13. Anniversaries

Birthdays and wedding anniversaries were gala days in the family, especially Mr. Bemis's birthday, when there was always a large dinner party with intimate friends added to the family group. Fun and abounding cheer were invariably among the good things provided. As these days came around there was no abatement of interest in them and of cheerful outward observance.

For many years very definite plans were made by the children for the golden wedding of their father and mother, on November 21, 1916. That was to be the crowning day of all the family days, and though Mrs. Bemis sometimes protested against planning for it, saying that she couldn't expect to see that day, as it approached she took much pleasure in the plans her children made for it. They were all to come home, each bringing one or more of the grandchildren. Their mother was to have no care whatever in connection with the celebration. Mrs. Taylor, the only one whose home was in Colorado Springs, made arrangements to have the family dinner in her own house and later in the evening a reception for friends.

The summer of 1916 was passed as usual at Mohonk, and was followed by the stay of some weeks in Boston that Mr. and Mrs. Bemis made each autumn. While there, Mrs. Bemis had a fall, which later proved to have serious effects. This was barely a month before the golden wedding, and though she tried to treat it lightly and took the journey to Colorado Springs, on arriving there she consulted her physician, who said that a surgical operation was necessary. She wanted to postpone it until after the golden wedding celebration, but he was not willing to risk any delay, and on November 16 she went through the ordeal. The convalescence was more rapid than the family had dared to hope, but they knew that the situation was still serious when the wedding day came. To them fell the delicate task of planning to observe it so that Mrs. Bemis would not know it was done with anxious hearts, and of making it only a time of rejoicing, and withal to do this in a way that would not tax her in the least.

There was an early dinner for old and young, with one vacant place, in the family home. Letters, telegrams, and whatever else had been written for the occasion were read, and then all went to the hospital for a short call. Five grandchildren were there, representing each of the three families; with Mr. Bemis and their parents they entered the invalid's room in procession. Each child carried a long-stemmed golden chrysanthemum, the girls dressed in white with yellow ribbon bows on their hair, the boys wearing yellow neckties; the older ones each gave her a few words of greeting as cheerfully as if they had come with light hearts from a feast where there was no shadow. "Just like the Bemises," it was said.

She was able to listen to a number of letters and telegrams and to enjoy some of the flowers that had been sent in great abundance to the house. In writing of that day, one of her children says: "I shall never forget her face looking so thin and delicate but so beaming with happiness and the humorous twinkle of her eyes behind her spectacles. Grandpa walked at the head of the procession looking very proud and happy and making a great tramping and show at keeping time. Dorée Taylor's golden curls were like sunshine, and we were all so happy to think that in spite of all our fears Mama Bemis was still with us. How glad we all are that we had that happy time together!"

All her good pluck and its continuance in the days that followed had its good result. At first the convalescence was surprisingly rapid, and in a few weeks she was able to leave the hospital and begin the climb back to her old strength. It was a trying winter, but a trip to California helped her much, so that when she reached Mohonk for her last stay there the gain was marked and she moved about with ease. One of her friends who spent the summer near her states that she spoke often of this gain, and showed her old cheer and interest in all that affected her friends and in the stirring events throughout the world and especially in the great war into which we had entered; and that she talked more often than was her wont of the inner life and of the inevitable change--the great adventure--and the revelations it would bring. She spoke as if she thought it might come to her in the near future, but always with a quiet acceptance of it as one experience in the continuous life.

For one reason only she would have it delayed, that her husband might not have to take the rest of his journey alone. This wish was not fulfilled, for the transition came quickly. She was spared what would have been difficult for one with her independent spirit--a long time of physical dependence on others. On October 9 she left Boston with her husband for Colorado. A slight cold which she had seemed better on reaching Chicago, but on arriving home it increased, and though she tried to ignore it for a day or two, she was obliged to call her physician. It soon proved very serious; double pneumonia developed rapidly, and on the 18th, with her husband and all her children around her, she passed peacefully and without pain into the fuller life.

A brief service was held in the First Congregational Church of Colorado Springs on the afternoon of the following day, and in the evening Mr. Bemis and all his family left for the east with the body which, on October 23, was laid in the Newton Cemetery beside those of her two children. The funeral was held at two o'clock on the afternoon of that day in the chapel of the Newton Cemetery. Friends and relatives from many directions were gathered there, and the chancel was filled with flowers sent from far and near.

It was one of New England's most glorious autumn days. Though there was no wind, the bright leaves fell in abundance quietly and steadily in the warm sunshine.

The service was conducted by the Rev. James B. Gregg, D.D., for over thirty years a personal friend of the family, and bound to Mr. and Mrs. Bemis by a very close and tender tie in the marriage of their son to his daughter Faith. He was also their pastor in Colorado Springs for twenty-seven years. The service was very simple, consisting only of wisely chosen selections from the Bible, full of tenderness and of joy and faith in the eternal, followed by an uplifting and strengthening prayer that Dr. Gregg had written for that special service.