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Metafilter Decodes 18-Year-Old ‘Cancer-Addled Ramblings’ in Minutes

A member of an Edina Community Lutheran Church family had long wondered what her grandmother’s index card scribbling meant.

Credit: Janna Holm
Credit: Janna Holm

Written by James Warden

Thirteen minutes was all it took the Internet to solve a mystery that had been plaguing an Edina Community Lutheran Church family for 18 years.

At 4:13 p.m. last Monday, Janna Holm of Shakopee put up a post on Metafilter asking for help “[d]ecoding cancer-addled ramblings.” Her grandmother died in 1996 and left behind “at least 20 index cards with scribbled letters on them.” The family was never able to find out what the letters meant. When Holm’s father found one of the cards the other day, she decided to see if anyone online could help.

What Does It Mean? A Roundup of Reflections on the Acronymic Index Cards


“In my grandmother's final days battling brain cancer, she became unable to speak and she filled dozens of index cards with random letters of the alphabet,” Holm wrote. “I'm beginning to think that they are the first letters in the words of song lyrics, and would love to know what song this was. This is a crazy long shot, but I've seen Mefites pull off some pretty impressive code-breaking before!”

At 4:25 p.m., a user who goes by harperpitt wrote:

“Was she a religious woman? The last As, as well as the AAA combo, make me think of ‘Amen, amen, amen.’ So extrapolating -- TYAGF = ‘Thank you Almighty God for...’ 
“It would make sense to end with ‘Thank you, Almighty God, for everything, Amen - Thank you, Almighty God, for everything, Amen, Amen, Amen.’”

A minute later, harperpitt had solved the riddle:

“AGH, YES! Sorry for the double post, but:
OFWAIHHBTNTKCTWBDOEAIIIHFUTDODBAFUOT
AWFTWTAUALUNITBDUFEFTITKTPATGFAEA
“Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name... etc etc etc”

Wrote Holm: “Holy cow! 14 minutes to solve the back of the card that has been bugging my family for 20 years! That is amazing! I never thought of her as super religious, but we did grow up in a Lutheran household, so that makes sense. Any further insights on the front of the card?”

Holm told Minnesota Public Radio that just knowing it was a prayer comforted the family.

"This little miracle of a cracked code is a beautiful reflection on prayer," The Edina Community Lutheran Church, which some members of the family attended, wrote on Facebook Sunday evening.


kw January 28, 2014 at 09:28 AM
My grandmother was grew up in Swede Hollow in Saint Paul. Telephone service was party line. When she and her sisters wanted to speak privately on the phone, they spoke Swedish Pig Latin. I asked one of my aunts to demonstrate and she demonstrated fluent English Pig Latin. I think she could have been an auctioneer. Maybe her code was a way to keep her thoughts private?

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