On the second day of our trip, we got to meet up with an 84 year old Swedish man, named Erik, that lives in the same small town as my ancestors did in the 1880s. A cousin of mine (technically my mom’s cousin’s daughter) was fortunate enough get connected with Erik 11 years ago (see that incredible story here) and Erik has been kind enough to show a handful of other Swenson descendants around since that serendipitous day in 2008.
This is also a touching article that was written by another one of my cousins and talks about how amazing Erik is.
Here is my journal entry (August 26, 2019):
Today was such a jam packed, great day!
When we woke up this morning, Jershon and I went on a little walk outside.
The Airbnb that we were staying in was in the middle of the woods and had a small lake right across the street.
It was a misty morning with a light rain so when we got up, there was fog in the air, and especially over the lake. It reminded me of a lot of photos that I have seen on Instagram from people that live in Sweden. I loved it. 🙂
We didn’t have a ton of time to walk around since we needed to get going as we had to drive an hour up to Osby to meet up with Erik Ralsgard.
When we got to Osby, we met Erik at the church. This was the church that Swen and Thilda attended and where most of their children, including my great grandfather, Dan, were baptized (as babies). This is also the church that Erik has attended all his life.
The first part of this church was built around the year 1200. That means that part is almost 1000 years old. Sooooo incredible! It was so neat to look up and see the wooden beams in the ceiling and see the chisel marks and think about how they were hand hewn.
The other parts of the church were added on throughout time and the church was complete in 1834.
It was so neat to walk around and imagine Swen and Thilda and their children coming to church there every week.
We got to see the baptismal “font” (not sure what they call it) where Dan and his siblings were baptized (as babies). When Erik showed that to us, I felt emotional inside as I thought about how special and important those events were to Swen, Thilda, and their family at the time that they were very active members of the Lutheran Church.
There is an organ on the main floor of the church and Erik turned it on so my mom and I could play it (since Swen played the organ at this same church). I had never played an organ before, but I just played it like the piano. I played the only song that I have memorized… Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.
I messed up a lot (the keys were a bit different than a full size piano keyboard) but it was fun. I’m not sure if it wasn’t hooked up to the pipes at the back of the church or not but it didn’t sound as loud and impressive as I was expecting.
We then made our way upstairs to see the little “museum” that is up there. Erik showed us a lot of old priest robes and some other really old things from the church. Those were really neat to see.
After the museum stuff, Erik took us upstairs to the real organ…. the one that is right under the pipes… the one that Swen would have played. Well, probably not this exact organ – this one is a more modern version – but the organ that Swen played would have been in this exact same spot, and it is the exact same pipes. Erik turned on the organ and I sat down and played Come Thou Fount… again. (Remember, it’s the only one I have memorized.)
Sitting there, playing that song (that I already love to play), in the spot where Swen sat many, many times to play the organ, and hearing the powerful sounds through the pipes right above me was an amazing and spiritual experience for me. It felt so special. I could have sat there and played even longer… if I knew more songs by heart. 🙂
After playing the organ, Erik took us up to the attic area of the church, just below the bell tower. We got up to the first level of the attic and then went up another set of stairs to the upper part. The door leading into this part of the attic is from the 1200s. So crazy!
When we got in the attic, there were all these things in there that the church was no longer using. … some old benches, windows, etc.
Erik opened up this old trunk and saw that it was filled with old newspapers and old hymnals. He picked up a few to see what year they were printed. The first 2 were too new to have been during the time that Swen and Thilda were attending the church. The third one that he picked up was printed in 1819. This very well could have been the same edition that Swen and Thilda used.
I was looking at the book as Erik was flipping through it and thinking about how cool it was to see something from this time period. Erik flipped to the inside cover of the book where it said someone’s name. He said “this book belonged to Elias Trulsson Legutslycke, 1895… and now it belongs to you.” And then he handed me the book and told me I could keep it!
I was so surprised and grateful! How awesome to get to take home a copy of an 1800s edition of the Lutheran Psalmody (hymnal) from the very same church that my great-great grandparents attended. Such a unique and special treasure.
After we finished inside the church, we went outside and saw the graves for some of Erik’s relatives, including his parents.
Then we got in our cars and headed to lunch. Erik took us to a Swedish buffet. We okotuuhad herring, meatballs, potatoes, gravy, lingonberry jam, vegetables, and salad. It was really good. 🙂 Reminded me of IKEA.
Continued on next post…