Sunday, May 3, 2009

Blubbering like a flu stricken baby...

Some of you might have seen me blubbering like a baby in church today and wonder why on earth I was so distraught.

First of all, Shelby presented me with a gift of a framed picture that she took of this precious little one:

(not the photo Shelby took, but I was too lazy to scan that one in...)

Honestly, who could not be overcome with joyous emotion upon seeing that beautiful face?

And then someone mentioned the FLU word - mercy me - right there in Sacrament Meeting, and that was all it took. The blubbering commenced full force - and the closest thing I could find in my purse to a facial tissue was an athletic sock - thankfully a clean one that was housing my camera.

I am a little concerned about this flu. Not panicked, just concerned. I watch, and I wait, and I prepare. I am not worried about dying, but I sure don't want to get sick. Ugh, who does? I am wondering what everyone is going to do when they go to the store and there has been a run on ibuprofen like the run on surgical masks that happened this week!

Heather (my school teacher daughter) hasn't had school since April 29th, and won't go back to work until at least May 11th - with a confirmed case of the flu in Park City and more pending tests coming (one a sibling of three of her students - tested negative). All LDS church services were cancelled there this week as well.

You see, with all this talk of a flu pandemic, I can't help but reflect on the great flu pandemic of 1918. I pulled this book
off the shelf this week to remind me of how awful** it was - and also to reconfirm what I already knew - that it was a strain of swine flu that took the lives of an estimated 40 million young and healthy people.

**I will spare you the gruesome details of how awful it was, but if you read on page 4 of the book - you will see it was MORE THAN AWFUL - to die of this flu was like the plague. Just HORRIFYING. To quote the book: "Some who lived through it said it was so horrible that they would not even talk about it." I don't like to think about it.

Nothing drives me crazier than to hear someone say "What is the big deal? Thousands of people die of the flu every year." Dying from the Swine Flu of 1918 was definitely NOT like dying from the ordinary flu.

It appears that the current swine flu (or the more politically correct H1N1 virus) is missing a gene that makes it
different than the 1918 flu. I also hear that this flu seems to be attacking the young and healthy, so there are similarities.

To quote the book jacket: "Children were left orphaned and families were devastated. More American soldiers were killed by the 1918 flu than were killed in battle during World War I. And no area of the globe was safe. Eskimos living in remote outposts in the frozen tundra succumbed to the flu in such numbers that entire villages were wiped out."

Yes, children were left orphaned...

Joy (my dad), Laurel, Bessie and Valeda Small

"But in 1918 the Great Flu Epidemic felled the young and healthy virtually overnight."

Yes indeed it did.

My grandfather Howard Edwin (29 May 1888-25 Oct 1918) and my grandmother Janet Beatrice Giberson Small (24 April 1890-20 Oct 1918)

My grandmother was only 28 years old - my grandfather was 30 years old. My Dad was 4 1/2, Aunt Laurel was 3, Aunt Bessie was 2, and Aunt Valeda was 3 WEEKS OLD when the flu took the life of their beloved parents. When Grandmother Janet took sick (a well meaning visitor to greet the new baby brought the virus into the home) - Grandfather Howard rushed home from working "in the county" (Aroostook for you non-Mainahs) - and it is believed that he was exposed to the virus on the train. They died 5 days apart. Think of this timeline - Oct 20 Janet dies, Oct 22 Janet is buried, Oct 25 Howard dies, Oct 27 Howard is buried. Unthinkable.

Can you imagine a little boy only 4 1/2 being told "Now you are the man of the house."

Only there was no house. No home. They were ORPHANS.

There were so many orphans, and so few people to take them in. I have a friend whose mother was a young teenager, and she went to work and lived in a boarding house when her parents died.

The only solution was to break this little family apart and divide the children up - but that was unacceptable to my GREAT-grandparents (ages 60 and 50 at the time) - so they took the children in and kept the family together:

My great-grandfather William Lois Small, my great-grandmother Maud Faustena Hapworth Small, my great-aunt Georgia Etta Small Ward with her husband great-uncle Herbert Leslie Ward and the four children - orphans no more!

I must say the four children look less than thrilled in this picture - kind of like they carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. I know they had a very happy childhood thanks to loving grandparents. Thinking about my father being raised by people born in 1858 and 1868 helped me to later understand why on earth he was so strict.

The only "Grammie" I knew was great aunt Georgia - my dad called her Auntie but to us she was Grammie. By the time my dad was 29 years old he had lost both grandparents. So young to lose so many important people in his life. Auntie and Uncle Herbert played a very important role in their nephew and nieces lives. Aunt Bessie is the last sibling still living - now age 92.

So, I wonder about my grandparents. Who were they? What were their dreams and aspirations? What were they like? One day I will meet them, and I know I will love them dearly. For now, I have a picture, but know very little about them. I miss them, and yet how do you miss someone that you don't know?

I think what life would be like if I didn't have these precious gems in my life and I can't bear the thought. I am so grateful that I am in
their life!

These nine people mean the world to me and more!

And yet, I know, this life is but a moment, and one day we will all be together - one big happy family.

So take that, Mr. Flu. You will not win, after all.

Families ARE forever!

1 comment:

Chris said...

Now I am at my desk being a blubbering idiot!! You have an amazing way with words, I feel like they are my family! You are AWESOME!!