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Mark Twain, Pythagoras, poetry, death . . .

I sometimes imagine that I have the soul of a poet, and I would like to believe that my soul is that of a poet, but I do not have a shred of a poet’s talent. My love for poetry began when I first read the lines placed by Mark Twain on the headstone of the grave of his daughter, Olivia Susan Clemens, dead in 1896 at the age of twenty-four. I first read the epitaph as a Junior High School student—now known as Middle School. I was moved to tears, just as I am now while researching and writing this post.

Those words have for many years been attributed to Mark Twain, but they were borrowed from a poem written by Robert Richardson, Annette, published in 1893, three years before Twain’s daughter died. This is the verse Mark Twain placed on his daughter’s tombstone:

Warm summer sun, shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind, blow softly here,
Green sod above, lie light, lie light,
Good night, dear heart, good night, good night.

While writing his autobiography, Mark Twain said that he could not remember the author’s name, and apparently he was uncertain of the exact wording of the poem.
When Twain learned of the author and his work, he added the author’s name to the tombstone without changing the verse. Richardson’s original words are as follows:

Warm summer sun, shine friendly here
Warm western wind, blow kindly here;
Green sod above, rest light, rest light,
Good-night, Annette! Sweetheart, good-night!

The poem, Annette, also included this beautiful verse:

If that ancient ethic view
Of Pythagoras be true,
Your light soul is surely now
In that bird upon the bough,
Singing, with soft-swelling throat,
To the wind that heeds it not;
Or in that blue butterfly,

Flashing golden to the sun.

The ancient ethic view of Pythagoras, mentioned in the above excerpt from Annette, is explained as follows:

The ancient Pythagoreans believed that souls transmigrated into the bodies of other animals, and because of that belief they practiced vegetarianism, hence the poet’s references to the bird upon the bough and that blue butterfly. However, in Richardson’s ode to his daughter he passionately expresses his love for her, his belief in heaven and his hopes for her in the afterlife, saying that:

Somewhere there beyond the blue,
In the mansions that so many are,
They say, is there not
Any one of all, Annette, for you?

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2011 in Childhood, death, Family, funeral

 

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Envy or jealousy—which is which?

Okay, once and for all, let’s explain the difference between jealousy and envy:

From Wikipedia: Jealousy is an emotion and typically refers to the negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something that the person values, such as a relationship, whether friendship or love. Jealousy often consists of a combination of emotions such as anger, sadness and disgust. It is not to be confused with envy.

Jealousy is associated with that which we have and which we guard with all our might to keep. We cannot be jealous of something someone else has—it’s impossible. Jealousy is the emotion that is generated when someone attempts to take away, to appropriate or to use inappropriately, something that we have. The emotion of jealousy raises its ugly head when our neighbor attempts to possess our house, our Mercedes-Benz and our wife, whether figuratively or literally. We will guard all three jealously—but not necessarily in that order.

From Wikipedia: Envy is best defined as an emotion that occurs when a person lacks another’s (perceived) superior quality, achievement or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it. It is not to be confused with jealousy.

Envy is that which we feel when we do not have that which another has and which we would like to have. Prime examples of envy would include our desire to possess our neighbor’s house, his Mercedes-Benz and his wife, but not necessarily in that order.

It’s impossible to envy something we already have. We envy others because they possess something we would like to have. We may envy our neighbor because his house is larger than ours, his Mercedes-Benz is newer than ours and his wife is prettier than ours—not necessarily in that order—but it is impossible for us to be jealous.

The difference between envy and jealousy is very simple and very easy to understand. Given that simplicity and ease of understanding, why do so many people misuse the terms? Is it because such people know the difference and don’t really care to be accurate in describing emotions? Or is it because their education is sadly lacking in the teaching and learning process of the usage of those two terms? In my experience the talking heads on television are the most frequent users of the terms envy and jealousy, and are by far the most consistent offenders of their definitions.

Alas—so many errors and so little time to correct them!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2010 in Family, Humor

 

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Annabelle died on Monday . . .

AnnieBelleMy best friend died on Monday, the nineteenth of January 2009, at exactly 3:33 p.m. while I was rushing her to the doctor. She was born with an enlarged heart, a heart which abruptly failed after serving her well for more than 12 years. The friend that died was Annie, a beautiful long-haired calico cat, and a loved and loving member of our family for more than 10 years.

Sue, a dear friend who lives in Alabama, learned of our loss and sent a beautiful sympathy card and a touching consolation e-mail. After reading my response, she sent the following e-mail:

“My heart continues to go out to you and Janie—it truly does take time for a broken heart to heal. Thank you for the touching e-mail and for sharing your heart with me. What a blessing you, Janie and Annie all were to one another—truly one of life’s most precious gifts. I look forward to seeing you both again sometime this year. Meanwhile, keep in mind when you see Annie again, you’ll be seeing Cindy and me also—we’re a package deal.

“With so much heartfelt love, Sue.”

This e-mail was my belated response to Sue’s initial card and e-mail:

“Sue, please forgive us for not responding sooner to your heartfelt e-mail and your beautiful card. Janie and I have had a difficult time dealing with Annie’s death. We have just now been able to discuss her without both of us breaking down. We see her in every room and in every position, and hear sounds, especially during the night, which remind us of her and, for an ever-so-brief moment, bring her back to us. We have had other pets and loved them all, but before Annie we never knew that a creature’s love could be so deep and strong and forgiving, and that such love could be demonstrated in so many ways.

“Annie and I were a couple for ten years, and we remain a couple. Since her death I have come to realize that she and I were, and still are, soul mates, and I believe that our separation is temporary. Yes, I believe that animals have souls, and it appears that Pope John Paul II agreed with me. That can be confirmed at this web site:

http://www.dreamshore.net/rococo/pope.html

“I’ve spent a lot of time online recently. I found a poem, one so sad that it broke my heart, but it is so uplifting that at the same time my heart was breaking, my spirit soared. The poem can be found, with numerous variations, on many web sites by googling “rainbow bridge poem.”

Annie & DadHere is the poem in its entirety:

“Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

“When a pet that has been especially close to someone here dies, that beloved pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals that were ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those that were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one thing; they each miss someone very special to them who was left behind.

annie at comp 2“They all run and play together, but the day will come when a special one—the most special among the special—will suddenly stop and look into the distance. Her bright eyes are intent. Her eager body quivers. Suddenly she leaves the group and begins to run, flying over the green grass, her legs carrying her faster and faster.

“Annie has spotted me, and when we meet we will cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. Her happy kisses will rain upon me; my hands will again caress her, and I will look again into the trusting eyes of my Annie, so long gone from my life but never absent from my heart.

“Then we’ll cross Rainbow Bridge together. . .”

Annie2I took the liberty of changing the poem to make it personal—it wasn’t easy—making the changes was difficult and the tears flowed freely, but the physical catharsis provided some psychological relief—albeit temporary.

Thank you, Sue, for the sympathy and understanding expressed in your e-mail, and thanks for the beautiful card. You’re one of a select group of people, quite rare, who can convey their most profound feelings to others—willingly, unsolicited and without hesitation. Janie and I are proud of your friendship for us and for Cindy (our favorite daughter, but don’t tell the other two!).

May God bless you and keep you—you’re always welcome in our home.

We’ll leave the light on for you.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2009 in death, Family, friends, pets

 

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