Thursday, January 6, 2011
In August of 1896, when Mark Twain was 61, his daughter Susy died of spinal meningitis. She was 24, and his wife and another daughter were in Europe when word came first of her illness and then of her passing. Writing – dictating actually – his autobiography in 1906, four years before he himself died, Twain recalled getting the awful news:
It is one of the mysteries of our nature that a man, all unprepared, can receive a thunder-stroke like that and live. There is but one reasonable explanation of it. The intellect is stunned by the shock and but gropingly gathers the meaning of the words. The power to realize their full import is mercifully wanting. The mind has a dumb sense of vast loss – that is all. It will take mind and memory many months, and possibly years, to gather together the details and thus learn and know the whole extent of the loss. A man’s house burns down. The smoking wreckage represents only a ruined home that was dear through years of use and pleasant associations. By and by, as the days and weeks go on, first he misses this, then that, then the other thing. And when he casts about for it he finds that it was in that house. Always it is an essential – there was but one of its kind. It cannot be replaced. It was in that house. It is irrevocably lost. He did not realize that it was an essential when he had it; he only discovers it now when he finds himself balked, hampered, by its absence. It will be years before the tale of lost essentials is complete, and not till then can he truly know the magnitude of his disaster.
Posted by Whit Smith at 3:53 PM