It Does Not Take One Long to Set Aside the Awfulness of Death

15 May
Will's brother, James Garfield (Gardie) Gray died unexpectedly in 1897 at the age of 16.

Will’s brother, James Garfield (Gardie) Gray died unexpectedly in 1897 at the age of 16.

Summit, NJ
Oct 21, 1897

From: William A Gray
To: Ruth Barrell

My Dearest Ruth:

I am going to devote a few moments before retiring to a nearer conversation with
you than that of this morning, at least twenty two miles nearer, and within surroundings
and circumstances that will permit my talking to you, as I like best to, in letters.

I know you are worrying about me altho I should like that you wouldn’t, so will say
right here that I have felt quite well all day, ate heartily at noon and evening and was able
to accomplish today’s work and what was left undone of yesterday. While tomorrow is my
chilly day, I feel tonight that it isn’t going to be that way, and it is safe to say that I won’t
have any more of the trouble this week, and if I can prevent it, ever.

Ruth, Dear, I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed your last letter. I read it, but all the
pleasure it brought me wasn’t revealed until I read it over again. Ruth, why shouldn’t I love
your letter next to loving you. Aren’t they the written impression of my Ruth’s thoughts,
which I so love to listen to when in her company. 

Of course you would not say all in a breath what your letter contained were we
together, or would we talk of so many subjects in a short space of time.

Well, Ruth, the reading of your letter of Tuesday brought me right over to your side
and I felt as tho I were talking or listening to you rather than reading your words.

Haven’t we often talked about kitchen, soap suds, etc., one minute then soar into
something too deep almost to wade through the next?

Then after all this nice talk with you, you apologize for having spoken, or let it go
with, “I wanted to say something but haven’t time to say it over again.”

No! Ruth No! I never ever, weary of your “weird wild fancies,” as you call them,
altho I have yet to know them as such, and beyond being with you, the only thing that will
give me more pleasure than a letter from you, will be two letters and _______ (I don’t know
the Latin phrase to add here.)

I hope you are having some time to enjoy this weather on your bike and that you are
not spending too long a time in the house on things less important than good health.
Only ten more days of October 1897 Ruth, so make the best of the good weather it

Procrastination certainly is the thief of time as some old character in the “House
Boat on the Styx,” very truly said. I cannot imagine all the nice things I have missed
through your failure to embrace the opportunity, but lots of these will arise in the future and
I trust you will not fail to take advantage of them.



As you say Ruth, I don’t see how anyone who has any appreciation of nature can
look at a sunset such as you describe, and fail to see behind it all something greater and
more beautiful, where resides Him, who causes all things to grow beautiful.

I often think of those who have been taken from us to the place beyond and wonder
too whether they can see us now or whether they, as we, have to wait for a time when we
can meet each other in the same place. If our friends in Heaven see us in our daily lives, I
wonder again what is the limit of their vision. Can they, as God does, know our thoughts,
and all that is in our hearts. I’m afraid these are some of the unanswerable questions, the
solution of which will come to each of us when we leave this life to take up the new.

I feel that Gardie is perfectly happy. It does not take one long to set aside the
awfulness of death. I used to consider it a terrible thing, when inflicted upon others,
strangers almost to me, but since it has entered our home and taken away a brother, I see
the whole matter in a clearer and better light. I have for the first discovered God’s
interpretation of it.

I would like to write you more but, am becoming sleepy and absent minded, so will
close my Dear Ruth, with a kiss, goodnight.

Ever yours,



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2 responses to “It Does Not Take One Long to Set Aside the Awfulness of Death

  1. Sheryl

    May 16, 2013 at 12:16 am

    It is really interesting to see how Will described how he felt after the death of his brother. Sometimes I think that people were less surprised when someone died back then, and spent less time mourning.

    • Jenny

      May 16, 2013 at 7:47 am

      I agree. I think it was a much more common thing for them to deal with. Makes me feel fortunate. I especially liked this letter, thank you for sharing!


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