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Friday, December 8, 2006

A Beautiful Epitaph

While reading "The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge" by David McCullough, I came across a passage referring to the death of Emily Roebling, the wife of Washington Roebling, that I found particularly poignant.

Emily Roebling was a brilliant woman who effectively took control of the Bridge's construction while her great husband remained bed-ridden with illness for several years as the bridge was finished. Althought it was believed by many that she was simply transmitting her husband's orders to the engineers on the bridge she actually learned civil engineering and directed much of the work during the final stages of building. (In fact, on the first crossing of the bridge she led the way across while her husband presumably watched the ceremony from his window).

The years of turmoil, illness, the Civil War, the raising of their own family, and inestimable obstacles of every variety both technical and political must have forged a bond between them almost inexpressible in words. So, I found the below even more fitting for its beautiful and elegant simplicity which I can only presume Mr. Roebling felt he could not improve upon.

McCullough writes:

"In the file of Roebling's letters kept by his son there is an envelope marked 'Undated notes, clippings, etc. found among W.A.R.'s [Washington A. Roebling's] papers after his death.' Among the items in the envelope is a much-worn paper on which Roebling had copied in pencil an epitaph Mark Twain inscribed on the grave of his daughter

Warm summer sun, shine kindly here;
Warm southern wind, blow softly here;
Green sod above, lie light, lie light-
Good-night, dear heart, good-night, good-night. "

(Mark Twain wrote this epitaph for his daughter Suzy Clemens at Woodlawn Cemetery,Elmira, N.Y)

p.s. We live in an age when the likes of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are a constant reminder of the depraved inanity of our culture. It is a sad state of affairs when the stories of women like Emily Roebling and Abigail Adams are all but forgotten.

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