A BIRTHDAY MEMORANDUM. 1832-1902
Zürich, February 24, 1902.
I cannot write a personal letter to all my good friends who have remembered me on the occasion of my arrival at the 70th year-post of my pilgrimage. To be silent and show no sign after such proofs of generous remembrance would be entirely foreign to my nature. If Love speaks to me I am bound to answer. But to answer this flood of friendly epistles, these illuminated postal cards, these telegrams and cablegrams would require, literally, weeks of time which I dare not spare from pressing official duties. I must therefore resort to my Memorandum-Letter plan and permit the type to do what my pen dare not attempt.
It is a fact that I was born (I am indebted for the information to family tradition, parental statement and the record in the Family Bible) at Tuscaloosa Alabama February 23: 1832. Yesterday was February 23: 1902. As figures digital, duly adjusted do not lie open to impeachment as figures of speech sometimes do, I must accept the statement and confess that 70 is the proper number to use.
As I am old as that, and you my friends have thought enough of the day to remember it and me by sending such delightful words of greeting, I cannot be charged with egotism if I respond with a brief report as to how that day passed with me and mine here in Switzerland, our temporary and delightful home. [page 2]
Through Miss Kimball's article in the Chautauquan and through Church calendars, and sundry other ways found out about this "three score and ten" affair, and hence the surprises and pleasures of this eventful day.
About the 18th instant books and letters and postal began to arrive. On the evening of the 22d there came beautiful bouquets and potted plants in bloom, so that our pleasant house was transformed into a conservatory. And two pleasant messengers brought me a package containing one hundred superior colored photographs of Palestine—the most perfect I ever saw. And they were the gift of the noble man who had himself invented this fine art of color photography; and with the pictures he sent a letter full of brotherly kindness and really more prized than the pictures themselves. On the morning of the 23rd I was awakened by music under my window from a brass-band that belongs to our Church in Zürich and that had come to give this early serenade. An hour or more later, and while we were at the breakfast table we heard more music and going to the window we found on the side walk thirty or forty men (the Männerchor of our Church in Oerlikon—fine singers they are too) who sang three or four noble hymns for our delectation. At Church that morning our good pastor said something I did not fully understand but it related to our "Bishop", and the whole congregation arose, a tribute of good feeling, my interpreter said, to the Bishop on his 70th birthday. And then the Church Choir sang a hymn in honor of the occasion. All these local surprises were warming to the heart of an "old man" far from his native land. [page 3]
In the evening the last of the winter series of "Vesper Services in English" was held. The congregation was the best we have yet had (with perhaps a single exception) and Miss Amalia Lieberknecht, daughter of our honored Consul and leader of the Vesper Choir, sang most impressively and with sweetness and magnetic power "One sweetly solemn thought". The Service for the evening was the dear old Chautauqua "Day is dying in the West".
Thus passed the 70th birthday. It was a day of exceptional brightness without, and of love and gratitude within. The friends who wrote words of remembrance and congratulation contributed more than they can know to the pleasure of the trio at 38 Eidmattstrasse, who although they appreciate Zürich—one of the loveliest cities in the world, and although they are interested in Europe and the work of the Church here, do love above all other lands, our own Columbia.
May the grace of our loving Father rest upon you good friends! May your years be many and peaceful and full of fruit! And sometime, somewhere—in God's time and where he appoints—may we meet again!
John H. Vincent
P.S. After the above was in type a new surprise arrived—an Album of autographic tributes from many friends. To such words from such friends silence is the only answer—and softly whispered, trembling thanks to god!