Thursday, February 3, 2011

Not How Long Will I Live, But How Well

I’ve mentioned before that I’m very blessed to come from a family of writers.  Many of my ancestors kept journals that give me and others of their posterity a cherished insight into their lives, their feelings, their trials, their triumphs and their faith.  I have a few copies of these journals on my shelf, and I love to thumb through them and close my eyes and imagine my Great Grandmother, Mary Adeline Johnson Haws penning her beautiful thoughts that I am currently reading. 

Mary kept a very different kind of journal.  She was a poet, so what I have of hers is a book of poetry.  Many of her life experiences and feelings were written in this format rather than a formal journal… at least I don’t know of one that she has written as of now.  

Tonight I was reading a few of her poems, many I’m sure I will share here later, but this one really touched my heart tonight.  She writes so beautifully of things that I’ve often thought about, and added a few more things that I should think more about.

Not How Long

Not how long will I live, but how well,
And what have I done today?
Have I planted a mem’ry in somebody’s face?
To be cherished and kept always?
Have I brought a smile to somebody’s face?
Have I dried somebody’s tears?
Have I planted a thought in somebody’s mind
That will help him through the years?

Have I made a friend of somebody’s child?
Was I kind to somebody old?
Have I shared someone’s sorrow, and somebody’s joy?
Have I listened to tales twice told?
Have I done the things that I promised to?
Have I lightened somebody’s load?
Have I helped someone to see right from wrong
As he faltered along life’s road?

Now how long will I live, but how well,
And what have I learned today?
Have I learned to bridle an angry tongue?
Am I stronger in any way?
Have I learned to respect another’s rights;
Another’s viewpoint to see?
Have I gleaned a thought from somebody else
That will make life richer for me?

Did I stare temptation in the face
With a clear and steady eye?
Did I stoop to cheat or pilfer?
Did I scorn to tell a lie?
Did I do aught that made me feel
That I am weak or mean?
If aught I did – then help me God
To live so I’ll be clean.

How well have I lived?  Who can tell?
For today I may not know,
And it may be months or years from now
That the fruits of today will show.
But when I have finished, will there be friends –
Some friends their love to tell?
If there are, it won’t be for the years and the days –
Not how long I lived ---- But how well.

Adeline J. Haws
(Featured in 1946 & 1947 Mesa, Arizona Cactus Cuttings)


  1. Becky, I've been reading through several of your posts this evening and they are ALL so thoughtful and uplifting. You do such a great job of sharing what is in your heart! Thank you.

  2. Thank you for your comment. I'm so glad that you liked my posts. I've really been enjoying taking time every night to reflect and write a few thoughts on things that caught my eye that day. It's a great thing for me to do before I go to bed... definately helps me to have good dreams. :-)

  3. I received an comment on a blog I did back in May with your great grandmother's poem The Rooster and the Hen. "Angie" shared that this poem was her great grandmothers and it's often posted without credit being given. I would so like to do this but their was no email given for Angie or on her blog that I followed back with the link from Feedjit. Please, if you can help me I would be so grateful. Here is the post and you can read Angie's comment. I would love to have the corrected version and run again if I could to give the credit to Adeline J. Haws insight and wisdom that still is touching Americans.