#2 Where you go, I will go . . .

My postings throughout this month of July and early August will vary from the typical, as Ron and I take a lengthy adventure. The northwest has called us, and I invite you to come along!

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

~ Rachel Carson

June 30 – We drove north about 6 hours today, crossing our favorite bridge in the fog.

Spent the night at the little Welcome Center – first right over the bridge. I’ve written about driving north in a recent post. Click here to read it.

July 1 

 This was our true first day: July 1. Day 1. 

We woke to sunny skies; had pancakes on the gas stove and French Press coffee. No electricity needed! Left St. Ignace and drove west on Highway 2 – our main road for the next ten days! Oh how we love the U.P. It was Thursday before the big weekend, and people were pulling campers and boats, yet the roads were not crowded. There’s room for all in the Upper Peninsula, and we relish in it! The birch, whiter than white with deep black veins, catch my eyes as we travel. We are blessed to call Michigan home. I can never get enough of it.

Across this stretch of road in Michigan, a Biden/Harris sign still remains in front of someone’s cute little red ranch home  Dozens of faded Trump 2020 signs and flags, are still posted in yards, and on barns, posts, and vehicles throughout this westward trek. On one wayside saloon, an owner had printed “My _______ governor is a wit wit.” Today, I reached the conclusion that Yoopers in this area are not at all timid!

We paused two times today – first for lunch and rest at a wayside park. Quiet contemplation at that shaded picnic table was my favorite time today. It has become a rarity. Seems I must force myself – think I always need to be accomplishing something. I’m slowly learning that resting and listening to God “is” accomplishing something – something He wants to accomplish!

We paused again late in the day, briefly leaving Highway 2, traveling 20 miles north to see Agate Falls, one we had missed in our 2020 trip north. I wanted to recreate my 3-year-old photo at the base of that falls (I missed it last year – click here to read the post). We walked a viewing boardwalk (was unrewarding) and attempted to hike the deep gorge to the actual base of the falls, but my shoes didn’t quite meet the criteria for such a venture today. Seems a lot has changed in the area in the last 66 years. A placard conveyed that the original 125 steps to the bottom of the falls, on which my daddy obviously carried me at the time, burned in the early 1970’s, along with a motel on the property. Only a treacherous hike could get one to that location today. It’s a hike we’ll once again have to save for the future!

We stayed at an RV site at Northern Waters Casino tonight, a first for us and we were very pleased with this first come, first served opportunity. For only $16, we had electricity, water, and internet connection! Was peaceful, and very likely the quietest night we’ll have on this lengthy trip!

It’s odd – sleeping in this trailer the middle of nowhere, but it doesn’t take long to relax in the quiet darkness of this wooded north, a cool breeze tickling my face with scents of pine and cedar, and the man beside me who inspired the theme of our little “home away from home.”

Click here to read the next post, #3 My Pink Earplugs

#1 The North Begins at Clare

My Dad might have said it – or my mom – or my Grandpa – or an aunt or uncle. Someone always said it as we went “up north” to Grandpa’s cabin in L’Anse of the Upper Peninsula: “The North begins at Clare.”

All these years later, each time I travel a lengthy distance in that direction, I look for the beginning of the north. And I always find it.

Today, we leave our home in lower Michigan near the cuff of the mitten,  and we head North. Pulling our travel trailer, Ron drives steady but slow enough to take it all in as I search for the North. For hours, we drive past farms – on both the east and the west sides of our highway. Today, an Amish farmer is cultivating his corn field. Big old barns dot the countryside amidst green fields of corn and beans and an occasional golden wheat. Many things remain the same as all those years ago, but several things differ. Instead of driving two-lane US 27, we now drive four-lane US 127 and I-75. The speed limit, once probably 50 mph is now 75 mph! Gone are the small picnic table pull-offs or an occasional small roadside park with a water fountain and pit toilets. In their places are lovely large Rest Areas, spaced 30-40 miles apart, marked on both the map and the wayside signs. Miles and miles of white metal windmills now intersperse the landscape like alien landing signals. This countryside mural continues through the Mt. Pleasant area, but once we reach Clare, the north begins, its seeds and its roots unchanging from those many years ago – even from centuries ago. This is where I find it – again!

“The North” opens the door to a different world – one in which a person can go back in time, at least as far as I want to go. The four-lane eventually angles toward Sault Ste. Marie and on into Canada, but we have turned west onto Highway 2, the road we will travel for 2000 miles, the road that will take us along the edges of Great Lakes Michigan and Superior, across the Northern Great Plains, and into the mountains of the Great Continental Divide.  The road that keeps us in the north.

I want to see original old log cabins and worn-sided barns.

I want to see wooden placards along the way, designed and placed by the Conservation Corps and maintained through the years in their original form, welcoming me to the National Forests, to the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Itasca, North Dakota, or to Yellowstone National Park.

I want to unfurl a red-checkered tablecloth across a wooden picnic table or spread an Indian blanket on the grass and eat sandwiches and drink cokes with Ron.

I want to hike the steeps of a shady forest to the cliff of the mountain and look down into a valley covered in wildflowers.

And it’s all possible . . .

. . . because, you see, “the North begins at Clare.”

If you haven’t yet “subscribed,” to receive all my website posts in your email,  please do! Link here.

Click here to read the next post, #2 Where You Go, I Will Go

A Little Bit of Jesus

Pharoah, the ruler of Egypt – the enemy of the Israelites – detested the words of Moses and Aaron regarding God’s plan for the Israelites. He referred to their words as lies and told his overseers to “Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.”[1]

You are most likely familiar with the many plagues God put upon Pharoah and the Egyptians to force Pharoah to let the Israelites go – to let them leave slavery in Egypt. After plagues of blood, frogs, gnats, and flies, Pharoah finally agreed to let the Israelites go – but only a certain distance. “I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the Lord your God in the wilderness, but you must not go very far,” he said.[2]

Does our enemy, Satan, set limits on you, as well?

He stirs you to find fault in your Christian leaders. He detests the Word of God they are preaching. Oh, he lets you worship – perhaps pray – a bit – but not too often. You must not go very far, he says.

He doesn’t mind if you go to church, as long as you don’t get “religious.”  Don’t listen to those who speak God’s Word. They speak lies, he says. The message is outdated. It’s not for today. He tells you it’s okay to go to church sometimes, as long as your church time doesn’t conflict with other events.  You must not go very far, he says.

He puts into your mind many faults with God’s plan of giving the tithe or more.  Oh, it’s fine with Satan if you give a small offering to ministry, but he tells you the church doesn’t use the money properly – or you certainly need the money for something more important this week. You can give next week instead. You must not go very far,”he says.

He makes the Christian look foolish – you know – the one who speaks to others about being saved. The one who prays in public. The one who prays with the sick or the grieving. The one who lives and raises his/her family according to the Bible, instead of according to the world. He tells you that you would certainly appear foolish in front of others by revealing your Christian faith.  You’ll appear foolish if you disagree with today’s “norm.” You must not go very far, he says.

He causes you to be totally worn out on Sunday mornings. Your children aren’t obeying your directions to brush their teeth and get dressed. An argument is brewing between you and your spouse. Going to church isn’t worth it. I don’t want to be a hypocrite, you tell yourself. You must not go very far, he says.

I’m familiar with these lies, as the enemy spits them at me quite often. But just as God willed Moses to lead his chosen people out of Egypt, He wills us to leave the burden of slavery to our sin and to follow Him, just as Peter and the other disciples did when they recognized Jesus as Messiah, the one about whom Moses had written.[3] Once we belong to Him, He offers us abundant life.[4] The enemy doesn’t want that abundant life for us; he doesn’t want us to go that far.  He tricks us into thinking we’re just fine with a little bit of Jesus.

I’m not. Are you?

[1] Exodus 5:9

[2] Exodus 8:28, italics added

[3] John 1: 35-51

[4] John 10:10

The enemy is a liar:

 

So she waits . . .

She knows she shouldn’t worry – shouldn’t fear. She reads it, studies it, believes it. She speaks that Word as a reminder to herself. She speaks that Word as prayer.

But the fear is sometimes overpowering, much like its creator, the deceiver, who strips her mind, if only temporarily, of any other options than that of the fear of loss. More loss. The deceiver assaults her, approaching her from his dark hiding place, filling her tired and weary mind with the worst possibilities. She suddenly feels weak – nearly too weak to fight. But she waits.

Her mind composes the worst scenarios. And she fears she has no strength left to go forward, should those possibilities unfold. Certainly she can’t face another. Not long ago, she had felt so strong, but now, oh so suddenly, because she has opened the door to the enemy of fear, she is beaten from hurts of the past. She prays, but the deceiver tells her that her prayers are worthless – boringly rote and hopelessly meaningless. She suspects she’s being deceived, but she’s tired. So she waits.

In her weakened condition, her mind remembers nothing but past pain. As though there have been no victories. She strives to consider God’s faithfulness, but it seems so … very … far away. The fear – the worry – pulls her under water. It’s hard to breathe. She gasps for air. And she waits.

But as she waits, she gains strength. She rests. She eats from the vine and drinks from Living Water.

As she rests and is strengthened, her hope is renewed. She remembers a faithful Father.

As her hope is renewed, she sees the deceiver for who he is. She tells him to leave her presence. He has no place near her. He must obey because he knows of her Father – her faithful Father. And she waits.

And each day, little by little, she gains a greater understanding of “waiting.” When she reads, 

“I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He lifted me up from the pit of despair, out of the miry clay; He set my feet upon a rock, and made my footsteps firm,”

she knows that He hears her cry even when it is an inward cry rather than an outward cry. Because He is faithful.

When she reads,

“. . . grace . . . teaches us . . . while we wait,”

she realizes that God’s grace has revealed His faithfulness all the time she has been waiting in despair.

When she reads,

“those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength,”

she knows that she simply needs to give herself a bit of time – time to not jump to conclusions – time to let herself be strengthened – time to let God work things out for her. She learns that most often, waiting means taking time. She learns that He has spoken about the waiting because He knows it will be necessary for her. She is reminded that her Father is faithful. And so she waits.

Psalm 40:1,2
Titus 1:11-13
Isaiah 40:31

~ Kathi Waligora
Author of When Life Roars, Jesus Whispers
and 
Shh! Listen to His Whispers!

I admit it. I wonder . . .

Do you pray – and pray – and pray – and wonder if the Lord is hearing your prayer? And if He is, why He isn’t answering?  

You’ve grown in your faith. You trust in His Word. You believe His promises. But you’re still praying. And wondering. I admit. I am.

You’re not alone.

I’m right there with you.

And David, the Psalmist, whom God loved tremendously, is with us also. He knows grief. He knows distress. He knows waiting.

He comes right out and asks God. I’m asking right along with David:

How long, Lord, before you answer me? It seems like you’re turning your face from me. How long must I struggle with this agony, anxiety, and sorrow in my soul? It seems that the enemy is winning this battle . . . Oh, Lord, turn and look at me and answer me. Give light to my eyes – restore the sparkle I once had. Don’t let my enemy think he has won.

Then, as David does, we too need to recognize God. This is where we must go. This is what we must do. We must respond to our own distress by recognizing who God is. David’s example of recognition is perfect for us, as well:

But, I trust in your unfailing love, Lord God. My heart rejoices in the salvation you have given me and continue to give me. You have been good to me. 

You have been good to me. Oh how this causes me to remember God’s goodness. Over and over. A lifetime of it. He has been good to me.

Now I’m trusting more. He knows me. More than I know my own soul. Now I must strengthen myself in the Word.

I read more about God, learning more about myself, as I do:

 

Lord, You know everything about me. Everything. You know where I am, what I’m doing. You know my thoughts and my words – before I even speak them. You place Your hand of blessing on my head. You are always with me. Always. You’re in front of me and behind me. You hem me in as my Grandmother hemmed each piece of clothing. Securely. Snugly. Safely. If I choose to go up toward the heavens, You are there. If I go down into the depths of the Earth, You are there. If I fly toward the dawn of the morning or toward the farthest oceans, Your hand is there to guide and support me. It’s impossible for me to hide in the darkness. You still see me – because You bring light into my darkness.

There it is my friend – He brings light into my darkness. He brings light into your darkness. Just as He brought light into David’s darkness.

And so I close my eyes and I see His hand of blessing reaching toward me, guiding and supporting me. He places His hand upon my head.

And I am blessed in the waiting. And in His presence.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

From Psalm 13 and Psalm 139

Follow my writing by “subscribing.” Click here.

More than I can ever imagine!

I must admit, I had some anxiety about it – our lengthy trip planned across the northwest states. I’ve struggled others times, such as the first few days when we arrive in Florida for the winter. It’s an uneasiness about being so far away from the kids for a length of time.  (For those of you who don’t know – our three kids are grown up, happily married, unbelievably responsible and self-sufficient, blessing us with eleven grandchildren and one great-grandchild due, as I write this. But, once again, although my anxiety might be unwarranted, I’m just being truthful!)  This trip – planned for the month of July – is farther yet. About twice as far. Anyway, it’s an admission. Don’t judge. You have anxiety over certain things, too!

I had tried  various Trip Planners (five to be exact), but after hours of using the mouse to move the route to the roads we wanted to take (which do not include expressways) and “losing” the entire plan, I opened the Atlas and started the tedious job of my own “Trip Planning.” Days of effort. Pleasant effort. But time consuming, nonetheless. Finally, the route was finished. Our 31 allotted days of travel, including five National Parks, over 4000 miles, numerous state parks and RV Parks, and a few Walmart parking lots!

Then I started doing some research. I wanted to be prepared to see all that we could within the locations we would travel.

Oh my word! That research changed everything!

The first discovery was Multnomah Falls. I’ve seen pics of it for a few years now – pics taken in each of the four seasons. I’ve always thought it must be the most beautiful waterfall in the country. Little did I know it was on the Columbia River Gorge, in Oregon, just a “hop, skip, and a jump” from Viento State Park, where I had booked two nights camping. (I love how the Lord works all that out!) I just can’t express what this knowledge did to – and for – me. I literally “choked up.” I thought, I am going to see the most beautiful waterfall in the country! Thank you, Father God.

And that’s when things suddenly changed. All my anxiety about the trip was gone. God gave me peace and joy and tremendous appreciation and thankfulness for what Ron and I were about to see and experience.

And with my continued research, I began to wish we had planned two months instead of one!

Thor’s Well – don’t you know, we’ll drive right past it on the Oregon Coast.

 



  Seals! I didn’t realize there were seals on  the coast, as well, did you?   

One photo after another – of prairies and streams, of mountains and glaciers, of wildflowers and waterfalls, of mountain goats and grizzly bears – filled me with excitement. It is so much more than I ever expected! And I’m going to see it and live it for a while!

And so it is with heaven. I can’t begin to realize how great it will be. For you, it might be a quiet setting you desire. Or a mountain top.  Or a home beside the world’s best shopping center! Jesus said He’s preparing places just for us! We can’t begin to realize how amazing it will be.  Unlike our trip out west, which is for just a short time, heaven will be for eternity! And instead of anxiety about it, we can have peace – total peace! He alone gives that peace. It comes with trusting Jesus Christ as Savior. Only then can we look forward to His plans for us! Click here to learn more about becoming a Christ follower.  

If you haven’t yet “subscribed” to my writing on this website, I invite you! Only on my website will I be posting throughout our trip! Join us!  Click here.

Memories renewed by a simple “Honk”

Walking through the house this morning, I heard a car “honk.” I didn’t know if it was on TV or a car going by. But it brought back some memories. Perhaps you can relate.

Growing up, we lived in the country – a gravel road. Few cars went by during the day. When a car came down the road, one of us would often say, “There’s a car coming.” We stared as it went by. It was notable!

If the passerby knew us, sometimes even if he didn’t, he or she would most often “honk.” It was a “hello.” Of course, my dad and mom did the same thing as they drove. Travel was much slower in those days. Rarely did Daddy ever drive 50 mph and that was only on a big road, a “highway” like US 27 or US 12. No, he drove slowly, commenting along the way on wildlife, farmers in their fields, discussing various changes in the scenery with my mother. I learned much during those drives. Landmarks, not addresses, marked our travel. “Culps Hill”; Clarendon Pond . . .

Travel was limited. Of course, Daddy drove to work every day. He worked at Federal Mogul, and he left the house shortly before 7:30 am. The office opened at 8. He arrived home at 5:19 pm every day. Mama drove, too, when she worked. Those were the rare times we had two cars. We didn’t often make trips to town. Errands were written on paper, along with grocery lists (usually on reused, back sides of envelopes), and our rare trips to town included buying groceries, going to the laundromat (during the times Mom didn’t have an automatic washer), sometimes a trip to J.C. Penney, and occasionally a fun trip to Otto & Sons where Daddy shopped the hunting gear and we kids browsed the massive toy department.

We jumped in the car every Sunday – after church and a quick Sunday dinner – and took the long drive from our home on Quincy Grange Road in Butler Township to Grandpa and Grandma Nutt’s house on Grass Lake Road, northwest of Kinderhook. Daddy occasionally honked the horn when we arrived. There, we spent the afternoon – oh, the stories I could tell would fill a small book. But for now, I’ll only share the memories of the long drive. After hours of visiting and investigating the old barns, sheds, empty silo, and garden areas with my brother and cousins, we once again hopped in the car and drove the long route back to Butler Township, to the even narrower graveled Bidwell Road to Grandpa and Grandma Locke’s house, where Daddy “tooted” the horn a bit louder, drawing our Locke cousins out from their places of play around the yard and out buildings. We spent the remainder of daylight with our Locke cousins, playing outside until the familiar whistle of the theme song of “Lassie” drew us into the living room.

My childhood travels to and from our graveled Quincy Grange Road residence centered around a vehicle, filled with a family of five, a bushel of love, and touting a horn that spoke a friendly “hello” to all. Occasionally today, I hear it – if only in my memories.

Photo is taken Summer of 1959. Mom at the wheel. Becky, my little sister and I in the back of our new yellow and white Ford Fairlane.

Please click here to subscribe to my website postings: 

“D-Day” Dear Mom:

Tuesday Evening

6 June 1944

“D-Day”

Dear Mom:

     Yes, this is “D-day” the day we have so patiently waited for. I suppose you know as much about the news as I do, so won’t say anything about it. But maybe I have a little closer view of it than you folks back there. I see hundreds of the planes overhead, some going and others returning. At times I wish I could be up there and get a first hand hit at them. But guess I will have to be satisfied here on the ground and do what little I can. No foolin’ tho’ it does make a guy feel awful small and cheap to stand and look up at the boys flying toward danger and me be here on the ground with both feet on Mother Nature and more or less safe and not sweating out a bullet aimed your way, or an anti-aircraft gun pointed up at you. Tonite I can lay down and sleep comfortably. (I say sleep, that is if I can get my mind off the boys in the foxholes long enough to doze off and forget it.” All the fellows have had a different look on their faces today. A look hard to express in words. In the mess hall, too, it was not the usual tone but altogether a different atmosphere. Well, we must all pray for the end of this hell on earth. That’s the least we can do. “Prayer changes things.”

     Tonite after chow, I watched a string of planes & gliders for over an hour. Just a continuous roar. It sure made me glad I wasn’t on the receiving end. All day long, almost, we could hear our bombers going over. We could see them this morning. How they glistened when the sun hit them. But later this afternoon we could hear them & wanted to see them so bad but couldn’t because of the low clouds. Just a minute ago it rained, guess that’s what was in the clouds. Hope it’s nice tomorrow so I can get up early, look up at the boys, and breathe a silent prayer and wonder if they’re ok. It is hard to decide just how I really feel today. Can’t feel happy feeling so useless, and shouldn’t exactly be sad because the days that pass will mean a day closer to the day I can come home.

      I got another package from the Service Club at Pratts. It is sure nice to get things like that. I will write and thank them for it soon.

    Haven’t had any letters the last few days. Guess they are being held up. Oh, yes, I did too. I got one from Velma. She was saying how nice the neighbors are about coming to see her. But of course they all must express their feelings & poor Velma said after two or three visitors she just can’t hardly stand it any more. She said, “Bless them.”

      Well, it’s time for me to go off duty now (10:00). We work on a full time basis now 24 hours a day. So I’ll be back and write more after a few hours sleep…… (Bye bye)

      Hello Folks, it is now after three o’clock in the morning and here I am back again. Nothing has happened except that I didn’t sleep very good. Early yesterday evening before I started this letter one of the fellows and I went outside and done a little wrestling and every muscle in my body is sore this morning.  Oh well, that’s good for me.

      Guess our boys are doing alright over there. Late yesterday afternoon newsmen said they had advanced as far as into town from where you are. Gee, the radio said that channel looked like one mammoth bridge. There were as many thousand big ships in it all at once as there are letters in my littlest brother’s name. And as many thousand planes as he is years old minus one. (I shouldn’t think there is anything wrong in saying this, if there is it will give the censor something to do.) Have any of my letters ever been censored?If you can make out the above figures it might seem rather strange but that’s what the radio said.

      A low flying plane is going overhead now. Guess he is out scouting. They sure keep a close lookout. I bet the old Jerries are beginning to do some serious thinking. I bet they are next on the list and they probably know it.

     Well, Mom, I want to write to Margie if I have time, so I better ring off for now. I’m at the same place as before so please try not to worry about me. I’ve always said I’d let you know when it was alright for you to worry and that will be when I’m in a more dangerous spot than I am now. I mean it Mom so don’t worry yet. I will write again soon. I look for a letter from you today. If so I will answer tonite. Have my laundry to wash out today. Poor me!! Give my love to all the boys & tell Dad not to worry. I love you all very much.

Your boy, Wayne

Notes:

Par. 4: Wayne refers to neighbors who have reached out to his family, expressing their sympathy for his brother, Marion, who was killed in service in North Africa, just a year earlier.

Par. 7 Wayne uses clues to indicate distances – “into town from where you are” is the distance from Kinderhook to Coldwater;

   “ships . . . letters in my littlest brother’s name” Wayne’s younger brother’s name was Dale, so that’s 4,000 big ships.

   “planes as he is years old minus one” indicates 11,000 planes, as Dale was 12 years old.

 I carefully hold the aged lined paper, worn from years of handling, first by Daddy, then by his mother,  and now years later by me, his daughter. Little did he realize his daughter would hold this letter in her hand all these years later – his mother’s lifetime passed, and his own lifetime passed. My eyes follow the longhand script of his beautiful penmanship, displayed in each letter he wrote home – to his mother – or to his sweetheart, Margie, my mother, and of which I had observed throughout his lifetime.  The papers continue to age in my own hands, as I can never get enough of reading my Daddy’s letters, as well as looking at his photos from those days he served in WWII. Each time, something different stands out to me. Today, one thing is his closing – “Your boy, Wayne” He was indeed her boy. Growing up didn’t change it. Going to war didn’t change it. My heart enters another decade, aching for my Grandma Nutt who sent five boys off to that dreadful war – and only saw four return.

Daddy was just 19 years old when he wrote this letter. As I contemplate, I discover a young man who has “grown up” quickly in the tumultuous world in which he lived. And in reading this particular letter today, I compare that dreadful time in which he was living – four years into a world war – to our present world, filled with storms, earthquakes, plagues, pandemic, riots, and political unrest. Although in a different country and in a different century, I see people who have a “different look on their faces today. A look hard to express in words. . . altogether a different atmosphere.” It is the look of today, also. The look that comes with a “different atmosphere.”

Similarly, his response to his own observations in June of 1944 could and should  be my response to those around us today:

“Well, we must all pray for the end of this hell on earth. That’s the least we can do. ‘Prayer changes things.'”

Prayer changed things 77 years ago, on June 6, 1944 – “D-Day.” And prayer can change things today – June 6, 2021. Join me in praying for those who are suffering – for those who are lost.

“That’s the least we can do,” as my Daddy said.

Click here to “subscribe” to my future posts!

Have you read about my Uncle Marion? Click here to read the post, “Letters from War.”

By her right hand . . .

I joined Mama in those last steps of her dying. As much as I could. From the outside looking in. This was Mama’s dying, not mine. I was very much alive and it made it all the more difficult to accept this separation that death was about to force upon us.

I love you every step of the way

She turned her head and looked at me. She spoke. soft. single. syllables, but I couldn’t hear her. I couldn’t understand.

I’m tired,  I thought. I’m worn. I don’t like this. I want to go backward – to yesterday – to last week – to last year. I want to hear my Mama’s voice. I want to listen closely to her. I want to soak up her every word.

Then no more movement. Eyes closed. She lay perfectly still. Not in sleep. But in the stillness that sometimes comes before death. This was a stage of death – one I’d witnessed in my Daddy, just one month prior – one I did not want to face again. A double-edged blade was stabbing the most tender place of my heart. She would never look at me again. She would never speak to me again. I yearned to hear her voice, even those soft. single. syllables, once more. I wanted to place my ear close to her mouth and listen closely. Please God, can we go back.

But there was no going back because this awful parting that was coming about between a mother and a daughter, was death, and this awful death had been compounding itself in my Mama’s life for many years. It had been initiated and implemented in a beautiful garden, and it had ruined every life since. It was aging and suffering, cancer and illness, war and killing. It had parted many mothers and daughters, and it was strong – stronger than I could any longer fight. And so I sat beside Mama and watched as she lay still, her body dying.

Suddenly, the stillness of those hours was broken by an occurrence that became a ritual of the next hours: she opened her eyes and turned her head, facing up, looking toward heaven; lifting those, purpled, bruised hands straight from her elbows, toward heaven, toward her Savior. I watched this sacrament in amazement throughout these next hours, each time understanding more about death and feeling its wicked sting. Please, God, let Mama’s body die so she can go to You and to Daddy.

I had prayed for a visible sign of Mom’s soul leaving her body. It would be such a simple thing for You to do, Lord God. I didn’t need a sign to know that my Mama was going to the Lord Jesus. I simply wanted it! And so I prayed.

Now she dwelt in this last state of her physical being, one I had not yet observed in these days of watching her die—or in the weeks of watching her struggle to breathe—or in the years of watching her vibrant body deteriorate into the old woman who now lay before me. Mama simply turned her right hand away from the sterile white sheet and raised her palm toward her Savior as she took her last breath.

I opened the Bible – the Word. I went to the Psalms and discovered that Mama had lived the Word in her death:

“Yet I am always with you,” [my Mama said],”You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory . . . earth has nothing I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:23-26 NIV)

He had held her by her right hand and had taken her to glory. And He had answered the simple prayer of a simple daughter.

And I knew that the Word would help me face life without her, that God was the strength of my heart and would be my portion forever, and I understood a bit more about death and felt a bit less of its sting.

Letters from War

Marion L. Nutt

May 18, 1920 – April 28, 1943

I never knew my Uncle Marion, yet my throat tightens, and tears roll down my face whenever I look at pictures of him, read his letters from war, or place a flower on his grave.

Perhaps it is because he reminds me of my father. They shared such a resemblance. Or perhaps it is because sometimes I try to place myself in my Grandma’s shoes – having five sons in the war at the same time and dreading that unwanted telegram. But most definitely it is because of my love and appreciation of a man who gave his life for a country and the freedoms I enjoy every day – a man I’ve always known as my Uncle Marion.

In memory of my Uncle Marion, a true patriot, a recipient of the Purple Heart issued by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and forever a loved member of my family,  I write these words.

Marion (left) and Wayne (right) July 1931

Marion grew up on a black dirt farm in Kinderhook, Michigan, the seventh of twelve children. The large family was poor but honorable, honest, respectable citizens of the community.  In the early 1940’s, Marion was the first of the “older” boys to enlist to serve his country in what became known as WWII. Soon thereafter, Paul, Clifford, Earl, and Wayne followed suit. During the war, the five sons served throughout the world, including the Pacific Arena, the European Theatre, and the North African Campaign.

Marion (top row – second from right) with Ethyl My parents, Wayne and Margie, bottom right
Young Marion goes off to war.

One of my mother’s best friends was a vibrant, lovely woman named Ethyl. Years later, as I grew up, I simply knew Ethyl as my neighbor and friend.  She and her husband Frank had two daughters. I never realized until I read Uncle Marion’s letters from war that Ethyl had once had a very special place in Uncle Marion’s heart, and I have every reason to believe that he had a very special place in her heart, as well. I discovered this in one of the letters Uncle Marion had written to my mother.

(To my mother)

Ethyl, my Uncle Marion’s “one & only.”

Sept. 20/42

Ireland

Dear Margie,

Well Margie, today is a rainy Sunday as that is nothing unusual in Ireland. Say, Wayne’s letter came the same day as yours. He said to give you 7734 for not writing to me before. . . . What is this I hear about you & Wayne planning to marry? . . . Ethyl writes a lovely love letter. I think she is the one & only for me. We could be so happy together as I love her so much and miss her as we are made for each other. She most likely thinks I run around with other girls.If so she should be here and witness what I do. Then it would be different. . . . Talk Wayne out of joining the army. Please if you can. . . . Must close for now for time is short.

Marion and Ethyl On furlough before shipping off to the fighting.

As ever, my sister-in -law to be. Care if I stamp this with a kiss for you? S.W.A.K.

As ever, just a soldier,

Marion L. Nutt

The “soldier away from home”  was revealed in Marion’s letters to his brother Clifford who had not yet enlisted and was living with his wife Velma and two young children in Michigan. Knowing Velma would undoubtedly read the letter, Marion included a line to Velma, as well.

(To his brother, Clifford)

June 10, 1942

Dear Brother,

Received your letter today. Was sure glad to hear from you. Would have liked to see you with the mumps. Ha. Ha.

Went to the city for the weekend . . .  the air raids. It was worth the trip just for that. The trip was educational as well as fun. Wow, is whisky & drinks ever high. Bass, which here means beer,is twenty cents a bottle. Whisky $8.00 a quart. Women cheap, two shillings a frig or a pound for all night. That’s what the boys say. I don’t know myself.

P.S. Velma, don’t let this shock your modesty.

Sept. 13/42

Ireland

Dear Brother,

Hi Cliff. How are you and the family?I am fine as can be. Get a little lonesome sometimes, but try to make the best of it.

Received your ever so welcomed letter this week so will answer it with the best of my ability.

Most of the soldiers fish at night . . . I am going to Belfast next week to fish … and raise 7734.  These fish are so much different than ours at home . . . a few trout

A little army life would do Earl good, just like Paul.

Write soon.

Your brother,

Marion N.

Shortly after he wrote these letters, Marion was sent to the North African Campaign. The rainy, somewhat peaceful days in Ireland suddenly became cold, turbulent days at the front of  “Operation Torch,” at Algiers – then later at Tunisia. A fierce battle had been taking place for over two years. At stake was control of the Suez Canal and access to oil from the Middle East – vital to mechanizing the armies. Marion was one of 65,000 troops commanded by General Eisenhower. Just one of many men, but the one we loved.

(Letter to Clifford and family)

Algeria, N. Africa

Dec. 28/42

Dear Cliff & Family,

Hello kids. How is everyone around home? I am fine although have a slight cold. Shaved my head – then it turned off cool so of course it had me . . . The old mail is just catching up with us. This one I just received is dated Oct 5th, . . .

. . .  as far away as I am and can’t talk to anyone. Boy that is hell. Especially with these beautiful babes parading around like flies and can’t even as much as speak or talk to me.

Just one thing there is her is plenty of wine, about like you said they had in California when you were on the bum. It is cheap. 10 francs a bottle. That is about 1.34 a quart. Variety of each kind. Must be a hundred different brands. Banana wine is strong along with muscatel, grape, orange, even cactus. Whoa. Has that ever got a kick.

What is Olen’s address? . . . He is in the tank core, right? Boy that is hell on the front lines. . . . Where is Fay? . . . I often wonder if I might accidentally run into them. A fellow here met his brother just the same way. . . .

Good night all. As Ever,

Marion Nutt

His next letters  reveal the increasing peril he faces. They also reveal his desire to keep news of that danger from his dear Mother. His body is in Algeria, but his heart is at home.

Mar. 7, 43

Dear Kids,

Hello, how is the old place ticking? It has been 48 hours a day for me. At least that is the way I feel. But am still able to kick. Those Germans can’t get us. At times I wonder,at that. Sure came close this last time. Anyway, the days come & go just the same as ever even if it is hard to tell one from the other. Sure have been good for the past five weeks. No drinks or girls. Just soldier from day to day.

Have seen enemy tanks & heard those machine guns spray lead. . . .

How is Dad doing? Does he take it hard?

Write often.

As Ever. With love

Marion Nutt

(To Wayne, my father)

Mar. 20, 43

Marion with the locals.

Dear Wayne,

Just a few lines to say hello and let you know that I am still alive & in the best of health. Hope you are the same.

Although I haven’t written often, I still think of you just the same. It keeps me busy writing to Mom, Ethyl, and Clifford.

But of course I don’t write anything to them about my hardships, never would I do that, not even if I was dying. Cliff is the only one that knows the score about myself. He can keep it under his hat so that Mother will not worry too much about me.

What I write to you of my doings in N. Africa, please for Mother’s sake, don’t ever mention anything to Ethyl or even to Margie for it would leak out. Then Mother would age 20 years more. So on your word of honor, please do as I say. Please!

Oh, say, how is Margie? I know Ethyl’s morale gets pretty low at times. Her letters tell how she feels. Never sent her a Christmas gift but a money order of 20 bucks, which served the same purpose. There is not a damned thing overseas that we saw that is worth a hoop.

. . . Did you ever wake up in the morning, shivering, peek outside and see it snowing like the dickens? Have you ever slept in a cemetery where you can look into the graves & see skulls, bones, & ribs of Arabs? Then go to sleep & dream & hear them kicking underneath. It gives me the creeps.

Snakes, lizards, scorpions, & rats, all deadly poisonous, crawl about your head while sleeping. Sure is a morale builder, but nothing to worry about.

Visited the city of Algiers the hard way. Wow! What beautiful babes are there, along with some homes that would make California’s look like shacks.

Artillery goes over our heads, makes me jump, although it is friendly. It is very frightening at times. Those foe machine guns sure spray wicked lead. Saw a German destroyed tank. Didn’t even get a souvenir from the old thing.

. . . Well Wayne, my furlough days are over. Am only looking forward for that thing they call discharge.

Instead of me writing to Paul & Earl, just forward this letter on to them. Tell them to do the same. The last one will keep it. Don’t send it home. Remember, keep it under your hats & tell Paul & Earl to do the same. . .  That will save me time and per along with a backache in this cramped writing position that I am in.

Your Brother,

Marion Nutt

(Marion’s last letters – to Clifford & Family via “V-Mail”)

Apr. 6, 43

Just a few lines to say hello & let you that I am still able to fight. Wow! Have I ever had some hair breadth escapes. Can’t tell any, but you can imagine. Listen to the news & just picture me out here fighting for my life. I am not bragging for I am no hero or ever care to be, but anyway I have been the closest to the enemy lines in our company. . . .

Tell Velma her last letter gave me a date. It was about that dream about me & her, also Wayne. I was on a mission that night which was not the pleasantest thing in the world. Too many fireworks & walking. . .

Well Cliff, I have a worried mind so this is all I can think of.  . . . If I come through the next scrape, I will write again so until then, so long & the best of luck.

Apr. 12, 1943

Hello. . . I am still able to breathe & enjoy life and boy is it ever great after being in one of North Africa’s major battles. Will tell more later in my letters. Was nearly a prisoner of war. The old boy was saying & motioning, “Come. Come.” But I turned ass to lead & made my best track time for life.

Paul is lucky to be back home with no more worries of being in hell like I have. Fay is lucky to be able to get home occasionally. Maybe I will have time to write to the boys. It is good to get letters. . .

My space is getting small so will close. Hoping this finds the home from much quieter than this one has been, so keep them going. Seven to one. That is the way they fled from here. Write soon.

Your Brother

Marion Nutt

April 19, 43

Hello Cliff & Family,

Just a few lines to say howdy and let you know that I am fine & still able to write. Although several times I found myself pinching my body to make sure it was not only a dream. Anyway, our mission is now accomplished and trying to rest up a bit, even though there is not a minute of time left for idleness.

Our visiting time is limited although I do go to see  Van occasionally. He is just as swell as ever with blood curdling experiences of this last mission. Of course you wouldn’t care for any of that B.S.

Stokes brings me the Coldwater Daily Reporter, and I scan the headlines for news of the boys in the service. . . . Just hope Earl & Wayne don’t have to leave, because I’ve been through enough hell for them both.

Must give the Jerries credit. They sure know their onions about warfare & such. Boobie trap professionals, along with mines & bouncing babies. But when the drop is on them, they run like mad.

Received a letter from Aunt Mossie saying that everything is going swell & that she received a letter from Mom stating that she would like to go up to their place again. Think I’ll go along the next time. Would have before, but I didn’t know then what I do now.

Our Lieutenant called some of the boys together & said, “I want to congratulate you on your promotions to corporals.” But now I am in doubt until the reports come back on the wounded NCO’s. I wrote Corporal on a letter that I wrote Ethyl before I knew the truth. Now I don’t know. Will say in my next letter to you so until then, just . . .

Pvt. Nutt

Of all the letters, the one that I love (or hate) most is one sent in April of 1943 from my father, Wayne, to his brother, Marion. It was also written on V-Mail stationery – from one brother who has finished training and is heading to Europe (My father, Wayne) –  to another who is in the midst of hellish warfare (my Uncle Marion).

Dear Marion: Will write to tell you everything is fine. Everyone is well. I hear from Mom quite often. Paul is home as you may know. Less worry for Mom

I have one stripe now. So feel good about that! Ha! I’m still in Kansas. Quite hot here. But I like it. Earl is still in Oregon. . . . Ethyl, the darling, is very happy. I’m glad for her and for you, too.

The headlines in papers seem very good. I know you boys are really giving those Germans hell. Keep it up! Write to Mom when you can.

I hope you & Earl Stokes are still together. I bet you two can really pour it on. Will close for now. Good luck.

Love, Wayne

The letter isn’t what’s disturbing – it’s the envelope: “Killed in action”

Signed by a Captain.

Returned to the sender – my father.

How many envelopes were pounded with that red stamp?

“RETURN TO SENDER. THIS ITEM COULD NOT BE DELIVERED AS ADDRESSEE HAS BEEN REPORTED KILLED IN ACTION.”

Seventy four years pass. The year is 2017. Ethyl grew old and has passed away. Her daughter brings me a gift. She found it in her mother’s belongings where it had been tucked away for more than 70 years. It is a brown Bible – a New Testament – given to Servicemen during WWII. An inscription is found inside the back cover: 

Being a believer in Jesus Christ, I had always wanted to trust that Uncle Marion, too, was a believer. I thought of my Grandma, his mother, whom I knew was a Christian. I pictured her praying for her sons at war and praying for her children to also know Jesus Christ. I found comfort and consolation in this little New Testament. It fell open to a spot where all those years before, Uncle Marion had placed a four-leaf clover. As a Christian, I know I don’t need to hope or trust in the luck a four-leaf clover brings, but I also know we have a Heavenly Father who understands our whims and knew that someday Uncle Marion’s placement of that clover would lead me to the Word of God – the true hope of our redemption in Jesus Christ. The pages were slightly stained by the clover, which for 77 years lay upon blessed words of our Lord. I read, “And the son said unto him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.’ But the father said . . . ‘my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to be merry.”

I thought of my Grandma and her answered prayer for her son, Marion – that he was a son who had died but was alive again!  My heart began to be merry. And I thanked God for His Word and for the little country church that gave that Word to my Uncle Marion.

The final “letter” is actually a lengthy, detailed report titled “Phase IV History of 135th Infantry Regiment.” It describes the final battle for Hill 609 in Tunisia, which began the 27th of March, 1943. It is a disheartening account of Uncle Marion’s last days – those very days of his last letters – the letters that had shown me his true heart. Now I knew a bit more of those many days leading to taking Hill 609.

The report is bitter reading:

“Most of the infantry attacks were not coordinated.”

“Communications at best were poor . . . slow and uncertain”

“The artillery was not used to its fullest extent.. . . Many times the artillery barrage would come down on our own troops, insuring a lot of them and it took a lot of the aggressive spirit from the men.”

“Hill 609: It is interesting to note the difference in terrain . . . this terrain was to be the stage and the scenery for one of the most important battles of the campaign to drive the Germans from Africa; the battle which rates as one of the outstanding combat feats of the Regiment – The Battle of Hill 609.”

“A large percentage of officers and men were  ill for reasons not definitely known. . Although  physical exhaustion was probably partly responsible, it is believed Atabrine tablets were largely the cause.”

“On the 2nd of May, 1943, the battalion occupied the entire north slope of Hill 609 in addition to the ground already held.”

The battle was over. The mission was successful. The Hill was conquered. But it was four days too late for our family:

Uncle Marion was killed in action, in the battle for Hill 609, on April 28, 1943. The Hill was successfully taken on May 2. Officially, the North African campaign ended May 13, 1943.

The list is lengthy at the end of the 47-page report: Wounded in Action; Killed in Action.

In the report, he is simply number 36160539. But in reality, he is our son, our brother, our uncle.  He is the small town dirt farmer who left his large family to serve his country. He is one in a  huge family of patriots – of citizens who love this country, the United States of America – of people who stand in respect for the flag, the pledge, and the National Anthem – one of dozens in this family who served and continue to serve in the armed forces and within their communities. He is an example of honor.

Now, as my throat swells with pride and wet drops of love roll down my cheeks, I know the reason. It is because I am an American and a piece of a great family that loved a hero named Marion.

Please “subscribe” to my writing on this website: https://kathiwaligora.com/subscribe-to-kathis-writings/

And “follow” me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KathiWaligoraAuthorSpeaker

Marion’s grave. East Gilead Cemetery Coldwater Michigan
 

Our local WW2 Veterans are remembered at Oak Grove Cemetery. Uncle Marion is just one local man who was Killed in Action but one of thousands – one of tens of thousands who gave their lives for our country during that war.