Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Another letter from Howard Griffin

I shared with you recently a letter I received in 1958 from my Texas neighbor, author John Howard Griffin. Howard had become blind because of a plane crash while in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific in 1946. His parents, Jack and Lena Griffin, moved from the city of Dallas out into the country, and it happened that they bought a farm on our lane. We were four families in all -- the Bragues, the Hugginses, the Griffins, and the Brocketts. Howard Griffin met a local girl, Elizabeth Ann Holland, and converted from Presbyterian to Roman Catholic in order to marry her. They had four children together before he suddenly regained his sight in 1957. In what had formerly been a barn at his parents’ place, Howard kept a writing studio equipped with a typewriter and a reel-to-reel tape recorder. Sometimes he would drop by to chat while out riding his horse or walking with his beautiful collie dog.

Today I want to show you a letter Howard wrote to my mother in 1956 shortly before he regained his sight. I found it among her things after she died and have kept it all these years:


.................................................................Mansfield, Texas
.................................................................August 28, 1956

Dear Mrs. Brague,

We have just been visiting with Mrs. Brockett who told us the news of your forthcoming operation. Sitting out here in my studio tonight, working until very late, one thought keeps tormenting me. It is this:
I wonder if you have any idea what an inspiration you are to your neighbors, and how truly devoted to you we are? - even though people sometimes find great difficulty showing these things, or expressing them.

You have many silent rooters for your health and well being. Not just those in my immediate family - no; I am sure I speak for everyone whose llife in any way touches yours, even casually. Many a prayer goes up for you that you perhaps do not suspect. The good that you do all of us by your example is more far-reaching than you imagine. I hear it spoken of frequently by the townspeople.

I do not mean this to be a somber letter, nor do I wish to give you the embarrassment of an answer - so just tuck it away in your memory as a bit of information that needed saying. We have boundless admiration for your gallantry and courage - and sometimes it doesn’t hurt to be told those things which all of us feel but which few of us take the trouble to express.

We are very certain that the many and powerful prayers that are being said and the many and powerful wishes that are being formed for you augur well for the success of this operation; and that you have nothing to fear. I am certain of it, which is one of the reasons I am sitting here writing you this clumsy note.

I have sent out word to the Carmelite nuns - those wonderful women who spend their lives in prayer for others - to remember you especially at this time, as I did when you were hospitalized before. And I thought you might like to know that in convents all over this country and Europe your name is being spoken by people who ask the blessings of health and happiness for you, Bobby and Ted.

.................................................................Yours sincerely,

.................................................................Howard


A little over a year later, on October 4, 1957, my mother died of abdominal cancer at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Fort Worth. I was 16. She was 47.

Howard died in 1980 at the age of 60.

5 comments:

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Another important correspondent of Griffin's was Nobel Peace Prize winner Father Dominique Pire, whose 68 letters were sent to Griffin between 1966-68. Pire and Griffin worked together through the University of Peace in Huy, Belgium, and their collaboration included several peace programs and publications.

Elephant's Child said...

A beautiful letter. No wonder she (and you) have treasured it.
Some years ago I realised that if I am unhappy with service I receive I am quick to complain. And made a commitment to myself (which I have kept) that I will compliment people as well as criticise.

Hilltophomesteader said...

A good reminder that we can impact lives by being a quiet voice of prayer and encouragement. All too often I go about my way forgetting to spread a word of cheer or hope. Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Bob. I'm off to the cancer clinic with my sweet lil mama today...Shall we swap prayers? I'm newly reminded to let the nurses know how very much we appreciate them!

LightExpectations said...

How thoughtful of him! Interesting, too, to find out more about him. Thank you for sharing.

All Consuming said...

What a beautiful letter, incredibly thoughtful, I'm sure it touched your mother's heart, and I'm glad he sent it. What a remarkable man. Regaining his sight must have been amazing for him too.