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Monday, January 25, 2021

WHY? by Nancy L. Eady

When I was in high school, I read a novel set shortly after the Spanish Conquest about seven people who died when a rope footbridge in the mountains of South America collapsed. When the seven people die in 1714, a local priest decides to investigate each of their lives, on the theory that he could perhaps find a thread linking their deaths together so he could understand God’s purpose behind the bridge collapse. The book is about the seven people, but at the end of it, when the priest concludes that he can’t find anything in common between the seven people and publishes his book, he is burned at the stake by the inquisition. The sentence describing it goes something like, “Father ____ was burned at the stake by the Inquisition, not understanding why.” I can’t remember the name of the book, but I have to assume since I was reading it for English and it has stuck in my mind for 40 years, it must be some kind of great literature.   

That book popped up in my memory on Saturday, when I learned that one person in Michigan had won the Mega Millions jackpot that I wanted to win. I especially wanted to win this time because my sisters and mother and I went in to buy tickets together, and it would have been a lot of fun to have all of us win at the same time. Even if we had taken the cash option instead of the annuity, all four families would have won more money than we could possibly spend.  

My husband and I had figured out the name of the charity we would establish with the bulk of the money, a possible place to move to (in Huntsville, to be close to my mother), what he and I would do with our time and our post-lottery travel plans, which involved a nice motor home and a trip through many different areas of the United States.   

The thing I would have enjoyed the most would have been finally being able to write full-time. Don’t get me wrong; I love my job, but I love writing more. So while I wish the person in Michigan all the best, I still can’t help thinking, along with Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, “Lord who made the Lion and the Lamb, You decreed I would be what I am. Would it spoil some vast eternal plan,” if I were a wealthy person? 

I also can’t help wondering, just as the priest in the book did, what thread connects the lives of the winners of big jackpots pre-drawing so that they win, and others don’t? At least I won’t get burned at the stake for whatever it is I conclude.  

So what are your dreams if you ever came into a windfall of immense proportions?   

P.S.  My learned colleagues here at WWK inform me that the book is The Bridge of San Luis Rey, written by Thornton Wilder, and in the book five people die on the bridge, not seven. 


Jim Jackson said...

I've asked myself similar questions over the years, although with lower sums of money. Right now after securing my family's finances unto the next generation, I'd devote a large part of the remainder to supporting equal access to voting to all citizens to help counteract the tide of legislation that will try to disenfranchise under the guise of fighting the virtually nonexistent voter fraud.

And on a different note, one of the things that fascinates me about memory is how we lose the details, but retain the gist. You, Nancy, forgot the name of the story and the author, and misremembered the number of deaths, but you recalled the essence -- others could provide the exact details, but they really don't matter.

Kait said...

I unexpectedly became a full-time writer this in July of 2020. Dream realized!

We read the story you describe in sophomore year of high school. Was it the Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder? His writing was so spare and powerful.

Kudos to the winner in Michigan! I hope they put the money to good use for themselves and others. A huge windfall must take some time to wrap your head around.

If I ever had a windfall of immense proportions, I would pay off the outstanding debt any member of my family might have, set up a foundation to assist no kill animal shelters, and establish a grant for beginning writers to give them breathing space while they wrote.

Debra H. Goldstein said...

My dreams are simple: secure the educations of my grandchildren (we already paid for our children), pay off our home, and set up a charitable foundation.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

I'm focused on educating the next generation and other than taking a memorable trip every year, giving where it does the most good.

Shari Randall said...

I only hope that the winner of the lottery does some good with the money. I'm lucky enough that we've already put our kids through school. If I had a windfall like that I'd be supporting food banks and libraries around the world! And taking a trip to visit them all :)