For The One Who Died Young

This sweet piece is one from the archives:

A hundred years ago this week she married her young man Michael. Her name was Carrie and her eyes were that bright, bright blue, even in the old photos, her jawline both strong and delicate.

All my life I have studied her photos wondering if she sensed ever what lay ahead for her: the babies coming so quickly, four in six years, and then the fast approaching darkness. She almost certainly didn’t think she would be mother to someone who would be mother to me, here in this age of instant communication.  We missed each other by almost half a century, Carrie Maloney and I. But she left enough behind so I know some things about her anyway:

I know that as a bride she wore a gown of white silk, trimmed with Irish point lace, and that she and Michael traveled to the church “in carriages,” lingered briefly for an informal reception, then “took the cars” – meaning traveled by rail – to begin their wedding journey. “While the groom is dressing up, I’ll say a few words,” she wrote home during that journey. “Thanks for the account of our wedding as it appeared in the Springfield Republican (but now I fear Irish point lace is cheap, is it not?)”

I know she was warm. She signed every note to her groom, “I am, with love, your Carrie.”

She also loved a laugh. 

In a note to him on the eve of the couple’s seventh anniversary she wrote, “Our town has been rather gay and flighty this week: we had a Temperance lecture!” 

It was that very weekend that she took so suddenly sick  In the long quiet days afterward, Michael wrote about it in his journal: the sudden fever; the seizure;  the race to the hospital by horse-drawn ambulance; the surgery to save both mother and baby, for she was six months pregnant with their fifth child.

The surgery failed.  Death came first for the baby, and when she woke briefly from the anesthesia, she saw it coming for her.

Her third child Caroline, who later became my own mother, was only two years old when this happened. But many times in her long life she told me the tale of this doomed young lady; and so, when our own first daughter was born, my husband David and I decided to call her Carrie too, in the hope that she might live long and full, in memory of that other Carrie buried at 31 with her unborn baby in her arms.

This newest Carrie was married last weekend, 100 years exactly after her namesake.

As it happens, she has the same fair skin as her great-grandmother. The same light eyes. And exactly the same strong yet delicate jaw.

On a sudden impulse, less than an hour before ‘our’ Carrie’s ceremony, I dashed to the attic and found the sealed box holding that first bride’s gown so that our own girl could see it.

It was her first sight of the century-old garment and she gasped at the sight, the white silk and Irish point lace now a dark ivory.  And then in this most familiar and human gesture, she lifted it and inhaled deeply.

I like to think that that first Carrie might have somehow felt this; felt it as an embrace even. I like to think she sent her blessing to this new Carrie, all brave and strong and starting out in life.


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