One Thought Led to Another… FAMILY!
It’s not always easy to come up with an article for our genealogical site. Believe me, Andrew and I have a lot of ideas, but we also want fresh and exciting features to mix in with the necessary articles dealing with family lines (names, dates, and places). A few weeks ago I decided to look through the letters I received from those people I had contacted back in the 1970s and 1980s. These were replies from distant cousins with information so I could record their family lines. I was hoping to find several letters written around Christmas time which mentioned what those people had planned for the holidays thirty some years ago.
I found few letters written to me during Christmas and decided this was because most people had sent Christmas cards to Linda and me, which I had not saved. But, while sifting through a hundred or so of those letters, I came across several sent by Shirley Hagenbuch from Minnesota. Though a distant cousin, Shirley had visited Pennsylvania in 1983 to attend the Hagenbuch reunion. I had lost contact with her over the years. After conducting some research, I found that she had died in 2014. I was saddened by this and began to work on an article about her family line (to be published in the future).
In the meantime, Linda and I were going through some boxes in my library that had been relegated to a distant corner. In one of the boxes were a lot of old photos that I had forgotten about. Along with the photos were lots of other memorabilia: some old letters and books, recipes from my mother, and a German Bible belonging to my great grandmother. It was a hodgepodge of items, all important, and needing to be saved. Several of the photos pulled at my heartstrings: my sister, brothers, and me when I’m one year old; my parents at different stages of their lives; my mother, her siblings, and her parents; photos of our children when they were young; and a blurred photo taken by my mother on Christmas day in 1973 when Linda and I were engaged to be married! None of these photos were new to me, but they had been stashed away for several years and looking at them again brought back memories of my own family and of Christmas.
I am writing this on Sunday, December 8th. In our church today, St. Paul’s Lutheran in Dillsburg, I was suddenly filled with an even stronger spiritual feeling than I usually have during the Service. There was special music for this second Sunday in Advent. Linda sings in the choir and is also part of the bell choir. Along with several choir pieces today, the bell choir played and there was a cellist and a flutist whose music touched me. Our good friend, Joyce, is music director and organist. Her work today was certainly influenced by the Holy Spirit as feelings of warmth and family spread over me. Although we only joined St. Paul’s a year ago, I know many of the people from my involvement in several local organizations and having been elementary principal here for 21 years. They are family too—church family.
As I listened to the sounds of Advent and observed the sights of Christmas in the church (Christmas tree, crèche, Advent candles, wreaths, and so on), I thought of our ancestor, Andreas. As a Pietist, he most likely would not have approved of the Christmas items decorating the sanctuary. Thinking of Andreas’ religious beliefs and the large family we have become, I glanced at the pew in front of me. Sitting there was Kim Sebestyen whose ancestor came over on the same ship as Andreas Hagenbuch. In the pulpit preaching was Pastor Glenn Ludwig whose first charge out of Lutheran seminary in 1973 was Oak Grove Lutheran Church, my family church in Montour County, PA. He is now my pastor again. Furthermore, he and his wife attended our wedding in December of 1974. My mind was racing as I tried to keep focused on the reason I was there—to worship God!
As my feelings were spiritually high from the music, the good folks around me, and my Lutheran heritage, my thoughts turned to the 45th wedding anniversary Linda and I will celebrate on December 21st. Those of our family who live nearby will be with us on that day for the milestone. Some who were with us 45 years ago on that day will be with us again.
With the church service continuing and my mind racing around family, the wedding anniversary, and Christmas, visions of my children danced in my head (apologies to Clement Moore). Our family remembers the story of Andrew during the children’s program when we attended Sharon Lutheran in Selinsgrove back in 1986. Even at his young age, he had a booming clear singing voice and he belted out Away in a Manger sounding well above all the other children. My mother, his Nana, who was there that evening swore he had a mint in his mouth and still could sing loud and clear!
Julie was born in early December of 1986, and the Sunday after Christmas I presented the children’s sermon at Sharon Lutheran. Dressed in a white, gold trimmed sleeper with little wings, I took Julie up front with me as the children sat around me. I used Julie as an example of the Christ Child—so small yet so important in life. A few years later we moved to Dillsburg and attended Trindle Spring Lutheran in Mechanicsburg. We have a photo someplace of Katie, dressed in white with one of those gold halos circling her head, as she joined other children singing during the Christmas program. It’s a vision of a daughter’s innocence and beauty that will not leave me.
Andrew and I write articles on so many different family groups. We write articles about customs, foods, clothing, military service, and relationships. A subject we often don’t write about is our own close family. Family—isn’t that what it is really all about? The good memories are well worth taking the time to write about and tell to others.
I will not forget the details when Linda and I were married by her father in a candlelit church, nor the time that Andrew sang Away in the Manger with gusto, nor the time that Katie stood out as a beautiful small angel, nor the time when Julie as a three week old baby was an example of the innocent Baby Jesus. My close family – I thank God for them. From Linda and me: May you all have a blessed and spiritual Christmas.