A Family Memorial Day Fix

My son James asked me if we have any soldiers in our family to remember today.  So, for Memorial Day, my family is remembering William M. P.  Furrow, Civil War veteran, 51st Illinois Infantry Regiment, Company E.  He joined the Union Army on February 26, 1864 and was discharged for disability on June 19, 1865.  We aren’t sure what the disability was, but I’ve heard from my father that he heard from his grandmother that William Furrow had an arm shot off by a cannonball somewhere near the end of the war.

For whatever reason, the Furrow family history does not include a lot of military service, especially in combat.  That is, as far as I can tell.  Our family tree hasn’t been cared for very well.  It has some hidden branches and also some branches that need to be pruned.  For example, I got a note today from someone at Ancestry.com asking me if I could provide more information for a relative in my tree that apparently was still having kids a couple of years after his death.  I’ll need to fix that.

butter churchOur family doesn’t actually know much about William M. P. Furrow, other than he was a farmer and sold butter by the pound, proving beyond any doubt he and I are related.  Also, you can probably churn butter with just one arm…

We’re not exactly sure what the “M. P.” stand for.  I am fairly certain “M” stands for “Mathias” as it is his dad’s name and probably his grandfather’s name.  But I’m not sure if that’s really a part of his name as he is more typically listed as “William P.”   The “P” is even more tricky.  Most people who share his family tree think it’s “Perry,” but that name doesn’t appear anywhere else in the family.   One person is convinced it’s “Plimell,” which is his mother’s maiden name.  That is possible, maybe even probable.  But we’ll go with Perry for now since it’s the most common.

A couple of years ago, while researching family names and searching for potential names for our kids, I found a picture of his gravestone.  I knew the cemetery and plot number, but at the time photos were not attached.  But I found a website where someone had gone through and posted pictures of every grave.  The problem was that the photos were not in order and not labeled.  I spent about an hour looking for great great great grandpa’s headstone and then I found what must be it:

William Mathias Perry Furrow Headstone

N. P. Forrow?  Who is that?  I looked in the list of members of the 51st Illinois Infantry, Company E, and there no such name.  The only name close is William P. Furrow.   Someone messed up the headstone!  How could the VA make this mistake?  Well, don’t answer that.   Since this isn’t the original headstone, my theory is that some friendly group replaced it at some point but couldn’t read the original stone which had likely deteriorated.  Perhaps they didn’t have a list of Company E.  They also didn’t have Google.  So, I’m sure they did the best they could.

Well, it bugs me.

Ever since I found this, I’ve wanted to replace it, but I can’t really justify the expense.  However, it occurred to me just this morning that perhaps the Veterans Administration created this marker at some point and maybe they would correct the error and replace it?  So, I’ve looked it up and discovered that they may actually replace it at their expense (read: our expense as taxpayers).  Since he’s buried in a private cemetery, they won’t cover the expense to lay the new stone.  So, I downloaded the complicated government form which requires me to have certain probably unattainable information, but, I’m going to see what happens if I begin this process.

For some reason, it means a lot to me to fix this.  Unlike a certain posthumously progenerating prunable branch on my tree, I am certain about William P. Furrow’s place in our family.  So certain, our second son’s middle name is “William” in honor of him.

I seems to me that our veterans, even the ones we don’t really know, deserve to be remembered correctly, even if just by a marker in a rural cemetery.   One day, I hope to visit Wallace Chapel Cemetery with my family and see the brand new stone marking the grave of a Civil War hero.

“The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” – Abraham Lincoln

– SF

A Jack in the Pulpit for Mom

My dad needs his own blog.

He wrote this for Mother’s Day for his church newsletter and I liked it, so I’m just going to post it on behalf of the blog he ought to have.  I think it says something true about all of our moms…

A Mother’s Day note from Pastor Don Furrow:

A Jack in the Pulpit for Mom

My third grade teacher wanted us to be more than a mathematical and chemical machine that knew all of the mathematical and chemical formulas of life [little chance of that for me and my friends!]. So she properly took it upon herself to ensure the global community that we would also have a love for the arts and be artfully thoughtful of others. Thus, we would be a part of the best that humanity perpetually has to offer. It was only natural, with some natural prompting from our teacher, that we should express love and appreciation to those choice people who brought us into this material wonder that we call life: our mothers! Her stratagem was as follows.

First, we were told that Mother’s Day would be the coming Sunday. Second, we were told that this was a time when we should honor our mothers because of their loving kindness toward us. Third, our teacher explained that it was customary to give one’s mother a card, some flowers and, sometimes, a special gift. However, since we had neither the time nor the money to go purchase these things, we were going to make a near all-in-one gift. We were all going to make our own Mother’s Day card with a flower on the front and a poem inside. To make it all the more personal, we were to select a flower that Mom would like and draw it on the face of the card. Then, we were to compose our own poem and write it inside the card. The bonus would be that this accomplishment will make us both thoughtful and artful; prepared to take our useful place in society as the renaissance men and women of the mid twentieth century! All of that from McKinley elementary school! Amazing!

Well, we set about looking at pictures of flowers that our teacher had found in magazines. I kind of liked the idea of a Dandelion, but I was told that it was a weed and not a flower. Can you believe it? With my first choice being rejected at the start, I selected the next closest thing. I chose an Arisaema triphyllum, commonly known as a Jack in the Pulpit. Rather fitting don’t you think?

I set about drawing the flower and, in both total honesty and humility, I did not do a bad job of it, given the paucity of natural artistic talent. Having accomplished that task, in style, I set about coming up with an original poem. First, I went over the facts in my mind, and I decided that Mom not only needed a card and flowers, but she also deserved a gift. I quickly concluded, however, that the teacher was right: I had no money for a gift, or for the flowers and card. Furthermore, without a job and its consequent payday, I was condemned to remain in this helpless estate!

In the face of my helplessness, I immediately plunged into the dark pit of despair, ceaselessly reminding myself that without a job I had no money. Without the money I had no purchasing power. Thus, without the purchasing power I had better put together a third grade Mother’s Day card and forget about the box of chocolate covered cherries that Mom loved as dearly as life itself. [I may be waxing hyperbolic here, but not by much!] With my lamentable state in view, I was suddenly inspired by the spirit of the poets themselves.

First, the facts: no job, no money, no gifts. Second, I must turn these lamentable facts into something of poetic beauty. Voila:

Oh say there now

I want my pay

To love my Mother

On Mother’s Day

There you have it. Its poetic beauty cannot be diminished by the fact that it is ten lines short of a sonnet. After all of these years this masterpiece still speaks to the heart with power! Right? Never mind.

It was with great pride and impatience that I gave the all-in-one gift to Mom on the Friday before Mother’s Day. She opened the gift, read it, smiled, hugged me, thanked me, and tucked the card away. Later that evening, I saw Mom and Dad looking at the card with something of a smile to be seen and a chuckle to be heard. I concluded right there, that I was not a poet and I would never do anything like that again. End of story. Not quite.

Some forty years later Alice and I and our two children went to visit my mom. During the visit she opened an old wooden jewelry box that I had not seen for decades. There she was, taking different articles out of the box and placing them on the nearby coffee table. Suddenly, she had in her hands a piece of yellowed construction paper with a drawing of a faded green Jack in the Pulpit. Even though I was taken back by it, I recognized it almost immediately.

“Mom, is that the Mother’s Day card I made for you when I was in grade school?’

“Yes it is”, she said with something of a warm smile on her face.

“I thought you threw that away not long after I gave it to you.”

“Oh no,” she said. “I take it out and read it every now and then.”

I have noticed something about my kids’ mother: She can walk into a closet and come out with a picture drawn with a Crayola on aging construction paper. She will sit down on the edge of the bed and look at that drawing with warmth, fondness, and love. She does this even though it is not a product of one of the Dutch masters, and that’s because it is more than that. It is something that her son or daughter drew close to forty years ago. I guess that is what mothers do, and for that reason, among so many more, “Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her…. [Proverbs 31:28]

We love you, Mom!

– Don Furrow

My kids mom saves those memories too.  They are very precious.  I love my mom and my kids mom very much!  Happy Mother’s Day!

Version 2

Version 2


The Carl Identity

This is a personal note.Carl Flores

My good friend Carl Flores passed away unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago.  He was only 45.  While he had some health problems, his death was not expected.  I was privileged to be the officiant at his funeral, and also honored to be a part of it with so many long time friends who made it an amazing celebration of a person’s life.

Perhaps the most profound realization we walked away with is that most of us, the 300 or so in attendance, really had no idea what Carl did for a living.  His professional resume, whatever might be on it, was not on display.  No one mentioned it.  His military service was acknowledged as is proper for those who have served our country, however, the honor guard was not the usual military provided contingent.  Instead, it was made up of Navy friends including a classmate from the Naval Academy.  Indeed, Carl was honored by several from the Navy, officers and enlisted persons, not for any particular Naval award, rank or achievement, but for his enduring friendship to these men.

His friendship extended to those he knew and served from his church, his job (wherever that was), and various social circles, most notably southern California dance clubs and other related fun.  People from each of those relational worlds described him in the same way – as kind, generous, a servant and a great friend.

What should not be missed is that Carl did not live a life of duplicity.  He was the same Carl whether he was spending time with church going friends and non-church going friends.  He was the same Carl to those he knew well and to those he had just met. The Carl who was in the Naval Academy Glee Club was the same Carl who sang in the Baptist church choir.  The Carl who danced and sang in clubs was the same Carl who was a church Deacon visiting the sick.  Everyone saw the same guy.

Hundreds of different kinds of people lined up to say thank you to a guy who by most standards was not accomplished.  He wasn’t married and didn’t have kids, he wasn’t wealthy, healthy, or tidy.  He had no significant titles or championships or celebrity.  By no means was he perfect or without the personal battles that everyone has, and these were known to many as well.  But to state it simply, Carl was a true friend, both to the righteous and to the sinner.  He was grace on display in so many respects.  This is something a Christian should be known for.

Carl was a successful man, a follower of Jesus, who loved God and loved people.  I believe he followed Jesus into resurrection, and I will see him again one day.

Want to watch Carl’s memorial service?  It’s long, but the music is good, the speakers are interesting and funny, and the inspiration and legacy of my friend Carl might even change your life.