For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary. It is all. It is undying. And it is enough.
She would see a lifetime of loving – more than many would experience. Ten siblings who lived to adulthood; an infant brother who died at birth which led to her own mother’s untimely death within the year. Two husbands, five children, step children, grandchildren and love and admiration from friends and neighbors filled her life. Her love was romantic, self-sacrificing, heart-wrenching, late-blooming, but Lena Belle Salmans France Westlake, who was my great grandmother, wasn’t one to talk about her love, for as Diana Gabaldon says, “the speaking in unnecessary”.
She was born on a farm in Ohio in 1870, the third of 11 children. How difficult for a farmer and his wife to have three daughters as their oldest children back in the late 1800s. Boys were needed for labor on the farm. The girls would have to learn to work like men to help with the farming. They learned not only the physical labors of the farm, but the knowledge of running that farm as well and four boys, including twins, followed the three girls. Grandpa Levi and Grandma Rosa Jane Salmans had their labor.
Levi Franklin and Rosa Jane (Brown) Salmans family
No doubt there was an overflowing bin of love on that farm. Ten children and two parents in a small farmhouse in the late 1800’s led to intimacy not known by today’s modern families. The yearning love of seeing wide open prairies without the hint of smoke from the neighbor’s chimney called to my 2nd great grandfather to keep moving his family west – eventually to the middle of Kansas. The death of the eleventh sibling and her mother caused Lena to take jobs doing laundry and baking bread to help make ends meet. It would also lead to her next love, my great grandfather, Thomas Edward France.
Thomas Edward France
Ed bought bread and brought wash for Lena to do since his bachelor skills were found wanting. Love bloomed and two daughters and a son were born before fate took them back to Ed’s home farm in Illinois. Ed’s mother had died and his father asked Ed and Lena to stay on and run the Illinois farm for him. Lena’s love for Ed must have given her the strength to leave her close-knit family in Kansas and move back to Illinois.
Two more daughters followed in Illinois and the daily living of a marriage kept the family going. The death of her only son, Lee at age 14, wrenched her heart and she put her love into the remaining children she had left.
In four short years Ed would be gone to pneumonia, leaving Lena with the girls to run the farm. A widower down the road, Milt Westlake, worked the farm with Lena. Her strong will, savvy farm business mind she had learned from her father and love helped her persevere through the troubled times.
Milton A. and Lena Belle Salmans France Westlake
Six years later, Milt and Lena married. She had once again found love at age 46. They ran the farm together. She and Milt were able to make a few trips back to Kansas to see her family and nieces and nephews. The love of her family never left her. She and Milt would be married 32 years before his death.
Many years after having baked bread in Kansas, she was still known for her baking. Her grandchildren loved her cookies. Grandma Westlake’s cookies were prized above all sweets. They loved her upstairs bathtub too! Running hot water in the upstairs bathroom led to baths at Grandma’s house on Saturday nights.
Love letters didn’t survive her. Most likely the love was hidden in the day-to-day details of life on the farm and family doings. Admiration of her family, love of her grandchildren, love of the children and husband she had lost likely never left her, but love persevered and shown through. It was undying and it was enough.