God in the midst of clutter


By Barb Arland-Fye

Clearing out an antique dry sink on Thanksgiving Day while waiting for the turkey to cook, I rediscovered letters, cards and photocopied documents pertaining to some people —living and dead — who impacted my life. Maybe God placed each one in my heart to think about over the holiday weekend.


The first significant item found in the clutter inside the dry sink was a photocopied autopsy report for my grandfather, Raymond John Arland. He was 39 when he died several months after a work-related accident in December 1937, although there is no mention of the accident in the report. I continue to search periodically for documentation about what happened.

The next rediscovered treasure was a photocopied newspaper clipping about my grandfather’s oldest son, Tom, who received a hero’s homecoming in St. Paul, Minn., after being rescued at sea during World War II. Tom returned to the war and later was presumed dead after enemy forces attacked his ship in the Pacific Ocean. As a child, I dreamed he would be found alive on a Pacific Island and return home. Photographs of my grandfather and uncle remained on display in their family home; I always wished they could join us in the laughter of our family reunions.


A gem also emerged from a hall closet in a bag stuffed with Christmas cards from friends and relatives. As I prepared to dump the cards into the recycling box, the bright green and red borders of relatives’ glossy Christmas photos rose to the top. No, I couldn’t possibly recycle these cards.

Was there anything else I should save in that bag? A non-Christmas card made its way into my hand. The cover featured a yellow bird with black and white wings perched on a mason jar filed with daisies. Inside the card, dated Jan. 2, 2006, I read the graceful handwriting of my mother-in-law, Marlene Fye, who expressed gratitude for the Christmas gifts she and my father-in-law, Bill Fye, received from us. They were looking forward to moving into a condo, a happy time before Bill’s cancer was diagnosed. He died in 2008 and Marlene died in 2012, never having recovered from Bill’s absence in her daily life after 59 years of marriage. Marlene and I occasionally got frustrated with each other, but I knew she cared deeply for her family, including in-laws. Reading her thank-you note from a decade ago recaptured the essence of a good person who lives on in my husband, her son, and his siblings.

A fourth gem found in the trail of clutter was a thank-you note written in 2004 by a priest of the Davenport Diocese. He thanked me for articles published in The Catholic Messenger celebrating our diocesan priests. As I recall, the articles were inspired by a national observance of Priesthood Sunday and published during a bleak time in the diocese’s history. The feedback from the articles, the priest noted, had been overwhelming.

His letter arrived 2-1/2 years into my role as editor of The Catholic Messenger. Re-reading it made me smile, thinking about how my experiences as editor of this diocesan newspaper have shaped the person I am today.

My intention on Thanksgiving Day was to eliminate clutter before the feast, but I came away with a deeper appreciation of God working in my life through people, even some I’ve never met.

(Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at arland-fye@davenportdiocese. org.)

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2 thoughts on “God in the midst of clutter

  1. Barb…this is the article I was trying to recall when we spoke.
    I too always hoped that Tom would mysteriously come back!
    You never know who or how you will touch another human being today and long into the future…but that is the wonder of God. He put us all here together to share in this experience.

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