“Not to be opened until May 14th, 2002.” Those were the instructions.

In 1902, a vicar’s wife named Hanna wrote a letter to the woman who would be the vicar’s wife in the same parish in 2002. Her instructions were to leave the letter unopened for 100 years, until May 14th, 2002.

The letter was brought to public attention in the 1990’s. On the Sunday following May 14th, 2002, the present vicar’s wife read the letter in a packed church. Among the attendants were several of Hanna’s descendants. Hanna wrote about the daily life and hardship in the old vicarage in the far north of Norway, high above the Arctic Circle, and the grieving of the premature loss of a baby girl, 14 months old. If the grave is not razed to the ground, she wrote, would you be so kind as to look after it?

The grave is still there, right outside the sacristy. After the service, flowers were laid on it.

Hanna sealed the letter the same day she left the parish together with her husband and two sons after eight years of service. She was not yet 30. Despite its sadness, I think the letter was a wonderful legacy to leave behind and reminds us of the continuity of things. The present vicar’s wife made a promise to write her own letter.

I got to visit the small grave some years ago when I attended my brother’s funeral in that same church. I took some of the wild flowers we had picked for the reception and placed them at the tiny headstone, where her name is still legible: Anna.

Her name was Anna.

 
WordPress Daily Prompt: Premature

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