Thank you, Susan

I see you, Susan. I watch you hoeing in your garden. Carefully you cherish the turnips, pumpkins, squash, for they mean life for you and husband William and son George.

Now you stand erect, and I watch you shift the weight of your baby, who sleeps in the sling which hangs from your shoulders. It is a fair day in the forest of Rhode Island. A summer day. I think that you may be remembering that morning when you said farewell to your native land.

I wonder whether you may be longing for your parents' home in London. Do you miss the fine carriage in which you spent so many happy afternoons? Do you long for the embroidered gowns you wore in that other life?

I believe that you do miss these things when the loneliness of the forest presses against your door in the night. But I know you well enough to be certain you do not regret the choice you made.

You have known danger and fear. Yet your faith has never faltered. Even unto this day, it is a candle flame against the modern darkness.

How do I know this? Because I have your diary, Susan. Across more than 300 years you have come to tell us what it was like back there in that other time. Here are your very words: ''I was born in Devonshire, England, in the year of our Lord 1608, on October the thirtieth. I married William Carr of London, May 16, 1629. My son, George Carr, was born January the fifth in 1631.

''It was a summer day as I stood on our ship's deck beside my husband with my infant son closely folded to my breast. I took a last view forever of my native isle, and forever bade it adieu, and all the scenes of my childhood home. My heart ached, while the bitter tears blinded my eyes.

''Then the order was given by our captain to cast off our moorings, and our ship stood out in the Thames. After all sails were spread we took our course down the river. Each spot along its banks was dear to my soul, and while I was sad, the passengers, there being thirty-five, were singing and making merry that they were going to America. I could not join them for my heart was very sad.

''Our voyage was very pleasant for twenty-one days out to sea, and then we encountered a storm which lasted all the afternoon and the following night.

''The weather was clement the rest of the way, and on the sixth day of November, 1631, the anchor cast at dark some way out to sea for fear of unseen rocks. Next morning the boats were lowered. We landed.

''We lived with Brother George through the winter, living mostly on what game we caught. It was a cold tedious winter with deep snow. But game was plentiful such as deer and moose.

''On June the first, 1632, Husband and I started southwest in search of a warmer climate. We had a pocket compass and an Indian guide.

''I carried my son George in my arms, and on my back through a dense forest settled only with wild beasts and Indians. But we met with few of the former and none of the latter.

''After being forty-eight days on our journey, July 18th, Husband concluded to stop and build a log cabin and to settle for life.

''Husband, the Indian and myself built the log cabin. My long journey through the forest and the hard labor I had done in helping to build our cabin had its effect on me. I felt nearly worn out.

''I had left my wealthy parents and my only brother Robert, in England, and had faced the storms and perils of the ocean, with my noble companion. To him I had given my early love, and pledged my hand for life. He was ever kind to me.

''Before leaving England my father gave me a hundred pounds in gold coin. My brother gave me two doubloons in gold. This gold coin I sewed into the wadding of my petticoat. My mother gave me her gold diamond ring. She took her gold watch from her pocket and gave it to me. It cost twenty-five pounds.

''She also gave me her gold locket and the gold chain which she wore with her watch, and bade me keep them to remember her by. The locket cost ten pounds, and I lost it in my journey through the wilderness. But it was found by an Indian hunter and returned to me.

''In 1635 Robert and Caleb Carr, Husband's brother Benjamin's two sons, were sent over from London to live with their Uncle William, my husband. They all had fine times hunting with the Indians, who were our good friends.

''Our clothes and bedding which we had brought from England, were worn out, and so we wore furs and skins like the Indians. I also sewed many fur blankets, for all our bedding was of fur.

''But in all these years I was mindful to educate my son George, although we were in a nameless wilderness.''

Susan's diary tells us that Roger Williams, accompanied by several of his followers, came to live near them in the forest. Susan writes: ''A meeting was held in our cabin, and we offered up our thanks to God that we had met on this side of the ocean in a free land. How my heart thanked God that our noble leader had come to live with us and preach and teach us to love God and keep his commandments!''

Ah, Susan, did you not know that your path was hard and uneven? Did it not occur to you to protest and make nonnegotiable demands?

I feel sure Susan would reply in words like these: ''Do not insult my soul with foolish and profane questions. I thank God for His gifts of faith and health, which permit me to accomplish those tasks appointed to my life.''

Yes, I can see you, Susan. I watch you at family prayers. By the hearth there is a wooden cradle. While you sew, you are gently rocking it with your foot. A new baby sleeps there.

Thank you, Susan, for all that you were, and for what you are to me now.

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