Monday, October 10, 2011

Death and Postage Stamps Are on the Agenda

Wardner's Castle 1103 15th St. Fairhaven, Whatcom, Washington
John Earles' residence in 1905 according to records from relatives. No one knows who the family is in this picture. Could it be John, Bridget and the children?

Olympia, Washington, Tuesday, January 12, 1909. 
The Senate was called to order at 10 o'clock a. m., by President Coon.
Rev. E. L. Swick offered prayer.
The secretary called the roll, all members being present. .....

"Resolved. That the sergeant-at-arms is hereby authorized and directed to supply each member of the Senate and to the president, secretary and assistant secretary of the Senate five dollars worth of postage stamps...


"Whereas. In His infinite wisdom. Divine Providence has seen fit to remove from his sphere of activity and influence among us John Earles, a former member of the Senate of the State of Washington and of the House of Representatives. 

"Resolved. That as further mark of respect to the memory of the deceased the secretary of the Senate be instructed to transmit a copy of these resolutions, suitably engrossed, to the family of the deceased." 

(Don't forget to use your new stamps!)


The family of the deceased... 

That would be Bridget  and her eight children. The ones who would open that letter with all of its resolutions and whereas', and the sorry-for-your-losses written , folded, sealed and delivered by people, probably friends from a now former world. 

When I first saw this record I thought, "That's interesting. A former senator. There's no story there. People like that get their stories told over and over again." I wasn't impressed. I think I have a bit of reverse snobbery going on... But I read the document from beginning to end anyways. 

It left me cold. I have let it sit with me for about two weeks. What's there to say about a moment in time? I wasn't there. Neither were John, his widow Bridget Earles, nor their grieving children.

But when I hear about someones passing my heart stops for a few seconds, and I think about the people left behind. Husbands, wives, sons and daughters. Maybe parents, too. I was very bothered and couldn't understand why.

I think I saw myself and my life in Bridget more than I wanted to admit. 

Bridget was 48 when her husband John died. He was only 50. So am I. She moved south to Seattle, close to Michael Earles, her brother-in-law. He was the president of a logging company in Seattle and had a wife and young daughter, Betty. Remember him

 Bridget never worked. So say the 1910, '20 and '30 census records. She never remarried. That fact alone kills me. I have so many questions for her. Was John irreplaceable? Was she depressed? Did eight children scare everyone away? What did she do with her time? 

Those are the things I ponder. I can picture Bridget perusing the minutes from that meeting of former colleagues and friends when it was delivered to her home on a January day in 1909. Would she be as perplexed as I was when she read the resolution about postage stamps being on the same page as the "marking of respect for the deceased's passing?"

Which would chill her more? The frigid winter air or the stark reality that her husband's passing was noted and checked off as one of the duties of the day for all in attendance of a mandatory senate meeting?

No matter how many times I reread that one Washington State Senate document I can't get past the postage stamps. That one resolution speaks volumes about life and death.

Life goes on. But for a time two worlds overlap. One is relegated to the world of memories, the other to the nuts and bolts of every day living. The present. The now. The one that uses those postage stamps. 

In between the two is a place where time stands still. Where  emotions play while hearts sing their songs. and paint vivid pictures of how a person's life has affected us. It's an unpredictable and private world that pops up out of no where and demands attention NOW. No letters come nor go from there. No need for postage stamps because what happens there will find its way to the player's face and will tell the story in his eyes.

I have always been and hope to always be moved by what my imagination sees going on "between the lines". I want to be the kind of neighbor and friend that would look into Bridget's eyes and offer support for her to slip into that world freely and fully. Perhaps that's exactly what Michael and his family did for her. I hope so.

The facts tell me that Bridget lived for 25 more years. That's a long time for a widow. I'll find out more about her as I search newspapers that might show her as a member of a society or social club in Washington. It's obvious that most of her time was spent raising her children. While most were still in school, the oldest became teachers and even a musician in an orchestra.

Her life went on. Maybe she found a cause to champion or a purpose for her life that would keep her engaged and feeling vital.

Nothing she did will impress me as much as her endurance and the questions that her life encourages me to ask myself.


  1. I wonder about a lot of these things too. I wonder if the minutes truly recorded what happened at the meeting.

    Perhaps they spoke kindly about her husband and shared some thoughts but it wasn't recorded.

  2. I want to be the kind of neighbor and friend that would look into Bridget's eyes and offer support for her to slip into that world freely and fully.

  3. Hi... I was randomly searching my name on google and decided to search my maiden name because it's been a while. All I ever turned up when searching my maiden name in the past was a Ship Manifest from Ellis Island and some other random things about my grandfather. My maiden name is Bridget Earles. So when I found your blog I was so excited! I want to know what else you found out! Would you email me at I want to hear more!

    1. Absolutely! Is your family from Washington State? That's where a lot of this Earles family settled. Are you on I'll send you the tree if it'll let me and a story about Bridget's husband, John, that inspired this post.

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What do you think? I'd love to know.