A Letter to Pauline Lucinda 

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He will wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. All of that has gone forever.” Revelation 21:4 TLB

There they are- those names typed out in black on the well-worn page; the margins tan from the oil of our fingers. The title reads “Record from the Elias Mitchell Family Bible”. Line one; ‘Married to Pauline Lucinda Wade in Chester County SC. January 4, 1870.’ Twelve children line up below in birth order. But below that, the death order makes us pause.

William Thomas, born October 29, 1870, dies on April 5th, 1874. James Cleveland, born July 5th, 1872 dies August 17th, 1873. Mary Irene, known to us as Aunt Mamie, makes it to adulthood to become like a grandmother to our mothers.  Uncle Lumpkin makes it safely through, as well as Nancy Vistula – who my sister Nancy is named after. But little Sallie Beauford, born in 1887 doesn’t make it to see her first birthday.

I can’t even think about the pain of losing one… much less another, and then another of your precious babies. What hurt and despair and heartbreak. How do you continue on?

There at the bottom, our grandmother Lucy Lillian (whom my daughter is named after, as well as Lynn’s daughter) is the last to be listed in this broken start and stops of children. 

Our grandmother Lucy is the one who will give birth to eight of her own. My mother, Mary Pauline, would be the first girl after four boys (although it seemed like she was the twin of her older brother Robert). The real twins, Doris and Morris would follow, with Helen finally following behind - the baby. 

We are the great-granddaughters of Pauline Lucinda, who knew the heartbreak of losing child after child. And here we are almost 150 years after Pauline Lucinda said her marriage vows and started having her babies. What a precarious thread stayed unbroken to give us life!

We are the youngest granddaughters of Lucy, the last daughter born to Pauline Lucinda. Lucy; the thread that would continue to grow strong as the years went by.

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We are the granddaughters, the girls who easily made it safely out of infanthood and into childhood. We are the girls galivanting across the countryside to build tree houses and put tadpoles into pickle jars and ride horses through the pastures and fall dirty and sleepy into each other’s childhood beds.

We are the girls who piled into the double bed in the spare bedroom of Lucy Lillian, giggling and telling stories deep into the night. And now we gather each year, spending the week together to re-tell our stories and lay out memories side by side. We pile into a beach house in South Carolina and again we laugh long and hard deep into the night.

We laugh until we cry. We fill in the lapses of memory. We remind each other how far we have come down this road we are on. We no longer can run through the woods to one another’s houses, and we rarely call each other on the phone.

But we know. We know if bad news comes to call and tears begin to fall, with one word a cousin will be by our side, stroking our arm and reminding us how to take the next steps as we walk through this shadow of death. 

Elias and Pauline Lucinda, you would be proud if you could sit here with us. We are good people. We are honorable and kind. Our roots of love run deep and strong. We face death determined to stand tall and keep walking. Your Mitchell blood runs through us. And without fail, in the morning, the walls of our houses will vibrate with laughter.

 At that time he will remove the cloud of gloom, the pall of death that hangs over the earth; he will swallow up death forever. The Lord God will wipe away all tears and take away forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. 

The Lord has spoken—he will surely do it!  Isaiah 25:7-8 (NIV)


Living Bible (TLB)The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.