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There Is A Canadian Man In My Closet


I will explain beforehand, when I could remember, I wrote the details of this event over 58 years. Eventually before conclusion, I had scribbled (filled) three black and white composition booklets. This will be a long read. Please note there have been name changes and some incomplete info for privacy.

I was very young the first time I heard the bell, a tiny sound, just a ting. Then a light whisper so soft I wasn't sure of any words. As if he was sure I was frightened, it would fade away. The bell was part of this experience each time before he spoke, but I will not mention of the bell again, as a way of saving time for you, the reader. The sound of his voice always came from a corner near the ceiling, even though it would happen in different rooms, different houses, over time.

I grew nonchalant, when I heard him, it became the norm, this young man's voice so gentle, there was nothing to fear. Life was busy and I would just roll over to get much needed sleep. There were times that years would pass, yet when I again heard his whisper, I would have the thought that I missed him.

None of this made any sense, I simply had no time to dwell on him, until I became sick. I spent more time in my bedroom too weak to lift my head. His voice became clear, easier to understand. I would look into my closet, thinking he sitting or laying inside, on the top shelf. Now would you believe it, he spoke with an Irish/Scottish brogue, with a touch of French mixing into his words. I had to get cancer, to understand what he had been saying all this time.

He spoke of his home, his family and of happier times, life at the turn of the (1900) century. He told me that he and I were cousins. He named his seven brothers and how close he was to his one sister. He described the river banking where he fished and enjoyed the wild flowers and beautiful pastures and meadows, all surrounding his home, his town. The river, where he would wade, as it ran into the Atlantic Ocean.

There were times I thought it was the chemo, slowly I got better. This was back in 2002. From this time forward we had great conversations, before I slipped off to sleep. He would talk of his childhood, the gardens and flowers. He mentioned New Brunswick a few times. Each boy had been given a chore to complete daily and they did it for one month, then switched for a different chore, home, barn, gardens, animals, and horses. I began to realize we were not any longer speaking in words, but in thoughts. A communication of thoughts! Wow! I can not recall, ever having this ability in any other circumstance other than perhaps random words from an unknown origin.

I gained information about his Parents, his Father was half American Indian and half Scottish. His Mother was Scottish, third generation in Canada. They had strong faith and lived the Scottish way, close to family, and Church. This meant so much to me as I knew very little of my Mother's side, as she had died when I was a child.

There were times when he was quiet, later he told me that he would become overwhelmingly sad, and unable to communicate. Why so sad, were my thoughts, the silence was my only answer. Often it would be several months to a year, before we conversed again. I placed a pillow and some blankets on the top shelf just in the event, he may be able to use them.

It progressed in this manner and he became one of my best friends, don't you laugh. One can not spend this much time together and this much time in conversations, and not know each other. Yet I was never touched by him, and I never saw him, however I did wonder what he looked like. Then this last year has become different. He became louder, excited if you will. He asked for my help, but he wouldn't tell me how.

He would repeat the numbers 7-2-7-4...and bark out--private--expeditionary. Again and again My Mother is Alice Mc------e. I am your cousin, please help. Increasingly, and repeated much like a broken record, yes they were thoughts in my head but so loud I feared he would wake my husband. What made him change? Hill70Hill70ill70Hill70Hill70EXPEDITIONARY.

I have the cancer again, it is Feb. 2018, and I think this time it will take me. Perhaps out of respect, my Canadian man is quiet, while I am given heavy Chemo and an even meaner surgery, following more chemo. It was an awful year, for me it was the biggest fight I have ever had. March 2019 finds me with some hair, but not all of it. My friend in the closet is still quiet.

Early one evening in late March the phone rings. We get so many Robocalls, we seldom answer, but take a message, then we call back if it is real. I am getting a call from Canada at eight in the evening. My husband advises me to not answer but something tells me that I should. On the west coast it is three hours earlier, and I pick up the phone. Are you Jan--------I answer in my monotone voice, yes, are you the daughter of--------yes. Are you the granddaughter of Edith-------------YES. Do you know Edith had a sister Alice (my heart beats fast). This woman gives me the information that she is in a division of the Government of Canada, and her job is to look for relatives of the War missing with no known grave. We talk for some time, and she explains the details of the DNA and it is only passed down from Mother to Daughter. I begin to get emails after she and I have exchanged information. Our conversation continued with much more information.

Oh, my table looks like a patchwork quilt. Births deaths, marriages and an old tiny picture of an Expeditionary in uniform! Hand written (Highlander)! All the family links I never knew. I am beyond excited. I have a job, I am to call my living cousins to explain and invite them to join, that for so many reasons is the right thing to do. They will need three or more to swab and return the kit. I called cousins that quickly agreed.

Would I ever have had this on going experience had my Canadian man not come to visit? I do not think I would have understood everything without his help. I end this on going event by telling you they did not want my DNA as chemo can change DNA, who knew? Fortunately There are five women that are willing and are sending or have sent their kits back.

The History, if you wish to look into it, is Vimy Ridge-Hill 70 Lens France. Once you start reading, it is endless, horribly sad information.

The bell is quiet, as is my Canadian friend.

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The following comments are submitted by users of this site and are not official positions by Please read our guidelines and the previous posts before posting. The author, msforgetmenott, has the following expectation about your feedback: I will read the comments and participate in the discussion.

msforgetmenott (17 stories) (316 posts)
5 years ago (2019-07-03)
Hello Jubeele,

Thank you for your kind words. I still think about how far away he was, I in USA and he in Lens France, how did he find me. He was my Mother's cousin, making me his second cousin.

To this day, I wonder how he found me, but I believe he thought I was my Mother. Also, my Grandmother met my Grandfather and they were married in Maine, then settled and bought a home in Lowell MA. She named her first daughter Alice, so I believe the sisters were close. How often they may have been back to New Brunswick I can not know.

Ira and I talked about anything and everything, but never about war. When his remains were found, he became filled with a different type of talk, part fear, and very loud. I learned much from my first call from Canada, and informative letters. It was so easy to put two and two together after that. He has not made a peep since last Christmas, and I do not think he will ever again. Finally he will have a proper burial. I dreamed about going to France but in reality my Health will not allow a flight that long.

I have found a closeness with my cousins that was lost, when my Mom passed. We had been down to Christmas cards for many years. We have been phone talking often now. I learned they are kind people, their concern about Ira, just as my own. I have not shared what I shared in this writing, but I would if we can get together. (maybe)

My Best to you Jubeele ❤

Jubeele (26 stories) (898 posts)
5 years ago (2019-07-02)
Your account moved me to tears. I thought of the poem, 'Dulce et Decorum est', written by Wilfred Owen from WWI, on the "age-old lie".
"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" - Horace (translation: "Sweet and fitting it is to die for the fatherland").

I think the family tie and your gift, especially pure and unfettered in the very young, formed that connection between you and your Canadian friend. Perhaps your positive energy shone like a beacon and provided some solace to him. You were family, home and comfort.

In the intervening years, the distraction of work, family commitments and other daily concerns can cause us to ignore little signs and subtle messages. I wonder if during your sickness, your consciousness travelled close to the Veil, then "his voice became clear, easier to understand". It could be that his messages culminated in that call from Canada, confirming his details and identity. A reaching out from the past to find the present. I had goosebumps!

"The bell is quiet, as is my Canadian friend." Maybe he is now at peace. He's remembered and continues to remain in the hearts and memories of family.

Thank you for the privilege of sharing in this extraordinary experience and family history.❤
msforgetmenott (17 stories) (316 posts)
5 years ago (2019-06-29)
Hi Lady-glow,

Yes, when will mankind ever learn? The youth with all their innocence, volunteer so quickly, believing that it will not be them, but the other guy, that gets killed.

Ira never told me if he spoke with others, but he talked a great deal about his family. I feel it was a wonderful time to live, and was full of questions. People were just nicer a hundred years ago.

My best,
lady-glow (16 stories) (3159 posts)
5 years ago (2019-06-29)
What a touching and fascinating experience! I wonder if your cousin 'kept in touch' during all those years with any other family member living in Canada... Perhaps sensitivity runs in the maternal side of your family.

War is such a horrible thing, and yet, humankind keeps starting new ones over and over again.

Thanks for sharing.
Take care. ❤
msforgetmenott (17 stories) (316 posts)
5 years ago (2019-06-27)
Thank you Tace,

I had no idea how many from all sides had to be buried quickly, as the heat, rain, and other all reasons made it cruel not to.
I have encouraged readers to look up Vimy Ridge and learn from the past. I found it shocking, after Casualty of Canada had conversed with me. How many do not know but would care if they learned.

In America we place flowers on or before Memorial Day on our loved ones graves. It would be hard to do that if the grave was empty.
tace (37 posts)
5 years ago (2019-06-27)
Thank you for sharing your experiences! This touched me, how much our relatives might want to be found!
msforgetmenott (17 stories) (316 posts)
5 years ago (2019-06-26)
Hello Cuddlebear,

I never asked him about the bell, but when I was young I had thought he does the bell, so I would not fear. As if he is telling me heads up!

Thank you for the well wishes, I am having some quiet moments after having the calendar filled and running to various appts.

The big thing in our lives is we had to sell our land because of our health. A message for the old timers that know me, for they know how much the land had meant to us.

Thank you for your kind note, Cuddlebear,

My Best, Jan
Cuddlebear (4 stories) (173 posts)
5 years ago (2019-06-26)
Man that is an emotional tale. I can't help but wonder about the bell sounding, is it somehow significant, or is it just to attract your attention, like a phone bell?

I wish you the best with your health struggle.

This may be out of place but the title seemed to me to be the title of a Monty Python sketch... I hope the last brings a smile. Your story did, if a poignant one.

Again be well and at peace.
msforgetmenott (17 stories) (316 posts)
5 years ago (2019-06-26)
Good Morning Biblio,

He would talk as if he was young and no time had passed, he wanted me to come to Brunswick and look up his brothers and sister. In reality they would have already been gone for years.

It was not until I received the Descendants Chart, that it came together for me. How sad that my Grandmother had so much family but after marriage, she moved to Lowell Ma and never got back to New Brumswick again. She was gone long before I was born.

The people from Canada have been wonderful, but very slow to get or give information. What had surprised me is the involvement that Canada had in the two World Wars.

I tend to be long winded and the original writing was much longer. My second cousin ___was quite a talker, there was much I had to cut out.

My Best to you,
Bibliothecarius (9 stories) (1091 posts)
5 years ago (2019-06-26)
Greetings, Jan.
He sounded a bell first, he spoke softly, and he was friendly. I can't help thinking, "How Canadian is *that*?"

It's astonishing that you're now in a position to give him the peace he has sought for the last century. What a privilege!

msforgetmenott (17 stories) (316 posts)
5 years ago (2019-06-25)
Thank you, DarkStar

I had to do a lot of thinking about even writing this, but it was too important not to share.

I finally had an undertanding, I had no idea that Canada alone still had over 11, 000 still missing, with unknown burial sites. Slowly a few are found, then a long time is taken to identify properly, the metal worn when buried helps in knowing the Country they were from. Some have a watch or neck chain that also helps. Canada has impressed me with the records they keep.

DarkStar, you are right, I can't know if this is the end, but he has been quiet for quite a long time, I am thinking he will be content if the is placed with his comrads in Lens France, properly buried. I think it is what he has wanted.

Thank you for your interest.
DarkStar (1 stories) (25 posts)
5 years ago (2019-06-25)
Wow. An absolutely incredible experience stretched over a lifetime, with an amazing twist ending... If it is the end.


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