Return to Edrans

Periodically throughout my life, I’d heard references to a place distant in both space and time: Edrans. Somewhere on those Scot-settled hills, flits the memory of my mother as a 7-year-old.

It was time to return.

A few weeks ago my mom and I left Steinbach at 7:30 AM, picked up my aunt in Winnipeg, and headed directly for the fabled Edrans.

We followed the Trans-Canada Highway west ’til Austin. At the railroad community of Sidney we stopped to see where their uncle Cliff had lived. There’s a terrible tale about how he had burned railway ties to keep the house warm. The entire family proceeded to perish. Cancer, all of them. He was the last to go. Having been working out of the house, I suppose he inhaled fewer toxic fumes.

From Sidney we veered north onto Provincial Road 352… gravel for twenty minutes up and down hills, alongside a meandering ravine. And then, suddenly we arrived!

I pulled over, jumped from the vehicle, and began taking pictures of Edrans Church and Edrans Community Centre. My mom and aunt remained in the car, unimpressed. I was missing something.

“We didn’t actually live in Edrans. We have no memories of these buildings. We need to go to the cemetery. Keep driving.”

The importance of trying to revisit sites with the older generation struck me. If they hadn’t been with me, I’d have spent my entire day exploring the hamlet of Edrans… and I would’ve completely missed the mark.

Sure enough, there was the cemetery, alongside the cutest chapel. A fox darted across the lawn. I felt like I’d stepped into a picture.

Edrans cemetery chapel.

We tried the door. It opened.

Near the pulpit, there’s a guestbook. Turning the pages, we went back in time.

Suddenly, a familiar signature leapt from the bottom of the page, clear as the day it was written.

The last time my grandparents visited their babies’ graves in Edrans. 1993.

It was time to go see for ourselves.

Contemplative sisters.

My aunt led us to the graves. They are modest. They lay flat.

My mom stood looking quietly at the stones for a long time.

She later said, “I had never thought much about it, it all happened before I was born… but as I was looking at their graves, I missed them.”

Walter Neufeld. Born December 1938. Died April 1939.
Lavera Neufeld. Born February 13, 1940. Died May 9, 1940.
Shirley Neufeld. Born March 15, 1947. Died June 28, 1947.

It’s almost as if these babies had been her parents’ previous family… the ones who lay in cemeteries.

I recently came across a family photo depicting my grandparents and my youthful mom, aunts and uncle. Flipping the picture to the back, I see my grandfather’s handwriting: “our living children”.

At last, I was visiting their non-living family. My non-living aunts and uncle.

Nearby, there’s a similar stone.

George Brown. Born October 1927. Died December 1941.

I would’ve overlooked this if my mom and aunt hadn’t been with me.

“This is Uncle George,” said my aunt.

George was my grandmother’s younger brother. For some reason, he had been living with his older sister and her husband (a mystery)… and he died at age 14. Yet another death in the household.

We weren’t ready to leave. We had brought food to share, and dined there on cemetery lawn, in the shade of a large pine tree. It was kind of surreal. I’ll remember this visit for the rest of my life.


More posts about my desire to visit Edrans, and about my mom’s long-lost sibings: 

In Search of My Lost Uncle

This Post Isn’t Really About Austin

Mysterious Mayfeld

He Didn’t Even Want to be in This Conference