The Kindness of Strangers - A True Christmas Story

The following story is included in the Christmas cards my mother sent out this year. It's a true story; I know this because it happened to her.
My 2005 Christmas Blessing

On December 9, 2005, my younger brother in Salt Lake City received a phone call from a person whom he had never met, and he told him he was in possession of a box of personal items that had belonged to one of our brothers who had died in 1947. My brother later called me to tell me about the unusual call. I contacted this person, Erik, and I relate to you what transpired after the conversation.

I shared with Erik that I was only five and one-half years old when our dad died. I am the youngest girl in our family of seven girls and five boys. I was devastated when my dad died, but I attached my affections to one of my older brothers as my surrogate dad. His name was Rease.

During WWII, Rease served in the US Air Force as an x-ray tech, stationed in Colorado and Amarillo. As a result of not being provided with the proper shield from exposure to radiation, he developed cancer. He was medically discharged and he and his wife returned to Sherman, TX where her parents lived, and he was briefly employed as an aircraft mechanic at Perrin AFB in Sherman. God had a purpose for him....but it was not to be healed from the cancer; God called him home in June, 1947. It was another devastating loss for me. I was 18, he was 32.

Years passed and his wife, Ruth, died about five years ago. She had remarried, but lost her second husband to cancer, also. Since she had no living relatives, and her house is undergoing some changes, one of her neighbors, also a good friend to her, fell heir to her personal items, and this lady is the mother of the young man that contacted my brother in Salt Lake City. She, in turn, gave the items to Erik. (He found a list of the names of all twelve children of our family among the contents, and wished to give the items to us.) There are only five of us still living. This past Tuesday, I received a package containing many personal items that had belonged to my brother, among which was his wallet with personal cards, military ID tags (2 sets), driverís license, and the greatest surprise of all: a picture of me that I had sent to him when I was a senior in high school (1945/46). It has been 58 years since his death, and I am at a loss for words to describe the emotions I experienced upon receiving that part of him at this special time of the year. My Christmas will be merrier because Erik chose to share tangible memories with us.
Of course, I never knew Rease, my uncle, but I've heard family speak of him on many occasions and I consider him to be one of the multitude who gave his life serving our country, even if not on the battlefield. It's a blessing, indeed, to know that some tangible reminders of his life have been restored to his family through the caring diligence of a young man who had no logical reason or obligation to go to the trouble of tracking down that family. That sort of giving gladdens the heart better than anything we can find in a mall.

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This page contains a single entry by Eric published on December 23, 2005 9:17 AM.

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