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The Man Nobody Knows

I'm currently reading The Man Nobody Knows by Bruce Barton.  It's an interesting book, not just because of the content but also because of the history behind this particular copy of the book.

I'm fairly sure that it's a first edition printing although I could be wrong.  The book was printed in 1925 which makes it 90 years old next year.

I acquired the book just after Christmas of 2012.  I took some money that was gifted to me and bought several boxes of books from a book reseller in Ozark, MO.  I asked him where they came from and he said that he buys books in bulk from estate sales mainly but also from garage sales and flea markets.  He groups them together by genre and sells them as large lots on Craigslist.  I think I paid him $80 for over 200 books.

Inside this book, I saw the name 'Naomi Bradley' written carefully along the top of the first page.  Soon after that, I found a small scrap of old newspaper inside that someone was using as a make-shift bookmark.  It had been in the same place for so long, in fact, that the old newspaper had slightly stained the page it was holding so faithfully for its owner.

The newspaper scrap had Joplin written on it, so what was I to do next but start Googling things out of pure curiosity?

I found three results from my searches.  One was from newspaper.com that mentioned Mrs. Naomi Bradley in a 1925 obituary as a survivor of her 12 year old sister.  It also listed another surviving sister.  Of the three sisters, she was the only one already married, but I surmised that she was still pretty young.

I also searched "Dr. F. E. Tipton" from the newspaper clipping and found that he was in practice in Joplin from 1917-1934.

The last thing that I found was a photo of this headstone in a database of the cemetery plots in Joplin, MO.  This explains how I found myself to have become the owner of the book in subject.

From all my findings, the following is the story that I have decided to tell that is entirely fabricated, admittedly, but based on a true story:

Mrs. Naomi Bradley was a beautiful young woman of 18 who had no trouble finding a husband with a bright future. She was the second child born into her southern-Arkansan family but joyfully played the role of "second mother" to her two younger sisters.  Life had been good growing up in El Dorado, Arkansas which had benefited from steep financial growth from the oil industry moving into town in the late teens.  Unlike her grandparents, due to the vast job opportunities from the oil company, her parents' generation had been able to provide their children with many privileges including higher educations.

1925 had been quite the year for Naomi.  She turned eighteen, graduated high school, moved to Missouri with her older brother where she met, fell in love with, and was quickly married to a 16-year-old heir to a 600-acre farm in Sarcoxie, MO.  She was still living on the high of a newlywed and hadn't been down to see her family in Arkansas since before her June wedding.

It was now the second of November and she was beginning to make plans for a trip to her parents' for Thanksgiving.  Her new husband, who had never left Missouri in his life, was looking forward to the adventure of the trip.  Naomi was beyond ready to spend quality time with her family, especially her sisters.  Despite both sisters being bride's maids in her wedding, she didn't get to have much time with them due to all the busyness of her big day.  All this was going through her mind as she was washing the dishes from lunch and passively watching the dogs chase squirrels up the pair of trees in the backyard outside the kitchen window.  The sounds of the dogs barking and the scratching of the squirrels claws in the tree bark was interrupted by the sound of the phone ringing in the foyer.  The news of her baby sister's sudden death rocked her like an earthquake.  And, like an earthquake can immediately remove one's faith in the earth's stability that had gone without question previously. the news left Naomi doubting if life was everything she had always believed it to be.  The days were long after that as if somehow the pendulum of the grandfather clock in the parlor had suddenly decided to defy gravity and the earth took notice and matched its slowed pace.

It was now Sunday afternoon, Nov. 22nd.  Thanksgiving would be on Thursday and they were to leave early the next morning for El Dorado, though the prospect of visiting with family brought more fears than relief.  Gone was the excitement.  She now worried that she wouldn't be able to hold it together.  She felt guilty for choosing to moving away.  She knew it wouldn't be the same as holidays before and her mind wouldn't stop imagining scenarios that brought even more emotional pain.

A knock at the door came.  She hadn't even noticed the sound of the 1922 Wills Saint Claire pull up the driveway yet there it was outside the window sitting beautifully in the late afternoon sun.  She recognized it as Judy's family car from the church she had only just begun starting to attend in early October but to which she hadn't returned since receiving the life-changing phone call.

Naomi let Judy in who had come alone.  She tried to play the role of a good hostess, but Judy required no formalities and just embraced Naomi which somehow unleashed an ocean of pent-up grief.  After a long time and a good cry, Judy presented Naomi with the book she had just bought from Osterloh's Bookstore in Joplin, The Man Nobody Knows.

This book helped Naomi deal with some of her misconceptions about God, about Jesus, about what she had always believed to be the nature of her existence.  It wasn't a book about death or pain or even comfort.  It was a book about knowing Jesus.  And, that, helped Naomi come to terms with her sister's death and where and with whom her sister really resided.

With the significant impact the book had on Naomi, the book never left her possession until after her own death 78 years later when she was reunited with both her sisters who had preceded her to the Kingdom.


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