Pursuing the past, finding the future

Pursuing the past, finding the future

We drove southeast from Zürich toward the birthplace of Maria Tschanen Zimmerman, my great-grandmother. I’d hoped to find family tombstones, especially for her sister, Anna. My grandmother’s only expressed wish, unfulfilled, had been to visit Switzerland. After my mother’s death this year, I felt the need to link back to her grandmother’s land, especially since it is my middle daughter’s home, and the birthplace of two of my grandchildren.

By the time we reached Wohlen bei Bern, early winter darkness forced us to pull out flashlights. We stomped around the graveyard at Die Pfarrkirche, but all we found were fairly recent graves.

church at Wohlen bei Bern
church at Wohlen bei Bern

Inside the church, the boys and I were fascinated with the manger scene, loaded with woolly sheep.

Manger scene in church at Wohlen bei Bern, Switzerland
Manger scene in church at Wohlen bei Bern, Switzerland

We read that the church was founded in 1320.

Wohlen bei Bern Die Pfarrkirche
inside church looking toward the back
Ten Commandments from 1681
Ten Commandments from 1681

So why no old gravestones, the kind my older brother and his wife found throughout the U.S. to establish our family tree on our father’s side?

In a country rich with history, even pre-dating the Romans, it didn’t make sense.

After thoroughly covering every part of the cemetery, I stopped to listen to my daughter explain that, according to Swiss law, any graves over 100 years old are removed to make space for new ones. (No, we don’t know what happens to them.)

Finally, we chose a young cinnamon rose-bush near some Zimmerman and Tschanen graves to disperse a portion of Mom’s ashes. (Mom had been an avid gardener.)

Cinnamon Rose bush in Wohlen bei Bern churchyard
Cinnamon Rose bush in Wohlen bei Bern churchyard

Tracey and the boys sang “I Am His Child,” which Jeremy and Kyle had sung to Mom on their last visit in April – and to which she had responded with deep emotion and tears. (They also sang it at the reception after her Requiem.)

For days I was frustrated that I had not been able to find my ancestors’ tombs.

Yesterday, understanding dawned, and I sighed in relief.

empty manger
empty manger

Just like the empty manger, the empty cross, and the empty tomb where they had laid the body of Jesus, someday all our tombs will be empty.
The only thing that really matters is where we go from there.

“My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in his presence.” I John 5:13-14


sunrise over Schindellegi
sunrise over Schindellegi, Switzerland

Below is a partial clip of Jeremy and Kyle singing “I Am His Child” at the reception.

B Vitamins for the Soul

Blessings from Switzerland
gentle mountain peace in Switzerland
I’m in Switzerland as I write this, so our Thanksgiving dinner is finished, leftovers are in the fridge (or on the balcony) and the dishwasher is purring. (It has been twenty-two years since we returned from Honduras and a very rustic lifestyle, and I still love the sound of that machine working instead of me.) I’m happily tired after cooking and baking with my daughter and gathering with friends and family. But no meal, no matter how fresh the turkey or how lovingly prepared, can meet our deepest needs. Don’t we yearn for more than food and drink? How about a “shot in the arm” of our spirit? I don’t know a better source than Barak (the Hebrew word for blessing).

Here are some B vitamins from the Book of Life.

Vitamin B1: You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. Matt 5:3 MSG

Vitamin B2: You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. Matt 5:4 MSG

Vitamin B3: You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. Matt 5:5 MSG

Vitamin B4: You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. Matt 5:6 MSG

Vitamin B5: You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for. Matt 5:7 MSG Vitamin B6: You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. Matt 5:3-8 MSG

Vitamin B7: You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. That’s right—you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set. Psalm 119:1-2 MSG

Vitamin B8: Don’t put your life in the hands of experts who know nothing of life, of salvation life. Mere humans don’t have what it takes; when they die, their projects die with them. Instead, get help from the God of Jacob, put your hope in God and know real blessing! Ps 146:3-5 MSG

Vitamin B9: God-of-the-Angel-Armies! King! God! . . .And how blessed all those in whom you live, whose lives become roads you travel . . . They wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks, discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain! God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain, and at the last turn—Zion! God in full view! Psalm 84:3,5-7 MSG

Vitamin B10: But blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God. They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers— Jeremiah 17:7 MSG

Vitamin B11: God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done. II Corinthians 9:8

Vitamin B12: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. NNumbers 6:24-26 ESV