Only five weeks after losing her husband, on March 12, 1966, Frank Stevens’ widow writes a long letter to her mother-in-law Agnes Tully Stevens in Chicago. As far as calendars go, five weeks can be a substantial chunk of time. When talking about a loss as sudden and significant this, it is as if the unendurable becomes immovable.
And yet, life goes on. News gets out, spreading ever farther as friends mention to acquaintances about the horrible wreck back in New Mexico. The love keeps pouring in, hoping—somehow—to make a difference.
Dear Mom, Pat + Mike,
Received your letter today Mom, also Pat’s package with all the wonderful letters and cards, also Mutz sent theirs. Am so glad so many masses are being said for Steve….
Am sending a small picture, this was made 2 yrs ago last Dec. He looked younger, but the best picture he ever had made, the same photo hangs in the K. C. Hall in Alamogordo. I chose this one, at the time as it’s just like him. I have a large one for us Mom, as soon as I get the Ins. I’ll have a big one made for you.
Agnes Tully Stevens, a working widow herself, may be mentoring her recently-bereaved daughter-in-law regarding the stark financial realities of life in an era when Dad was the only bread-winner. The letter is full of numbers stacked this way and that, trying to stretch too few dollars into too many slots.
Yes Mom I’ll always have to work, by the time I pay taxes, Ins., utility, food, clothing and school the V.A. and S. Security just wouldn’t do with four kids to clothe and give a very small allowance.
I thought I’d have enough to work part time but afraid not, also I feel I must save a little each mo. in case I would get ill or something.
The choices reflect personal priorities and respect for the dreams the couple had for their children’s futures. Sometimes, those choices look quite different in the cast of a harsher light.
I did get a new car, imagine Ed told you the good deal my friend gave me, but I just couldn’t see putting $300 in the V. W. and it being too small. Everett said this car will do me 5 yrs, what a laugh it’ll do 12 yrs. but I don’t mind just so I can raise our kids right and give them a good Catholic education.
But it’s not the money that weighs most heavily in this household—it’s the absence of Frank’s presence….
Sometimes I think I can’t stand being so alone, but I always pray and God helps me over the bad days. The Priests are always checking to be sure I’m doing alright, am so lucky Fr. Baca, and Fr. Bean are here, only wish you could meet them.
…or the reminders that, in some way, he is still there, shining through a child’s face…
I’m so glad I have him, he’s his Daddy all over again.
Understandably, for those four children, the difficult times continue to impact them. With a total range of ten years difference in their ages, each one has a different response to the loss. Though family and friends each give what comfort they can, this is a loss that will shape who they become.
The other children are doing fair…fallen down in their grades but their teachers say this is to be expected at a time like this. They’re good kids and breaks my heart to see them have these sad spells but only natural
over for them to grieve over their Daddy. We try to remember the good times, as much as we can, we had with Steve.
We’ve received over 400 card letters etc., from all over U.S. and overseas. Also a beautiful certificate from the president honoring Steve’s memory, this I’ll frame.
I hope you’re feeling better Pat, I’ve remember you at mass ever day. Also all the family am so glad I have all my family, John’s been so good writing. Only wish some were here but realize that’s impossible.