Saturday, June 4, 2011

Hey Ash, do you need a good cry??

Wow, it's been a really long time since I've posted on here.  My apologies.  I'm sure you've missed me terribly ;-).  Things have been crazy busy at our house with finishing up construction projects and taking care of numerous orders for my new business . So I've taken my hiatus and I'll try to be better in the future.

FYI: You might want a Kleenex or two, or the box.  Yeah, get the box.

In his spare time, which he doesn't have much of, Will has been watching Ken Burns' Civil War documentary on Netflix. He just finished with the first episode and as I was walking past he said, "Hey, do you need a good cry?"  Always a glutton for punishment I was curious so I came and sat down on the couch next to him while he cued the final scenes from the documentary.  Soon they were reading the letter of a US Army Major named Sullivan Ballou.  He had written this letter to his wife as they were preparing to move to a new location.  

While the letter was being read aloud the song Ashokan Farewell came on.  This song alone is a very moving piece, but using it as the background to the letter put me over the edge.  I was a mess of tears as I listened to the words Army Major Ballou had written so very long ago on July 14, 1861.  In one of the most eloquent letters I have ever heard, he pours out his love for God, family and country and his regrets for a life he wished he could have lived better.  I was able to find the letter online and thinks it's worth the time it will take you to read it.  I was moved to tears and am so thankful that people like this man have gone before me and made sacrifices so that I can enjoy the freedom we have today.  I may be a week late for Memorial Day but shouldn't we be thankful everyday to those men and women who sacrificed their lives for our freedom?   Unfortunately Major Ballou did give that greatest sacrifice.  He died during the first battle of Bull Run on July 28, 1861, a mere two weeks after he wrote that letter.  

July the 14th, 1861
Washington D.C.
My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.
Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure—and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.
But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows—when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children—is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country.
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar—that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.
But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the brightest day and in the darkest night—amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours—always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again.
As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.