Louie [Strentzel Muir]
803 Wabash Avenue,
Kansas City, Oct. 4, 1885.
Sunday, 9:30 P.M.
We three boys and three girls were with father today. He is still alive, but has failed greatly since I last saw him a week ago. He cannot now speak so as to be understood, though he tries hard and seems to know in a general way what is going on at his bedside.
This morning Mary's little boy came to the bedside and he made signs for me to hold him up to be kissed. Short-lived gleams of recognition are followed by clouds of sleepy feebleness, deepening into complete insensibility, and darkness ,like feeble rays of light from the moor coming through drifting clouds. I am glad that I got Dan to come to make as sure as I could that everything possible was being done to smoothe these last sad childish days of old age as well as to gather once more about him. I don't think he recognized Dan at all, though he gave some faint signs of knowing that lasted but for a moment.
Dan says that he may last a week, possibly more, but is liable to pass away at any moment. Two or three spoonfuls of oatmeal gruel or oatmeal tea rather is all the nourishment he takes. He craves sympathy like an affectionate child and loves to be soothed by holding his hand and stroking his brow. This afternoon he gazed keenly with concentrated attention into my face and drew me down with a low moaning sound to kiss him and held my hand for a long time, and would not let me go when I said "I want to get you a spoonful of water, father", he shook his head feebly and begged by signs for me to lie down on the other side of the bed with him, and when I did so he closed his eyes and then kept waking to consciousness and looking to see that I was there and groping for me with the hand next me. As this is unusual with him I think that he knows faintly who I am. We rode all last night to save time, and did not sleep so we are nervous and tired.
Your telegram was received on my arrival here, though sent to an old address. The present address is at the head of this letter. You are all very kind, Louie, in your willingness to carry my burdens, and I shall do as you say, stay with my poor father to the end. Dan will come to the funeral and so will Maggie and John R. I want mother to come as soon as possible and will call her by telegram today. She ought to have been here weeks ago, but I am afraid she will not be able to endure the fatigue of the journey, as she is not used to travel. Sarah, too, is so feeble I fear she will not [be] able to come, though more likely to try. If these two could come, then we would all be together once more which would likely be the only time in this world. Mary says she often wishes this world were made smaller, so that separation so wide would not be possible. David and Mary intended to leave here for home tomorrow morning, but I hope to hold them for a few days to await changes. In case Mother telegraphs she will try to come, David will meet her in Chicago.
Monday, Oct. 5. 4 P.M.
Father had difficulty in breathing last night, but rallied towards morning. All today he has been restless and in every way seems weaker, has not tried to speak at all. I have been thinking of calling in a photographer, as no portrait of any sort of him has ever been made, but Mary has just completed a crayon sketch, partly from memory, that is better than a photograph now he is so emaciated and his features all over-shadowed by death. She is going to make a copy for me. The other boys ought to have made arrangements for an instantaneous picture years ago, that he need never have known of. The command "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or likeness of any-thing", etc. was his ground of dislike of pictures in general.
Tell Wanda that papa is very anxious to see his little girl, and that he will be glad to get home, and that Maggie has given me a pair of mittens for baby's little handies, and May Reid gave me a nice silver cup with a pretty flower on it for baby, and lots of other things. I'll bring them all home to her. Little Ethel is a good girl, a year younger than Wanda, and would like to know her cousin and play with her, and some day she is coming to California to see her soon, and lots of nice boys that she will some day see.
Farewell, Louie. I'll write again soon, and keep you advised Love to your mother and father,
...Kansas City, [Mo]
1885 Oct 4
Original letter dimensions: 20 x 12.5 cm.
Muir, John, "Letter from John Muir to Louie [Strentzel Muir], 1885 Oct 4." (1885). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 1637.
Reel 05, Image 0485
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