A tragic loss of life…Etched in our hearts forever…The journey continues…


My father George was a fine man. He’ll remain in our hearts forever.

As revealing and vulnerable as we are in our daily posts, we carefully reserve a certain sense of privacy in our lives.  From time to time, we find ourselves in a quandary asking the question, ”Will revealing a sensitive personal situation benefit or enlighten even one of our worldwide readers?”  

If we have the opportunity to do so, we may choose to be as open as we are today.  We write and post photos here daily to entertain, to inspire and to share some of our research in regard to traveling to a particular location or as in our case, the world.  We, like you, learn as we go, fumbling along the way hoping to share valuable information we’ve gleaned from our mistakes and from our triumphs carrying the lessons forward into the next phase of our travels.

My 95 year old Uncle Bernie and his girlfriend.

Today’s story is not about travel, although we had to travel to Boston for the experience.  Today’s story is not intended to inspire, to educate, or to enlighten.  The sorrow of others doesn’t entertain.  But, it does bring us closer in touch with our own loss and grief, if only for a moment or a day.

It’s a sad story, as are the stories of each and every one of us in dealing with loss of a loved one.  Its a story of a loss so powerful that it has shaped my life and the lives of my two dear sisters…the loss of our father 54 years ago on October 18, 1960.

Uncle Bernie, his girlfriend Chavy and Phyllis.

His name was George.  He was 46 years old when he met a tragic end to his life.  He was manager of a metal casting foundry.  It was his last night on the floor having been promoted to a corporate position starting the following Monday morning.  It was Friday at 1:00 am, October 16, 1960. 

Our phone rang.  My mother, startled by the phone at the late hour, answered frantically.  We heard her scream.  Minutes later, as she pulled on her coat, she hollered to us, “Your father’s been injured at work.  I’m going to the hospital.  I’ll call when I know.”  The door slammed behind her.

My father on the left, brother Red and sister Ida and their mother, my grandmother, Ethyl.  Uncle Bernie was yet to be born.

I was 12 years old.  My sister Susan was 16 and Julie was four.  We were scared but, he’d been injured in the past which was never life threatening.

An explosion occurred.  His clothing caught on fire and he ran. A co-worker dropped him to the floor beating out the flames with his bare hands as my father writhed in excruciating pain.  He had third degree burns over 98% of his body. 

My heart pounded as we walked toward the grave of my father.  As we reached his grave site, the pounding eased and a sense of contentment washed over me.  I felt a sense of peace and of gratitude.

He lay conscious in agonizing pain, blinded, unable to breathe for two full horrifying days, succumbing on the third day. The battle to survive was too enormous even for this fine tower of strength and determination, a man of great character, a man of great will.

As my sisters and I waited in the living room of our home in a small town near Boston, wondering when we’d hear how he was doing. We’d lived in Boston for only two years, having spent the first years of our lives growing up in California to which we returned a few months later.

We had no knowledge of what had happened to him until around 3:00 am when a reporter pounded on our front door asking for a photo, “Of the man who was dying after being severely burned and was “unrecognizable,” he said, “Hey, girls, get me a photo of your daddy so we can put it in the newspaper.”

My father, George, passed away almost 54 years ago.  Memories of him linger in my heart and mind all of these years later.

We slammed the door in his face.  We fell to our knees on the living room floor , hugging one another, crying hysterically, scared and alone.  It wasn’t until daylight when family appeared and we were finally told the truth. 

He passed a few days later.  My mother’s screams rang through my ears for many years to come.  He was gone.  Somehow, each of us had to find our way to grieve, to heal and to move on.

Cousin Phyllis lost her daughter Edie and husband Arnie in the last decade.  Her strong spirit and passion for life shines through her loving demeanor. 

Yesterday, my Uncle Bernie (my father’s brother), my cousin Phyllis, Tom and I visited his grave site in Boston.  My sisters and I returned to Boston in the 1970’s to visit the cemetery and see our grandmother, uncles and other family members.  That was 42 years ago. 

The four of us spent the day together at the cemetery and later reminiscing over a memory filled lunch at a local restaurant sharing stories, laughing and crying.  It was a day I’ll always treasure, powerful and meaningful.

It was this reason we’d  chosen the most recent transatlantic cruise.  It ended in Boston.  One more time we could see Uncle Bernie (and of course, Cousin Phyllis), whom along with his brother, Uncle Red (Phyllis’s dad, who passed away in 2002) had come to visit us in Minnesota many years ago for a memorable week together.

All the loved ones lost.

Tom hit it off so well with the “uncles” that he too became one of the “boys” linked to the memory of my dad, George.  It was no different today.  Tom and Uncle Bernie each ordered a cocktail toasting to being together once again.  During lunch, Uncle and I often held hands, each in total awe of being together once again, love deeper than ever.

Memories fade, sorrows ease and life goes on.  If my father were able to hear me, all these years later, I’d say, “Daddy, thank you, for being the special man that you were and for loving me and my sisters. Thank you for the role you’ve played in  shaping my life so that now, in my senior years, I’m happier than I’ve ever been before.  I’m living life to the fullest, on my terms, fulfilling the dream I never knew I had, with a man that in many ways reminds me of you…strong, loyal, determined and filled with love.”

A single flower growing at the cemetery reminded me of how fragile and fleeting life is.

Today, we continue on our year’s long journey.  Soon, our flight departs from Boston, Massachusetts to Vancouver, British Columbia where we’ll spend six days preparing for the upcoming cruise to Hawaii beginning on September 23rd, ending in Honolulu, Hawaii on October 5th.

We’ll stay in close touch each and every day reveling in the wonders surrounding us.  Whether its a waning sun, a smiling face or sudden burst of laughter, it all matters.  Life is short.

Photo from one year ago today, September 17, 2013:

On this date a year ago, we posted our flight information from Mombasa, Kenya to Mpumalanga, South Africa departing on November 30, 2013.  No photos were posted other than the flight information.  Please click here for details.


4 thoughts on “A tragic loss of life…Etched in our hearts forever…The journey continues…

  1. Kari Lyman Snell Reply

    I have tears running down my face after reading this story about you Father. So sad and he was so young. I'm very happy that you and Tom had another chance to go back to Boston to visit family and the cemetery.

  2. Jessica Reply

    Kari, we are so touched by your comment. Thank you for sharing this with us. We take great comfort in knowing that you and many in the family are following us on our journey. Hope all is well and happy your way.

    Much love,
    Jess & Tom

  3. Anonymous Reply

    Jess, I have not written in awhile but I have to comment on this post. I also was close to tears while reading of your wonderful Father. It is hard to understand why life goes the way it does sometimes. But if we look to the good, as you have done in remembering the time you had with your father, it makes life much easier. Thanks for sharing and it brought me back to remembering my own father and mother, who have both been gone for eleven and thirteen years now. We miss them dearly but the fond memories they have left us, we will hold onto forever. Also, your uncle and his girlfriend are so cute. Looking forward to the stories and pictures of your upcoming Hawaii trip. Your friend, Pat

  4. Jessica Reply

    Pat, how sweet of you to write. We've had such positive and supportive feedback since we posted the story of my father's death. In many ways, sharing this story in healing. Its precious how we all gather together to share our own grief as you've done here as well. We are never alone in grief and sorrow. We need only to open our hearts to receive the thoughtful messages. Yes, Uncle Bernie and his girlfriend are so adorable. It was such a wonderful experience. Thanks for writing Pat. We always love hearing from you.

    Warmest regards,
    Jess & Tom

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