I’m applying for my Irish passport and retrieved the necessary documentation from my Aunt Mary over the holiday in Detroit. Along with the documents, I was given some very precious treasure: letters from my great-grandfather in Ireland written to my grandfather who had fled emigrated to Detroit during the Irish Civil War. More on that another time.

I love these letters and have been obsessively reading them over and over. The writing is breathlessly beautiful. Nib and ink in a hand that knew how to write and write well. My great-grandfather was a national school teacher in Ireland and spoke 7 languages, so it doesn’t surprise me to see these letters with their gorgeous script and thoughtful structure. I can’t help read them and not hear an Irish brogue inside my head as I do:

Crehana, 16, April 1939

“My Dear Jim,

It is almost time for me to reply to your kind and consoling letter on the death of your poor mother. R.I.P. The sudden stroke of paralysis to which she succumbed without regaining consciousness knocked us all out completely. She always enjoyed robust health and was rigorously working even just before being struck down. We have scarcely yet recovered from the effect of the shock.

On reflection, however, the case could be worse. She was always prepared, having led almost the daily life of a saint. She now enjoys the reward of a life devoted to prayer and religious exercises. Had her life been prolonged she would be always an invalid and would suffer martyrdom for one who had always been so industrious and active. So, I suppose, God knew what was best.

In you next letter kindly give me full particulars about your work. I used to get an American newspaper long ago and remember the articles were very spicy and interesting. Perhaps you could send me one from time to time.

I am keeping in very good form thank God. I keep always engaged, reading, walking or gardening-always in the open air. I may possibly, at some future time, take a trip to the States to see you all. Kindly remember me to any of my old pupils who may live around there. We are very happy here on the side of Carrickbeg Hill, in view of the old school, and actually saturated with sunshine and good air.

I will now conclude by thanking you for all the pains and expense that you have taken for the benefit of the poor mother’s soul. Hoping Mrs. and family are in the pink and with best regards to all.

I remain, as ever,

Your loving father, L.K.”

So how strange is it that one could feel so deeply the loss of a person they never met?

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