6.27.2012

"The light has gone out of my life.'

Much needed perspective in the middle of the week:


On February 14, 1884, a young man wrote in his diary, "The light has gone out of my life."  

It was an understandable moment of despair. He was just 26 years old, and his beloved wife of four years had just died in his arms, leaving him a single father to a one day old baby girl. His beloved mother had died earlier in that same day, so at once he'd become an orphan and a widower and a single parent.

It was two days before he could write again. In his next entry he detailed the courtship of his wife, and the christening of his daughter, and on the 17th he detailed the burying of his wife and mother. "For joy or for sorrow," he wrote, "my life has now been lived out."

Except...He was wrong.


Two years later he would marry again. He would have more children. He'd go on to become a cattle rustler on the Badlands. When he returned to New York, he'd take up a job as Police Commissioner, cleaning up the corrupt force. When the Spanish American War broke out, he'd lead a cavalry brigade in Cuba called The Rough Riders.

Two years later, he became Governor of New York. Less than two years later, Vice President of the United States. And then, eight months after that, upon the assassination of  William McKinley,  Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th President of the United States.


He was 42 years old -- the youngest President ever to assume office.  Roosevelt went on to help to create theNational Park system, oversee construction of thePanama Canal, take on the Trusts and reform capitalism in the United States. He won the Nobel Peace Prize. They put his face on a mountain. He's universally considered to be one of the United States' Greatest Presidents.

And that daughter, Alice, grew up to be the toast of Washington and live a life full of scandal and going her own way. She outlived all his other children.

A few years ago now, I was lucky enough to be doing a story at the Library of Congress just as they were digitizing pages from this diary. I put on white gloves and was able to hold the book in my hands and stare at those words. "For joy or for sorrow, my life has now been lived out."  I was pretty unhappy at that time. I wanted to sob. It was so human and almost unbearable.

But I think of it every year. And for a lot of years I thought of it alone. No more for me. I'm as happy as I'll probably ever be and that is indeed a good thing.  



So if you'll indulge me, please let me say to you that today, you may feel like there's no light in your life. But never forget that your life, for better or for worse, is not "lived out."  If a bull headed Type A guy like Teddy Roosevelt can be wrong about such things, well, then, I trust you'll see that maybe your troubles aren't so special, nor so vast that they can't be overcome.




ps.  Reblogged from Dead Things on Sticks.

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