Eighteen years later, internet decodes ailing Minnesota woman's final messages

All images courtesy of Janna Holm
Dorothy Holm
Shakopee resident Dorothy Holm died of brain cancer in 1996. Almost two decades later, her family finally got around to trying to decode her final messages, left on index cards seemingly filled with random letters.

"We got them in '96 when she was about to pass, and we thought they were a fun game at the time," Dorothy's granddaughter, Janna Holm, told us last night. "We thought she was using secret messages."

But as the months turned into years, the cards were mostly forgotten about -- until this holiday season, when Janna, now a Baltimore resident, spent some time back at her family's Minnesota home.

"My dad stumbled across it in time for the holidays, and I brought it back with me," Janna said. "I thought [the letters] were song lyrics for a while, but I figured someone else might know the song better than I did, so I put them on the internet."

Indeed, on Monday, Janna published a post on MetaFilter asking readers for help "decoding cancer-addled ramblings." (Dorothy only lived a couple weeks after writing the cards, "and at that point she was kind of in and out of things, probably losing her memory, not really communicative or speaking much, and seemed pretty confused anytime you tried to talk to her," Janna said.)

Turns out Janna was probably wrong in her hunch that the letters stood for song lyrics. Shortly after she published the MetaFilter post, a commenter pointed out that the letters on this card seem to match up with the first letter of each word in the Lord's Prayer:


The flipside of that card, however, is still very much open for interpretation:


"The front of that card appears to be a lengthy message that seems to be more like a personal prayer written to her family," Janna said. "It's really hard to tell, but there are little bits and pieces where you'll see initials show up, and it seems to say, 'Please see that they are safe and sound, please see that they are all in good health.'"

But why didn't Dorothy, a Lutheran who converted from Catholicism when she got married, just write out her final messages instead of leaving them in code?

(For more, click to page two.)

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