Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Leave 'em laughing

Abraham Lincoln died on this day in 1865. He had been felled the night before by assassin John Wilkes Booth.

Lincoln was watching a play, Our American Cousin, at Ford's Theater in Washington, when one of the actresses called for a shawl to protect her from the draft. One of the actors ad-libbed this reply:

"You are mistaken, Miss Mary, the draft has already been stopped by order of the President!" Lincoln was laughing with the rest of the audience when he was shot.

It is appropriate that laughter was Lincoln's last earthly utterance. It had served him well throughout his short and unhappy life.

As the Civil War was raging, someone once asked Lincoln why he was laughing.

"With the fearful strain that is on me night and day," he replied, "if I did not laugh I should die."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Time to go, Death

Writer Simone de Beauvoir died on this day in 1986. She is buried next to Jean-Paul Sartre, her longtime collaborator/love interest, in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris.

"It is old age, rather than death, that is to be contrasted with life," she wrote. "Old age is life's parody, whereas death transforms life into a destiny: in a way it preserves it by giving it the absolute dimension. . . .

"Death does away with time."

Also on this day, in 1964, writer and conservationist Rachel Carson (Silent Spring) died. She said:

"Every mystery solved brings us to the threshold of a greater one."