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THERE BUT NOT THERE


By:  F. Kong

Thomas Carlyle lived from 1795 until 1881. He was a Scot essayist and historian. During his lifetime he became one of the world’s greatest writers. But he was human and humans make mistakes.

On October 17, 1826, Carlyle married his secretary Jane Welsh. She was an intelligent, attractive and somewhat temperamental daughter of a well-to-do doctor. They had their quarrels and misunderstandings, but still loved each other dearly. After their marriage, Jane continued to serve as his secretary.

After several years of marriage, Jane became ill. Being a hard worker, Carlyle became so absorbed in his writings that he let Jane continue working for several weeks after she became ill. She had cancer, and it was one of the slow growing kind. Finally, she became confined to her bed. Although Carlyle loved her dearly, he very seldom find time to stay with her long. He was busy with his work. When Jane died they carried her to the cemetery for the service.

The day was a miserable day. It was raining hard and the mud was deep. Following the funeral, Carlyle went back to his home. He was taking it pretty hard. He went up the stairs to Jane’s room and sat down in the chair next to what once was her bed. He sat there thinking about how little time he had spent with her and wishing so much he had a chance to do it differently.

Noticing her diary on a table beside the bed, he picked it up and began to read in it. Suddenly he seemed shocked. He saw it. There, on one page, she had written a single line.

“Yesterday he spent an hour with me and it was like heaven; I love him so.”

Something dawned on him that he had not noticed before. He had been too busy to notice that he meant so much to her. He thought of all the times he had gone about his work without thinking about and noticing her.

Then Carlyle turned the page in the diary. There he noticed written some words that broke his heart.

“I have listened all day to hear his steps in the hall, but now it is late and I guess he won’t come today.”

Carlyle read a little more in the book. Then he threw it down and ran out of the house. Some of his friends found him at the grave, his face buried in the mud. His eyes were red from weeping. Tears continued to roll down his cheeks. He kept repeating over and over again, “If I had only known, if I had only known.”

But it was too late for Carlyle. She was dead.

After Jane’s death, Carlyle made little attempt to write again. The historian said he lived another 15 years, “weary, bored and a partial recluse.”

Carlyle was there, near his wife but he was never there. Such a touching story but a sad one indeed.  This makes me think. I don’t get out of the house and I don’t have a very active social life either. I’d rather stay home before you come to the conclusion that I am such a family man, I have to be honest.

Lilia and the kids are with me. But am I with them? With all those hours I spend behind the computer I may be in the house but I’m not with them either. Maybe you’re there in the house but just like me you’re not there either. As I spend so much time with my Microsoft Word program, you may be spending more time with your favorite basketball stars than with your wife and kids.

Carlyle saw the truth but it was too late, I shared the story hoping that you will not make the same mistake. While our loved ones must have the money we make to live, it is the love we have that they really want. So give it now before it is too late.

Frank Crane says it beautifully in a poem entitled:

Beauty Of A House

The beauty of the house in harmony,
The security of the house is loyalty,
The joy of the house is love,
The plenty of a house is in the children,
The rule of the house is service,
The comfort of the house is God himself.

Love of our family is spelled T-I-M-E. And there is no fitting substitute.

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