A special gift

I am reposting one of the most precious gifts I received from my parents. They of course didn’t know this would be a gift to me.

Donald Frank Rose, was born in England in June 1880 and came to Bryn Athyn in 1908 or 1909. Here he met Marjorie Wells (born in Philadelphia in 1880) and they fell in love. After they were engaged, Don had to return to England for the summer of 1911.   Of course this separation was difficult for this young couple and was very different than it would be today. They couldn’t phone each other, there were no e-mails or computers, and no air mail postal service. They were completely cut off from each other except for their letters. Mail was transported by ship, so I imagine it took a week or probably two to be delivered.

A few years ago my sister discovered two letters they exchanged which were of particular interest to me. These were written during this summer separation. Excerpts from those letters contain uplifting guidance to those of us who are separated from our spouses who are in the spiritual world.

Marjorie to Donald

“Being so many miles apart this summer may seem pretty hard, but I can think of so many worse things that I am not going to count it as a trial, but rather a test of the state of our love … what I am most grateful for is that it is only miles and not any coldness to each other that separates us. When we feel that we are so far apart, we can look at that picture you took of us together. I’m sure it will cheer us up. I have it hanging in my room so that it is the first thing I see in the morning. I feel as though I could talk to you through it, and you smile back at me so happily … When you were here I felt more than ever how short a time I would still have you and for awhile it made me feel desperate, and that you must stay, but I soon threw off that mood and then I was perfectly happy, for you were with me and even if you were going away, we had found each other and could rejoice in that blessing … And now I will say good-bye except in the sense that it means God be with you, for this is my prayer, but we will not be parted really for I am sure we will be together in the other world (I believe this means together in spirit) as much during the summer as we have been when we were together.”

Donald to Marjorie

“I have just read your letter and it has made me feel more happy and peaceful than I can tell you. I had worried quite a deal about you. I had the nerve to think you would be lonely, and the thought of you being unhappy was harder to bear than my own trouble in having to leave you. To leave you is bad enough, but to leave you when you are unhappy would be some kind of torture. But now I can believe that you are happy in memories, and in our hope of the future – and as you say, our separation is only an external hardship … It certainly is a beautiful letter and you are the dearest girl in the world to be so kind and thoughtful as to write to me so, you give me comfort and happiness at a time when they are so acceptable. I am lonely, but far from unhappy. … As you say, if we had fallen into coldness of any kind we should be separated indeed, but this parting will only draw us closer together. … Your letter has cleared away the last cloud from my full confidence and trust in your love and its power to support me and strengthen me through a summer away from you. In a way I feel as though it were a duty my love owes to you to have a good time and use this summer to the best advantage – to get all the good out of it that I may. But I know I will be ever so lonely and that sometimes I will need you terrible bad – your letters are going to be my greatest comfort and help – as I can easily tell from the work of the first one. … I wish you could be with me on this journey – maybe someday we will make the trip together.”

“The sea is beautiful always and the sunset last night was wonderful – the sun dropped right into the sea, and the sky was crimson and gold, and then above pink and blue and green, and fading off into every kind of indescribable tint. Then the clouds massed up in black heaps and drew fantastic patterns on the sky and out of the cloud rifts the evening star shone very beautifully. And behind us a long tract of silver blue led back towards America, but the East lay dark and unknown … the sea is wonderful it seems to detach you from time and space.”

How miraculous that more than one hundred years ago the love of this young couple expressed thoughts that today offer guidance to their 81 year old widow daughter and others.

Reading and rereading these letters offer not only comfort, but council.

They remind us how blessed we were to have found, loved and been loved by our partners. Also that this parting is physical but “not any coldness that separates” us. A reminder that if we wish to be reunited we must use these years in ways that will bring us closer together. To be “happy in memories, and our hope for the future.” and that “…our separation is only an external hardship.” That this experience can “draw us closer together.” That if we want to be reunited we must use this time “to the best advantage.” in anticipation of the time when we will be with them  “… on this journey”.

This separation IS a substantial external hardship. It takes time and effort to adjust and persist in finding ways to carry on and recognize ways we can become closer in spirit with our spouses. If we keep him or her in our thoughts and decisions  as we look to the Word we can still work together.  “I feel as though I could talk to you.” Most of us have talked to their pictures and many find gratification in talking to them through journaling. We can write letters as Don and Marjorie did. This process can be helpful in clarifying thoughts and feelings and documenting emotional changes and progress.

Donald closes his letter with a description of the beauty of clouds, sea and sky at sunset. Imagine our partners describing the beauty of the next world to us. We are taught that “The universe is like a stage upon which are continually exhibited evidence that there is a God.” (TC 12) When are delighting in the beauty of God’s creation, we are sometimes able to “detach ourselves from time and space” and find intervals of peace and insight.

By means of these letters we glimpsed Don and Marjorie’s devotion to each other as a young couple. After these letters were written they raised a large family and most certainly weathered hard times.  Marjorie outlived Don by many years, but continued to speak of her love for him. Imagine the joy of this “young” wise couple now that they are together again. God’s plan for all of us includes that we “live happily ever after” with our eternal partner.

“…people’s souls and minds are not in a place like their bodies, because their source is heavenly and spiritual. And because they do not occupy space they can be joined together as if into one even when their bodies are not.” CL 158

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