By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Father John Spiegel thinks his mother Dorothy wrote the letter addressed to him and his three older brothers after the unexpected death in 1969 of her husband, their father Ben. The letter conveys the love and faith Dorothy and Ben shared with each other and instilled in their sons, C.R. “Dick,” Msgr. Bob, Father Tom and Father John. The brothers discovered the letter in their mother’s belongings after her death in October 1993.
Father Spiegel, now retired from active ministry, shared the letter with me. He reflected on it in his videotaped message for parishioners of St. Mary parishes in Oskaloosa and Pella around Mother’s Day, when Catholics were staying at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After reporting on our diocese’s first virtual marriage preparation program for this week’s Catholic Messenger, I chose to share Dorothy’s letter exactly as she wrote it some 50 years ago, seven years before Father John’s ordination:
To my dear Sons
Dick, Fr. Bob, Fr. Tom and John,
“It is with love that I have today given to you the material things that your father and I have accumulated during our years together. It gives me great pleasure to do this and I hope it is enough to give each of you some of the extras of life that are good. The material gifts only bring you transience joy.
The greatest gift we bequeath to you is the gift of Faith. It is a treasure given to us and we have tried to guard it well and enrich it with the years.
Do not take it lightly but accept it and treasure it always. If necessary protect it with your life, for indeed it is your life.
The dividends are there in good times and in poorer times. It will never bring you sorrow and its joys and promises have no end.
You can now rejoice with me and know that I have gone on to be with the Giver of the treasure and will be in the company of all those dear ones who have gone ahead of me.
I shall continue in some way to be near you always, and until you too shall join the family of God, I now say farewell. Our next hand clasp shall not be broken.
Thank you for having given to us, each in your own way, so much in return for the love we have given you. God bless you and love you always.
“Our father died unexpectedly of a heart attack and I think she felt a need to do something because she wanted to make sure she could communicate these thoughts to us,” Father John said. However, she apparently did not feel a need to share the letter before her own death.
When he and his brothers read the letter, “I think we were taken aback that she wanted to share this heartfelt message with us, of the love and faith that she and my dad shared,” Father John said. He was home from college when his father died, apparently while praying the rosary, per usual practice, before going to work in the morning to the barbershop he owned in Burlington.
Father John had the letter framed, accompanied by his parents’ wedding picture, and keeps it in a prominent place in his home.
Now all of us — married, preparing for marriage or single — can reflect on this letter which speaks so eloquently to the Christian vocation of marriage, and the gift of faith.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at firstname.lastname@example.org)