Part II

"Britta: She Set a Pillar,"

A Tribute to Mother Britta,

by Gr Gr Great Grandson Ronald Ginther

She set a pillar in her pain...

A widow and a mother, she was left the Family's guide.

Though men ruled society, there were strong women alongside.

Responsible in their own role,

They tended house, farm, sheep and foal.

...She set a pillar in her pain.

Sailing off to try anew their prospects,

there went the strong young men,

and left women to eke out a living with small children.

Not so Stadheims, they emigrated as whole families,

and taking great care,

they didn't lose anyone through hunger, accident, or disease.

Knud Stadheim was first, and he took his wife and children.

To America they sailed a barque of fixed sails, small crew, and little rope,

while Mother Britta looked around her in Vik

and considered

where best lay their future and hope.

...She set a pillar in her pain.

To America she sailed, though old now, not young.

She cast in everything with her Children,

threw aside all easier, settled living,

a sacrifice unsung.

...She set a pillar in her pain.

The pillar was salt,

like Lot's wife who looked back

and lost all;

the pillar was salt,

from her own dried tears.

The pillar was salt,

like the sea she sailed across,

the sea of her fears.

...She set a pillar in her pain.

She set a pillar in her pain,

that her Children might, in her loss, find gain.

We know she was like this,

because we have a clear witness.

Others followed her and shine like stars,

stepping down, each in turn,

they broke the Self's prison bars.

But Lot's wife stopped, turned, and looked back,

afraid she'd lose all,

though she'd never before known lack.

Britta went without, so others got enough.

She just dug in when the going got tough.

Believe it or not, that's a trait found

alongside Stadem grit.

"Stepping down," just like Christ did,

as Cora Stadem Taylor so aptly expressly it.

Sin's a great taker, it gets at others' expense.

Though Britta was a daughter of Eve,

there couldn't have been a greater difference.

Counterculture, others lose so we might win?

That's the essence of Adam's fall,

the root of Satan, the birth of sin.

"Not carrying feelings, but caring for others..."

-- She set a pillar in her pain,

that her Children, by her loss,

might find gain.

We should thank God,

she set a pillar in her pain!


Note on the Pillar: Wallace Stevens, an American poet of renown in the 1950s wrote in one poem about a vase standing alone in the midst of a great expanse, and, by way of one interpretation, it was the Vase that defined the great expanse of space, not the other way around.

Britta stands as the noble Vase, or Pillar, that defines all the space around her--far as our own time, in fact. We Stadem descendants of the early 21st century are defined by her, if we can only see it. Whether we see or whether we are blind, facts remain facts. Mother Britta defined us--just by being Mother Stadem, and the kind of person she was and chose to be.

I haven't specified what exactly the pillar was, except for giving some secondary but important clews or descriptions. The pillar wasn't her pain, which she had plenty of at times, and the pain wasn't just physical pain either, which she had plenty of at times too.

Her "pain" was the challenge of each day, facing the incredible work load, awful drudgery, and crushing responsibilities she had to face and somehow work her way through from dawn to dark.

The pillar was something else too, her particular choice or mode of response to that mountain-high challenge. She didn't run from it, she faced and dealt with it, steadfastly, right to the end. If she hadn't, you can be sure we'd heard of it. A job well done isn't all that remarkable, but a job badly done is, you explain it! Bad news is newsworthy, good news bores people to tears.

The pillar, tied in with Lot's wife and her fatal, retrogressive choice, was all the things I said, but much more. You could no doubt add some definitions to it, and are encouraged to do so.

If this seems too poetic or philosophical to some of our pragmatic-minded Stadems, I can't help that. Actually, it is all about real life as they lived it "back then." In the old "back then," it was really tough to survive. We have no idea how tough it was. We just have no idea whatsoever--you couldn't compare it to the survival or reality shows of TV--it wasn't like that at all, that is all staged.

But they managed to survive Norway's declining agrarian economy and sinking prospects with a certain, unpolished grace, and that was found chiefly in their clinging to the holy established Church and the sacred teachings of Christ and the holy life that their Christian belief entailed and demanded. Haugeanism added a vital fervency to them too, when it came to them in the 1790s and thereafter.

Yes, they were Norwegians none the less, but actually Christians first and foremost. That way they could, under duress and hope for some place better to live, serve God and man and raise their families, leave their ancestral Norwegian motherland and emigrate to the strange new terrain of the Iowan and Dakotan prairies.

For them, as they actually bore out in their lives, the Banner of Christ "went on before," as it goes in the beautiful old hymn. Behind that Banner was the flag of Norway, which they dearly loved. In time, America's flag would supplant Norway's in their hearts, but yet they would never lose their love for the Old Country, as they knew Norway had given them much that was worth preserving, their faith in God, their church, their lifestyles of godly agriculturalists, not the lifestyles of sophisticated urbanites, which many Stadems have since adopted.

Their example could not be more provocative, it is so different, so alien from our own present lives. If we trivialize them (put them down as archaic or primitives), we do ourselves a grave injustice, for they firmly established us here, and we really owe everything to them that we have achieved here as Americans of Norwegian descent. Ignorance of them is also a grave injustice, and into ignorance we have fallen, by the time of the third generation.

We speak of "legacy" without any idea what it really means anymore. We speak of our "Scandinavian, pioneer farm heritage" without any specifics or idea what that heritage means in terms of our own lives and how we live them. "Scandinavian fairs" or "Scandinavian Days" are the way we express what we think it means, but that won't keep heritage alive and well, it will perish with us, if that is all it means, what we see there and what is done there. And, from film history, the "great" film producer has had his say, but Ingmar Bergman's films don't define old society either--I viewed one or two, and they expressed the intellectual despair of the existentialists that were once predominate, philosophically, in the Fifties and Sixties--my guess is that they were trying individually to come to grips to human existence without meaning, but never did find the meaning, so they despaired and made a virtue of despair and sheer, naked human defiance of the Abyss. That would all be nonsense to Britta, and rightly so: life wasn't like his depictions, life had great meaning, she knew God and God knew her, and she lived in a meaningful universe consequently, not a meaningless universe of the existentialists. He might has well have been a farmer, for all the good he did with his films!

Now we have still the idea that Travel Abroad can teach us while we enjoy ourselves--this is an Eighteenth Century idea that still prevails, which the travel agencies foster and encourage, for their own business' sake. Maybe that's true that travel teaches, but maybe not so true as people like to think. We even spend thousands and tour Norway ("been there, done that?"), and remain grossly ignorant, for we go as tourists and go away as tourists, skipping over the surfaces like certain species of mayflies. Ouch! Does that hurt? Grandma, however, never wanted to go back, to "tour Norway." She never looked back! She went forward, that was her whole intent.

So how about touring Norway in these humble pages? It won't be a superficial experience, and it will cost you far less, just your time and attention, with maybe a dash or two of soul-searching! How about exploring your Heritage here? How about really coming to grips with your Legacy so that it has some vital connection with your own life and purpose?

Britta, for example, wouldn't recognize any of us as authentic Stadems, we have evolved or grown too far removed from what she knew--we would be incomprehensible to her. Why? It is because we have abandoned the values that mattered to her, we have largely quit the simple faith in God that motivated her and which she cherished, and we have lost virtually all conception of duty and devotion to family and the need to live sacrificially for the sake of others.

Those differences would render us not very pleasant talking and acting alien beings to her, sad to say. Would she feel any love in us, or just polite repulsion, or even pity for someone so "primitive" and "simple" as herself?

But there is hope for us Stadem "sophisticates": we can change. Recognition of what we are lacking in, can lead to real, constructive, positive change. It can also lead us to stop the selfish, family-destructive activities and trendy lifestyles that characterize the profane popular culture, which is increasingly anti-family, anti-God, and anti- traditional morality. Both things we need to do, and not delay the change much longer either, for time does not tarry, it hurries on, and the world's tide goes with it, carrying whomever it catches out to sea to drown.

Lastly, if you have no idea what Britta was like after reading' about her, and just cannot appreciate the values she embodied, try thinking about Grandma Bergit Stadem and also Grandpa Alfred Stadem, they embodied lifelong the same values and lived the lifestyle that was Britta's, even into the 1950s and early 1960s. If they aren't your cup of tea, well, I guess I have nothing to say to you.

I sit in McDonalds as I write this closing line, and am forced to hear the "F-words" spewing forth constantly from the mouths of young people, who think they are so sophisticated, when they spew profanity. Older people do the same thing in this society, though they should know better, that it really isn't going to impress anyone. Try getting a job and using such language! You won't get one! But everywhere else, it is commonly accepted and seemingly admired, up to a certain age when you wake up and see how stupid and gross and ignorant it truly is, not to mention, how sinful and defiant of God and his holy Commandment, Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.

I was sent this just yesterday by email from Stadem descendants, and it embodies the essence of the Christlike love that is commanded us by the Lord and by His Word. It is so opposite and alien to our way of life and this society we live in, is it not? But we can still recognize it as the Bible truth, whether we choose to obey it or not, and make our lives conform to it or not. Whether you agree with anything said here, just because I believe it defines Mother Britta, and my own Grandparents, and my Mother so well (and you might add your own examples here in the older generation, living or passed), here it is for you to consider, if you are at all concerned for your spirit's condition and this perishing world galloping to damnation:

"Ten Ways To LOVE people"

1. Listen w/o interrupting (Prov.18:13)

2. Speak w/o accusing (James 1:9)

3. Give w/o sparing (Prov. 21:26)

4. Pray w/o ceasing (Col. 1:9)

5. Answer w/o arguing (Prov. 17:1)

6. Share w/o pretending (Eph. 4:15)

7. Enjoy w/o complaining (Phil. 2:14)

8. Trust w/o wavering (1Cor.13:7)

9. Forgive w/o punishing (Col.3:13)

10. Promise w/o forgetting (Prov.13:12)

--Poetic Tribute and Note Submitted by Ronald Ginther; "Ten Ways" offered anonymously.

Other tributes:

"In Loving Memory of Myrtle Waldow," is also offered here in the following link:

"In Loving Memory of Myrtle Waldow," by Ruth Stadem Harrington

Letter by Schaefers to Luther Svanoe:

"Bernice and Russell Schaefer's Letter to Luther Svanoe, June 19, 1994

Rangen Thanksgiving/Christmas Letter, 2003:

"Joseph Rangen's Thanksgiving/Christmas Letter, 2003"

In Loving Memory of Cora Elvera Fjelstad:

In Memory of Cora Elvera Fjelstad

Plain View Heritage Home Page 1

From the book "Of Norwegian Ways," by Bent Vanberg, we draw a number of Norwegian sayings, or aphorisms of homespun wisdom just plain Norwegian-style humor, which would be very useful for putting on boards with rose-maling decoration, or sometimes even crocheted. Go to:

"Norwegian Sayings"

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