OPINION: A letter to Abe in the beyond

By Paul R. Scollan

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

Mr. President, like all school kids, I learned about the textbook you — you know, the log cabin, self-educated by firelight, store clerk honest to a fault, rail-splitter, country lawyer, and so on. I wonder if you shake your head and blush now in the beyond when thinking about that larger-than-life Abe as Legend, and if you’d have a Shakespeare soliloquy befitting it or a funny folksy story to illustrate the perils of getting above one’s raising or too big for one’s britches.

I fondly recall reading your letter from Grace Bedell, that 11-year-old girl from New York who suggested you grow a beard to improve your appearance in the 1860 campaign for presidential election. You wrote her a gentle and gracious reply, and took her advice. That touched me in a way, and may have something to do with my writing you today.

Mr. President, I’m two decades older than you when you stepped foot in the Ford Theater.  I’ve been a big admirer of yours, having read many biographies about you and histories of the Civil War. I can’t fathom the depths of suffering and anguish the country endured — and you, too. That not enough, losing your sons Tad and Willie as well. I see it in your deep-lined face and bent burdened posture in Matthew Brady’s photographs.  I can’t help but wonder whether Booth’s bullet was God’s mercy for a depleted and soul-doubting Abraham with little more to give.

Sir, what I admire most about you is that you’d never gotten too settled or complacent with a set of beliefs or ideas, that your thinking was always evolving and leaning toward the ideals of the founders and your rooted conscience. And this was why you appointed a contentious bi-partisan cabinet who would keep you honest (pun intended) and give you cogent counter-arguments for discussion before making decisions.

Mr. Lincoln, can you tell us from the other side of the veil what we should do to save our nation equally divided and misguided?  I’d understand if you say you’d decided to cut off news from us in the Beyond.  If I had to guess when, I’d say it was after your Reconstruction plans fell apart when your VP Andrew Johnson took over, and others to follow.

I won’t hold you in less esteem, Sir, if you don’t answer this letter.  After all, we created this mess and it’s up to us to get ourselves out of it.  Oh, we’ll get out of it for sure, but I wonder if democracy gets out unscathed, or standing.

Respectfully, Paul R. Scollan  

A Connecticut native residing in Meriden for 35 years, Paul R. Scollan is retired after a long career as licensed clinical social worker in community mental health. His three books of published poetry are “Liberty Street Hill,” “Unaccounted For,” and “Bagful of Bags.” In retirement, Scollan has been a literacy volunteer teaching English as a Second Language and a hospice volunteer with the Franciscan Life Center.


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