Monday, March 8, 2010

Family Stuff

Tonight I found a letter that my great-grandmother received from my great-grandfather's brother when my great-grandfather passed away. I had to share because it brought tears to my eyes. No one writes letters like this anymore. The feelings I got reading it just made me long for times past and the desire to be closer to my own family. Here's the letter with all the misspellings, etc.

Hustisford, Wis.
Feb. 11, 1935

My dear sister Clara and children -
We wish to express our deepest sympathy to you and your children in your present bereavement. May the Lord of love comfort you in your great sorrow and hold His guiding and protecting hand over you and renew within your hearts the hope of eternal life, into which your dear husband and father, our dear brother, has entered to live with his Lord, whom he has served in all honesty during his career as a preacher of the Gospel.
May God in His grace and mercy grant that you as well as all of us may sooner or later be reunited with him and all the saints in heaven above. What a blessed day it will be when we shall behold our Savior face to face and all our beloved ones
Clara , it is with regret when I say that I had few pleasures with my oldest brother Henry.
It seems more or less like a sweet dream to think of him as such, for we were separated for so many years that one could not enjoy a so called family life. However, I am very glad that I had at least one opportunity to see him in his later life, when we were down to see you two years ago. Henry seemed almost like a stranger to me then, but his good old soul soon came back to me as we sat and conversed together. My hope is that we shall meet again where nothing shall ever separate us in all eternity.
I knew not of brother Henry's death until you had already laid him into his cool grave, so please excuse this somewhat let (sic) letter of condolence. May he rest in peace.

Yours in sympathy,
Brother Oscar and family

PS Let us hear from you soon.

Is that the coolest letter you ever read? People certainly don't write like that anymore.

Several weeks ago, in doing some research I had found that Oscar had a son named Carlton who passed away in 2007. I found a copy of his obituary online and was surprised to see his son is a chiropractor in South Dakota, only about 4 hours from here. Tonight, when I read this letter, I felt the strongest prompting to call Oscar's grandson, Bruce, and talk to him. Seems fate has been preparing a way for my phone call. Several weeks ago, about the time I found Carlton's obituary online, his son Bruce was replacing items in his attic after having insulation put in. When he was moving some boxes, a box with his textbooks from college tipped over and he had to put the books back in the box and then stack the box on top of several others. When he went back to the area where he had been working he found a crisp 5-dollar bill lying on the floor. He was puzzled about where it had come from, since he had been working in that area of the attic most of the day and he was sure the money hadn't been there earlier. He put it in his wallet and went on with his cleaning. A short time later he thought about the textbooks that had fallen out of the box, so he went back to the box and sure enough inside the cover of one of his textbooks there was a card from his grandfather, sent to him on his college graduation and inside the card he had written something to the effect of "just a little something for you". He graduated from college in 1974 and those books had never been out of the box until that day. For some reason that book fell out, releasing the money. Personally, I feel like that was Oscar's way of letting Bruce know he was aware of what was going on. I just think that way I guess. I don't believe in coincidences, I think everything happens for a reason.

Bruce was a little wary of someone just calling him out of the blue and I had to tell him the names of all of my great-grandfather's brothers. He said Oscar was always called "Pa" by the whole family. His own father (Carlton) and called him "Pa", and so the grandsons called him the same thing. Once I convinced him that we were indeed related and I wasn't trying to steal anyone's identity from the internet, he was very interesting to talk to. He told me the story of one of his mother's brothers who had gone to Alaska to participate in the Klondike gold rush. Apparently, he was an engineer and a woodworker - Bruce is a woodworker in his spare time also. His uncle apparently had made a makeshift raft and and set sail down a river. Apparently, during his journey he had fallen from the raft and drowned - his body was never found and he was never heard from again, but his raft had washed up on a riverbank and all his belongings were still on the raft, complete with his name and address. Bruce said just the other day he was working with those same tools and his uncle was on his mind. I think the Lord moves in ways we can't understand, but it's amazing to me how the pieces of a puzzle can fall neatly into place on their own volition when it's time to occur.

It turns out that Bruce has pictures of all of my great-grandfather's siblings, although not all of them are marked with the name and date. I was so excited to hear that! I only have 2 pictures of my great-grandfather, he died in 1935, which is only 3 years after my father was born. I asked if I could possibly come to South Dakota and meet him this summer to see the pictures and he agreed - now I'm so excited! I can't wait to see what he has that might pertain to my great-grandfather and his family. He did tell me that my great-great-grandfather, Johann Christian Albrecht is relatively well known within the Lutheran Church and there is mention of him in the Lutheran hymnal. I had no idea. I have to do some more research on that subject!

So, tonight I feel like I've made great success in contacting my past. I can almost feel my family breathing a great sigh that the connection has been made. It has been a very good day, indeed!

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