We stopped by South Green Lake Cemetery in Chisago City, MN, to pay our respects to a man I’d loved to have met. From all I’ve heard, Jerry Jacobs was quite the character, much loved and often spoken about. I’m not quite sure what, if anything, I was expecting, but I experienced a palpable sense of community and a narrative of strength and happiness.
References to long marriages sent me in search of information on the divorce rate for Minnesota. It ranked seventh-lowest in the USA in 2017 with 10.15 divorced per thousand married. Arkansas topped the list that year with 17.14. Losing someone after so many years together has to leave a massive hole in a person’s world. It’s not that they’ve died – we’ll all die – it’s more that they’re not coming back. It’s getting used to not having someone sit in that particular chair when you turn to say something. It’s about managing the silence, the space, the sense of incompleteness.
I was struck, too, by how much of a person’s life was on display. Not simply names, dates, and a line of text but images of how they’d lived and what they liked to do and say. I tracked down Michael Koester’s obituary and from what I gather, he lived in Farmington, MN, about an hour from Chisago; was Catholic; and was cremated. This might explain the memorial bent to the cemetery – gravestones that mark the life lived rather than the body of those interred.
The detail on the Thompson stone was amazing. You can see portraits of children and grandchildren (presumably), an outline of his farm and the cabin by a lake, perhaps a fishing cabin? I couldn’t find an obituary but these etchings are the thread in an interesting story that spanned 57 years.
Curious about the 6 Stronger, I did some research. Linda had two children by her first marriage and the married John, who brought three with him, too. Together they were seven. When Linda lost a 16-year battle with breast cancer, she left the six of them behind – even stronger. What a lovely ray of light in the darkness. And what a lovely engraving.
Linda loved the outdoors; never wanting to be inside. She enjoyed trips with John and the kids to the cabin in the north woods. Including the annual MEA trip to 4-wheel, grouse hunt, and look for signs of deer; followed by the annual deer hunting trip in November. The 24×24 one-room Goodroad cabin often slept up to 20 people. These trips were always highlights of the year.
I’d heard of the sizeable Hmong population in the Twin Cities, and seeing their graves in the South Green Lake Cemetery lent it history. Google tells me that Peb Moog Nug Ntseg Os translates as Let’s ask the ducks – there goes a man with a sense of humour. I wondered what brought them from southeastern China and the northern parts of Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand to this city in Minnesota.
Steve Tate did a lovely video interview with a Hmong family living in Chisago:
And again, I wonder why we don’t learn more from those who choose to settle in our countries.
Hmong people began arriving in Minnesota as refugees in 1975, but Yang says there was skepticism that subsistence farmers from the jungles in Laos could succeed in America’s high-tech society. It seemed more improbable that they would embrace Minnesota, a place with a climate so different than Laos. But they did come, and they did succeed.
Thank you, Jerry Jacobs. Were it not for you, we’d not have stopped, I’d not have wondered, and I’d not have learned.
More videos on the Hmong in Minnesota