Century #19: War’s Legacy

From the journal of Lita Hopkins



Charles has agreed to aid Professor Coyle with his book on early Christian monastic life and its lineage to the present. I am not sure if that is exactly it, but it is mostly about the first Christian communities. The Professor is full of knowledge and ideas, but needs help with some of the writing, and Charles being a first rate editor will be touring the mainland with him to become familiar with the material enough to assist in the writing. Charles is most enthusiastic about the project, which has brought him out of a low period he fell into these last few days. He says it should take about a month to visit the key sites, meanwhile I will stay here with the children and Nancy. Mr. Bramble and his “pirate” friend will stay to help us. Mr. Bramble said, “One paradise is much like another, and this has the best people.” And so is happy to stay on. We will be able to sail up to visit Mae on “Lola”.


I am worried about Charles, he has begun coughing again. He is so weak at times, but being a man strives not to give in or show any weakness. He was in bed two days after the sailing, and only fully recovered this morning. His lungs never recovered from being gassed during the war. I remember he was such a strapping and dashing fellow before the war.  He seemed to have come out of it all strong and whole without deep harm, but in the last three years the war seems to have caught up with him. He wakes from nightmares sweating and moaning, but can’t tell me about what he was dreaming. He has become distant and locked in his mind. I believe he is ashamed of not being always strong, able to defeat his demons single handed. He blames himself for what the world has done to him. I wish I could wrap his shame in a bag and throw it in the sea.

He will not talk to me about the war. I know many dark and terrible things happen in war to shatter men. Doctors glue them back together, but the cracks remain. I know Charles has considered ending his life, and that it is probably the children and myself which hold him in this world. And yet I think it is because he is often not strong enough to take charge of our lives that drives him into the darkness. I try my best to show him that I consider him a brave and shining example of a man and that no other companion will do for me. I am afraid that I alone cannot pull him out of this darkness into which he slips deeper daily. I hope that his work with Professor Coyle will excite his intellectual curiosity enough to distract him into the light. I fear most that I and children are a burden he cannot bear. I cannot let him read this. I do not know why I risk writing it besides the fact that I can tell no one and must release my anxieties or burst.

I have written to Hunter, hinting vaguely at some of the problems, and begging him to come when Charles has returned. He has a way of talking with Charles, and anyone else he meets, that makes one feel protected and able to talk of things that seem out of reach. If anyone can give Charles renewed hope and courage to face his life, it will be Hunter. I am ashamed to say that having Charles away and busy will be a relief to me. I will miss him no doubt, his gentle intelligence and good-natured appreciation of the world when he is not too burdened. I find it amazing that they could train such a gentle man to kill. War is an abominable enterprise and waste of good men. Even after twelve years it reaches its black hand to squeeze the life out of what should be happy times.

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