“Such a Different Light”


    My mother said the letters were lost. Then she said she’d burned them, which didn’t sound like her. Sometime after she went to a nursing home, I opened a box and found them; she smiled when I told her. In the place of the ones she burned, a single letter remained, her own letter to Vung—not mailed. It was written over several days beginning April 28, 1949, after Vung-Tsing had returned to China.

Dear Vung,

    It is raining steadily which is nice on gardens and fields.  Today I felt relieved at school because I knew that Gary is over the worst of his illness, and then I guess we will be ready for the mumps.  I hope not.  I have a big letter ready for the mail but I wonder if you will get it.  I hope our mails will not be broken.  I enjoy your letters so much and feel that I can’t be without them.  I’m so glad you had a nice rest at home.  So glad you saw your father and mother.  I know you are too busy almost to enjoy my letters, as if there is anything to enjoy.  I know my letters aren’t as interesting as yours, but you find my love I hope.  I drink in all that you are doing.  See you in your work, and feel proud of you for every accomplishment.  I should not say what I wish.  Cannot do what I want to, but you know how much I love you.  My sister Dean saw Dad last weekend but didn’t come on here because she supposed that Gary might be taking measles—which was right.  So I still have not seen her.  I will have another good night of rest, I hope, to catch up with my lost sleep.  Goodnight!

    April 30.  Friday.  I have just read again some of your past letters.  I can keep these.  They are letters I need not destroy.  I memorize your words and remember everything you have told me.  I was interested in the visits you made to the factories and am glad with you that no accident happened.  How much will it cost to fix the truck?  Will the school pay for that or you?  Well, I’m like you—the thing to be happy about is that no one was hurt.  And so you are teaching farming?  Do you want some help?  I’m afraid I couldn’t tell you very much, because I’m not very interested, but I will help.  I thought of you for a long, long time last night before I went to sleep and decided I must tell you again that I am expecting to you to tell me when you think “the time will come.”  Will it be soon or later?  What about this July angle?  Won’t that necessitate an early date?  I’m wondering.  I can’t insist?  I can’t delay!  I can’t help you because I might do wrong.  I know nothing about conditions that you know about.  My opinion might influence you and be bad for you.  All I want is the best for you—at whatever date.  Of course, I love you.  Most certainly—my love is yours.  Yes, I am so happy that you had a nice visit with your parents and I am glad you could have the eggs.  This pleases me very much.  I suppose they never got the candy.  I am so sorry for this.  I believe it is true that those parcels sent to an institution arrive when those to a residence may not.  I’d love to clean up your office and desk.  I’d wash for you too and love it.  You are my own—my very own Vung.  It seems that I have known you forever.

    Saturday Night.  April 30.  On the last month of school, only 2 more weeks, and only four more Saturdays to Commerce [where I am taking a course at the university].

    Sunday Morning.  May 1.  Dearest Vung, I have felt so worried all night long.  I try and try to push this out of my mind but I can’t.  If you were here I could tell you and we could talk and you would understand.  I wanted to tell you last night but I didn’t know how.  I guess I will just have to wait, because I know already that you know me quite well and love me enough, I hope, to understand everything.  Why am I so unlearned in so much—other people seem to know all about everything and I don’t understand a single thing until I am shown face to face?  Well—Something terrible has happened in Fort Worth and I am learning from these women who talk so much on the way to and from Commerce.  I just can’t stand these stories, true as they may be, and I don’t know what to think of all that I have done.  I don’t know that you can forgive me or God or anybody.  I certainly had never thought of us in any light other than the fact that you are Vung and I love you and have so much fun with you and am happy in the highest degree when I am with you.  After hearing all the comments, such a different light comes over my whole world and I am afraid and need your strength and your wisdom.  My whole heart throbs with grateful love and appreciation for the way you took care of me during my time of greatest weakness.  I shall never cease to love you.  My admiration mounts to unconquerable heights when I think of your goodness and I thank God for you.  You rule my earthly heart—and my one desire is to be like you.  Count on me always as one who will not fail you.  God first—and may I be next?  I have so much to tell you—if I could.  Until then, I love you.  Be good, take care of yourself, don’t work too hard please and send me your needs.  I want to help you—not hurt you.  I’m so worried and upset and confused.  I could not stand any more.

    May 2.  Monday.  Home from school again to read the daily news.  I learn that the Red army is moving toward Hangchow, that Shanghai may be by passed.  I hear not a word about Soochow.  I have you in my mind all the time hoping and praying for the best of everything for you and our China.  I have so much to tell you.  I need to see you and talk to you and then I would feel better I am sure.  I have about made up my mind not to mail these sheets.  You are so busy I doubt if you miss the days I fail to mail.  Maybe you won’t even notice—and if you do, you won’t check, because you are too busy.
Within my own walls I will know I have written you—but just didn’t mail.  In this way you won’t have to know that I am worried, and you will be happier.  I don’t know anything to say.  Once on the way to Ravenna this Saturday morning, Clayton said, “Have you written to Margo lately?”  I told him that I hadn’t and he was very provoked.  He says I have forsaken all of my friends and added reproachfully, “You would turn down the whole world for Vung.”  I felt very sad.  I try—I did try to deny this but he continued—”not your children maybe but everybody else.”  With a sigh I said nothing.  I know I must do something else [or] my “whole world round about me” will come toppling down some day and many people will be hurt and unhappy—then you will be blamed, as well as I, and God will ask us for an account.  Well, a letter which I may never mail, can contain anything, I guess.  I blame myself for everything.  It is all my fault.  As I learn more and more and think more and more, I am convinced of how wrong I have done.  For this reason, I must be forgiven.  How, I don’t know, but God will manage, I know.  It is my job now to make the situation better and not worse.  My love from now on is strong—not weak.  Strong like yours, and yours is the best one can imagine.  You are a perfect Christian and I love you beyond words.  Gladys

She told me:  It could be a beautiful, sunny day, but when I looked out there was nothing but darkness. I started by asking God to understand, and forgive me, to look at my life and forgive me. But he didn’t. I prayed long hours beside that old divan in the living room, and I walked the floors when nobody was around. Finally, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stand it if God didn’t forgive me. So I told him I’d do anything he wanted, that I’d give up anything to have forgiveness. And it happened: God took it away. This experience went down to the the very center of my life, so that afterwards there could never be any doubt that God is with me. Looking back over all the years that went before, and looking ahead to every new worry that would come, I knew that, whatever it was, it would be alright.

“Something terrible has happened...”

1949 April 26: (Fort Worth Star Telegram)  Arthur C. Heston was on trial for the murder of ....

Mrs. Pinkston was on the witness stand:

Q.  “Was Dr. Lord friendly or not?”

A.  “Well, he spoke.”

Q.  “Well, was he friendly?” Clyde persisted.

A.  “I just wouldn’t know what to say in a case like that.  Arthur was always friendly.”  [Mrs. Pinkston also remembered Arthur’s singing.]  “We’d hear him early in the morning, day after day.”

            [April 30]

Q.  “Are you sorry for what happened out there on March 8, Arthur?”

A.  “Yes sir, I am.”

Q.  “If the jury sees fit to give you another chance will you promise never to give any more trouble and to be a law-abiding citizen from now on?”

Q.  “Did you intend to kill Dr. Lord on March 8, 1949?”  Hester didn’t seem to hear the judge’s call for a halt.  “No, sir, I did not,” he said.

    1998: The Gathered Words was “betrayal of trust”.

    And other words cut home: “It’s horrible! Why did you have to tell about the Chinese woman? We’ve known you all your life. The only reason your mother told you was so you wouldn’t feel so bad about yourself.”