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A dying man’s desire

What if you knew you were dying and wished to leave a message to your young children?

My great-grandfather died of tuberculosis in 1910. His daughter, my grandmother, was born in 1908. When she was two years old, her father penned a short letter on a slip of paper, succinctly imparting a lifetime of wisdom into a few sentences. He certainly was no William Shakespeare writing lengthy prose, but I think he managed to convey much in few words.

Here is his letter:


Milwaukee, Wis., Oct. 15, 1910

My Darling Baby,

To know that my children will make life worthwhile, and the world better, would leave me die happy. Remember, my darling, that mischief lurks in many unexpected places and it needs strength of character to overcome evil. Try to live a life of purity, virtue, and loyalty, --loyalty to your mother, loyalty to your friends, and above all, loyalty to Christ. Then your life will be successful. Try to live a happy, optimistic life--making the world brighter. There are peacemakers and disturbers of peace--be one of the former. Remember, God is the author of religion and not man.

Your father.


My grandmother seems to have followed his advice as she lived her life, passing away at almost 99 years of age. She thought of others before herself. In her later years, she ensured her neighbors who weren’t as mobile as she received a birthday cake and visitors on their birthdays. She’d deliver it and snap a picture of their smiling faces as they held the cake. She was a member of many charities. She volunteered. She was an active member of her church. I could list more of her qualities. She lived a good life and she shared with those around her.

She lived in several states in her lengthy life, carting along boxes of belongings as she moved. When at last she left this world, she lived in a nursing home where she only had a few belongings that fit into one small box. Among the things she kept close to heart was her Bible, a photo of her husband, who had passed before her, a few pieces of favorite jewelry, and this letter.

As we enter the holiday season, it’s good to take inventory of what’s important and to be thankful. At the end of my grandmother’s life, she retained the wisdom in that letter she’d cherished her entire life from a man she probably barely remembered. She lived a good life. In that, I believe she was thankful. She set a good example for me.

I came across this letter after my grandmother died in 2005. The Jamie Poole series was being fleshed out. In looking at this and the "treasures" she kept at her side, it gave me an insight into her life. She lived the words of her father. I took her advice and crafted Azanath, the ghostly grandmother who extends similar advice to her granddaughter in The Isle of Osiris.

I hope my great-grandfather's words inspire you today.

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