for thy
      tender mercy's sake. Amen.'

Though griefstricken and often in tears, I am thankful that Mary was called home first. For she feared to be the survivor, a friend tells me. I believe she could not have coped alone. When we moved to this little dwelling in 1959 Mary said, I wish to stay here till I die. And in recent years she sometimes told me she knew no other house she liked as well as this. (It is quite ordinary, but stands amid many trees in an agreeable acre.) We were married forty-two years.

Being extremely generous, Mary left a negligible estate: a car; a tiny bank balance; and her accumulated clothes, of which she was always reluctant to discard any. Mary's life exemplifies Jesus' words to St. Paul: My strength is made perfect in weakness. A slight figure, Mary was not born to wealth or privilege, nor did she attend a university.

But through constant reading of the Scriptures, and the surrender of her erstwhile wilfulness, she became a tireless servant of the Crucified. Preferring them to men, Mary spent herself in helping women, whether they were Catholic, or Baptist, or unbeliever, rich or poor, and of whatever nationality. She had a talent for friendship and was endowed with the gift of empathy; several women, I discover, thought themselves Mary's principal friend. I have known her drive to an address thirty-three miles away to deliver a birthday card early in the morning, because to do so was MORE trouble than to send it through the mail.

This note is the result of finding your letter to Mary postmarked 25 November 1985, in which you mentioned you expected to visit Kleinburg at the end of the month. 

Yours sincerely,
Alex Alexander
15 October 1990