Lessons from a Nun, a War, & a $50 egg

“Listen to this,“ my friend said.

I looked up from the letter before me written on line-less, thin paper now faded yellow. 

“Our dear Mother Superior is good and kind to us all, but here in China we learn to pass by with many things. You mentioned that living was very high in Toronto, it is the same here as the money is very low, 1 egg is fifty dollars; about 4 years ago sugar was twelve dollars a pound, since that time we have not bought one ounce of it, & for butter I have not seen it since my arrival here. We have rabbits so from time to time we have a little meat.”

“One egg fifty dollars? In 1946?” I comment. 

My friend continues reading. 

“Everything is quiet around us now, as during the war our neighbours were Japanese soldiers who came here for rest; we heard the bugle many times a day, as there were sometimes five-hundred, eight-hundred, up to one thousand soldiers, they gave us no trouble, 2 or 3 times a year the first officers visited us. They rented a part of (the) mission for three years…..We continue to sit in almost darkness after supper as we have no sufficient coal oil to light a lamp for a big room.” 

“Wow,” my friend says. “And we complain about having to wear a mask in a stocked grocery store.” 

We were reviewing a legal folder full of letters, a few photographs, and a newspaper article my late-brother had gathered to write a document for my father. My father’s aunt (his mother’s sister) had been a nun of the Our Sisters of the Precious Blood Order in China during war time including the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-45). The letter he was reading, written by my great aunt, Dorothy, to her mother and sister (my grandmother) was most likely penned in 1946. Dorothy died in 1947. Although my brother was able to pass on his own written history of that time to Father, I have not yet seen it. Before Father passed away, he’d leant the document to a priest in his parish and now it is with a friend of my father’s. Once the pandemic is over, we should have it back in our family’s hand. 

Now I am not a historian. But sometimes I’d like to be! For as I get older and hopefully wiser in experience, I see how history has shaped us. And often repeated, just with new weaponary, as every generation tries to achieve the same goals—sustain life, success, power, money, happiness, better the world, produce a next generation that hopefully will do better….

There is something else though, beyond teaching, that history can invoke.


Today, as I write this, my doors may be locked to keep out the cold -21C air, but even if unlocked I am not worried about soldiers suddenly coming into my home. I have a dozen eggs bought for approximately $4. If the eggs were $50 each, as mentioned in my great aunt Dorthy’s letter, the carton would have cost me $600. Tonight I know I can plan to read, or write, or do housework, or watch a movie without worries I will not have enough light. If I sit in the dark it is because I choose to, not because a light source is not available. 

And it is very, very quiet. No bugles. Honestly, I’m not sure if I have ever heard a bugle!

I’ve grumbled over our current pandemic circumstances. Not able to have groups in my home, not able to browse the library, not able to skate in arenas or go to a dance class. I’ve been confused by the news, by ‘soon to be censored’ stories sent to me via facebook messenger, and by government lockdown rules that don’t always make sense to me. There is a low-grade stress level that I believe is always present due to the rules placed on me. I work on not worrying about my lower income, yet sometimes fail. 

Only in time, in the looking back, will we be able to understand the pandemic affects on our society and determine the truth, I believe. And it may not be in my life-time, but through my grandchildren’s and beyond history lessons. 

But I digress. 

“We continue to sit in almost darkness after supper as we have no sufficient coal oil to light a lamp for a big room.”

We may be in some darkness in understanding fully what is really going on during this world pandemic, however may we help our own spirits by being grateful for the commodities we are experiencing this moment. And, like my great-aunt and the nuns she served with, may we learn to pass by with many things graciously knowing His light never dims even in darkness. 

Psalm 119:105 

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Linking up with Soaring With Him Ministries and Inspire Me Monday

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  1. I am so glad I read this. Heartwarming and eye-opening. I am on a long overdue (yet I know God is never late, so thatis my estimation) sabbatical. I crash landed and Jesus is calling me again to Matthew 11:28-30 “Come unto me all that are weak and heavy laden….”

  2. Lynn,
    Having watched some movies and documentaries about what soldiers and citizens endured during WW2 makes what we’re dealing with now pale in comparison. In one part of a movie, the soldiers hadn’t had hot coffee for months. The cook onboard the ship that retrieves them from the horrors of war offers them hot coffee. Oh the gratitude they showed for something I take for granted each morning. May we all embrace greater gratitude as our way of living each day.
    Bev xx

    1. Thanks for sharing that coffee story, Rita. I’m grateful for those who make historical movies and documentaries to teach us. And yes, may we all embrace greater gratitude as our way of living every day! So well said!

  3. This is powerful, Lynn. We take so much for granted and complain so easily, but a story like this gives us an entirely different perspective on what we’re going through. Thank you so much for sharing this! And it’s so heartwarming that some of your aunt’s history is preserved.
    I listened to the personal testimony of a missionary, Darlene Rose, who was a prisoner of war during WWII. So enlightening and inspiring how God helped her through. https://youtu.be/0r3PPk_4zMI Love and blessings to you!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing Darlene’s testimony, Trudy. History does help us keep our current situations in perspective, and also can give us hope during our current times. Yes, I am grateful to my late-brother to take the time to gather the information together about my great-aunt. It’s so interesting to read old new stories about that time and see how they parallel with the letters she wrote! Love and blessing to you too!

  4. Lynn, this letter and the glimpse it provides into your great-aunt’s life is just amazing! What deprivations she must have endured to share the Word. It does make the very small inconveniences we must endure during the pandemic pale in comparison. Thank you for this wonderful reminder to gratitude!

    1. I found my great-aunt’s story amazing, too Laurie! And there is still more to discover. Our inconveniences can feel small in comparison to what those in wartimes endured. And give us hope, too, for what we can endure as go through our current trials. Have a wonderful weekend!

  5. They say perspective is everything. This post certainly adds pointed perspective for our lives today. We have NOTHING to complain about, do we! Thank you so much for sharing this, Lynn.

  6. Lynn, such an informative post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your Great Aunt and what it was like in China at that time. Such good thoughts in relation to our current situation here, but also eye opening at what we consider “inconvenient”. Thank you for sharing your story!

  7. This is beautiful, Lynn. The perspective you share here is one I too easily forget. Thank you for the reminder that we have so much for which to be thankful. We have history to help us understand our families’ and collective pasts so we can (hopefully) make better choices in the present.

    And God is always with us.

  8. I love learning about history and reading history. It does promote a sense of gratitude. I was just watching a video about Middle – Age toilets (ha,ha, well buckets) and left feeling so thankful for our current plumbing and fixtures. History can help put our current inconveniences and problems in context. I have been reading a book about Chinese history from about the 1890 to 1950 with some friends. It is making me so thankful. We just read about the inflation and lack of food during the time period the letter was written.

  9. Thank you for stopping by my blog today. I enjoy visitors, especially from the ISWG, where I believe our mutual friend Liesbet Collaert. I see you also enjoy family history, nostalgia, and the scripture, Psalm 119, one of my favorites.