Stories of a Family

Just to warn you, these next few posts may be long as in addition to our travel log, I need to include some family history:)

One of the reasons I even started blogging was the last conversation I ever had with my Grandmother, Erika Danckwardt Busing right before she passed away. Granny was always a curious and interested Grandmother. She always asked many questions and listened to every detail. After years of stories we shared, she turned to me and said, “You need to write. You need to record your stories and share those adventures so that you always have them.” She died a few weeks later.

I had always kept a personal journal (and still do sometimes), but started to blog privately at first, shortly after Granny passed. I took this blog public in 2011 to share more with friends and family who were interested in our adventures and have never looked back. Sure, I have weeks of nothingness to record, but I try to at least keep up with the bigger stuff. I am a huge advocate for writing (as most of my clients know). I love the saying, “I write, so I know what I think”. It helps me make sense of things.

I also write because it helps me preserve the memories, the feelings, the thin moments. I write so that I can capture all the moments that would be forgotten.

I write because I want to share with my family, most importantly, my kids. I want them to have a place to go to read about their growing up and one day to share with their children.

I write because Granny told me to write.

Granny herself was a huge record keeper. She kept letters, and mementos. She wrote her history, first for her children, then one for her grandchildren. Then, in 2004,my cousin Jocelyn, who had spent hours and hours and hours listening to Granny and recording Granny’s adventures and history, along with all the letters and mementos Granny had kept, complied an amazing book called, “Journeys Through the Century: Stories of a Family”. She is an incredible writer and the book is simply amazing to read.


I read this book myself when I first received it. I read the book to my kids back in 2010, shortly after Granny had passed away. I read this book in preparation for this trip to her first home country.

I have read this book in the past few days in detail, reading out loud as we drove, or rested in the hotel room and marvelling at what we read, then actually going and trying to find what she talked about and seeing if I could retrace some of her steps… (luckily, with the help of some aunts, along with the book, we were able to find quite a few things).

For example, (Granny speaking about schooling): ” And I enjoyed it even more when I was older, when I switched to another school called Ernestinenschule.” I was excited to find the school:



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Or, “My parents went regularly into Lubeck, taking one of the horse drawn carriages. And when we were allowed to go shopping with them, we would end up at Niederegger for cake. That was the crowning glory of the outing”.

Our first stop in Lubeck:


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I loved being able to actually see the places I visualized and heard about. I am so grateful that she was a writer, a story teller and a recorder. I love that my grandfather was an avid photographer, and I think of him every time I see Zach pull out his camera, as he reminds me so much of my Papa who took “rolls and rolls” of film with every visit.

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I love that Zach is also a recorder. I gave him a travel journal 4 years ago and he keeps meticulous records of his travels. His journal looks very well used because it survived the flood in Fiji (and because he takes it on all his adventures). Both our journals:


He’s been doing a lot of writing on this trip:



He even fell asleep:


Over the past several days,I found myself getting a little teary at times, as I’ve been reading, recording and experiencing.

I came across the final pages in “Granny’s book” as we call it, and found this poem. Granny, was also an artist, and a poet. She always wrote poems for each family on New Year’s (much like Rob does for our family at Christmas), and loved to paint with water colour (we have one of her paintings hanging inout living room). This poem, to me, represents her so well: her kindness, her compassion, her commitment to humanity and especially her family; her struggles and her gratitude. She wrote it for their 40th wedding anniversary on April 30, 1978 (coincidentally, April 30th was not only their anniversary, but my grandfather’s birthday, as well as the day my grandparents met and had their first dinner (sly guy, my Papa, used his birthday as a way to get her to go for dinner):

To you who walked with us on this long road

as we tried to share our home with the homeless

our riches in love and friendship, sustained by

our Faith, with many, exiled from their country

of birth…


To you whom we met on the way,

who stilled our thirst for friendship and support,

perception and understanding of the new land,

its beauty and its ugliness, its isolation and 

scattered resources in intellectual and spiritual wealth…


To all of you as we shared the joys and also

the sorrows of life,

gathering at Church and in each other’s homes many 



And to you, our children, as we look back on

countless events, happy and sad ones, that you

and we shared in this closest of all human relations,

the family,

ups and downs in growing up, moving from city to country

and back again from the hills and the woods,

the lakes and the fields to the streets of the towns

and cities,

through sickness and health, happy holidays, and farewells,

Wedding bells and reunions…


And to you, the new generation, still children

with the future unknown, full of promise,

lovingly surrounded by parents and grandparents…


To all of you we say “Thank you” for being with us 

today on our fortieth Wedding Anniversary.

April 30, 1978 ( I was only 6 years old, and had just recently become my Papa’s “Kindergarten girl – plus 1”)


I remember sitting at my Grandfather’s funeral in 1994. Granny looked around the room: her 6 children and their spouses (one in Spirit only as he had passed several years earlier), their 15 grandchildren, many with spouses and significant others, and great grandchildren shortly on their way, and marvelled at how THIS was their legacy. They fled their home country and their families in search of a better (safer life); fleeing to an unfamiliar city and country, learning and speaking a second language, living in one room. They started with nothing, and here we were surrounded by huge, loving, highly spirited family.

The family has expanded with more and more spouses and great grandchildren (28 now, including my own!!)

That is the legacy I want to leave.

That is why coming to Germany is so special, and I’m so glad to share it with Rob, Zach and Zandra.




Stories of a Family — 3 Comments

  1. Tears are pouring down as I read this beautiful piece of writing by my Leah. Tears of joy, of gladness, tears of gratitude and tears for all the memories that we all have of our parents/grandparents. I am so very thankful that Leah, too is such a great writer and that is why I, also am writing my ‘personal life history” so that my children may remember me, their father and all of the experiences we shared. THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART for sharing this today with all of us.

  2. Leah what a lovely post. I too am writing this through clouds of tears of pride and gratefulness for having such an amazing extended family , that includes you. Love and thanks for sharing these memories. Love Barbie

  3. Pingback: Granny and Papa’s Video | Raising Flowers and Skids

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