By Charles Van Riper - On the End of His Life

The quotation below is extracted from an essay at the end of "Do You Stutter: A Guide for Teens" by the Stuttering Foundation. It's called "A Personal Message."

Charles Van Riper, at the age of 82 wrote,

"I've stuttered all my days. I guess I'm one of those incurable stutterers. Everyone has his own personal demon and mine is stuttering. I found that once I accepted it as a problem and learned to cope with it by not avoiding or hiding or struggling with it, my demon lost its hold on me.

I was a very severe stutterer with many long blockings accompanied by facial contortions and head jerks that not only provoked rejection by my listeners, but also made it almost impossible for me to communicate. Once when I asked a girl for a date her answer was, "I'm not that hard up." I felt not only helpless but hopeless. I felt naked in a world full of steel knives. I thought of suicide and tried it once but failed at that, too.

If a fortune teller had predicted I would have a wonderful and rewarding life I would have laughed in her face, bitterly. But, despite my stuttering, or even because of it, I have had such a life. I can look back on my life with a sense of fulfillment. I had a fascinating job that helped me pioneer a new profession. I married a lovely woman, had three children and nine grandchildren, all of whom gave me the love I hungered for but never expected to get. I made a lot of money from the books I wrote. I made movies, films, T.V. and radio appearances; I made speeches to large audiences and gave lectures all over this country and in many foreign lands. I've had everything I wanted and more. In my old age I am content."

A few years later, Charles Van Riper, knowing his time was very near, wrote a letter to all of his friends. The letter included the following "auto-eulogy" which appeared in his obituary:

cvr12.5.jpg"Well, I guess this is about the last of our many communications.... I thank you for the good company of ordinary times and for the ease you brought me in times of trial. Good connections. Good-bye.

What shall you say about me when I'm gone? Say:

That vicariously I lived a thousand lives in the people I served.

That those I touched were never quite the same.

That through my works and texts I helped pioneer a new helping profession.

That I loved to see the flowers bloom, especially those human flowers.

That through my Northwood Readers I made many smile.

That out of a barren field I made a park with tall trees, a pool, and many flowers.

That I never quite managed to grow The Perfect Potato.

That in my old age I again danced in the moonlight.

That the deep forests and lakes were a part of all my days.

That I was blessed to have lived with a strong lovely woman for many years.

That we raised three fine children and they in turn nine grandchildren, all of whom loved me.

That I fought myself out of the swamp of despair to make my life a shining thing.

That a bit of my tiny impact has been felt all over the world."

copyright 1997
Last modififed June 15, 2014