“Trials make you strong.
Failure makes you humble.
Challenges make you strive.
Life keeps you going and growing”
― Beyond the Pain by Kemi Sogunle
Over the past months, the world, literally, has been in a state of shock. This pandemic, this silent thief, has us all dealing with loss at many levels. The loss:
- of routines and “normal” activities,
- going to school and work,
- of milestone celebrations such as weddings, graduations, and even funerals
- of time, life and loved ones
It can be mind numbing and emotionally taxing. I know my usual time-tested coping skills have been challenged..
Time-Tested For All Time
Our one-hundred thirty year old historic landmark home, has seen a lot. Built in 1888, it was here when the last pandemic of the Spanish Flu swept the world and one of its sons was killed in World War II.
But this family, our Home’s namesake, Steinbüchel, processed much loss prior to that. Here is an account of the passing of the patriarch of the family.
Herr von Bernard Karl Steinbüchel, “Grosspapa” died on October 4, 1900. Maison Steinbüchel, a Kansas State Historic Landmark and our home, is named for the family of Herman Frederick Steinbüchel , the second husband of Marie-Louise Hahn and Gosspapa’s eldest son.
Dealing With Death
I am not fond of dwelling on death. My Christian faith and world view regard it as simply a departure. Yet once we walk this earth, no matter how visible or widely known, that life mattered. It made an impression, thus, loss is felt.
In fact, as I look into the Steinbüchel and my own family’s history, the more I realize the impact one single life makes. It is for this reason, I take time to piece together the footprints left by those who have gone before. To uncover the lost or buried stories and retell them.
For the Marie-Louise Hahn-Stackman-Steinbuchel story, my go-to guide is an out-of-print book by Dorothy Elisabeth Steinbüchel-Wilson-Gouldner, A Living Gravestone. She was the daughter of Herman and Marie-Louise.
On page 66 of the book, there is a section, “Grosspapa’s Passing”. Sometime in 1900 Bernard Steinbüchel became bed-ridden. She describes his last days and the times she sat with him. He lived with his two daughters at a house at 11th and Main next to where Elisabeth and her family lived at the time.
Grosspapa’s Final Days
Grosspapa, German for grandpa, and his two daughters, the “tantas,” (aunts) were neighbors to Elisabeth from the time she was two until his passing. He was a part of her daily life as a young child. He only spoke and understood German so the language of the house was German.
“Grandpa lay in a huge wooden bed, two large pillows under his head, He had lace all around his collar, with more on the lower edge of the cuffs on his long-sleeved and very white night shirt. He looked comfortable”. She said on one occasion, he smiled, took her hand and said “You see what happens to people when they grow old”. She would have been seven years old.
He remained in the home for preparation for viewing and burial by his son Louie’s father-in-law who owned Dunbar Undertaking. Viewing was in the front parlor of the home. How much preparation was done is unclear but the book states that he was placed in a gray casket with the braids of his wife Helena, who had died in Germany, beside him. Ground coffee placed all over the house by the “Tantas” dealt with the “smell of death.
The funeral, given the times, was probably the next day. There are several paragraphs about the funeral in the book providing a picture of the traditions of the day:
“On the morning of the funeral, the hearse, drawn by two beautifully groomed black horses, and several horse-drawn black hacks stood lined up in the dirt street in from of Tanta’s house waiting for our Grandpa to be brought out. Mr. Dunbar and the driver in stovepipe hats, dressed in tails sat on the high seat at the front end of the hearse. …the well-trained horses were conscious of the reins, held loosely in the driver’s hands as Mr. Dunbar climbed down to go into the house. The black, thin, glossy whip. with its delicate tassel, rested in its iron holder at the end of the dashboard. The sides and ends of the black, highly-polished hearse were plate glass, these were set in ornately carved frames; inside, held up at the corners by the heavy tasseled cords, were the black-fringed heavy drapes that swooped down gracefully in the centers to hide some of the starkness of the occasion, and still permit a glimpse of the elegant casket inside.”
This occasion left an impression on a seven year old girl. She recounted the occasion some 70 years later for the book in stunning detail. She goes on to describe the funeral procession naming the pal bearers carrying Grandpa to the hearse:
- Uncle Max, Karl, Louie, Leopold, and John (Aunt Lizzie’s husband)
- Then Papa – Herman Steinbüchel
Followed by the ladies and children:
- Aunt Julia, Johanna, Lizzie (Elise or Elisabeth), Frances (Uncle Leopold’s wife) and Emma (Uncle Karl’s wife)
- Then Mama, Marie-Louise
The men wore black crepe arm bands and the ladies wore black dresses and hats, draped with heavy wide bordered veils to cover their faces. The white with black bordered handkerchiefs carried in black-gloved hands provided the only color for the day.
Grosspapa’s Final Resting Place
The procession carried Herr Steinbüchel to the red brick Catholic Cathedral at Second and St. Francis for a funeral mass. He was then transported to Maple Grove Cemetery and placed in the center of a Catholic-blessed plot of ten graves.
These plots were blessed and set aside for those adhering to the Catholic faith, so those family members are located here. Other plots rest nearby for the Stackman and Steinbüchels who passed after the original ten.
Personal Grief – Corporate Grief
In death, we leave behind stuff to take care of. The first is this body we live in. We combine tending to that necessary task with processing our own sense of loss, mortality and purpose.
For Grosspapa, the viewing, procession, funeral mass, and burial served to bring each person;s processing into a corporate setting. Then each returned to their own pace of moving on.
Time-Tested But In New Ways
In this current time, many of the ways to process our losses have been denied, curtailed or delayed. Find new ways to deal with the losses. Recognize them, write about them, from face time, zoom, google meet or phone call, find a way to connect with a trusted friend or professional. It is important.
What one thing will you do this week, to process any sense of loss you have as a result of these past months? Feel free to comment. You are in my thoughts and prayers.