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.