Free of Debt
|With boastful pride we independents say,
|We owe no one? I have a mounting debt,
|"I'm free of debt; I owe not any man"
|That, in my span of years, I cannot pay
|If that be true, we're desolate indeed -
| To those great, gallant souls who trod this earth,
|Belonging to a shameful pauper clan.
|And gave their wealth of life's best gold away.
What a strange system of weights and measures we use, to weigh life's values! We think we have to have silver and gold (or their equivalent), real estate - which isn't real at all, in many cases, and all the tangible things that make us rich. Some of the most impoverished people that I have ever known held - and do hold - title to more property and securities than their earthly needs can possibly absorb. You know such rich paupers, too. On the other hand, you know those who are rich only in the lasting possessions - these things of the spirit. Well, I have tried, this past week, to analyze this desire of mine to pay homage specifically to those friends of yours and mine who have "crossed the bar" within the last five years. I think the desire grows out of an impelling urge - not to "pay off" one's debt - but to pay something on one's debt. We are indebted to every living soul who adds to our sum total of wisdom, of knowledge, understanding, of ambition, courage, happiness, and general, all-around goodness. They give it to us in a trust fund, to pass on to a younger, or less experienced soul. The gallant philanthropists ask for no refund or receipt.
Outside our own little circle I would like to mention one great person who crossed the bar to a brighter shore a year ago this month. That was Dr. William Lyon Phelps, beloved professor of English literature at Yale for forty-one years. He was so much more than a teacher of the classics. He taught young men how to live. Through his writings he taught old women like me how to live happily. He wrote once, "The happiest people are those who think the most interesting thoughts." There's a gold mine right there. Of course we have to do our own digging. But just try it for a week. And remember that negative thoughts are not interesting.
In the same month - in the same week - there was a quiet passing to the "land of light" one of Saltsburg's erstwhile and best citizens. Mrs. Kate McQuiston. She left Saltsburg many years ago, to make her home with Mrs. Virginia Morris, in Wilmington, Del., and then, finally, with her other daughter, Mrs. Harmon, of Chicago. But she taught those girls a loyalty to Saltsburg that the passing years do not weaken or diminish. I think the reason I felt impelled to write a tribute to Mrs. McQuiston last fall was because of my personal debt to her. My whole association with her - face to face - totalled only two hours. And quiet communion about fifteen minutes. But in that time she gave me one of life's best treasures - her implicit faith in my ability to write a book. She and Mrs. Harmon even told me what character to write about. Now, I may not have sense enough - or gumption enough - to invest wisely the outright gift they gave me. But if I do, that book will be dedicated to the memory of Mrs. Alfred McQuiston.
Silver, as a money god, is a soul-destroying thing to worship. and many there are who set up that very god. And yet silver has lovely connotations and associations. 'A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver" - "or ever the silver cord is loosed..." "Every cloud has a silver lining," I have a bit of silver in my possession that is a token - a token of friendship and good-will. I think I fell in love with Mrs. Alwine Wieneke, because she was so much like Mother Taylor. She refused to let misfortune daunt her. When her eyes failed her, she learned to "see" with her fingers. She was sewing neat little stitches on a lunch cloth the evening that Mother Lytle and I went to call on her two years ago. That was my only visit with her. Somehow, her daughter, Martha Kring, and I started to correspond. And I learned, through her, to know her mother better. She loved her own home - down by the river's edge. And she loved her independence - just like Mother Taylor. But, as you know, the disastrous fall down her front stairs - hurrying to greet a visitor - brought on weeks of suffering, and finally her death. Mrs. Kring had remarked in a letter that her mother would be 78 on June 21st. I wrote back that that day would be Virgil's and my silver wedding anniversary. She and her mother started conniving, I guess, long before her final illness. On our wedding day - her birthday - came a dear little package - of silver. Silver cuff links for Virgil, and a silver thimble for me. In the same mail, posted much later, came the card, bearing the shocking news that she had passed away. You can imagine my feelings. That bit of silver Virgil and I will always treasure. ***
This last tribute has been written under difficulties. For we have had a procession of company. And now I must leave my dear Mother Lytle until another time. Good-by for now,
Florence B. Taylor
Next - 8/24/44 - Dr. Davis Passed Away, Pennsville - McConnellsville OH
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