#0419: Willa Cather to Frances Smith Cather, June 12 [1918]

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NUMBER FIVE BANK STREET4 My Dearest Aunt1:

Each time I try to write to you I feel helpless to do so, but a line must go to you today to tell you that you and your loss are in my thoughts always. Everything seemed strange and unreal to me on the day I saw G. P.'s5 name in the New York paper6, under that glorious title7 "killed in action" which sets men off from their fellows. I feel proud and humble to be one of those bearing the name that your son put in a place of such honor.2 After watching the casualty lists closely for weeks, I had not opened the paper that morning when Isabelle8 came to me and said "Who is Myrtle Cather9?" I told her, and then she said "What is G. P.'s full name?" Then I turned around and asked, "Has anything happened to G. P.?" She nodded and took the morning paper out from under her jacket. I had thought that, out of so many thousand, harm would not come to G.P.

I know how terrible it must be for you that it all happened so far away. But I feel sure that you are glad G. P. lived through his illness the time he was burned10, lived to find the work he loved and seemed 3 to be made for, and to give his life to the greatest cause men ever fought for.

You remember, I was staying at your house the week in August, 1914, when this terrible war began. I drove over to Campbell11 one day, and G. P. took a load of wheat over. I was coming back and met him just on the edge of town3, and we stopped to chat12 about the war news. I believe he always wanted to be a soldier. I can see him sitting on his wagon as plainly as if it were yesterday, in the middle of a peaceful country, with thousands of miles of land and sea between him and those far-away armies we were4 talking about. What would have seemed more improbable improbable than that he should fall, an officer, in France13, in one of the greatest battles14 the world has ever seen. He was restless on a farm; and perhaps he was born to throw all his energy into this crisis, and to die among the first and bravest of his country.

I know your heart will ache none the less, but you have always looked up to high things through faith, and it seems to me that now you must feel that your son is among those high things. Some people rise by faith, and some people by prayer. But there come critical times in this world when men a man can rise in action to all 5 that he could ever be. I believe G. P. was one of the men who can do that, and he found his opportunity.

Goodbye, dear Aunt Franc. I keep thinking how lonely you and Uncle George15 must be feeling; yet, surely, you have cause to be proud and thankful, too, to have been able to help this country16 at a time of such need. There were so few men ready to take hold and help as G. P. did. Most of the willing ones were only a burden.

My heart is full of love and sympathy for you. Willie
Mrs. George P. Cather1 Bladen3 Nebraska NEW YORK, N.Y. STA.C2 JUN 13 1918 7 PM Willa