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Issue of October 22, 2014

A hope note
A hope note
Dr. Wayne Willis reflects on life and hope.

Life happens

June 25, 2014 | 10:19 AM

Robert graduated from high school at the top of his class and won a scholarship to Dartmouth. Bored, disappointed and missing Elinor White, his fiancé and high school co-valedictorian who had enrolled in another college, he dropped out of Dartmouth after one semester. Returning home, he tried to convince Elinor to marry him immediately. She insisted that she would have to finish college first and that he would first have to have some success at writing poetry.

Robert began to hear reports that she was dating other men. One letter from her convinced him that their relationship, already very tense, was over. Depressed out of his mind, at age 20, he took a train and then a steamboat to the most depressing place he had ever heard of, the Dismal Swamp on the border of Virginia and North Carolina.

It was dark when he arrived, but he started wading into the Dismal Swamp, full of vines and logs and water moccasins, not caring whether he lived or died. Ten miles into the swamp, he came upon a boat of duck hunters who transported him back to civilization.

Surviving that suicidal period, Robert Frost became one of America's greatest poets. After she finished college, Elinor married Robert. Their personal lives were full of grief and loss. Four of their six children died young.

Robert Frost died full of years, at 88. Inscribed on his tombstone are these words: "I Had a Lover's Quarrel with the World."

When we were young, most of us had some "wish to die" days. Possibly all the grownups reading this are glad that they did not act on those feelings.

Beware of any behavior that is permanent and irreversible. 'Tis far better to carry on a lover's quarrel with the world.

Dr. Wayne Willis

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