It was the black of night.
Their tired and weary eyes could hardly make out the large looming shape of The grey metal Boxcar that would be leaving their motherland forever.
It was 1935.
Great grandma and grandpa and their four young sons were heading for a land… land of the free.
Four older son’s said goodbye in thier hearts as face to face was too risky as they were left behind to face cruel Russia.
My heart aches as I imagine this having four daughters.
I can’t imagine.
The crude unforgiving jolts of the train stopping and starting, must have added to the angst gripping their hearts as it approached the Port where their next part of their escape would continue on the open seas for the next long month’s.
“Reische” as they were called in German, were buns that had been toasted to golden perfection, and packed by the dozens into flour sacks to sustain them for the long journey… perhaps the only thing standing between life and death.
Settling in with the crude amenities of the day, I can’t imagine Grandma and Grandpa’s mind’s did not float back to the day they had to say goodbye… forever… to their oldest four sons , left to face the cruelties of Mother Russia.
Although the focus now was to keep, protect their younger four sons and build a new life, I can’t but imagine their minds didn’t go back… maybe often in their humanness. But life in the 1930s on the ship to America, the land of the free, did not afford anything but looking forward, survival, the future, today… their life depended on it.
The move had different lasting effects on great-grandma and great-grandpa. While Grandpa could never really forgive himself and was never the same, as the story is told, little great grandma or the “Kleine” grandma as I knew her, mourned her sons and her losses differently. She said ” We had to do what we had to do for us to live free in another land”.
Although my heart begs to know she thought of them constantly for the rest of her years till the age of 96.. She not only survived… she lived.
She had not only raised four sons…and lost four sons, she also lost her 9 month old baby daughter… her only daughter, in the freezing semlin( underground dirt house) of the merciless winters.
My mind can hardly comprehend.
My great grandpa died in 1958. I never did meet him personally, but I learned to know my great grandma for the first seven years of my life. A determined little lady who worked the fields till her first pains of labor in the early years, then served “faspa” ( German afternoon lunch) to the men folk at the end of the same day, tending to her new born at the same time.
Life needed to keep moving forward.
We just have no idea….
Well at least I don’t.
Reflecting on this story… this piece of family history , it reminds me of how our hearts and minds want to look back to situations, relationships, etc, that can never be changed, yet we keep looking back.
Most of us will never have to experience what my great-grandparents did or only parts of… but nonetheless.. We keep looking back… somehow wanting… needing things to change. Yet our new moments that lead to our future need to be anchored in the new season of change.
We cannot move forward holding on to the past. Remembering yes… holding on … no.
Focus on the todays and tomorrows, and yes, surely reflect and remember well, but make a choice to get on that “boxcar”… perhaps in the darkest Midnight Hour of your life, and choose to keep looking forward and get on that “ship” of continual journey, and cross that ocean to that Promised Land of the FREE.
Both believed in their God that had been with them through many dark times before, both dearly equally loved by their God despite their own personal Journeys and choices how to live them.
Yet great grandpa only survived…. And great grandma lived.
They both had crossed the ocean physically but great grandma had truly cross the ocean in her heart and mind. Oh I’m sure it had to have been a commitment at times to continue, but looking back would have left her on the other side of the vast ocean even though her feet had been physically planted in the land of the free.
I believe in the same God my great grandma and grandpa had faith in so many years ago.
That same God has a hope and a strength for me to choose any “ocean” I want to cross to the “land of the free” in any life situation.
He has proven Himself to me over and over again as I look back on my journeys of having to choose to “cross my oceans” in my life… and continue to.
I cannot begin to imagine having to leave my children behind or even lose one to a harsh winter, but I know that I know that the ocean needed to be crossed to focus on a new life.
Today, what is in the rearview mirror of your life no matter how difficult?
Look to the God of the ages.
He is with us in the “boxcars” of life in the dead of the midnight and with us on the “ships” and anywhere else we may be. He hems us in with His mighty, everlasting, loving arms and gently turns our face.. If we let Him, to the winds of tomorrow… the land of the FREE…
And cross the ocean.