Tuesday, February 3, 2009

from India, with love

My daughter Katie has always wanted a connection with the past, particularly grandparents who lived and died long before Katie was born. Last summer, as Katie helped her Grandma (Elizabeth Haller) clean out a drawer, she found a treasured link to her great-grandmother who died when Elizabeth was just an infant.

It is a letter dated November 18, 1916, written from India to Katie's great-grandmother Muriel Thayer who was ill. The illness is mentioned in the letter and we are guessing that the letter might not have reached Muriel before her untimely death in December 1916. The writer was Muriel's friend, Mayme Scott, a young mother and missionary wife. After a long paragraph on her baby's growth (the baby was speaking Hindi) Mayme went on to describe her struggles with keeping a good cook:

You are not the only person with servant problems. I have them, too. Just now I've been having trouble with a cook. These things worry me and make me nervous. It isn't any fun doing the cooking myself with the equipment we have. I nearly smoke my eyes out every time I have to do it. And each time I say I'm going home to America if I don't get a cook soon.

She then goes on to describe their mission campaign, an effort to bring the gospel to local non-believers. Mayme was excited about a new Indian preacher who dresses very simply in Indian fashion and lives simply too. He was of the Brahman caste - the highest caste there is. He preached twice a day for four days and his sermons were an hour and a half long. The church was full each time and people listened attentively.

Aside from this interesting look into a missionary's life 92 years ago is the letter itself. Three hand-written pages were surely not unusual at the time. Letter-writing was a typical - or only - means of communication between friends, family and lovers.

I've always had a sense that a letter is a piece of its writer and shouldn't be discarded. So in my closet are letters from my parents, grandparents, husband-to-be and children. When I occasionally pull them out to read on a rainy afternoon, they magically transport me to a place, time or relationship that is no more. They remind me of how precious people are to me, and of the brevity of life.

Those letters tell me to love those in my life and to leave written words, for perhaps someday my great-granddaughter will read not my blog, but my letters in her search to connect her life to mine.


LPool said...

I too have a box in my closet full of old letters that I cannot bring myself to throw out. Occasionally I put it out and am immediately transported to another place and another time. I can vividly smell the smells, hear the music and be there once again. I even have a couple from you. :) Thanks for letting me know that I am not the only person to do this.

Barb said...

Lyn! I am certain I have a few from you, as well, friend ... back in our fun V.I. days. What a long time ago when we were oh so young!

Dan said...

That's neat, Mom...I didn't know Grandma had a connection to a missionary. And I agree, hand-written letters are the best!