When you shouldn't tell the truth

I found a selection of a dozen letters on telling the truth at The Sun Magazine. Here are two of them:


My little brother Beany was only two when Dad died of cancer. Mom packed the family into a white Ford station wagon and moved us from southern Ohio to the coast of New Hampshire, where we knew no one. Under my bed, in an old tin box, I kept the family photographs. Late at night I would take them out and organize them as a way to reassure myself that Dad had, in fact, existed.

One afternoon I found four-year-old Beany and his best friend, Peter, staring up at our imposing portrait of John Brown, the abolitionist who attempted to start a slave rebellion in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Peter pointed to the painting of the man in a tattered uniform and asked who he was. Beany said, “That’s my dad. He was killed in the war. Shot between the eyes.” Peter’s eyes opened wide, and he said, “Wow!”

To correct this misinformation, I went upstairs and got a picture of Dad to show Beany and Peter. When I returned, the boys were out in the yard, playing soldiers and gleefully reenacting Dad’s death scene. I stopped and watched. The boys looked up at me.

“Hi, Mandy,” Beany said. “We’re playing war. What’s that?”

“Oh, nothing. Just an old photo,” I said. I tucked the picture into my pocket and walked back inside. Who was I to take away his truth and replace it with my own?

Amanda Donovan
Portsmouth, New Hampshire


I park in front of my friend Tanya’s house and turn off the engine. My seven-year-old son, Jake, is testy, but he’ll do his best to be polite, because he knows how important this visit is, especially to Tanya, whose life has been shortened to precious days.

I take his hand and lead the way to Tanya’s back deck. She is curled up on a lounge chair, her once-athletic body a faint outline under her favorite blanket. Chemotherapy was not an option for her, so her hair is still thick and curly.

I lean down for a gentle hug. Tanya slides her sunglasses off to show me that her eyes have turned yellow, like marigolds. She slips the glasses back on, gives me a brave half smile, and shrugs as if to say, What can you do?

“You look beautiful, sweetheart,” I say. “And you’ve baked cookies today. You’re doing great.”

Tanya says to Jake, “There’s a bag of ginger cookies on the table with your name on it.”

Jakes smiles and whispers, “Thank you.” He takes the bag of cookies and returns to my side.

As we’re driving home after our visit, Jake gently says, “I don’t really like ginger cookies.”

“I know.”

“Sometimes it’s OK not to tell the truth,” he says.

“It is? When?”

“When your friend is dying of cancer.”

Mary Jane Taub
Ashland, Oregon

Source: Telling the Truth, Letters from The Sun Magazine>>

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