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I had anticipated making the acknowledgement in high good humor as indeed it should have been. But something has happened to challenge the mood and since we’ve never before attempted any camouflage of spirit I feel that I should not now betray what I feel . . . As I understand it that’s what friendship is for. And I’ve always known you to be friendly enough to take whatever is on my mind or heart and understand it. Well then let me tell you about it.

The story starts several years ago when through the ‘this and that’ column I was fortunate enough to win a rare friendship with a young lady who was suffering some slow incurable malady. The young lady lived in one of the suburbs and her notes which some of you may remember I shared with you from time to time because their magnificence of charm was much too much to keep to myself. . . . They displayed an infinite patience and gentleness of spirit which is perhaps the only true measure of nobility. You see she knew that she was dying. She must have known too that death as remote as it may have been was removed from her by nothing more than bed-ridden solitude. And yet she kept alive a brightness of interest which was nothing short of poetry. That effort it cost her to appear to be gay and cheerful and happy . . . none of us will ever know because she never suffered herself to show that it was an effort. I think you knew about our friendship through some of her letters which were read with you because I felt then, as I do now . . . that their message was addressed to all of us. What perhaps you didn’t know because it would have been ungallant to tell you about it at the time was that, on occasion when the tyranny of afternoon routine lightened, I would drive out and spend some time with her . . . talking of all the gay and light and trivial things. Last summer when I went abroad I sent her a post card from every port.

This past winter when I went south I brought her some tiny animals fashioned of shell and coral . . . she had some measure of happiness in a tiny circus of animals she was collecting. When last I spoke with her she said rather wistfully I thought . . .”Well Scott, when will you be on again?” I gave her the brisk smile and assured her it would be soon. And then she said something which chilled and stayed with me.

She said simply . . . ”I hope it will be soon” . . . just that; but the odd emphasis with which she leaned on the word soon told me, though she gave no other sign of it, that it had better be soon because she felt the end was very near. She looked so fragile and weak at the time . . . that I hesitated to reach out to tell her that we could ‘this-and-that’ together again . . . when I learned of this series.

Today, when I went through the mail . . . the mail I wanted to thank you for tonight . . . I found a letter from her sister. I read it hurriedly and don’t altogether recall its contents at the moment, But I understood that I was to call Florence . . . That the end was indeed very near and that she had discovered the chat on the air again . . . and that there might be time to exchange a personal word. I reached for the phone directly and called . . . only to be told by her father that Florence had died an hour earlier.

scene from a funeral

There is some measure of bitterness in the knowledge that I might have read that note earlier. It just happened that I arrived at the office unusually late this afternoon. I know that I shouldn’t let the fullness of heart run over into what we say to each other . . . but I don’t see how I could have talked to you about the warmth of your welcome home without telling you this, too. I should like to think that these words, in some incomprehensible way, could bridge the gap and find in the mysterious mechanics of transmission somewhere the road to whatever it is that is beyond.

I suppose it can’t matter much in the timelessness or the infinite but I wish I could have talked to Florence earlier this afternoon . . . just before she went away . . . not to say good bye but to thank her for having let me find and know her gentle and courageous spirit.

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