Death plays a part in how we look at and approach and pursue our destiny. My Swedish Grandma Maja taught me many profound life lessons. Some of her teaching was done by storytelling. Some lessons she taught by example. Maja taught me the value of thoughtful decisions make for good choices
I like the illustration above. First, the young girl reminds me of young Maja growing up in Sweden. The suitcase represents Grandma Maja’s sense of adventure in leaving homeland Sweden for America. The balloon suggests to me a rising, defying gravity, overcoming the forces that would hold you, or push you down. Maja was trampled by life hardships. She found a way, with God to rise in spirit.
Grandma’s life and her destiny was shaped by many events including the death of her family members. Maja and I spoke about how death can inspire us to use our time wisely and thereby help shape our destiny.
Research was key in discovering the depth of character that propelled Maja forward during the dark times that filled her dark nights of the soul.
Swedish genealogy researching can be a challenge for a newbie. Expert Lars Lundström told many stories about Maja that illuminate the formation of her outlook on life. His research skill brought forward amazing insights.
Much of the driving force helping support the compilation of Maja’s story revolves around a question. The simple question was: What was it in Maja’s background that helped her to be so gritty in dealing with really hard times of her life?
Some of the answer to that question I found came from revelations from her family genealogy story.Over and over my friend, Lars Lundström’s expert genealogy skills and insight were revealing.
What were the balloons of Maja’s life adventure that lifted her out of an “ordinary” life to accept big challenges like leaving Sweden for America? An important insight into delving into Maja’s character formation is revealed by closely examining her family dynamics.
In my book I look at a comprehensive exploration of how brick by brick Maja’s resilience character was built. The book also examines the tools and building processes she called up to rise after being knocked down.
Maja was born to a family of 9 children. But, Count the children in the photo. Only 7 children shown.
Why? The researcher asks, in referring also to the family primary source document on file at the local church which listed 9 children born.
August and Ida had nine children:
1:1) Aron, born 8 SEP 1885, 1:2) Hanna, born 19 MAY 1887, 1:3) Karl, born 5 JUN 1889, 1:4) Ruth, born 12 MAY 1891, dead 19 APR 1901 in Diphtheria, 1:5) Ester, born 4 APR 1893, 1:6) Josef, born 21 JUL 1895, dead 26 NOV 1901 in Diphtheria, 1:7) Maria “Maja”, born 13 JUL 1897, 1:8) Oskar, born 1 JUN 1899, 1:9) Elisabet “Lisa”, born 25 SEP 1902.
Notations cross out the names of two young children, a brother and a sister of Maja. As Maja is four years old tragedy comes to the family.In April 1901 10 year old Ruth died of diphtheria. In November, 1901, 6 year old Josef also dies of diphtheria. The family is devastated. What impact on the family, and in particular, little Maja. (Next to the dead subs in the birth order)
August and Ida’s son, Aron Källgren
Prof Lundström again finds details of another tragedy in Maja’s life. Her older brother, Aron Källgren, born 8 SEP 1885; died 20 MAY 1919 from Spanish flu; Aron was buried 25 MAY 1919 at 4pm; no 3 (coffin) in the family grave, Sollefteå Cemetery
His story and death has a big impact on Maja. Several funeral carts hold the flowers for this greatly celebrated local hero. Maja becomes inspired to strive to leave behind an exemplary legacy. She repeats over and over to stress how our aspirations, our hopes and dreams relate to making decisions. Maja has role models. She experiences the sting and finality of death.
Maja’s Father: August Kallgren
Maja’s father died in 1921 during in what would be the year before Maja leaves for America. 1922 will become Maja’s breakout decision in pursuing her destiny and become her great adventure.
Note: Maja originally intended to stay in Chicago for a visit with her Uncle who had struck it rich as a building contractor.
With $1000 in her purse, perhaps benefitting from some inheritance, Maja left home. This would be the final time she left her family as a single woman. Note: Maja studied to become a nurse before her father’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Death would come to Maja’s world in 1925 as a newborn son died from birth complications.
Tragedy Strikes Again
Maja’s husband, Carl Oscar Wittenstrom died suddenly of a heart attack, June, 1932.
My family tree roots are closely tied together with Maja’s. I am proud that even death can provide life lessons in the hands of a master teacher like Maja.
It is from these family roots that Grandma Maja’s story of calling on her family roots and upbringing evolves.
Grandma Maja is never far away from me. I recall and share her stories often. Distance between heaven and earth is not too far. The roots of Maja and her family and now my roots and my family are bonded together. We are strong like giant trees in the forest of life.