The Godfather

Uncle Lawrence and Aunt Verna. Year 1975

Uncle Lawrence and Aunt Verna. Year 1975

We all should take a second look at the family records that we have gathered in our search for family history. You may find some surprises when you re-examined them. I have re-read many of the family’s obituaries and researched the names of long past cousins. By doing this, I have been able to gain much new information. Also, the more current obituaries have led me to cousins I never knew existed. By current, I mean anything in the last seventy five years. I just recently found a second cousin who went to school with my wife from an obituary from the year 1984. Perhaps one of my most surprising discoveries was not even discovered by me. It was my mother’s telling the story of my baptism that had me running to check my baptism certificate. I have looked at my baptism certificate many times but had never noticed the blank spot where the name of my god-father should be. I have always been told that my Uncle Lawrence and Aunt Verna were my god-parents. But as they use to say “now for the rest of the story” my mother was now about to share. I was baptized on July 15, 1951. It was a rainless day that was to reach a high of 83 Fahrenheit. I am willing to bet it seemed warmer in the church that day with a few storm clouds in evidence. The family had gathered for my baptism that Sunday after all the masses having been said. However, a hitch had developed that threatened my baptism from taking place. My Uncle Lawrence was not Catholic but was a Methodist. Being Methodist made him ineligible to be my god-father. Arguments ensued, but matters were even made worse. The priest would not let my uncle stay in the church. My uncle had to wait outside on the church steps while I was being baptized.

Missing Godfather

Missing Godfather

When I first heard of this, I was stunned. I had to blink and hide the tears that were coming. I could not and still can’t think of anyone that this action could have hurt more. My uncle was a gentle and loving person. In all my years I never once heard him use a profane word. He taught me about stamp and coin collecting. Every summer I would stay a week or two at my Aunt and Uncle’s house in Massena, New York. They lived about 90 miles from my hometown. Every Sunday, my aunt, would go to her Catholic church, and my uncle would go to the First United Methodist church. They say examples speak louder than words and the way both my Aunt Verna and Uncle Lawrence lived spoke very loud indeed. You may notice in my picture that my Uncle Lawrence lost his right arm. It happened in a work related accident. He had to learn to write with his left hand and to do many things we never have to think about. While I am sure, he had his downtime I never heard him complain once. I can remember well the day of my father’s funeral when he gave me a hug with that arm. The look in his face as he tried to form words but could not. His eyes were saying it all.

Uncle Lawrence with my first born child  Year 1975

Uncle Lawrence with my first born child Year 1975

I always had god-parents. But not on paper. I had them when I needed them in real life. They set the bar pretty high. My uncle just proved you cannot shut a good man out.


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46 Responses to The Godfather

  1. Loved it! My god-father/uncle is very special to me, too. He lost his fingers on his right hand in an accident, as well, but that hasn’t held him back at all. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Sad to hear how baptism day went, but glad your family didn’t allow unfortunate circumstances to divide them.

  3. flamingdarts says:

    Outstanding post. “The priest would not let my uncle stay in the church.” When I first read that, I thought, “Well, that’s no way to attract new blood into the church,” but then I considered that the baptism was not, to the priest, some public church or social gathering but a serious religious milestone, one to be participated in physically and in spirit by believers to whom it was held in the same esteem. Weddings, in my local fellowship, are the same way: not a civil ceremony held in the church for the unbelieving Uncle Fred and Cousin Eddie to observe, rather a serious but joyful union of two believers in the sight of God. It may have seemed heartless, but the priest was (I surmise) observing the sanctification and solemnity of the occasion.

  4. chmjr2 says:

    I know what you are saying………… However my Uncle Lawrence had more grace and a pure belief in God than many priest or ministers that I have meant in my life.

  5. Amy says:

    Beautifully expressed. You gave me the chills.

  6. What an amazing story. So sad that that had to happen, but your uncle sounds like he was always there for you.

    • chmjr2 says:

      People like that who influence your life in a positive way are still with you long after their death. So yes he was always there for me and still is.

  7. What a lovely post! It sounds like your Uncle was a wonderful part of your life.

  8. Wonderful story! I loved reading it, and it told me good things about you as well as your Uncle! You are both the kind of men that make good families! Thanks for sharing this!

    Did you notice my recent comment on one of your posts– the one about having been contacted by a “heirloom archaeologist”! Would love to tell u more about it!

  9. gpcox says:

    Great story. I grew up with my godfather living 4 houses away and he did look after me, just as my father did. I consider myself very lucky.

  10. Jim McKeever says:

    Great post! Your uncle sounds like a great man indeed.

  11. Paper is paper. It’s love that endures! 🙂

  12. Anna Hibbard says:

    This was beautifully written. Aunts and uncles are big role models in my life. I have special relationships with many of them.

  13. Sheryl says:

    What a wonderful tribute to your uncle! He sounds like he was a really special person.

  14. lesliesholly says:

    Your uncle sounds wonderful. I’m sorry that happened to him. I’m glad the Church’s rules have relaxed a bit to allow one of the godparents to be a non-Catholic. Four of my five kids have one non-Catholic godparent.

  15. Your uncle was a wonderful man. Your so fortunate to have had someone like that in your life. And I agree with you about re-reading family papers, obituaries, etc. I am endlessly amazed at the things I miss sometimes and only notice later. It’s strange. Maybe there is only so much we can take in at one time.

    • Debi Walter says:

      I love hearing “wait to you hear the rest of the story.” You know you’re about to learn something new that will forever change the way you currently view something. This was such a time and the mystery of the missing signature was solved. Loved it!

    • chmjr2 says:

      Most of the time when I look at records that I have not study in a long time I find something new or a new research idea comes to mind. Perhaps you are right we can only take in so much at a time.

  16. What a great post. He may not have been your godfather on paper but it sounds like he was in his heart, and he had a great influence on you. Sounds like he was and amazing man, you were so lucky. I love genealogy and love the secrets I have found. Some are hurtful even now, I sometimes think of the person this secret must have affected and I’m often in shock. But in a different time, in a different era I think people sucked it up, where now we would not have taken such behavior in stride. But I do believe that it are stories like this that awaken us, make us wiser, give us compassion for others. As hurtful as it must have been for your Aunt and Uncle, for the way he was treated by the church he was the better person. He loved you and sounds like he would do anything for you and your family. What a great addition to your genealogy.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thank you so much for your kind comments. It is the family story that I do this for. It should be told and passed on to future generations.

      • I couldn’t agree more!! Love reading your blog, keep up the fantastic writing. I think that family stories are the most amazing, some are a little shocking, some are inspiring, and some are breath stopping. : ) But each one is worth uncovering!

  17. I feel so much for your Uncle Lawrence….I too am a Methodist, married to a Catholic. In the late 1970’s my best friends daughter wanted me to be her sponsor at her first communion ~ I couldn’t be. When I married, my husband refused to be married anywhere other than the church, so I went through “lessons”, and our marriage was regarded as “mixed”.

    It’s what is in a person’s heart that matters the most and it sounds like Uncle Lawrence had a huge heart, jam-packed with love. A beautiful story.

  18. I loved your story about your uncle. Funny how baptismal and birth certificates can offer us “the rest of the story”. My grandma found out when she turned 65 and went to apply for social security that the name she went by her entire life was not the one on her birth certificate. Apparently her parents didn’t agree on the name, but her mother must have been the one to fill out the paperwork. I guess they sort of both got their way, huh?
    Thanks for sharing your story.

  19. lifelegaciesproject says:

    Wow! I’m so glad you discovered my blog. I love your stories! I couldn’t believe that the pastor wouldn’t let your uncle in; it’s crazy how a person could be so uncaring in what’s supposed to be a supportive, inspiring environment.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Well it was a different time, as they say. Things did work out. I am happy that you found me and enjoy my blog. Hearing that is so nice. Thank you.

  20. Anabel Marsh says:

    Thanks for the like on the family history blog I am writing with my Mum – It was always sunny. When I looked at your blog I was drawn to this post because I come from a family of Methodists and it struck a chord. Thanks goodness such rigidity is, mostly (!), a thing of the past. It sounds as though your uncle was able to rise above it, but it must have been awful at the time.

    • chmjr2 says:

      I find it funny sometimes how we all get around religion and the differences. We should all look to the areas we agree on and make them bigger. However things worked out and as I said my uncle showed the world by the way he lived the good man he was. We should all work on that so it can be said about us also.

  21. It is so sad that things like that happened. My father couldn’t marry my mother unless he turned Catholic. It is/was the strictness and exclusivity of religious institutions that have led to so many terrible things happening in life.
    Always glad to hear of such a gentle and caring person as your uncle. 🙂

    • chmjr2 says:

      So much good is done by the religious institutions, I believe it is the human influence that does the most harm. Thanks for your comment.

  22. Kerri says:

    Thank goodness times have changed and the old religious differences have largely passed into history. How lucky you are to have had such a sweet person for an uncle.

  23. chmjr2 says:

    Thanks for reading my blog and your comment. If the religions of the world could only see how much they agree on, they then would see how little separates us.

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