Boys and girls, allow me to weave you a detective story, a story of meticulous research and what it uncovered and proof of the point I wish to make.
First, a reminder that I am a pastor and I do funerals. Recently, a very respected parishioner passed away and last Monday I made an entry on Facebook about the experience:
An intriguing start to today's week. I conducted an interment at a local cemetery early this morning and after my benediction and parting words of consolation to the family, I stepped back and wandered amongst the gravestones until my car was freed from the family that parked around it.
I'm not morbid, but what people see as a graveyard, I call God's library. Each stone represents a life that has a story behind it and in my humble opinion each story carries with it inherent value and meaning. I agree with a quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt: "Each death is a tragedy for if it is not, than life has become one." So I browse the stone library that people call a graveyard and marvel at the names and the dates and the small expressions of faith and comfort that some have engraved on the markers.
Within minutes I was joined by three of the most charming and intelligent young ladies I have ever had the honor to meet and they had incessant questions about the gravestones and the families they represented.
The oldest was no older than 10 and with them leading the conversation we discussed graveside and funerary traditions, the differing aroma of flowers, the difference between marble and granite, and whether family lines can die out. The dissonance of walking in a necropolis with three pretty young things bursting with energy and life was, admittedly, an odd experience of contradictory emotions. Nonetheless, I cannot deny I was charmed by the unexpected company in spite of the incongruity.
I shall mark today with a white stone.
For some reason I felt impelled to prove my point that every life is a story, so I selected a gravestone at random.
Now I have absolutely no idea who this young lady is, except that she tragically died at the age of 16. So armed only with the Internet, I decided to do some research into the life of a young lady who is probably forgotten even by what of her descendents are still living.
The first tidbit of information I discovered was a partial obituary that tells the circumstances of the young lady's passing:
Miss Theola E. Logan, 16-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Otis E. Logan, Biglerville, died very suddenly at her home in Biglerville Saturday evening at 7:30 o'clock.
Dr. C. G. Crist, Adams county coroner, and Pvt. Prank Yercavage of the local detail of state police, investigated.
Dr. Crist ordered an autopsy by Dr. C. Harold Johnson, pathologist at the Warner hospital, which revealed death "was due to a hemorrhage at the base of her brain.
Miss Logan had been, in Gettysburg shopping Saturday afternoon. After returning home she dined and had dressed in a new dress purchased here preparatory to coming to Gettysburg with a group of friends to attend a theatre. She had not complained of feeling ill and apparently had been in the best of health. A check on food she had eaten failed to reveal any cause for illness. Miss Logan was standing in a room at her home when her father passed her in going from the room. She did not complain of any illness A few seconds later, Miss Phyllis Snyder, one of the party with whom Miss Logan was scheduled to come to Gettysburg, entered the house and found Miss Logan slumped in ...
I was genuinely surprised that a 16-year-old girl would pass away from a brain hemorrhage. In today's medical terms, it is quite likely Theola passed away from a brain aneurysm, a weakness in one of the arteries of the brain. And yet, she had appeared healthy to everybody who knew her. Curious, I explored her life a little further.
Theola's father, Otis E. Logan, passed away March 13, 1986 and I discovered he was a true war hero. In World War II, Theola's father served with the 393rd Infantry. On Dec, 17, 1944, when Theola was only 14 years old, her family received the news that Otis Logan was reported missing in action in Germany on the Western front. Four months and 12 days later on April 29, 1945, he was liberated from Stalag 13C and afterwards received the Purple Heart. Can you imagine the horror the family felt and then the resulting joy when they discovered the patriarch of their family was still alive?
It was on the page that spoke of Mr. Logan's heroism where I came across a valuable clue that led to a very reasonable conclusion as to what caused Theola's passing. A simple notation noted that Otis E. Logan's father, Otis A. Logan passed away on May 7, 1947 at the age of 76 years, 5 months, and 6 days.
Theola passed away 17 days after the passing of her paternal grandfather.
Is it possible that the stress of her grandfather's passing, a combination of grief and loss and the change in everyone's life when a family member passes (much greater in the 40's than today when families live so far apart) increased Theola's blood pressure to such an extent, it triggered the time bomb in her brain? That as this poor child prepared to go to the theater with friends, blood pressure caused the aneurysm to rupture?
Hard to say, but the conjecture is truly possible.
Every life is a story. And now you know Theola's. Here is her picture:
By the bye, she was survived by three sisters: Dawn, Mary, and Betty. Also, Theola's memory did live on for a time as I found references to a "Theola E. Logan commercial award," but sadly could find no other pertinent information.
Also, the name Theola is a rare one. It is Greek for the word, "divine."
And just as a closing fact of interest, what was the movie picture Theola was going to see that fateful day when she entered eternity? Hard to say for certain, but she had a choice of three. You may have heard of them: Great Expectations, Miracle on 34th Street or The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.