Here’s another oddly formal letter that Byrne saved. She is writing to her only grandchild, the son born to her beloved Janie. Janie was the daughter killed by a drunk driver the year I met Byrne. Maybe its tone had to do with the certainty she felt that people would always be interested in her life, especially the personal parts. As it turns out, her personal papers became part of the Beaufort County Library’s special collections. This particular letter I love for the way she tells it like it is, sans any trappings of sentimentality. It was written on the eve on an operation – just in case.
“You should know that I love you deeply. My life has been very happy and, I think, successful beyond my merits. I believe that you do have the merit, and wish for you all the happiness one can know. Jane, who was my friend as well as my daughter, would feel and say the same, so I am talking to you for us both: life can be rich and full – but you have to love your work and work like hell, to earn it. Go for it, my dear Grandson!”
I always wondered what her grandson thought of her work-like-hell advice. At the time she sent this letter he was a follower of the Grateful Dead and an aspiring drummer. If any of you know what happened to him, let me know!