Ever wonder if your wants and needs and pleas are heard? If spirit—or someone—will answer? Does spirit travel like our love and prayers to protect us and keep safe those we adore?
I’m sure my relatives must have wondered this as they embarked on a trip of a lifetime. John and Mary Lorang left their Genesee, Idaho ranch in the early spring of 1910. They traveled by buggy and train across the country and boarded a ship for a six month tour of Europe. Left behind, perhaps never to be seen again, were ten children, including my grandfather, ranging in age from eight to twenty-six.
I heard little of these great grandparents while I was growing up. I didn’t see photographs of their trip – over 300! Nor did I hear of their stories, or see their diaries and memorabilia saved in attics and closets of the old home. But in 1960, I did hear my grandfather traveled to Europe to follow his parent’s journey. He took photographs and bought back his own trinkets. I remember a delicate dolly – four inches high, made of wire and felt – a larger carved wooden camel. These captured my imagination of foreign places!
The trip was not all good for my grandfather. He did see many sites visited by his parents fifty years before. Much had changed. And the long trip was taxing for a man with emphysema. He became ill – was suspected to have typhoid and was detained in Turkey. It was many months, interventions of diplomacy, and legal adoption by my uncle before my grandfather was released! After hearing this story, I marveled over his courage and wondered if someday I might travel abroad…
Fast forward from 1960 to 2004. A second cousin I’d never met, and my Aunt Janet who now owned the family ranch, successfully had it designated as a National Historic Site: White Spring Ranch Museum/Archive Library. A ceremony was held to celebrate. We gathered in the yard outside the Victorian ranch house beneath shady trees planted by the great-grandparents. I sat at a picnic table covered with a plastic cloth. As I listened to a blessing to the four winds, I set down my empty coffee cup, and reached for the hand of my Aunt Pat beside me.
“My dad would have loved this!” I whispered.
Tears sparkled in our eyes as she responded, “I miss him.”
“Me, too,” I said. The words were still on my lips when my styro-foam cup scooted several inches and stopped in front of Aunt Pat.
“He’s here,” we said gawking at the cup and squeezing each other’s hand.
My dad loved coffee. The last thing he did on earth before dying the previous summer was take a sip of decaf vending machine coffee, smile, and quip, “AHHHH!”
Spirit seemed to send me a clear message with the empty styro-foam coffee cup not blowing over or tipping, just sliding sideways!
Something special happens whenever we go to White Spring Ranch where my great grandparents farmed and raised their family, where my father grew up, and I went every year as a child. Though this was the first time I visited without the physical presence of my parents, I felt their spirits travel with me!
I felt a strong kinship with all those gathered there that day, many relatives I’d never met in our large family with Catholic roots. We were witnessing our heritage with collections of photos, diaries, letters, and possessions now on display and being archived as historic treasures of not only generations of our Idaho farm family, but also lives shared across the nation.
A desire rose in me then to learn more of my forebears, and possibly follow in their footsteps on a similar journey across the sea on the hundred year anniversary of their journey!
Oh, but sometimes, life develops differently than one might hope or plan!
As 2010 arrived, that trip was on my mind.
Did I have the courage to go even though my husband declared he wouldn’t go and didn’t want me to go either! I stewed about how I could negotiate through his objection and also allay my bigger fears of foreign travel! It was silly! My great grandparents had gone with only letters and a few telegrams to connect them to home and family left behind!
But could I leave mine and go?
I continued to stew as winter months were passing and I was not finding a way clear to go without great difficulty. My husband of over thirty years was not seeming himself. And I was afraid to go without his blessing or accompaniment. Then in early spring, we were cutting firewood of bug kill trees at our mountain cabin in the Oregon woods just 60 miles from the family ranch in Idaho. Suddenly he turned off the chainsaw, limped to the four-wheeler, and barked, “Let’s go.”
We weren’t finished stacking the wood! And he is…well, you could nicely say he likes to finish what he starts! We silently returned to the cabin and went inside. Then, my husband shocked me with announcement: “My hip hurts! I’m going to see a doctor about it! And, I’m having heart trouble!”
“What heart trouble? How long?”
“Over a year.”
What? How could this be? My strong, can-do-anything husband is only 57! Had the spring wind been warning me of this? (See my post about the wind: Unleashing Passions at http://carolcassara.com/unleashing-passions/ )
That summer 2010, I did not go to Europe for the adventure of a lifetime. I nursed my husband back to health following a full hip replacement.
Our daughter was away house sitting in Santa Barbara and experiencing life in California. Our son, who was finishing his first year of law school at ASU, was away on a six-week exchange program in Italy. His studies allowed time for numerous short trips around Europe. We were thrilled when he returned home for a visit in August; he brought me a glimmering volcanic rock pendant. As a kid, I’d taken a big chunk of identical and colorful carborundum for show and tell at school, but never told him about the stone or where my dad’s rock-hound friend got it.
“Wow! Beautiful!” I said.
“I bought it for you at Mt. Vesuvius,” our son answered.
“Pompeii? My great-grandparents visited there 100 years ago! And my grandfather did fifty years ago. Up at the ranch, they have pictures and samples brought back from their visit!”
The next month, September 2010, our daughter’s helicopter pilot friend she’d house sat for offered a thank you, all-expenses-paid vacation overseas. Quick plans were made and soon they were off on a big adventure and our son was back at law school in Phoenix.
Prescribed medications to treat hubby’s irregular heart rhythm had rendered him incapable of working or functioning at more than the level of a very old and sick man. So after he’d recovered from the hip surgery, he opted for cardiac ablation. It was terrifying for him to go under the knife again so soon after his hip surgery but he was determined to get everything repaired and back to full health! He had excellent doctors and almost no issues with his recovery! I breathed sighs of relief and prayers of thanks!
It was hard going through all of it with just the two of us together, but that is what we pledged when we married. We were growing closer with fun adventures and not so fun health scares! (I’ll write more in a follow-up post about MY health scare I mentioned previously in the post Unleashing Passions at http://carolcassara.com/unleashing-passions/ ) But don’t worry, spirit has a clever way of answering prayers and fulfilling our desires.
Our daughter enjoyed her “once in a lifetime” trip overseas. She brought back several gifts: a sliver Cartouche of my name, and a chunk of quartz to make into a necklace. (She hadn’t known her brother also brought me a beautiful stone souvenir though they both knew I love stones and believe in our connections to the earth.)
I was struck by an odd sense of serendipity and peace as I worked that fall on edits for my debut novel: Mending Stone – a story of heartache and longing, family, and foreign travel!
In 1910, my great grandparents, and fifty years later, my grandfather, had traveled around Europe as our son did in 2010! And our daughter had traveled to another place they stopped and posed for photos!
My body did not journey to foreign lands on the 100 year anniversary of my grandparents’ trip, but my blood did!
Spirit travels like prayer, and answers.