Friday, November 22, 2013

Letter to My Son

                                                                                                               28 October
                                                                                                               Bedford Falls

               My dearest son,

               Your compliments to me at the dinner table tonight were greatly appreciated. We have had our issues over the years, you and I, and neither of us is exceptional at communicating; but I believe we both know how much we love and care for one another whether it is spoke aloud or hidden in the heart. I want you to know that I treasure you not only as my loyal companion and fellow worker these past four years, but also because you are my son, my joy, the hope of my years and the comfort of my soul. You have given me such great pleasure over the years as you have grown into manhood, into a life of service, into a life that puts others' interests ahead of his own. You make me proud to be your father.
                Ah! My son, if I could impart the wisdom of the Ages to you, it would be a mere reiteration of the Scriptures you know so well. Love others as I have loved you. Keep my commandments. Show your faith by doing good works. All these things you know, and you do, and may I be forgiven for expressing some small hope that you might have learned some of that by my own example?
                I have tried to live a good life, tried to watch out for my fellow man, tried to give back from the bounty I have been given, tried to ease others' burdens, tried to make my fellow traveler's lives just a little bit easier. It has not been easy, and there were times when discouragement and pessimism nearly destroyed me; but through the strength God gave me, and the love and encouragement of your mother, I have persevered.
                Now we face yet another storm on the horizon, and something in me tells me that I may not be around to help you through it. My body is weak and tired, the headaches have been getting worse, and it feels as though I could lay down and sleep for a thousand years. I am afraid; not for myself, because I know where I am going when this body's time is done. But I fear for you, because you are young and ambitious and impatient and you have your whole life ahead of you, and with all that on your mind, with the endless mystery and enchantment of the world before you, what chance do the pitiful dreams of a few worthless souls have of being heard by your heart? They are not your blood, not your kin; and their dreams of a roof over their head and some bread on the table are nothing in comparison to yours. Yes, I have seen your dreams: in the way your eyes light up when you read those magazines of yours, when you look out across the valley and think of the challenges in the big cities so far away, when you hear the train whistle and that wistful look comes over you. You long to leave, to do things I cannot even imagine, and if it were in my power to grant you the wealth and opportunity necessary to see those dreams come true, you know that I would do it. You are my son, and my love for you is boundless. Yet -
                I would have you consider the worth of a man, the worth of every man, in comparison to the dreams of your accomplishments. The world is filled with people's dreams, people's aspirations; and while some are grand and amazing to our eyes, others are judged to be ridiculous simply because they are short-sighted, barely beyond the next day's dawning. This is more a fault of circumstance than the quality of their dreams. A hungry man can think of nothing else but his next meal; a sick man cannot plan his life more than a few moments in advance. You live in relative comfort, and that comfort grants you the ability to expand your dreams far beyond the immediate. As others live from hand to mouth, may they be forgiven for having pedestrian dreams?
                So when they come to you with their hands outstretched and their eyes pleading, do not dismiss them as incumbrences and burdens, but accept that your lot in life is to share what you have, to lift up those who cannot lift themselves, and consider all things to be gifts given of God, not for any one man in particular but for all Mankind in the collective. And if you do these things, no matter how high a goal you attain or how low a situation you find yourself, you will always be blessed by those whom you help, for they will call you a true friend.
                My time is short. I can feel things falling apart inside. Do not blame God for it; we are tasked to do with what we have, and I have had a good run here in this place. My wife is the glory of my days, and my children are the beacon of my hope. In you I place all my own dreams, not so that you can abandon your own to see my own fulfilled, but so that you may be their caretaker, their talespinner; in the years to come, you may speak of me to your own children and grandchildren, telling them who I was, how I was, what I was. And I would have you speak to them not of my glories or my failings, but of my dreams, the thoughts that captured my heart and drove me onward through this life disregarding the obstacles in my path.
                Do that for me, my son. Don't let the things for which I have stood be dismantled by those who would dismiss them as useless fantasies. Stand up for what is right and good, be strong when all around you are weak, help those who are in trouble, and be a blessing to the world no matter what you do.
                I love you, son.

                Peter Bailey

p.s. Please don't think too harshly of Potter; he's

Editor's note: 
This is the unfinished letter found beside Peter Bailey the night of his stroke; he died two days later without regaining consciousness