11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Reflection February 12, 2017
With Love to Clark Kenneth as You Turn One
Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
Dear Grandson Clark: I’ve owed you a letter for some time now! Please accept my apology for not writing sooner. Just as I’ve written to your lovely sister, Daphne Lou, on her birthday(s) so I now write to you (and hope to do so for your every birthday as long as I am able).
I am your father’s father which makes me your grandfather. I’ve had the joy of being with you a couple of times since you were born. I wish I could visit with you more often but Boston, where you live, is a long way from Chicago, where I live. I must also admit that the older I become, the more taxing travel seems to me. But I hope the future brings us many, many opportunities to be together.
Dear Clark, life is uncertain and fragile. I learned this harsh truth when my own father, your great-grandfather, died of brain cancer when I was just 11. I admit I’ve never fully recovered from that loss.
Your Grandma Beth, whom I loved deeply and dearly, died this past October 19, after a short battle with a vicious form of cancer. I see little possibility of full recovery from this loss. I’m so sorry she will not be around to watch you grow from infancy through childhood to full maturity.
Dear Clark, I hope I’ll be able to share with you what she meant to me and how happy she was to see you and hold you. My beloved Beth was happiest when she was holding an infant.
Dear Clark, no one knows how many years of life one has left especially as one advances into old age. I certainly stand on the precipice of old age (some might well say I fell off that cliff long ago)!
You, on the other hand, have a bright and beautiful horizon shining before you (maybe your pilot Grandfather Peter can take you up in a plane and teach you about horizons!).
Because of my significant age, I wanted to send some thoughts to you that might make little sense now but may be helpful to you later in life. Life has taught me many lessons. Some life lessons are wondrous and energizing. Some life lessons are hard come by and difficult to endure. Life is - at best - a Gordian knot!
At your Grandma Beth’s Memorial, I mentioned that there were two things most important in life: intimacy and creativity. I still deeply believe this truth but I left something out. To achieve either intimacy or creativity (or - ideally - both), something else is needed. Courage is needed.
Fear seems to reign in our world. I know of no other emotion experienced by we, mortals, more often than fear. Courage is the antidote to fear. But courage is hard to come by. I wish I possessed more of it than I do.
Some years ago I gave a series of talks at St. Peter’s Church in the downtown of Chicago titled “Facing Fear- Finding Faith.” These noon-time talks were mobbed by hundreds of people who wanted to learn how best to face fear. It is impossible enduring life without at times being shackled by the obstinate chains of fear.
Dear Clark, as a child, I was very shy - which brings with it a fear-component. It’s fortunate I had a strong twin brother and an older brother who kept me safe from the bullies that, unfortunately, abound in every corner of our wounded world. I was always afraid of getting into a fight because I was skinny and not at all robust. (This may be why I became a martial artist later in life!)
Your Grandma Beth worked with children and taught “bully-prevention” workshops. In her role as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and as a certified school counselor, she researched the process of bullying and how best to deal with it. Your Grandma Beth possessed an amazing amount of courage - perhaps because she faced so many bullies in her own personal and professional life.
My twin brother (your great uncle), Jack, served in combat with the 101st Airborne in the jungles of Vietnam. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his bravery under fire. We are all proud of his service and his bravery. But all dimensions of life require a certain courage, a certain bravery.
As you will learn, my parents, your great-grandparents, came to this country as immigrants from Ireland. Yet while my side of your family is definitely Irish, we also carry in our genes British ancestors. The Aldworth family motto is: Nec temere, nec timide. This means, translating the Latin: “Neither rashly, nor timidly.”
It was wisely said by ancient Greek philosophers that virtue “lies in the middle.” Courage is the virtue that lies between too little courage (cowardice) and too much courage (rashness or being fool-hardy). I hope and pray for you (and me!) the right amount of courage to face the challenges and the wonders life brings.
Dear Clark, may life bless you and your lovely sister with courage. Life without courage is too fear-laden to be joyful. Life without courage is too daunting to be delightful. Life without courage is too shallow to jump into feet-first. Life without courage seems an empty shell. Life without courage is the worst kind of heart disease.
Courage gives us hope. Courage gives us the ability to face the always uncertain future. Courage gives us the willingness to risk what must be risked if life is to flower in all its fullness.
Dear Clark: you are deeply loved. May this love sustain you always. Happy first birthday! Your loving Grandfather Tom
Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor