Anni McCrum – my bedstemor

“How can I write about a woman I hardly knew, and how can her life be redeemed 18 years after her death?” I prayed following a stirring inside that this was what God was asking me to do. The conclusion I came to was obvious and didn’t require too much consideration. “It’s impossible!”

Yet how many times have we found ourselves in a position of impossibility, only to discover that our impossible is simply a launching pad into the stratosphere of God’s divine intervention that make all things possible?

Anni McCrum was a woman who lived a life of pain, struggle and heartache. She suffered physically as a child and carried a deep wound from her mother that greatly affected her ability to mother her own children. Add to that the culture shock of moving from her homeland of Denmark to post-WWII London, England as well as the stress of life on a coal barge….. Are you getting the picture? Life was tough for Anni. She had no choice but to fight to survive in every sense of the word. Love was squashed by fear and disappointment. Joy was cast aside by the desperate demands of raising young children on a boat that had no electricity, water or insulation.

This is a tough story to write, as it is relentless in its struggle and tragic in its end. Anni died estranged from three of her four children and carried an emotional wound that I’m sure pierced her heart every waking moment.

This story is vitally important to me, and it is appropriate that I would begin this blog by introducing you to Anni for several reasons, most importantly because she was my grandmother, my Bedstemor.

Anni died when I was 15. I had very little emotion because how do you grieve for someone you hardly knew? I met her maybe five times in my life. I knew she was special but that knowledge never translated to a heart connection, as there was simply very little opportunity. My brief childhood visits to the boat are treasured memories for the novelty of the experience, more than the relationship.

And yet, something extraordinary happened 12 years after her death. I had just given birth to my first child and was finding the adjustment to motherhood more difficult than I ever expected. My son was only two months old when I had a dream in which I met Anni in Heaven. I woke up sobbing and grieving, not just for her death, but also for her life.

I was suddenly compelled to know who she was, to know her life story so that I could pass it on to my own children.

Six years later, Anni’s story has been written. I now know this woman as though I had spent time with her every day of my life. She is dearer to me than I could have ever imagined and my life is richer from the journey I have experienced in writing her story. I had no idea how, or even why I was to write it, but I knew it was important. It became especially pertinent when I felt that it would be a story of redemption. Not only has this story brought deep healing to my own life following the miscarriage of my third child, but also I believe that it has redeemed Anni’s life.

My family is now reading her story and the power of healing and redemption is touching their lives. How far that impact will reach, I have no idea but what I thought was impossible has already been made possible and so there are no limits to the potential of this story.

Anni’s life story has been told in my book ‘Bedstemor’ which is available at my eStore and on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.eu and kindle.

Her story is also the inspiration for this blog in which I hope to share the lives of many everyday people who have extraordinary stories.

Anni’s legacy that was buried with her now lives with the possibility of touching many lives for generations to come. This story reveals the redemptive power of a living, loving God.

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9 thoughts on “Anni McCrum – my bedstemor

  1. I’ve never met Esther, but feel I know her: I grew up with her mum, Annette, her two brothers, Robert and Janes, and sister Elizabeth who I met during a book signing on the sailing barge Edith May in Lower Halstow Dock, Kent, around a year ago. I’m glad Elizabeth and her husband, I presume, got out for a sail, on the Edith May?
    I have a deeply held fondness for both Anni and Andrew (Andy) McCrum: they were providers of a haven from the ‘harshness’ of my own childhood aboard a rigged sailing barge, the May Flower – told about in my own book, see: http://www.nickardley.com My father wasn’t always the friendliest of souls … and ‘our’ main job (there were four of us too), seemingly, was to scrape, paint and tar…!
    Both barges were berthed close together for most of our respective childhoods – in fact the two brothers even came sailing on the May Flower during the 1960s.
    My mother has now moved from Lower Halstow, so severing a link, yet, for me that link to that little corner of Kent could never be cpmletely cut … it rests with so many memories close to my heart. The waters around my old home are still visited under sail often too.
    There is many time I rember Anni … one memorable time was after a friend and I had been drinking with friends on a barge called Henry … we serenaded Anni and Andy with bawdy sea songs from the sea wall … Anni always wanted to talk to me about that and I’m sure she’d have ruffled my hair … and not ticked me off!
    My mother still treasures a photograph Anni took of the May Flower sailing out of Whitewall Creek as the sun was getting low one Friday evening…
    I will put the book on my shopping list – my wife and good mate will action it: my birthday is not far away! Once read I will come back…
    God Bless you all.
    Nick

    1. Nick, thank you so much for sharing these memories. Your book ‘The May Flower’ is a treasured one on my bookshelf for the insights you give on barge living and what life was like for my Mum and relatives. I hope that one day, perhaps we will meet and I can hear more of your memories, especially of Anni, my Bedstemor. I hope you enjoy the book! It might not be an easy read but I know will be of great interest to you.

  2. Hi Esther! I came across your story, “Bedstemor,” in a most fortunate act of coincidence and perhaps fate. In my step-family, my stepmother, Letitia Fairbanks, taught us all to refer to her Danish-immigrant mother as “Bettamore.” We were told that was Danish for grandmother.

    Fast-forward 40+ years, and I have just published Letitia’s 1941-penned fairy tale, “Princess April Morning-Glory.” Virtually all of this hand-calligraphied, illustrated & illuminated manuscript was a reflection of Letitia’s childhood. We are serializing a page-a-week for 2013 and you can start at the bottom, and read to the top! http://princessapril.com/notes/category/serialization/ Each week, my husband, the restoration artist on the project, and I, each publish a blog post about that week’s page.

    I was approaching the part of the story where Letitia drew heavily upon the images of her grandmother and grandfather’s house in Provo, UT. I wanted to provide blog-readers more detail about the Danish immigrant experience to Utah in the late 1880-90s, the epoch of Letitia’s bedstemor and bedstefader. I got the bright idea to go to an online dictionary and find out what Danish for grandmother is, hence my discovery of my family’s inadvertent alteration of the native Danish. Then, I started to Google the word “bedstemor” and out popped your book, top of the list.

    I was immediately compelled to buy it, and devoured it once it arrived from CreateSpace, reading it in nearly one sitting. (I’ve published “Princess April Morning-Glory” through CreateSpace, too!) You have beautifully managed to capture the difficulty, poignancy and angst involved in being an immigrant and a parent, and the estrangement from your adult children that can happen. It’s a beautiful, emotional depiction, and I am so every grateful to you for sharing it. While your Bedstamor and my Bettamore lived very different lives, much was the same: the pride of being Danish, love of the home country, and Danish flags on the Christmas tree!

    Thank you again, your mother must be so proud of you!

    1. Thankyou for sharing your fascinating story with me! I am so glad that you enjoyed reading ‘Bedstemor’ and that you found a deeper connection with your own story through reading it.

  3. Hi Esther! I came across your story, “Bedstemor,” in a most fortunate act of coincidence and perhaps fate. In my step-family, my stepmother, Letitia Fairbanks, taught us all to refer to her Danish-immigrant mother as “Bettamore.” We were told that was Danish for grandmother.

    Fast-forward 40+ years, and I have just published Letitia’s 1941-penned fairy tale, “Princess April Morning-Glory.” Virtually all of this hand-calligraphied, illustrated & illuminated manuscript was a reflection of Letitia’s childhood. We are serializing a page-a-week for 2013 and you can start at the bottom, and read to the top! http://princessapril.com/notes/category/serialization/ Each week, my husband, the restoration artist on the project, and I, each publish a blog post about that week’s page.

    I was approaching the part of the story where Letitia drew heavily upon the images of her grandmother and grandfather’s house in Provo, UT. I wanted to provide blog-readers more detail about the Danish immigrant experience to Utah in the late 1880-90s, the epoch of Letitia’s bedstemor and bedstefader. I got the bright idea to go to an online dictionary and find out what Danish for grandmother is, hence my discovery of my family’s inadvertent alteration of the native Danish. Then, I started to Google the word “bedstemor” and out popped your book, top of the list.

    I was immediately compelled to buy it, and devoured it once it arrived from CreateSpace, reading it in nearly one sitting. (I’ve published “Princess April Morning-Glory” through CreateSpace, too!) You have beautifully managed to capture the difficulty, poignancy and angst involved in being an immigrant and a parent, and the estrangement from your adult children that can happen. It’s a beautiful, emotional depiction, and I am so every grateful to you for sharing it. While your Bedstamor and my Bettamore lived very different lives, much was the same: the pride of being Danish, love of the home country, and Danish flags on the Christmas tree!

    Thank you again, your mother must be so proud of you!

  4. Awesome site you have here but I was curious if you knew
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    If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thanks
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    1. Thanks for your feedback! Perhaps you could be a little more specific on which topics you would like more information about? I’m sure there are plenty of resources available to you and I’d be happy to help where I can.

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