Revisiting the Past

by Jane Wiberg

Can it be nearly fifty years since Glen and I first took that winding road to an obscure hamlet in the Connecticut hills called Haddam Neck? It was a delight to go back now, with autumn in its full splendor, to celebrate the centennial of our first church. This was the fifth centennial of our five churches and Glen preached at each one.

Laden with memories, we stopped first at the church to greet Pastor Steve Elde. It was a poignant meeting, preparing us in a wonderful way for a return visit to Rock Landing Cemetery where our son Carl lies resting in a countryside he loved so well. The centennial weekend began with a banquet held on a river boat with over 90 people present. Upon arriving, the centennial book was presented to the dinner guests, a lovely piece written by Doris Barton and her daughter, Jean. Pastor Alden Johnson, a former pastor, spoke and sang, much to the delight of all.

Jane and Glen Wiberg

Revisiting the past, while filled with rich memories, also has its pain. Being away so long, we knew so few and mourned the many stalwarts of the congregation who were gone. The oldest living member is Ella Christianson, a dearly loved friend and neighbor on Quarry Hill Road. Ella is 90, and despite her failing eyesight and recent knee-replacement, is still so vital with her characteristic passion for life. She continues to be the life of the party, a party we enjoyed at a lovely luncheon in nearby East Haddam with her children from New Hampshire, New York, and her adopted son. Her daughter, Janet, and husband, Pastor Lowell Johnson, the first couple Glen married in Haddam Neck, could not be present because of a trip that took them to Scotland. Our host and hostess for the weekend were Jarvis and Doris Barton. The guest room overlooked the Connecticut River, and on the window sill was a beautiful bouquet of purple delphinium and iris. Jarvis has owned and operated the Portland Boat Works for many years and has restored several antique cars for which he has received national awards. We were treated royally by all.

On All Saints Day, Glen preached to a growing, spiritually alive congregation. In remembering the saints, it was comforting to hear the familiar names of those we have "loved long since and lost awhile." The liturgy and music were so fitting for the festival day. Then following the service a potluck dinner was prepared. What an exciting day for us as Krista, our former daughter-in-law, came down from Boston with her family. We met Jay for the first time and their two children, Kerric and Kelsey. This was an All Saints Day we will always cherish.

We also met old friends, Robert and Pauline Nelson who lost their daughter recently and now share with us the same grief journey. Then, I couldn't believe my eyes when I turned and saw the tall, stately Les Strand who had been our Superintendent those many years before. I reminded him of an autumn day long ago when our first child, Kathy, was ten months old and was desperately ill in the hospital in Middletown. Glen was in Chicago, and I was alone, weeping, filled with anxiety and fear, unable by hospital regulations to be with my child, when I heard the door bell ring. Like the scene in which the three kings come to the house of Amahl and his mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors, I was greeted: "Good evening!" There stood three wise men sent from God: T.W. Anderson, Les Strand and Ralph Hanson. I invited them in, and having heard about our family crisis, they got down on their knees in our living room and prayed for Kathy's healing and soon she recovered. I will never forget that day. And Les Strand remembered it, too.

Later Sunday afternoon we returned to the parsonage and visited Marilyn and Steve Elde and their four children. Now each room in the parsonage is decorated in Swedish colors with Carl Larsson prints and motifs. But each room for us holds bushels of memories. Yes, we revisited our past-the good times and the hard times. We were just a couple of green kids just out of seminary but sent to the most beautiful spot in New England. Haddam Neck will always be sacred ground to me. It is wise and good to remember.

Jane Wiberg lives in Golden Valley, Minnesota and is a floral artist.

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