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Technofile special: Remembering Emma

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

Remembering Emma Kathryn: The 150-year connection

Here is one of the many responses to my column April 6 on the birth and death of Emma Kathryn Fasoldt, the daughter my wife Nancy and I held, hugged and yielded up to God two years ago. That column can be read on the Web at the Syracuse Newspapers' site or at my site.

April 10, 1997

Dear Mr. Fasoldt,

Emma Kate's story touched the lives and hearts of the 35 students in my course at S.U. on Biology, Medicine and Human Values. On Monday morning each of them quietly read your story from the Sunday paper, then they wrote their thoughts, if they chose to do so, and we talked about what we felt. Intensive care for extremely premature babies had been an important topic in the course, but now we saw the profoundly moving human side of the medical and ethical issues we had discussed earlier.

So Emma Kate now appears as the major heading in the on-line syllabus for the course at at the Monday, April 7th meeting. This and my other courses are incorporated into the World Lecture Hall at the University of Texas, so Emma Kate is reaching far out into the academic world and beyond.

I also included in that class the story, such as I could know it, of another little girl named Rachel Amelia Cody, who was born and died in the summer of 1840, and who lies near her mother in Oakwood cemetery. I used the story of this "Summer's Child" in my course in Immunobiology in the Fall semester (same URL except BIO447). The students in that course, more than 80 of them, did surveys of grave-sites in Oakwood from the 19th and 20th centuries to see what life and death were like for children in the years before vaccines and antibiotics. I had presented to that class some verses of a poem I entitled "The Song of the Oakwood Children" within a series of digitized photos I had taken in Oakwood Cemetery. I had not linked the poem to the course home page at that time, because in photo essay form it is 9 megabytes. Now, having read your story about Emma Kate, I decided to link the Oakwood Children in text form only, as well as in full photo essay form, to the Emma Kate class in BIO215.

So it comes to be that your little Emma Kate from 1995 is joined with Rachel Amelia from 1840, and you and your wife share with Narcissa and Niel Cody over the span of a century-and-a-half, the profound love and loss of a little girl here long enough to touch a thousand hearts even though never to speak a word.

We learned in the class from your Emma Kate and from their Rachel Amelia what it is that makes us human: that we can touch, move, love one another, and be loved, even if we pass in only a few hours, even if we live centuries apart. Emma Kate and Rachel Amelia touched the hearts and minds of those students who will live far into the 21st century and will carry something of both of those little girls with them.

There is a profound and terrible wonder in being human.

Thomas P. Fondy, Department of Biology, Syracuse University

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