Finding Father

One Man's Journey to Discover Paternal Significance

Month: December 2014

From Pondering to Praising

nativity“But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.”

– Luke 2: 19, 20

Mary was a meek and mild mother of Jesus, a very quiet, submissive, and contemplative servant of the Lord. Her words were few, but when she did utter them, they were substantive and powerful. When the angel told her that she would be the one who would bring the Christ child into the world by natural birth, despite the fact that she was a virgin, she willingly replied, “May it be to me as you have said.”

The shepherds, on the other hand, handled the historic event of seeing the birth of the Christ Child in an altogether different fashion. Shepherds were on the low end of the totem pole, as far as social standing was concerned, living a very simple and meager lifestyle in the fields far removed from the city action. For them to see what they saw that night was huge – an angel announcing the Savior’s birth through a visual heavenly phenomena, then to actually see the baby, himself, lying in a feeding trough in a cold and smelly animal barn. Their reaction was anything but contemplative. They couldn’t help but go throughout the land telling everyone of the good fortune that had come their way.

It seems that this time of year always prompts us to accommodate both of these responses. I am always contemplative and reflective during the Christmas season. Sometimes I just have to get quiet and still to soak in everything that has happened in the course of the year. I find that an honest assessment of those events can evoke, as an old Billy Joel song says, both sadness and euphoria.

It was 49 years ago this month that the events I have recalled in the story of “Finding Father” occurred. Especially with the last two posts, I have brought those of you who follow this story into a very deep abyss with the recollection of what happened to my father during the last hours of his life. I have brought you to the abyss and have unintentionally left you there. My intentions were to lift the story line into the more redemptive part long before we got to Christmas. However the tyranny of the urgent trapped me once again, and I was forced to lay aside the pen so that I could attend to other things. I promise that the writing will commence soon and that the story will take that redemptive turn in the coming weeks.

Each year during the holidays, I think about that Christmas of 1965, and I, like Mary, treasure it all up and ponder it in my heart. And I think about many other families who come to this time of year and feel the sadness of a loss – a father who will not be sitting around the Christmas table this year, a mother, a brother, a sister, who won’t be sharing Christmas with the family. I think about you and I say a prayer for you, knowing that the void and the pain is real, and that there will always be a hole in your heart during these holidays.

But with the pondering comes much praising. It takes a while for the dust to settle from a busy holiday agenda, but in the hours leading up to Christmas, the spirit of the season comes in with full force. i begin to look at the blessings that are evident all around me and I become like the shepherds – feeling so fortunate to be surrounded by such abundance and having no choice but to thank God for his goodness. There are so many things we can take for granted….just the fact that we are able to rise and breathe in oxygen is an incredible gift. We will gather together with our families in the next few days, exchange our gifts, and eat more food than we really should…and it will be an absolute blessing.

But at the risk of sounding cliche, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that the greatest blessing, the best gift you will ever receive, came 2000 years ago wrapped in those swaddling clothes. He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly, He came to be a light in our darkness. He is Immanuel…..God with us. During the turbulent storms of our lives, He is our Prince of Peace. When it seems there is no hope, He is our Blessed Hope. And He is Joy unspeakable and full of glory.

So my thoughts and prayers for you this day are to go ahead and ponder….be contemplative and thoughtful. Acknowledge the sadness, but embrace the euphoria. Let your pondering turn into praising and allow God’s grace and blessing to surround you…through the presence of your family and friends that will be at your side.

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Mystic River


In the southern part of Germany, the Wuerm River flowed through Bavaria, Munich, and Dachau, eventually emptying into the famous Danube River. In the section that flowed through Camp Dachau, the depth of the river fluctuated anywhere from one to ten feet. The river had many barriers at the exit end of Camp Dachau, such as barbed wire and an overflow dam. At the overflow dam, a stagnant pool was formed that could also be as deep as ten feet, was about 20 feet wide and 300 yards in length. The overflow dam was also heavily covered by a dense thicket of trees and bushes and was never trespassed except by those persons who occasionally cleaned the stream. The winter of 1965/1966 was very cold, but not cold enough to freeze the water, and a good bit of snow fell during this period of time as well.

The front entrance of the Enlisted Men’s Club to the front edge of the stream measured approximately 90 feet in length. The path was clearly marked by a concrete walkway, which proceeded all the way to the river and was not obstructed by any barrier once it met the river’s banks. The spot where the sidewalk met the stream was a popular point for many of the patrons of the Enlisted Men’s Club who would utilize the spot to relieve themselves when they departed the club.

It was the theory of Military Police Investigator, Jackie Leach, that this was the probable place my father ended up going into the frigid waters of the Wuerm River. He didn’t theorize how he entered the river; he only assumed that my dad followed the standard operating procedure of countless numbers of other enlisted men who left the club – using the river as a latrine – and that he somehow stumbled into the water. Although he didn’t actually say this in his report, I am assuming that the information regarding my father’s reported inebriated state probably played a part in his analysis.


Dachau Map2

Leach postulated that my dad’s body floated down the river and into this large overflow pool through the end of December and into the second week of January, when the melting snow caused the water to rise and wash the body over the overflow dam. His body then took a short journey down the Wuerm River, flowing over rapids and large rocks that Leach said was mostly shallow water.   My dad’s body reached its final resting place approximately 400 yards outside the base, in the shallow part of the farm owned by the Krauss family of Dachau.

He was lying face down in the shallow stream, dressed in his fatigues and wearing a field jacket. Although there was extensive putrefaction of the body, positive identification was made by the dog tags which were still around his neck and his military ID which was still in its holder and tucked away in his jacket. They also found the keys to his locker, in which they found his plane ticket, his leave papers and his neatly packed suitcase, proving that he had never intended to go AWOL. By the time his body was discovered, it was determined that he had been dead for more than two weeks and it was assumed that death occurred within the area of Camp Dachau. Since there was no way of proving this conclusively, the day he was found was determined to be his official day of death – January 25, 1966.

On the 25th of January, the Army sent a telegram to my grandmother in Wyoming and to my mother in North Carolina which read,

“The Secretary of the Army has asked me to express his deep regret that your husband, Corporal Mike R Sausedo, died in Germany. The exact date of death, cause, and circumstances are unknown pending receipt of further information. His remains were recovered from a stream on 25 January 1966. You will be promptly advised when additional information is received. The Chief of Support Services, Department of the Army, will communicate with you concerning the return of your husband’s remains. A representative of the Commanding General, Third U.S. Army, will contact you personally to offer assistance. Please accept my deepest sympathy.

                                    – J.C. Lambert, Major General, USA, The Adjutant General


The telegram was delivered with the specific instructions, “Report Delivery, Don’t Phone.” I can only assume that this was the message that Officer Roy Costner brought to my mom that night, which I referenced in the post, “My First Memory of Life.” After waiting for him to arrive at the airport on December 20, 1965, after going through 40 days of wondering where he might have disappeared, the mystery was seemingly solved and my father had been found. His body was transported back to the states and my mother made the decision to have him buried in his hometown of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

With the revelation that he had been found in that shallow stream of water in Dachau, Germany, and the findings of the medical examiner who concluded that my dad died of accidental drowning with no signs of foul play or self-infliction, you would think that would have been enough to satisfy my inquiring mind. But there were two things that jumped out at me when I read through the entire report. One was the finding of a 6 cm laceration on my father’s head, along with other “deformations on the head that were clearly noticeable.” The other was the shredding of his pants on his left rear pocket and the mysterious disappearance of his wallet, which included, at least $25 or more dollars in cash, and $100 in American Express traveler’s checks.

If only the banks of the Wuerm River in Dachau, Germany could speak….I am sure they would have a tale to tell.

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