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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Faith - Have Some

Religion is nothing more to me than a means to organizing my faith.  What faith?  I have faith.  I've always had faith.  Faith is probably the most important life line I have.  In times of trouble, I have faith.  In times of need, I have faith.  Lately, I've become increasingly aware of my faith in times of joy, prosperity, health.
Faith enables me to pray.  Prayer enables me to release concerns.  Prayer enables me to offer thanks.
Prayer enables me to remain faithful. 

I attend a church.  An Anglican Episcopal church.  A "high" church.  One with candles, incense upon occasion, blessings, holy water.  I cross myself.  I started doing that one day when I felt particularly blessed by a benediction.  Since that time, crossing myself is a way I focus on the Trinity.  Father, Son, Holy Ghost.
Three in One.  I pray to all.  Sometimes I pray to Saints.  God is pretty busy.  I know He hears me but having my prayers held and repeated by a trusted Saint can't be a bad thing.  I've prayed to St. Anthony.
Tony and I have a close relationship.  Particularly as I've aged, my memory is not as good as it used to be and Tony has helped out more than once.  Anthony is the patron saint of lost things.  I lose things all the time.
Most everyone knows of St. Francis.  He watches over animals, children and those that are helpless.
My church provides blessings for all of God's creatures on St. Francis' Feast day.  I've never felt that taking my pets for a blessing has been a mistake.  I have faith that St. Francis will watch over them just as the medallion I am offered to put on their collars says he will do. 

Anne is another friend.  Saint Anne is the patron saint of grandmothers.  I'm not one yet but I hope to be someday.  Anne is looking after that for me.  Anne is said to have been the grandmother of Christ.  I like to believe that Anne is watching over and helping to protect, comfort and preserve my own grandmothers; Rose, Elsie, Anna Marie, Mary and Elizabeth.  And that she'll do the same for me some day.

Gerard.  He's a new one.  I didn't know about St. Gerard until my daughter in law told me about him.
We've talked, Gerard and I.  A lot.  Gerard looks after those who hope for a pregnancy.  His job on earth was to provide comfort and solace to those women who were seemingly infertile.  He's been working hard lately and for that I'm grateful. 

I am updating this in the summer of 2013.  I have become familiar now with St. Peregrine.  He has been called the Patron Saint of Cancer Patients.  Since my daughter in law is struggling with this disease, he and I have become partners of sorts.  When I was visiting my other son in California, I toured Capistrano and ventured innocently enough into the Chapel that Capistrano is known for.  I was surprised and taken aback to learn a small chapel had been carved out of the larger one and was solely for those struggling with or praying for someone with cancer.  Of course, Allen and I entered in, lit candles and prayed.  Called St. Peregrines Chapel, we placed our faith in him.

There's a country song by Lee Ann Womack that is popular today.  It has to do with last words that a mother gives to her child.  One of her wishes is that the child promise to give faith a fighting chance. 
It can't be said better than that.  And not just because one would want the child to become religious. 
No, more because with age does come wisdom - some at least.  I've learned that without faith, you can become lost.  When I have nowhere else to turn, no one to turn to, I can lean on my faith.  I can lean on my belief that there is a plan.  I am comforted by my belief that things will work according to that plan.  It helps me to accept what comes and believe me, sometimes that acceptance is hard. 

I can pray anywhere.  I drive down the road and pray.  I talk to God all the time.  We have little conversations in which He doesn't say much, but He listens well.  I wish I were more like Him....talking less, listening more.  I'm trying to thank Him more.  I have so many things to be thankful for.  I try to remember to thank Him whenever I notice something He's done.....especially when it concerns a prayer being answered.
I don't always get what I pray for but I always get an answer to my prayer.  Sometimes my prayers don't get the answers I am praying for.  That's where faith comes in again.  Faith that the answer is just that....The Answer.  That even when it's not what I expected, it's what I need to have for the plan to unfold. 

So, it's not religion that is the focus.  It's faith.  There are many religions.  I'm not sure it matters which one you might ascribe yourself to.  Faith is what is important.  Faith that there is a plan.  Faith that you are not alone.  Faith that you are loved.  A religious belief might further your faith, deepen it, foster it.  Or it may not.
Identifying with a religion and attending a place of worship might assist you in keeping your faith, in exercising it, in sharing it with others.  Or it may not.  

Faith.....have some.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Diary of an Expedition - Genealogy Style - Part Five - Journey to Roseland Park

It took some time to find this gem, not that this resting place for souls is hidden, it's not - it is on a "main drag" in Northwest Detroit.  What took the time is the research, the letters and phone calls to what seemed like every church and cemetery in Wayne County.  At last, about three weeks before we were to leave on our excursion, a phone call from a kind gentleman at the Hamilton Funeral Home directed me to Roseland Park. .
My grandmothers death certificate listed the Hamilton brothers as providing services to the family after her death.  Hidden deep in some old filing cabinets in the cellar of their main office were records that included the "place of interment".  Mr. Hamilton, Sr. himself called to share this information with me.   Located in the small suburb of Berkely, Michigan, Roseland is actually located in Oakley County but still a short drive from Detroit

So now, three weeks later, with Emily at my side, I'm driving through the imposing gates of Roseland.  A quick stop to register in the office, some questions and yes, Mary is indeed entombed here....in a mausoleum some few 100 yards away.  "Are there any others?" we asked.  Some hesitation on her part but "Wait a minute and I'll check".  Yes, not only Mary, but also her mother, Elizabeth and two of her brothers, Albert and possibly George.  And with this news, a letter from Walter, Mary's youngest brother who in 1950 was paying for maintenance at the site and asking that fresh geraniums be planted each spring.  Walter, was by that time, president of a bank in Holly, Michigan.  The youngest child, once a bank clerk, now president of a bank and manager of his familys final resting place. 

Why was Mary entombed while the rest of her family were elsewhere on the grounds?  Presumably, her burial was provided and paid for by W.C., her ex-spouse who had left her and the boys on their own in Detroit several years before her death.  He had tried to provide for their housing but according to letters, Mary refused his help.  Possibly Mary's family were willing to accept an offer to provide for the final resting place of his ex-wife and mother of his two sons, William and Robert.  Located on the last column and next to the window, her vault is in the top row, its door void of all information save for her name, year of birth and year of death.  Em and I left a bouquet of babies breath in the only place we could - the floor in the corner below the niche which has probably not seen a visitor since 1950.
Outside, a short distance away, we found what one might call a "family plot".  One headstone with one word - Lentz near which were two markers again with simple engraving;  Elizabeth 1857-1942  and Albert 1895-1921.
No words of remembrance or solace, just a name and a date.  Was this for lack of funds or for humility?  We'll most likely never know.  The large headstone seemed newer - perhaps erected by Walter years after when he had become successful.  Emily cleaned the weeds and dirt away from the markers and placed a butterfly on Elizabeths marker.....Emily - Elizabeth's great, great grand-child.

Elizabeth died in 1942.  Mary died in 1934.  They were my great grandmother and grandmother and I never knew them.  What is it that causes families to fall apart?  What is the secret that enables some to endure turmoil and others to shatter?  How is it that one generation has so much impact over generations yet to come?
What are the precedents set by such actions?  How can it be so easy to turn away from those we once loved?  Why did W.C. leave Mary and his boys?  Mary who must have struggled to raise her two sons while battling tuberculosis.  Did he take her "in sickness and in health"?  Or was infidelity to blame?  Why was Mary in Detroit while W.C. worked in Wisconsin?  Did she want to be closer to her mother, did she not like the icy landscape of Wisconsin, did she need more help with her young boys than W.C. could provide?  So many unanswered questions.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Diary of an Expedition - Genealogy Style - Part Four

Emily and I were up early to get to the exciting tasks ahead.  Today we were going to try to find ancestral homes.  We had three addresses.  Mary moved a number of times, most likely as her financial situation changed, her need for space changed, or perhaps her desire to locate in a better school district entered into her decisions.   There are new census records available at Www.archives.com/census .   The census records of 1930 enabled me to locate the very home my father/Emily's grandfather, lived in as the address of the person being interviewed is written on the border of the left side of the census form.  Mary is listed as living at 16747 Shaftsbury St. with her two young sons; William and Robert, her mother Elizabeth, and her youngest brother, Walter.

What a nice neighborhood!  We were truly surprised to find the tree lined street and well built homes.
Amazingly enough, 16747 was being renovated!  The contractor in charge was on site and invited us to tour the empty home.  We were able to walk around the interior and imagine what life may have been like in this mid-sized home.  There was even a tree in the backyard that the boys may have helped to plant in the early '30's.  This was most likely the last home Mary ever lived in as she died in 1934. 
The living area was astounding in that it resembled the home my brother and I grew up in so much!
The fireplace, flanked by bookcases, even had a large mirror centered over it.  Just like the one we remember on Wickham Road in Garden City. 


There was a "breezeway"...a tiny area that prevented the warmth from flying out of the house when the front door was opened.....There were three small bedrooms upstairs.  The boys most likely shared their room, Walter stayed in one and Mary and her mother in another.  There was one bathroom that they all shared.   Outside by the side entrance was a small door that led to a tiny compartment that led to another door that could be opened from the inside by the occupants of the home.  This had to be the "ice box" or the compartment into which the delivery person would place the block of ice used to cool their refrigerator or "ice box".  When electricity became available, it would be the "milk man" who utilized this compartment, placing the ordered glass bottles of milk or cream inside.  It would be a long time before wax milk cartons and even I remember having a "milk man" deliver milk to us in Garden City in the early 1950's.  Empty milk bottles were always left for the milk man to pick up and re-use.  Bottle tops were made of heavy paper that would be peeled off.
We didn't know about re-cycling then, but we were doing it anyway.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Diary of an Expedition - Genealogy style - Part Three

How do you describe a perfect day?  Entering Barbara's home, like entering anyones home for the first time was, for a moment, unsettling.  Did we belong here?  Were we intruding?  Would we fit in?  In no more than a moment as we hugged and laughed and made introductions, I felt right at home.  With gracious hospitality, Barb and Don welcomed us into their home and put us at ease.  Her children, all grown and with families of their own, would be coming to dinner.  So much family and so little time!  Poor Don, he so heroically put up with our jabbering as we poured thru Barb's genealogical treasures.  Photographs of old homeplaces, a third great uncle and his children, ribbon from the original National Tinsel family factory.  Barb gently took Emily under her wing and shared her bountiful collection with both of us.  Tears flowed easily when the reality of extended family hit home.  I would have travelled to the moon and back to experience these moments in time.

Dinner came too soon but as Barb and Don's children poured in, we felt surrounded by the love and support only a family can provide.  Conversation flowed easily and many commonalities were found.  I have a name-sake of sorts!  Barb and Don named their only daughter, Pamela Sue.  What a delight to finally meet her!
And all the time, hanging on a wall as if watching over us, was a family heirloom....the clock my great-grandmother, Caroline Auguste Lehman Protz brought with her to Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania from Charlottenburg, Germany when she visited in 1910.  To me, it had an almost sacred presence in the room.

Diary of an Expedition - Genealogy style - Part Two

Morning came and Emily and I headed to the hotel lobby for breakfast.  We were in no particular hurry and stopped to chat with a nice Canadian couple.  After telling us about their plans to visit New Orleans for a Red Hat Society Convention, they exchanged e-mail addresses with Em and promised to stay in touch.
Ridgetown, is an easy one hour drive from Windsor.  The town sits on the edge of Lake Erie and is directly across from Cincinnati, Ohio.  It is a lovely, historical town, filled with Victorian type homes and lush gardens.  Sitting in the center of acres of fertile fields of wheat, corn and grasses, wind turbines and solar panels dot the landscape.  The Canadian government seems to be further advanced in promoting alternative forms of energy.  Paying stipends to farmers willing to allow the turbines and panels to be built on their lands, both have become a common sight.  A figure of $10,000 was mentioned as the annual rent paid to a farmer per turbine....not a bad way to earn some extra cash particularly if the crops are struggling and quite an incentive!
Before long, we were pulling into the driveway of the home of my second cousin, once removed - what?
Well, Barbara is the grand-daughter of my fathers uncle....she and my daddy would have been first cousins!
As I've noted in an earlier post, Barbara is an accomplished genealogist who had put a letter of inquiry on one of the ancestral intenet message boards years ago.  I stumbled across it and we've been communicating ever since.  She and her husband, Don, traveled to Wilson, N.C. to meet me sometime around 1995.  They were able to meet my mother and we all enjoyed a nice visit.  Barbara filled in many of the blanks in my family history and generously shared pictures and information that I had never seen and didn't know.  Now, I was about to step foot into her home and introduce her to Emily....her third cousin!

Diary of an Expedition - Genealogy style - Part One

We'd been planning it for months.  My niece, Emily and I were about to embark on an expedition back into time.  We met at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Emily having flown in from New Orleans via Tampa, Florida and Baltimore, Maryland.  I was lucky enough to snag a simple, two hour direct flight from Greenville, S.C.  Seeing her enter the baggage claim area made my heart leap!  This was really going to happen!  We were going to, together, dig around in our shared past and present.  We loaded our bags into our very bright and shiny, red Chevy Impala and headed for the Canadian border.  After some crafty navigation by Emily, I drove the car over the Ambassador Bridge and into Windsor, Ontario.  Built in 1929, The Ambassador Bridge is the busiest border crossing in North American in terms of trade volume and carries 10,000 commercial vehicles a day. 

 A quick stop at Customs and before long, we were checking into a Hampton Inn for the first night of our adventure.  After a nice dinner at a restaurant in a nearby mall, we crawled into our beds and fell asleep.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Flags Always Fly on Their Birthdays

Memories of Memorial Days Past....
When I was young, my mother and her very dear friend, Anita Schriefer, became leaders of a group of young neighborhood girls. Together, they organized us into a Brownie troop and we met regularly in our basement playroom. There, we worked on fulfilling the requirements that would earn us the badges we wore on wide sashes across our chests. As we grew older, we "flew up" to become Girl Scouts and the uniforms we wore to meetings changed from brown cotton shirtwaists to green.
One of our annual activities was to march in the Garden City Memorial Day Parade. We practiced for weeks in the street in front of my house. Four lines of four girls across. I can still remember many of their names; Melanie Miele and Marie Russo (seen with me - center - in the photo above) Kit Bloom, Ellen Hubbell, Barbara Gilkes, Jackie Harvey, Pam Mitchum, Dorothy Schriefer, and of course, myself among a few others. Mom and "Aunt Anita" kept everyone in line and eventually, the big day would arrive and we would find ourselves somewhere on Franklin or Stewart Avenue marching along while throngs of Garden City residents, parents, relatives and visitors cheered wildly while waving little American flags.
I'm not sure if we knew why we were marching or even if we knew of the significance of the day. I just remember that that is what we did for many years.

After the parade, we went home to celebrate more than just a national holiday. It was my brothers birthday and also that of my maternal grandmother, Rose. I don't recall too much of a fuss being made over my grandmother but she would always be there, sweetly stepping into the shadows as my brother, Steven, revelled in the sunlight that always shone on him on that day. We would play in the yard while our father grilled hamburgers and hotdogs. There would be a birthday cake and I'm sure there were presents. Every year my mother would say; "The flag always flies on their birthday". And, indeed it did.

Years later, certainly by 1964, the parade was a memory. By then, we would anticipate a two hour ride to our summer home on Shelter Island for the long weekend. The Girl Scout Troop had dissolved, the scouts having become more interested in cheerleading, driving, dating and other past-times of adolescence. Now we celebrated "openings"
- the re-opening of the bars and restaurants on "the Rock" after a long and often cold and dreary winter.