Early in the First World War, after my great grandmother, Edie, had seen off first her husband, then her older son as a doctor to Europe, and lastly her younger one to Egypt, she was left living alone for the first time in her life. With her dedication to war work, she did not have a great deal of time for socialising, but one place she sought company was at the Womens' Club. One day when she called in there for lunch she found an envelope waiting for her, plain and buff coloured, with the words For Mrs Digby with Mrs Ranken's love. Inside was a poem, A Mother's Song, a heart rending reminder that, no matter what country you were from, no matter what relationship you have to the soldier, whether son or brother, "it little matters whose boy if you are one boy's mother". To include this in Violet and Rose's performance reading of A Dreadful Time for Mothers, the wonderful Nadine Budge put the poem to music which adds much to its power and poignancy, and reduces many to tears.
As I listened again to it today, I started reflecting on the story, the journey of this poem. When Mrs Ranken carefully wrote out the words, as she waited for the ink to dry, folded it, popped it into the envelope, as she wrote on the envelope to ensure Edie would receive it, there is no way she could she have envisaged the journey it would take, and the effect it would have on those who read or heard it over the years. That Edie kept it so carefully so that it made its way through time to touch us as we listen, to me is nothing short of a small miracle. What a story it could tell.