Caryn

On June 26, 2003, a Green Beret was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. That may not seem like such an unusual event, but in reality, it was very unusual. Lauri Allan Torni, aka Larry Thorne, was born in Viipuri, Finland on May 28, 1919. When he grew up, he entered the Finnish military service in 1938. He participated in the war between Finland and the USSR, proving himself in battle, and earning the rank of captain. It would appear that Torni would quite likely have a long and distinguished career in the military service.

All that changed when Finland allied itself with Nazi Germany in 1941. In 1943, Torni put together a unit that was informally called Detachment Torni. This was an infantry unit that penetrated deep behind enemy lines, and they quickly made a reputation for themselves on both sides of the front for its combat effectiveness. For his part, Torni, for his Finnish military service was awarded 8 medals, to include the Mannerheim Cross, for action on July 9, 1944.

When his unit was demobilized, Torni joined a German SS unit in East Prussia and continued to fight the Russians, who at that time were the known enemy. During his time in the German SS, Torni was captured by the British, escaped a POW camp, and returned to Finland, where he was arrested for his German army service. I’m sure that at this point he wondered what was going on. I would think he realized the the German SS was his whole problem, but like many, he was fooled by Hitler and the Nazi party. After being pardoned in 1948, Torni secretly traveled to Sweden, masqueraded as a Swedish seaman, and sailed to the vicinity of Mobile, Alabama, where he jumped overboard and made it to land. As most people know, getting to land was an opportunity to seek asylum, which Torni did. He was granted residency in 1953 and because he wanted to be loyal to his new country, Torni, now going by Larry Thorne joined the Army. Again, he proved himself in battle, and eventually became a Green Beret assigned to Special Forces. Torni, now Thorne was an incredible soldier, and very loyal to his nation and his fellow soldiers. He served in various high profile capacities around the world in his time of service as a Green Beret.

In 1963 when he was 44 years old, Thorne was deployed to Vietnam as an advisor, but two years later Torni’s remarkable career came to an end when his helicopter crashed during a secret mission. It was a tragic end to a short lived, be remarkable career. His remains were not located until 1999. Finally, on June 26, 2003, a multi-national hero and in the end, a celebrated Green Beret was laid to rest. He was an amazing soldier.

My grandson, Caalab Royce is a hard worker, who is also very loyal. He stayed at a job he had at Red Robin in Bellingham, Washington, much longer than he really wanted to, but every time he considered quitting, they gave him a raise. So, he stayed and he did a good job for them. Nevertheless, eventually that was not going to be enough, so when he was offered a job as an apprentice in the HVAC industry, he told Red Robin goodbye. I know they were very sad to see him go, as he had been their best worker, but they could see the value in what he was going to do, and they wished him well.

Caalab loves his new job, and who can blame him, really. Yes, the work is hard, but they spend a lot of time on the islands around the Pacific Northwest, and since ferry rides to work are a rather slow-go, the crew usually flies to the job once the trucks are there. Many jobs take several days, so the first day, the trucks and equipment are taken to the site, and after that, the crew flies in each day, over the beautiful island views. So…how’s your commute? I know Caalab’s commute is a lot of fun, and I wish I could ride along just once. Caalab has sent me videos of his commute, and it is just beautiful. He spends a lot of time at Friday Harbor, which is one of my favorite places among the islands there. Of course, I go as a tourist, and have time to spend doing what I like, including whale watching, but he goes to work, so it is different, but he has sent pictures of the amazing views too, so it doesn’t seem like he has it too tough.

Caalab has always had a way with animals, including wild animals. Once at my house, a squirrel climbed up his pant leg and continued toward his shoulder…until Caalab’s face appeared, and the squirrel realized what he was doing. He ran away very quickly then. Recently, when the crew arrived at the job site, the men saw a bird with a string wrapped around it’s wing. The bird was in real trouble. The guys caught the bird and removed the string. Afterward, the bird wasn’t in a real hurry to leave, and it sat on Caalab’s hand for about 5 minutes, until Caalab tossed it into the air and it flew away. It was as if the bird wanted to stay for just a few minutes to say, “Thank you, for saving my life.” It was a really special moment for Caalab, who said it was “straight out of a movie.”

Of course, Caalab isn’t all about his job either. These days, he is “all about Chloe!!” Chloe Foster is the love of his life, and such a sweet girl that everyone can see why he loves her. Everybody has that one person who is just perfect for them, and Chloe is Caalab’s “just perfect” one. He will be the first to tell you that she “completes him” and anyone who knows them can clearly see that it’s true. It seems to me that Caalab flies to work, and floats home. It’s a great commute, wouldn’t you agree? Today is Caalab’s birthday. Happy birthday Caalab!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I sometimes think that I am from a different era…one where people didn’t use so many obscenities. In reality, I am from that era, because on June 24, 1957, when I was just a 14 months old, the United States Supreme Court ruled that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees free speech and freedom of the press. Call me old fashioned, but when I hear someone screaming at their own child, using every obscenity known to man, it makes me cringe. Calling our children such horrible names, can’t possibly be a good way to teach them self esteem. The United States Supreme Court agreed, according to Roth v. United States, a case decided in 1957. Samuel Roth of New York City was convicted of mailing obscene materials. On appeal his conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court, which held that obscenity was not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The court ruled that “material is obscene if, to the average person applying contemporary community standards, the dominant overall theme appeals to prurient interest.”

These days, we are bombarded with obscenities and profanities…everything from the f-bomb to the names we call people we don’t particularly like. Television shows use obscenities on just about every show, and our children are growing up to think that not only is it ok to call people such names, but its ok to be constantly angry…and to let everyone around you know it. It seems to me that as all the obscenities became commonplace, so did anger. And anger breeds hate, which in turn breeds things like road rage, bullying, and even murder.

Now, that we have the freedom to say the things that we do, another problem has come to light…hate speech. What is hate speech? It never used to be a thing, although it did exist…it just didn’t have a name, per se. So we have somehow come full circle, to a degree. While the Supreme Court used to say that we can’t use obscenities or profanities, and then suddenly we could, now we find ourselves with the necessity to decide if something said is “hate speech” or not, and if it is, then has the right to free speech been denied. Why is one thing different than the other? Believe me, I don’t like either kind of talk…hate or obscene, but if one is “illegal” then shouldn’t the other also be “illegal.” Or, should we have any say at all? It is a vicious circle to be sure. I guess that in reality, it is a moral issue. We have slipped so far from the moral values of our ancestors that our world almost doesn’t even resemble that of the era I was raised in, and certainly bears no resemblance to the era of our ancestors. While I can’t say exactly how to solve this dilemma, I think that maybe the best solution lies within each of us. Maybe we need to walk away from the situations that make us angry. Maybe we need to be more careful of the speech and behaviors that we show to our children. Maybe we need to teach our children that other people have a right to their opinion too, and it is not up to us to be their verbal police. Maybe we need to take offense less, and show compassion more. No matter what the ultimate solution is, there is no doubt in my mind that it begins in the human heart.

New babies are always so much fun for a family to receive. They bring so much joy to the family. Recently, our family was blessed with a new addition when my grand niece, Katy Balcerzak and her partner, Dylan Herr had an adorable baby boy named Max Robert Herr. Max was born on June 14, 2020, at 5:41pm after a 17 hour labor that ended in a rather dangerous and terrifying delivery proceeded by 3½ hours of pushing. During the delivery, Katy spiked a high temperature, and little Max’s heart rate slowed, but the Lord took care of them, and they came through with flying colors. We are very thankful for the happy ending of that labor that brought them their sweet Max, who weighed in at 8 pounds 14 0.ounces, and was 21¼ inches long.

While Max made a dramatic entrance into the world, his life since then has been much more relaxed. He is a sweet, easy going baby, who is very mellow and loves to be held…preferably all the time. Right now, he loves to sleep…so much so, that his parents have to wake him up to eat most of the time. Max loves his daddy very much, but at this point, he is a mama’s boy who calms right down when Katy picks him up. He loves his mommy’s voice, and their bond is one that comes from spending nine months connecting to each other. Such a sweet bond, between mother and son.

Max is been receiving visitors from time to time. Dylan’s parents, brother, and sister-in-law have come by to meet him and get a few cuddles. And Katy’s mom is visiting right now, and Katy says she is the “Baby Whisperer.” Grandma’s do have a knack when it comes to their grandbabies. Most of Katy’s family live in Casper Wyoming, so many of us have not had a chance to meet little Max yet, but we are all looking forward to meeting him very soon. They are planning a visit to Casper over the 4th of July. In the meantime, we are very much enjoying all the pictures that Katy and Dylan are sharing with us. Max, for his part, is taking everything in stride. He had decided that he is a happy, social baby, dazzling his visitors with cuddles and smiles, and everyone loves it. Welcome to the world Max Robert Herr!! We love you already!!

Adolf Hitler was a greedy man. From the time he decided to get into politics, he planned on controlling Germany, and eventually the rest of the world. Hitler was appointed chancellor on January 30, 1933. It didn’t take long for him to begin his fundamental change of Germany. His plan was always to be a dictator, but it’s hard to do that when the country holds national elections periodically. That said, the first thing Hitler needed to do was to make Germany a one-party state. That way, they could have the pretense of holding elections, but only one candidate would run. So, on June 22, 1933, Hitler banned all other parties, thereby making Germany a one-party state.

Of course, even Hitler couldn’t get this done that easily. He had to ease into it a bit. In March 1933, he pushed through the Enabling Act, which was an amendment to the Weimar Constitution, passed in the Reichstag by a vote of 444 to 94. This new amendment allowed Hitler and his cabinet to pass laws…even laws that violated the constitution…without the consent of the president or the Reichstag. It was the beginning of a very dangerous era in German history. A two-thirds majority was required to pass the bill, so the Nazis used intimidation tactics, as well as the provisions of the Reichstag Fire Decree to keep several Social Democratic deputies from attending, and the Communists had already been banned. It was a rigged passing, and should never have been allowed to happen, but the people didn’t understand the ramifications. Then, on May 10th, the government seized the assets of the Social Democrats. The party was banned on June 22, 1933. On June 21st, the SA raided the offices of the German National People’s Party, who were at one time, their coalition partners. That party was forced to disband on June 29th. It didn’t take long for the remaining major political parties followed suit. On July 14, 1933, the transition was complete when Germany became a one-party state with the passage of a law decreeing the Nazi Party to be the sole legal party in the country. It was further declared that the founding of new parties was illegal, and all remaining political parties in Germany were banned.

The Enabling Act would subsequently serve as the legal foundation for the dictatorship the Nazis established. Further elections in November 1933, 1936, and 1938 were Nazi-controlled, with only members of the Party and a small number of independents elected. Then, Hitler banned all other parties making Germany a one political party country, the National Socialist party was the only party that then existed in Germany. This change came after several other changes in 1933, including creation of the German Secret State Police (Gestapo) and the banning of Trade Unions. The death penalty was declared for anti-fascists. Today, Germany is a multi-party nation.

Father’s Day is a holiday that is harder for me since my dad and my father-in-law have gone to Heaven. Nevertheless, I feel very honored to have had the dads that I did. Both of my dads, Allen Spencer and Walt Schulenberg, were both men of honor, of whom we were all able to be so proud. They loved their families unconditionally, and we were so blessed to know them. I know they are both in Heaven now, and very happy. While we miss them, they are both doing so well, and are living in their reward. I can just picture them now…smiling, happy, well, and strong. I couldn’t ask for anything more for them.

As to Father’s Day…well, it has taken on a new meaning these days. Now, after thinking about the dad’s who aren’t with us, my thoughts center on the dads that are in my life today…my husband, Bob Schulenberg; sons-in-law, Kevin Petersen and Travis Royce; and my grandson, Chris Petersen. All of the dads who are still with us are wonderful men, who love their families deeply. Their children are their greatest blessings. They are all great dads. The one thing I have noticed about these men is the different parenting styles. They are different, but all great dads, and in the end, they all have one thing in common. They love their families. No family could ask for anything more, because they already have the very best.

Life is hectic, whether these guys are retired or working. They are busy and yet they still find time to be there for the people they love. They are always doing things that make the lives of their families better. Each of these men are talented in different ways, and it is those talents that have blessed their families so much. Each was unique, and yet very special in their own ways, but each has endeared himself to me because of their special talents. I love the way they have enriched the lives of me, my kids, grandkids, and great granddaughter. I couldn’t ask for better men for any of us. Happy Father’s Day to the dads in my life, and to all the dads out there.

Many people who love the era of the Cowboys and Indians, also find themselves intrigued by the Mountain Men. These men were the epitome of the “wild” west. The Mountain Men were often what many might call “social rejects,” because they lived in the wilderness, hunted and fished to sustain themselves, and were often trappers who sold their furs to supplement their living. All that seems rather normal, but they were also reclusive, and often had long hair and a bushy beard. I suppose that many people would think that our opinion of the mountain men was discriminatory, but we have always had some concerns over those who were so very different. Maybe we even associated the mountain men with lawlessness. They often lived in the wilderness, because the were non-conformists when it came to the law. It wasn’t that they wanted to rob banks and kill people, but rather that they wanted to be free to live their lives the way they saw fit, without all the rules and regulations of society.

One such mountain man, was Joe Meek, who was born in Virginia in 1810. Meek was a friendly and relentlessly good-humored young man. Unfortunately, Meek did not have a the same interest in school, that he did to be a friendly, funny guy. In reality, his biggest problem was that he had too much energy to sit still and learn. After finally giving up on schooling, at 16 years old, Meek moved west to join two of his brothers in Missouri. Meek later found a need to read and write, and so taught himself, but his spelling and grammar were said to be “highly original” throughout his life.

In early 1829, Meek joined William Sublette’s ambitious expedition to begin fur trading in the Far West. This was the perfect lifestyle for Meek, and he found himself flourishing. Meek traveled throughout the West for the next decade, thoroughly enjoying the adventure and independence of the mountain man life. Meek was an average man, standing 6 feet 2 inches tall. He wore a heavy beard, and became a favorite character at the annual mountain-men rendezvous, where he regaled his companions with humorous and often exaggerated stories of his wilderness adventures. Meek, who was a well known grizzly hunter, claimed he liked to “count coup” on the dangerous animals before killing them, a variation on a Native American practice in which they shamed a live human enemy by tapping them with a long stick. Meek also claimed to have wrestled an attacking grizzly with his bare hands, before finally sinking a tomahawk into its brain. I suppose it might have been a tall tale, but more than one mountain man hs fought a bear. Some have won, and some have not had the same outcome…sadly.

Meek may have been a misfit in society, but he had good relations with many Native Americans, and in fact, he married three Indian women during his lifetime, including the daughter of a Nez Perce chief. Still, that good relationship didn’t prevent him from getting into some squabbles with the tribes. Many of the Indians didn’t like the incursion of the mountain men into their territories, and periodically, things got hostile. In the spring of 1837, Meek was nearly killed by a Blackfeet warrior who was taking aim with his bow while Meek tried to reload his Hawken rifle. Luckily for Meek, the warrior dropped his first arrow while drawing the bow, and the mountain man had time to reload and shoot.

Finally, in 1840, Meek saw that the golden era of the free trappers was ending. He decided that it was time for a “career change.” Meek and another mountain man, along with Meek’s third wife guided one of the first wagon trains to cross the Rockies on the Oregon Trail. Once there, Meek settled in the lush Willamette Valley of western Oregon, became a farmer, and actively encouraged other Americans to join him. He could see that times were changing. In 1847, Meek led a delegation to Washington DC, asking for military protection from Indian attacks and territorial status for Oregon. After the long journey, Meek arrived in Washington DC “ragged, dirty, and lousy.” Nevertheless, he became something of a celebrity in the capitol…maybe a little bit like “Crocodile Dundee.” Meek was a novelty, and the Easterners relished the boisterous good humor Meek showed in proclaiming himself the “envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary from the Republic of Oregon to the Court of the United States.” The trip was quite successful, and Congress responded by making Oregon an official American territory and Meek became a US marshal.

Strangely, considering his anti-social beginnings, Meek returned to Oregon and became heavily involved in politics, eventually helping to found the Oregon Republican Party. He later retired to his farm, where he died on June 20, 1875 at the age of 65.

These days, we are all used to having a female doctor taking care of us. Those who haven’t are, nevertheless, not opposed to it. Others really don’t want a male doctor. It’s not a gender issue exactly, but there are women who just don’t feel comfortable with a male doctor, and men who don’t feel comfortable with a female doctor. We might have thought that this would not still be an issue all these years later, but it can be. As long as people are uncomfortable with their bodies, this might be the case.

In the 1800s, however, this was not just an issue of discomfort, it was just not done. Mary E Walker was born in 1832, in Oswego Town near Oswego, New York. She was never one, to “hide her light,” but rather always stood out in a crowd. Even as a child, she was distinguished for her strength of mind and her decision of character. She grew into a very independent woman. Mary wanted to be useful. She had no desire to sit at home and be “just a housewife.” Mary was a feminist before most people knew what that was. She always had great energy, and in her early years, she wore bloomers, the pantaloon style garb of the radical feminists of the age. She decided to go to medical school, and when she graduated in 1855, she was the only female in her class from Syracuse Medical College. After graduation, she became one of the few women physicians in the country.

When the Civil War began in 1861, Dr Walker, who was 29 years old by then, journeyed to Washington DC and applied for an appointment as an Army surgeon. Of course, the Medical Department was…shocked, to put it mildly, and they quickly rejected her…with considerable verbosity. “A woman’s place is in the home,” or “No one will go to a woman doctor!” Dr Walker was not a woman who could be so easily discouraged. She stayed in Washington, and even served as an unpaid volunteer in various camps. Who would do that, and how did she survive without pay. Then, when the patent office was converted into a hospital, Walker served as assistant surgeon…again, without pay. During her time in the patent-office-turned-hospital, she was instrumental in establishing an organization that aided needy women who came to Washington to visit wounded relatives. It was a need that no one really thought about until she did, and it was probably reminiscent on the modern-day Ronald McDonald House.

As good as she was, Walker was not immune to considerable amounts of abuse over her persistent demands to be made a surgeon. Still, they could not dispute the fact that she also earned considerable respect for her many good works. It was about this time that she decided to abandon the bloomers and adopt a modified version of male attire, with a calf length skirt worn over trousers. She kept her hair relatively long and curled so that anyone could know she was a woman. While she wore a modified version of men’s clothes, she wanted everyone to know that she was a woman. She would not mask her talents by pretending to be a man.

Finally, in November 1862, Dr Mary E Walker presented herself at the Virginia headquarters of MG Ambrose Burnside, and was taken on as a field surgeon. She was still a volunteer, but she was a titled surgeon. She treated the wounded at Warrenton and in Fredericksburg in December 1862. Almost a year later, she was in Chattanooga, Tennessee, tending the casualties of the battle of Chickamauga. After the battle, she again requested a commission as an Army doctor, such a simple thing after her years of loyal service, I would think. In September 1863, MG George H Thomas appointed her as an assistant surgeon in the Army of the Cumberland, assigning her to the 52nd Ohio Regiment. Finally, she had her commission. Now, many stories were told of her bravery under fire. Suddenly, it was ok to talk about just how incredible she was.

Sadly, she served with the 52nd Ohio Regiment for only a short time. In April 1864, Walker was captured by Confederate troops. She had stayed behind to tend wounded following a Union retirement. The Confederates charged her with being a spy and arrested her. The spy accusation came about as a result of her male attire. They said it constituted the principal evidence against her. Dr Walker spent the next four months in various prisons, being subjected to much abuse for her “unladylike” occupation and attire, until she was exchanged for a Confederate surgeon in August 1864.

In October of the same year, the Medical Department granted Dr Walker a contract as an acting assistant surgeon. Finally, 3 years after she first showed up on their doorstep she was given the rank and pay she deserved. Still, despite her requests for battlefield duty, she was not sent into the field again. She spent the rest of the war as superintendent at a Louisville, Kentucky, female prison hospital and a Clarksville, Tennessee orphanage. After she was released from her government contract at the end of the war, Walker lobbied for a brevet promotion to major for her services. Typically, Secretary of War Stanton would not grant the request. Finally, President Andrew Johnson asked for another way to recognize her service. A Medal of Honor was presented to Dr Walker in January 1866. She wore it every day for the rest of her life. She continued in the women’s rights movement and also crusaded against immorality, alcohol and tobacco, and for clothing and election reform. One of her more unusual positions was that there was no need for a women’s suffrage act, as women already had the vote as American citizens. Her taste in clothes never changed, and caused her frequent arrests on such charges as impersonating a man. At one trial, she asserted her right to, “Dress as I please in free America on whose tented fields I have served for four years in the cause of human freedom.” The judge dismissed the case and ordered the police never to arrest Dr Walker on that charge again. She left the courtroom to hearty applause.

In 1916, Congress revised the Medal of Honor standards to include only actual combat with an enemy. Several months later, in 1917, the Board of Medal Awards, after reviewing the merits of the awardees of the Civil War awards, ruled Dr Walker’s medal, as well as those of 910 other recipients, as unwarranted and revoked them. It was an insult of the highest degree, and even after her death on February 21, 1919 at the age of 86, it was not to be forgotten. Nearly 60 years after her death, one of her descendants urged the Army Board for Correction of Military Records to review the case. On June 19, 1977, Army Secretary Clifford Alexander approved the recommendation to restore the Medal of Honor to Dr Mary E Walker. It was the right thing to do. Walker remains the sole female recipient of the Medal of Honor.

During the evil reign of the Nazi regime, we saw leaders of occupied nations being replaced by a Nazi official, who was in agreement with Hitler on the way things should be run. The deposed leader was then exiled, or worse yet, murdered. In September 1941, Reinhard Heydrich, a high-ranking Nazi official and a primary architect of the holocaust, was named Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia (formerly Czechoslovakia). He wasted no time in declaring martial law, and then began executing political prisoners and intelligentsia, and deported the sizable Czech Jewish community. During this time, the Czech government had been exiled to London, but they could not stand what was happening to their countrymen, so they decided to assassinate Heydrich…and so, Operation Anthropoid was born.

Two Czech agents, Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik, had undergone extensive training by British intelligence, and on December 29, 1941, were successfully parachuted into Czechoslovakia. Once on the ground, they had to establish themselves, so they spent six months perfecting a plan with local resistance fighters, who were more than happy to lend a hand in such an important mission. The plan was perfect. The Reich Protector didn’t think he had anything to fear from the local citizens, whom he assumed were beaten down and obedient. On May 27, 1942, Kubis and Gabcik secretly waited along Heydrich’s usual morning route to the Nazi’s Prague headquarters. Reich Protector Heydrich was an arrogant man, and he boldly rode in an open Mercedes convertible, thinking himself invincible, or at the very least well protected.

In an unfortunate turn of events, the machine gun Gabcik pointed at Heydrich, as his vehicle slowed at an L-shaped curve, misfired. Heydrich ordered his driver to stop, planning to shoot Gabcik, but Kubis tossed a grenade and the Reich Protector’s car, which detonated near the car’s right fender. Both Kubis and Gabcik escaped and Heydrich, who initially thought he was uninjured, died on June 4, 1942. So, in the end the assassination was successful, if not strangely carried out. Unfortunately, not all resistance members are loyal, some can be bought off, and that is what happened in this case. Kubis and Gabcik were betrayed by a resistance member and died heroically, on June 18, 1942, after a gunfight with the Gestapo at a Prague church. While these men ultimately gave their lives for this cause, they were heroes, because the target, Reich Protector Heydrich was assassinated, and that was vital.

After a number of years of wondering what happened after the writing of my Aunt Bertha Schumacher Hallgren’s journals, or my reading of them…I have wondered about so many things. Bertha’s journal was so detailed and so interesting, but it left me feeling a little bit “at loose ends” about the lives of my aunt, and the Carl and Albertine Schumacher family, of which I am a part. I knew some things of course, like the fact that my Aunt Bertha had breast cancer, and that Aunt Mina had rheumatoid arthritis, as did her mom, my great grandma, Albertine Schumacher, and her siblings, my grandma, Anna Spencer and my Uncle Fred Schumacher. It left me wondering why it is that so often our lives come down to what illness we might have had? And then Aunt Bertha answers the question I had, when she said, “Only deep impressions are held in the conscious mind…ever present, while the sub-conscious may retain all experiences.” I suppose that our lives are marked by events, but surely there must be things that are more important that what disease a person had. Nevertheless, Aunt Bertha was “in my opinion” and that of my family, an excellent writer. She told the human side of history, and not just the historical events. Without the human side, history can be very boring, but you put in the hopes, dreams, feelings, illnesses, and everyday lives of the people involved in the history being discussed. That is when history comes to life.

My Aunt Bertha and her sister, my Aunt Elsa took care of their parents who were ill, and in doing so, they gave up the chance to have a family of their own. They “adopted” their sister, Mina’s children as a replacement for children of their own. They both assumed that marriage was also one of those things they would have to give up, but in their latter years, both were given back that part of their lives, when they met and married their husbands, Arthur (Bertha) Hallgren and Frank (Elsa) Lawrence. Unfortunately, neither marriage lasted long, with Elsa’s ending in Frank’s death after 6 years, and Bertha’s ending in Arthur’s death after 2½ years.

Aunt Bertha fretted some when Elsa got married, not because Elsa was getting married. Bertha was happy for her, but she and Elsa had lived together all their lives to that point…42 years in all. Bertha said that it felt like a divorce…dividing up the household, “you take this and I’ll take that.” Bertha had never lived alone before. I’m sure she felt lonely…even before Elsa left. Then, after Elsa returned home when her husband passed away, when Bertha was ill, she worried about how Elsa would do when she was gone. Bertha was really very protective of her little sister, who had never lived alone. In the end, Elsa would live 17 years beyond Bertha’s life. She was ok, but I know she missed Bertha terribly.

I knew that my great grandparents were Christians, and had raised their children as Christians, and that teaching came down through the generations. Nevertheless, I was very moved by the way my aunt expressed her faith and trust in God. She knew that her life would not have been nearly as blessed as it was, if it had been lived without God in her life. I don’t know why it seems new to me, but I guess it’s because people don’t often talk about their faith, here she was, telling about the deep relationship with God. It was very moving, and sweet. Bertha was a woman who had been single for all but 2½ years of her life. She learned to depend on God…to trust Him. She loved her Lord, and I love that.

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