Sometimes the need to sacrifice is tied to the need to sacrifice for survival. My great grandmother needed to sacrifice for survival many years ago, beginning with her early childhood. The true ailment that took her family from her so early is unknown to us in the present day, but she lost all she knew at an early age. She was sent to extended family as an additional hand for chores in the home and farm. We in the present can only speculate what her days were like: early mornings including cold walks in the snow, sore arms from hauling water from the spring, constant movement until her head hit the pillow each night. Sacrifice meant survival.
She immigrated to the United States at the turn of the century, 1908. One of millions of individuals sacrificing all they knew, generations of family and tradition left behind because of wars, pogroms, famine or a need to have hope for a chance at a better future. The trip was surely arduous, a farm girl with feet and hands deeply a part of the land and the harsh Sweden seasons, all of a sudden is thrust onto a ship alone, strangers and strange languages all around her. A teenager, wary of possible cheats, grifters, pick pockets and such. Surviving each day with only her own thoughts, deeply anxious about the new life she was sailing towards.
That is when she met him, someone who noticed the tired, anxious girl. She noticed him too, a kind eye, easy smile whenever their eyes met, and handsome too. Small glances and smiles became small talk, making sure to be at locations the other may be, learning each others routines to be in each other’s company. He was a worker on the ship, he too sacrificing home in Australia to brave the seas, looking for a life not tied to someone else’s farm or ranch, someone else’s dreams and aspirations.
Arriving at Ellis Island meant goodbyes, I hope to see you again, and please find mes. A scared, hopeful teenager again sacrificed a future, possibly a family with the smiling Australian. It was impossible for him to have a wife on the ship, it was not allowed, and life as a sea widow left behind by someone working there was too much to ponder at the time. One last look as she walked down the bridge, one more smile from his face, as it might be the last time.