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  • Writer's pictureMarie Smysor Watson

The Side of the Cloud Turned To Heaven

WHOOT, WHOOT, WHOOTITY-WHOOT! The email issue that many of you have told me about has FINALLY been resolved. Lord help me, I shoulda been an IT major instead of reading so many damn books in college...

The new book isn't quite finished - a writer's lament if there ever was one - but it's getting close! So for today, I thought I might share someone else's writing. This letter came to me courtesy of my dear mother-in-law, Cathy Watson. It was written in 1918, during the first wave of a different, but no less horrifying, global pandemic. The recipients? My husband's great-great-grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Fulton. The reason? The loss of their 17-year-old son, Harry. It was a tragic and senseless death - not the feared Spanish Flu; rather, he ran into the gym wall during a basketball game, succumbing to severe head injuries. As the mother of two current (and one former) teenage sons, I cannot even imagine the grief and trauma his parents carried with them throughout their lives. I pray I never do. How does one even approach someone suffering from that type of grief? Who knows, but Brother B.J. Tobin did. In the following letter, he uses his words to comfort without offering an explanation, to remember without being prescriptive. He's a Christian of course, as were Mr. and Mrs. Fulton, but I'm sure he still felt terribly inadequate. He wrote it anyway, and the fact that this letter has survived 103 years is a testament to the power of these simple words. Mr. and Mrs. Fulton kept it throughout their lives, and now it's made it's way to my husband - and to me - and now to you...

***Please note that the letter is reprinted exactly as it was written, misspellings and punctuation and all.

Burlington, Ia, March 31st, 1918.

To Sister & Brother Fulton & Family.

My Sorrowing Friends; -

I know too well that words cannot comfort you, whether time can do so remains yet to be seen, but I wish to extend to you my heartfelt sympathy, in this your time of sorrow, It seems hard to part with our loved ones, after they have arrived at the age when they become the joy and compfort of our lives. But your beloved son Harry has escaped the trials, the strugles, and the temptations of this life.

This only we are sure of, that if this present life were all, if it were the only life intended for us, it would be but a mockery to the most fortunate of us. Therefore we can only console ourselves by living our a allotted time in a manner that will warrant our meeting with our loved ones where sorrow and parting are unknown.

Perhaps the time will come when you shall think of him as one who escaped much suffering, pain and heartache, all in the providence of God, as one taken in the innocence of youth, to the bosom of his heavenly Father, and therefore secure for ever more. The angels called, in the way of an all-wise providence it was best that the dear boy should go. We can only acknowledge that the affliction is God's will.

Though your days are dark now, I trust, pleasant days will come again for you and yours, It is a melancholy pleasure to dwell upon the virtues and accomplishme nts of your son Harry, and I am pleased to learn his last words were in repeating the Lords Prayer.

Trusting that you see only the side of the cloud that is turned to Heaven, With feeling of the deepest sympathy, I am yours

Fraternally, Brother B.J.

His voice is still, and now he sleeps

Without a care, without a sigh;

But out beyond the mystic deep

The fairest realms of all may lie.

And then his sweetest notes may ring

And there his spirit may be glad,

As angels pause to hear him sing

Of the many loyal friends he had.

Stamps were only two cents...

... but his words of comfort are priceless.

In times of trouble, my friends, remember your words.

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