I love to help people. If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, that’s probably painfully obvious.
When I was a girl, I always tried to help bickering friends, hurt animals, sad people, you name it.
In college, I routinely gave money to Jerry, the homeless man near school.
I put flowers on, and swept off, ignored graves. Strange, huh? I don’t know. I just felt compelled.
For 15 years, I worked in a long term care pharmacy, and was very dedicated to helping elderly and terminal patients – day or night. Because sometimes all you can provide is comfort. And in my time working, I estimate that I filled over 1 million prescriptions. Prescriptions for suffering, healing, and comfort.
I’ve thought about this facet of my personality a lot in my life. Knowing my family history as I do, and the fact that this *trait* is pervasive in my woodpile, I can say that this is a horribly internal need that I have. I can no more ignore it than I can simply stop breathing. Help. Fairness. Equality. They’re as intertwined in me as the systems that keep me alive.
Of course, this isn’t what this story details. It is one piece, of many, that fits in this puzzle though. A puzzle that began over 90 years ago.
So with that, I’ll ask you a question…or more.
Do you ever wonder why some things happen?
Or maybe wonder if God’s still moving among us?
Or if he has forgotten you?
Me? I don’t. I never do. Why? I don’t know. I just don’t. There is no real explanation for my solid position on that topic because I question the stability of most everything in my life on a somewhat daily basis! But if you do wonder about these things, let me tell you something.
Everything happens for a reason, and I can prove it.
My cousin, Don, was born in 1923. He died in September 2010. He was 87. That wonderful man was my right hand in the search for our Mitchell family. I met him many years ago when I was heavily searching for information about our ancestors. I loved, respected, and adored him more than I can say. We emailed and spoke often. And since his passing, my mother and I have spoken of him many times. I miss him. Terribly. And in that time that we have known Don, we’ve spoken to his son, Randy, once.
Through our extended family, we heard Randy was trying to contact us to pass along his father’s genealogical papers and notes. Not able to find his telephone number, I consulted the internet. So did my mother.
What happened next is nothing short of a miracle. It was driven by fate. Because all of our steps are ordered. Everything that happens is meant to happen. And you must believe that. You must. Because it IS so.
This event changed the lives of myself, my mother, an 88 year old WWII veteran, and the nephew of a fallen comrade because of, what seemed to be, a simple search for our cousin.
My mother located a Randall, who was the same age, and was convinced his location was familiar. I was not so convinced, but retrieved the phone number while my mother jotted down the associated email address. She called, left a message, and received no reply. She decided to email him. In this email, she stated she was looking for Randy, the son of Don and Irene. Again, she never received a reply. This was three-ish weeks ago.
Wednesday, March 6th, she received a phone call at 4pm from a Nelson, father of Randy, who was a brother of Don and Irene.
My mother inquired further, as we had never heard of Nelson, “Irene was from Flint, correct?”
“No, she was from Oklahoma.”, replied Nelson.
Don and Lorene were Nelson’s brother and sister-in-law.
Don and Irene were our family.
Nelson has a son, Randy, not Don and Lorene.
Don and Irene, my family, have a son, Randy.
They continued to talk anyway, as he is 88 and my mother is 80. Both had similar life experiences to share. And in sharing, the heaviest of heavy burdens spilled out of this man. “Since you’re near Flint,” he said, “I was in service with a young man from that area. I’ve been looking for his family since I got home in 1945. That young man and I were very close. I was with him when he died in Europe, and I want his family to know what happened to him.”
My mother listened to his story, racked her brain, but did not know the family. She did, however, assure him that her daughter could help him find that family. Of course, he did not want to burden anyone with his search, but my mother was certain that if anyone could help, it was me.
Heaven help me.
Yes, that was my first thought. As the story was relayed to me, I felt as though I was being covered with layers and layers of wet blankets. I almost couldn’t breathe. But without any hesitation, I agreed to do everything I possibly could to help.
Heaven. help. me.
I begged. I pleaded. I cried.
I have to help this man. I have to. Have to.
It was already deep in my soul.
I shut off every single thing having anything to do with the blog, and I worked. I worked. I worked. I stayed up until 3am working. Well, that isn’t entirely true. From about 2-3am, I spent most of that time staring at Charles’ picture.
By the time I went to bed, I had found a picture of him, his grave, his military service records, stories from his battalion, death record information, and what I thought was the correct family in the 1940 census.
This man, Nelson, and his buddy landed on Omaha Beach. D-Day.
Battle of the Bulge.
His buddy, Charles R Lawrence, survived the first to be killed before the second on September 29, 1944.
I thought of my Uncle Vern who was shot down over England. I thought of my Uncle Tom, a fellow soldier in the Battle of the Bulge. And really, countless others in my extended childhood network who were in the war – Al, who was in the Pacific. Another Don, who escaped combat due to cancer in his leg…I could go on and on. I respected these men, and have often said I feel more connected to that generation than my own. After all, I was raised around my mother’s older brothers and sisters, the eldest of whom was born in 1920. That said, this was all very familiar to me.
So, I got up Thursday morning at 7am. Who could sleep? I worked. I found him on the 1930 census. I was now relatively convinced I had the right family, as the census said Charles R Lawrence. Mind you, there were three census options for Charles, and this one was not in Flint. I began looking for his two brothers, Don and Frank, to try and narrow things down further. I couldn’t find anything about Don. I had two options for Frank that I felt were reasonable. I had no death record for him, no obituary, no marriage record – only the 1930 & 1940 censuses and a whole lot of guidance from above. A whole lot. Heaps. Tons.
I called the first of my two options, a woman in Texas. Her husband served in WWII. In fact, his brother was killed in Europe, but they didn’t match up. I emailed another man – two different ways. I stared at his picture. He looked like an older Charles. Enough that I was relatively certain I had the right man.
I found his phone number and gave it to my mother. I don’t know why. I just couldn’t call him. I’d have dissolved on the phone before saying a word.
And just like that, we found them. It was the right family.
Like rain, details of “Uncle Sonny’s” life poured out of his brother’s widow, along with the generic knowledge that he had been killed in Europe. Uncle Sonny’s brothers were gone, but his brother’s widow and nephew are here. Uncle Sonny. We called my Uncle Vern, Sonny.
Charles’ nephew, who loves his Uncle Sonny dearly, has the flag that draped his coffin, and various other personal effects, his mother shared with my mother.
After concluding their hour-long conversation, my mother called Nelson to let him know that the family he had been searching for just under 70 years had been found. He was beyond ecstatic, choking back tears, and overwhelmingly grateful.
That night, just over 24 hours from the start of my search, Nelson spoke with Frank Jr. for 3 hours – telling stories of his time with Charles, as well as his passing.
Frank was so moved that he plans to visit Nelson in California shortly.
He plans to visit my mother and I in the next few weeks.
He already calls my mother, Mom.
I guess it goes without saying that we’re so touched by all of this. I couldn’t love and care for these people more than if they were my own family.
Not having spoken with him myself, I decided to look Nelson up on Facebook and send him a message – To thank him for his service to this country, and just for being a very fine man, among other things.
And in looking at his picture, I thought he looked familiar.
I was instantly taken back nearly 10 years to a trip my husband and I took to Las Vegas. We sat next to a man and his wife who looked strikingly similar to Nelson and his wife. So much so, that I asked my mother to bring that up to him the next time they spoke.
And yes, it was Nelson.
He and his wife were there, at the same show, sitting next to us in December 2003.
Don. Irene. Children named almost 90 years ago – who ultimately married.
Don. Lorene. Children named more than 90 years ago – who ultimately married.
Charles R Lawrence killed Sept 29, 1944. 68 years ago.
Randy. And Randy. Children named 60+ years ago.
Las Vegas. 10 years ago.
Among the many other life events unknown to me that these circumstances influenced, I can clearly identify this ONE experience that depended on these events. In exactly this order. Falling into place. Exactly this way. For this day to come – simply because Randy thought my mother was referring to HIS Aunt Lorene and Uncle Don. He may have thrown that message away otherwise.
It overwhelms me with emotion.
I’m so grateful to have been a part of this reunion. Because, without this man, I wouldn’t be sitting here today. Those boys overseas were willing to die for us. Many did. In watching my uncles and their friends discuss the war in even the most general terms, I saw faces change. Quiet. Details were scarcely revealed. Unspeakable horror.
For me, all I knew was that I couldn’t touch them. I couldn’t help them. I couldn’t fix it or comfort it away.
Last week, I was able to help Nelson. To bring him something good from that horrible part of his life that I’ve never been able to reach…in anyone. And now, lives are changed. Not because of what I did, but because of what God did through so many people along the way. I’m so profoundly grateful that I was chosen to be a part of that path.
I’ve always wanted to be used for something great. Heck, we all want to be used for something great, and it just doesn’t get much better than this.