Sunday, February 1, 2009

The day Lil’ Eddie died

In the nineteenth century, many more families faced the death of children than today. Yet, even in those times, losing a little one wasn’t easy and often left a lifelong mark on the hearts and psyches of parents who gave birth to and nurtured these young souls.

One hundred fifty-eight years ago today (Feb.1, 1850), after nursing their almost four-year-old son, Edward Baker Lincoln, for more than seven weeks, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln had to say good-bye to wee Eddie forever. This was the first of three sons Mary was to lose in her lifetime and one of two Lincoln would see die before his assassination. For Mary, the death was devastating. For Lincoln, who had to be strong for his fragile-temperament wife, it must have been just as hard, but he wore his grief in different ways.

For a short online biography of Eddie, see Roger Norton’s Abraham Lincoln Research Site. To learn more about the lad and the impact of his death on his parents, read just about any biography of Lincoln, Mrs. Lincoln or the family. I don’t think I’ve read one yet which didn’t speak of the young boy and the abyss his loss created in his parents’ lives.

My favorite Eddie story has always been the excerpt from a letter Lincoln wrote to his wife when he was serving in Congress in Washington, D.C. and she was living with her family in Kentucky. Just imagine this big, strong giant of a man walking into a Washington store, searching for the pair of tiny plaid socks for his little man to please his distant wife.

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