ancestor story, me

Uncle Darrell – Part XII, Final Thoughts

PETERSON, Darrell Skeen, chin in hand
My great uncle, Darrell Skeen Peterson

I never knew Darrell, or Naomi, and I have very few memories of Rulon.  I can’t add any facts, memories or insights into Darrell’s life or the circumstances surrounding his death.  I do, however, want to end his story with a few of my thoughts and what I plan to do next.

I lost a child once too.  Under very different, horribly traumatic, take-your-breath-away painful circumstances.  A baby that was not mine by birth but that lived with us from the time he was 10 months old until he was 20 months old.  A baby that we were told we could adopt.  Until the shocking day when he was taken away, moved to another home, and adopted by someone else.

In the horrible aftermath of the storm, when I was the saddest I have ever been, I remember thinking often about my great grandmother Naomi.  I knew a little bit about her loss.  I knew the bare bones version of the story of Darrell’s death.  I had the funeral transcript, Rulon’s personal history, and the histories written by her daughters.  I had read them.  I knew that she had been heartbroken and that her health never recovered.

What I really wanted were her words.  I wanted to hear her own complete heartbreak and know that I wasn’t going crazy.  I wanted to know that it was possible to be in the depths of sorrow and still have hope, still know that God loved me.  And I wanted to know that not from myself but from seeing it in my great grandmother’s own writing.  I wanted to feel her sense of life moving forward and joy coming in the morning – whenever my morning would be.

I didn’t know that there were any records that existed that were written by her.  I didn’t know if she kept a journal or had written letters.  But in that time of sorrow so deep, loss so overwhelming, when the love and support of my family and friends could barely register let alone reach my aching soul in a meaningful way, it was my great grandmother’s comfort I wanted.  And I didn’t get it.  Not for a very long time and not until well past the need had subsided to a dull ache.

I hope that this collection about Darrell – his life, his tragic death, his family member’s reactions to it all – will someday help one of Naomi’s other descendants.  Because child loss is not new, and unfortunately it happens with cruel regularity.

I hope her honest reactions will be a comfort to someone in their darkest hour.  A lifeline from the past reminding them that they will get through it no matter how painful the way.  An example of enduring faith, hope, and love for God and his promises.  And sadly, an acknowledgement that weathering the storm changes the boat.

I am so thankful for Naomi.  I’m thankful that I have been able to collect so many pieces of her story and Darrell’s. She is one of my heroes.  I want to make sure her story – particularly this part of it – is available to all of her posterity.

Which brings me to what I plan to do next.

First, I have been adding each item to both FamilySearch and my Ancestry Tree.  I am also compiling all of the information, photos, newspaper articles, excerpts from other works, etc into a book.  Once I have a rough draft I will share a copy with Darrell’s three living siblings so they can review it, add any thoughts or insights, photos etc.

I’m going to take a class in May on Publishing Family Histories.  I know the teacher well and know that he shares several different publishing options in the class.  I know he has identified several publishers that allow you to create a nice hardbound book that is printed one at a time for a reasonable price.  This way family members can order what they want without me dealing with collecting money, writing a big check, shipping books and all of that.  When I make my decision on who I will use to publish, I will share it here.

I also need to go through my Grandma’s boxes again to see if there is anything else in them that belongs in this collection.  I know there are letters from my Grandpa’s mission in there.  I need to organize them and see if any letters mention this part of his story.  I hope to be finished and ready to publish before our Rulon and Naomi Peterson family reunion in early August.

And last, thank you to my readers for your kind, thoughtful comments as I’ve shared Darrell’s story.  I know I don’t usually devote extended periods of time to a specific family member, but his was a story I wanted to tell.  Your support made the journey even richer.  Thank you.

15 thoughts on “Uncle Darrell – Part XII, Final Thoughts”

  1. Amberly, I’m so sorry about your loss. It’s one I can only imagine. My children are adopted. I would have found it extremely difficult to recover from what you went through. I love your plans for Darrell’s story.

  2. You have done a wonderful job telling this story, and now, understanding your reasons a little better, I am even more touched by the beautiful tribute you have paid to your great grandmother, and to the son she lost. My mother lost her first child and even though she had three more and loves us all profoundly, she has never recovered from that loss. I think your idea of publishing Darrell’s (and Naomi’s ) story is a wonderful one. Kia Kaha Amberly.

    1. Oh Su, I had to come back and comment again. When I read your comment before and replied I knew that “Kia Kaha” must be a Maori phrase of significance but I was in a hurry and didn’t have time to look it up. I did last night and have thought of your sentiment several times since. So fitting on several levels. I image my Grandpa heard that phrase many times in the days following his brother’s death which of course I tied to my own loss to which you bestowed your wishes for me to stay strong. Thank you for your kindness and for adding another layer of connection for me. Best to you.

      1. Hi Amberly. Apologies; I should have provided a translation! It’s a phrase I find helpful, and it would be lovely to think that someone shared it with your grandfather. Sadly though, I suspect not. Like a lot of indigenous languages, Maori was suppressed for a long time. Children were punished for speaking it at school and consequently, several generations have grown up not knowing their own language. Thankfully, there has been a bit of a renaissance and many Maori phrases have entered the common speech of NZers, partly because, sometimes other languages capture emotions better than our own. I’ve been thinking about your grandfather quite a lot. New Zealand must have seemed like a very alien place to him. I’m glad he had the comfort of his church. Where in NZ was he posted? I saw the photo you posted was marked Auckland — do you happen to know the name of the studio (it’s not clear from the image). Cheers, Su.

        1. Hi Su. I read your comment on my phone last night so I’ve been thinking about it. I don’t know exactly where my Grandpa was when Darrell died. Only that it was a very long journey by car from Auckland. I have all of the the letters he and my Grandma wrote to each other during his mission so going through those is my next step. I suppose I should be able to make a pretty good timeline of his mission, where he was at and so on from the letters.

          I can’t quite read the Studio name either. I think I need a magnifying glass for it (which strangely, I don’t have).

          Your comments about the Maori language are so interesting to me. My Grandpa came home speaking Maori – well some anyway. I don’t know the extent of what he learned but even when I was a teenager there were many Maori phrases he regularly used. The one I can remember I don’t know how to spell so I’ll go with phonetics. I know it roughly meant “the pig’s had his fill and now he must rest”. This is how I remember hearing it: “Poh-key tuh poo-kuh koh-moy tay poh-ah-ka”. Maybe you know the phrase and can tell me how to spell it correctly. 😉 I heard him say that after every meal for years. Anyway, it makes me wonder how much Maori he was exposed to.

          1. Thanks for this. You’ve got me thinking and searching. I found out that the LDS missionaries focused their work in Maori communities, so it’s actually not surprising your grandfather learned Maori. He would have been one of the few Pakeha (white people) at that time who did learn Te Reo (Maori language). I also found out that there were/are? three missions in New Zealand; Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington. Because the telegram was sent to Auckland, and the photo was taken there, I think it’s possible that he was working in the very north of the country. Hamilton is the first major city south of Auckland. Wellington is further south again. Because Auckland is on a narrow isthmus, the only direction missionaries could go without ending up in Hamilton is north. There was (and still is) a very large rural Maori population in Northland. Even now, the road north is quite slow and winding. In the 1940s it probably would have been gravel as well. Not a comfortable trip! I’ve been trying to figure out what his saying means and I think I know some of the words, but the phrase itself is eluding me. I’m going to ask a friend if she knows it. I’ll let you know 🙂

                1. Hysterical laughter is absolutely right! Sometimes my family members will say something to the effect that I’ve done it all. I don’t even know how to convey to them the impossibility of that statement. 😉

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