I read this passage in a book tonight and then I did something I never ever do. I read it again. And I mean I never re-read sections. I'm usually in a furious rush to finish each book that sometimes I miss the point somewhere along the way. That one is an extremely modern trait of mine. But this one got me instantly and I found myself anticipating the words before they were illuminated in my retina. I read it, read it again, tried to digest it before reading again.
So, what was it about this particular few lines that caught my attention? Well, to be honest I'm not entirely sure. The passage is about a child, a young girl, who is very sick and it seems fairly certain she will die soon. An exceptionally beautiful girl, angelic, and imbued with a wisdom frighteningly mature for a child. The author is trying to say that perhaps we should be happy to let such perfection go to God, that they were only ever here to briefly enlighten our lives and maybe if they are taken at their best that they will remain that way forever. Undiminished, while the rest of us decay.
I know why I liked this so much. I always wished I had been that child. A bright flame, extinguished before it lost its glow. When I was younger I'm sure I thought I was. Man, I thought for sure that I was the second coming. I even wanted to die young. Leave some exceptional impression and exit stage left. To be remembered, almost in reverence and never replaced. Alas, it wasn't to be. I wasn't that wise, didn't amount to anything impressive and lie here enclosed in sorrow for the degeneration.
Then again, perhaps some fatherly instincts have been awakened within me and I just didn't recognise them. In this case I really don't think so. I love kids, it's just I have too much selfishness in looking after my own life to give so much to another. The old cliche applies; I'm not ready to have a child, I'm still a child myself.
The truth is though, that the passage I read a little earlier simply served to remind me of someone I never got to see enough of. I wish her brief sojourn on earth could have been a little longer but it's not to be. Her name even pops up in the text just to give me a little nudge to remind me.
Don't expect too much of your children. Be happy you've got them...
"Has there ever been a child like Eva? Yes, there have been; but their names are always on gravestones, and their sweet smiles, their heavenly eyes, their singular words and ways, are among the buried treasures of yearning hearts. In how many families do you hear the legend that all the goodness and graces of the living are nothing to the peculiar charms of on who is not! It is as if heaven has an especial band of angels, whose office it was to sojourn for a season here, and endear to them the wayward human heart, that they might bear it upward with them in their homeward flight. When you see that deep spiritual light in the eye - when the little soul reveals itself in words sweeter and wiser than the ordinary words of children - hope not to retain that child; for the seal of heaven is on it, and the light of immortality looks out from its eyes"
Harriet Beecher Stowe
I'd read it again