(Written by Mabel Andersen Cazier. This is about William Nelson Jonas 1889-1972 I have maintained spelling and punctuation)
I remember one time, long, long ago, during World War I. My Uncle Will (Mother’s brother) was called to the services to help win the war against the Germans.
“I wouldn’t mind,” he said to my mother “if I didn’t have to fight and kill. Oh, how I would hate to take a life, for I know how dear life is to me.”
“Fear not,” said his sis, “maybe the Lord will fix it so a life you can save instead.”
So on that unforgetable day, sun shining brightly outside, he bade all goodby and with tears in his eyes he marched away to serve his country and God. Time passed, the mail didn’t move fast in those days but we finally received a letter from Uncle Will, the man we prayed for each day. He stated his thankfulness that he had been assigned to the hospital department where he could spare lives instead of take. He worked diligently from dawn until night, comforting the goys who were dying. One time he was a mother to his dying comrad, comforting him as best he could, another he’d be a father pronouncing the blessings on his dying son, or prehaps a wife promising she would always be true and faithful the rest of her life. Maybe he would be a daughter, maybe a son. Administering medicine, pills and morphine; moistening the lips of some mother’s dying son. For four long years this task he did perform. Then one cold November day the armistice was signed and home came the boys, glad to get home. Oh, to see Mother and Father and wife who had loved them so dearly and had pled for their life. Finally he’d see sis, brothers John and Joe. On the ship he became very ill, desperatly so, and the finger of death was laid down on his head.
“Dear Lord,” he did beg on his knees by his bed, “if my life you will spare I will do anything you say. I don’t want to die, if you would only spare my life I’d be happy. Dear Lord have mercy on me.”
The Lord did hear and his life he did spare. The ship moved on and finally she docked on the shores of the great New England states. Down the gang plant they hurried as fast as they could.
“God bless America,” they shouted, “may she live forever.”
Oh, to be home once again, happy and free. No more war no more killing — happy day for them.
The mail! Ah yes, maybe a letter from home. Telegrams? Yes, one for Will, which he opened with fingers that trembled. “BROTHER JOHN DIED DEC 19. 1918.”
“Oh, dear God, what have I done, I begged for my life and you took my brother’s instead. Brother John! Dear John! How I loved him! He cheered and comforted me the day I left. His wife Nellie and two sons so fair, and now little Armina left all alone. How fitting and proper if I had gone on. Now I know I never should have asked God to spare me. I was needed and I was the one to have gone.”
Time went on and years passed, twenty or more. To Uncle Will six sons were born by his good wife Mary. Then one day came World War II. Away marched four of his sons — two in the Navy, one in the Army and one in the Marines. He knew that this must be. He waited and as time went on he listened for the knock on the door which would bring him the telegram telling of the death of one of his sons. One day it came, “I have bad news for you, Will.”
“Yes,” he said, “it’s Gayland.”
And the reply was, “yes.”
For days he walked about in a daze. “Oh dear God, why?” Then he remembered his promise to God on the ship more than twenty years before, “anything dear Lord if you will only spare my life.” This he must bare. Oh, how he did mourn, he grew pale and thin and his life was feared for. But alas, one night as he lay awake in his bed, the room because bright and there by his bed stood his son Gayland.
“Father,” he said, “I grieve to see you morn so. All is well, do not feel bad. Soon I will come for you too and then we will be happy together.”
As he gazed upon his son a great peace settled over him and he knew that all was well.