Dear cousin Paul,

We are close but far. We have always been close by blood, far by distance. You are eleven years younger than I am. You left Wisconsin before we had much to talk about. This is the only picture I can find of us together. It is not the last time we were together though. I remember once at Oscar's farm, Tucker and I were baleing hay, standing on a wagon behind a hay baler, hooking bales and carrying them to stack at the back of the wagon. Along came you and David. We were surprised to see you. You looked different from what we remembered so you must have been already some years in Indiana. It was late in the afternoon, squinting in the sun. I remember you on that occasion in contrast to your brother, David, who looked quite broad while you looked quite slim.

After that, what do I know of you? Your mother, Grace, on several phone calls and meetings told me, but my brain has slow uptake and poor memory. I named a son Andrew Claerbout, and you did that too? or was it David? No worries, my Andrew took the last name of his spouse.

You left us suddenly and unexpectedly. Shocking to all of us, and before your time, that's for sure. You violated the cardinal rule, "Don't die before your mother does." I realize you hadn't planned it that way. What can anyone say? Nothing really. What can I say, based on the experiences of my life? I hope you finished all the things you needed to do. I feel I have, but I am a decade older. My lost son Johannes, age 25, had so much more he planned to do.

There we are together in that picture. I am looking proud of myself, builder of a go cart with a real engine (from our lawn mower), that went 25 mph. There you are at the steering wheel serious and looking intent. What's in your head? Is it the beginnings of the path you will lead? I'm sure Grace will tell me more, fill me in. Hopefully I'll remember it better next time.

your loving cousin,
Jack (also known as Jon)         June 2009

p.s. to Fritz and Grace: If Paul is near you, please take a spade to the cemetery and plant a copy of this letter near him. Otherwise, light a candle and burn the copy. Copies of this letter may be printed from