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Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017

Happiness and Strength

Posted Wednesday, December 15, 2010, at 10:22 PM

My family had a habit of taking photos of family headstones. Back in my younger days that I thought this was well, morbid. Since I have been working on family history, the headstones photos confirm the info I have been able to obtain through the hints and other resources on the Ancestry website.

One photo of a headstone got me pondering because I remember family stories and it made me wonder how my grandparents dealt with the tragedy.

I had an aunt who died in childhood. From what I remember hearing Helen Jean had cancer of the eye/brain. My grandparents had to take her from Fremont County Wyoming to Omaha, Nebraska to find doctors what might be able to help. This was back in the late 1920s. It had to be an arduous trip but even more so with a ill child.

Now, the details of all of what happened has been lost with the passing of the folks involved. I had known that my mother had a sister that had died but it wasn't something that was readily discussed by grandmother or anyone else for that matter.

I know when folks lose family members around the holidays it can affect everyone. While I don't know the length of the cancer battle that my aunt and grandparents endured, I do know it ended on Dec 24, 1929 with her passing.

1929 was a tough year historically for all Americans at the time, but given the uncertainty of the times and then to lose a child, it had to be absolutely gut wrenching.

My point is not to be melancholy at all but I wish I had the insight into how my grandparents dealt with their loss. I do know the younger children born after the passing Helen Jean didn't know until they were adults the day of their sister's passing.

Apparently my grandparents made the decision not to ruin (for lack of a better word) the younger kids' holidays by keeping Helen Jean's memory close to their hearts. This was a different time and a different generations on dealing with personal suffering. And what I do know from hearing conversations is that may have been questions, they weren't asked.

While I will never know the answers to my questions about that part of the family story, I hold close the notion that despite the heart wrenching tragedy, my grandparents were able to continue on in the best way they could at the time.

I don't know if my grandparents had faith in a greater plan. I don't know if they had extended family or friends that reinforced they had to keep going for the sake of the remaining children. I can only speculate they had grown up with the reality that losing any family member could always be a possibility for any number of reasons. It was a time before immunizations and antibiotics were available. Many families had to rely on home remedies when they were ill. Sometimes the most innocent of scratches could turn deadly. I can only imagine what it took financially to get Helen Jean to Omaha as well.

I do not have the answers to my questions and never will. For me, I try to contemplate the happiness that young family had before Helen Jean's illness and passing and the strength they had to find deep within their souls to continue on each day after Christmas Eve eighty one years ago.

Happiness may brighten a part of each day but in the end it is the strength of our souls and our faith that must get us through from the beginning to the end of all our days.

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Betsy Coolidge
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