Wednesday, March 28, 2012
I HAD HARDLY BEGUN TO LIVE - Charlie Koehler
I was recently in Wunders Cemetery on North Clark Street in Chicago. It is a small German Lutheran Cemetery between the famous Graceland Cemetery to the north and "Jewish Graceland", three small Jewish cemeteries to the south. I was looking for the grave of William Wieboldt, founder of the Wieboldt department store chain. While looking for Mr. Wieboldt's grave, I came across a small red upright gravestone that is for Charlie Koehler, a boy that died just short of the age of eleven on March 18, 1896.
I have already mentioned how I feel about the graves of children and this one was additionally interesting in that it had a poem on it in German. The poem is as follows:
KAUM FING ICH AN ZU LEBEN.
ZU MEINER ELTERN FREUD!
DA WARD MIR SCHON GEGEBEN,
DIE KRON DER HERRLICHKEIT
LIEBE ELTERN TROSTET EUCH
ICH WANDLE JETZT IN GOTTES REICH
LIEBE ELTERN GUTE NACHT
MEIN JESUS SPRACH ES IST VOLLDRAGT
Even though my maternal grandfather Jacob Kramer was born near Cologne, Germany, I don't speak German. My Mother never learned German because many times during the twentieth century it was not wise to let people hear you speaking German in the United States. Unfortunately my Mother could only count to ten in German - that was it. Because she never learned German, she could not teach it to me. Luckily I have a friend who is a native German, and she translated Charlie's poem for me:
I HAD HARDLY BEGUN TO LIVE.
TO MY PARENTS JOY
THEY LABOR FOR THE GLORY
OF THIS MAGNIFICENT TASK.
DEAR BELOVED PARENTS CONSOLE EACH OTHER
I WANDER KNOW IN GOD'S KINGDOM
DEAR BELOVED PARENTS GOOD NIGHT
MY JESUS SPOKE - IT IS FINISHED.
Unfortunately Charlie's death certificate is very hard to read but he died from Laryngitis with Bronchitis at the age of 10 years, 8 months and 22 days. He had been sick for just seven days.
May Charlie and his grieving family rest in peace.