It was a typical spring morning in Emporia, Kansas on May 11th,1921, when Mary White, daughter of noted journalist William Allen White, mounted her horse for a morning ride. Across the country in Atlantic City, Mr. White himself was having a typical morning when he picked up a telegram at his hotel where he was staying while on one of his frequent political trips. As a political journalist, he was accustomed to messages throughout his day; so when an urgent telegram came, he took no pause. However, his world changed as he read what his wife, Sallie, had written: “I need you…”
Mary had been knocked off her horse. Two days later, Mr. White would find solace from that distinction. She had not fallen from the horse. A low-hanging branch had stuck her in the head, knocking her from the horse. She died from the blow to her head. On the day of Mary’s funeral he sat at his typewriter, pounding out an editorial, an epitaph of sorts, which would run not only in the Emporia Gazette, but would be reprinted in hundreds of newspapers across the globe. In his sorrow he confronted his grief, “The Associated Press carrying the news of Mary White’s death declared that it came as the result of a fall from a horse. How she would have hooted at that!” Years later William Allen White would reflect, “If I have any fame beyond my death, it will come from the Mary White editorial.” He continued, recognizing the verisimilitude of what he had written, years before, in his grief, “I shall go as far as I go along the path where Mary’s hand may lead me.”
William Allen White was a journalist. Writing was his profession, but I doubt that his journalistic prowess had much to do with his need to write about his daughter’s death. You don’t have to be a writer to achieve the positive therapeutic results that writing has to offer. Frank Beck, a fictional character in my book, The Parallax, discovers this secret. Participants in my workshops and readers of the book have discovered it as well. They tell me that they had never previously thought of themselves as writers and yet, after being presented with the idea of writing as therapy, have experienced the positive benefits from their writing. I urge you to do the same. Discover the secret. And when you do, I invite you to share this experience with me, becoming an inspiration and a model for others.