Eighteen years ago a Minnesota woman who was dying of cancer wrote line after line of seemingly random letters of the alphabet on about 20 index cards. The woman's granddaughter suspected she was writing in code, but didn't know how to interpret it until she posted the image of one of the cards to the Internet.
The granddaughter, Janna Holm, posted the content of one of the cards to MetaFilter.com, and within minutes the site's users figured out that part of the code represented the Lord's Prayer. From there they began guessing at other sections of the code – also presumably prayers – though Holm says she's happy to know just part of the message.
"It was kind of relieving to have an answer, even if we don't know what every single word says," Holm told The Associated Press. "It's nice to know that they were prayers, and kind of gave some insight into what she was thinking and what she was focused on in her last couple weeks."
Holm, who lives in Baltimore, Md., was just 11-years-old when her grandmother, Dorothy Holm, died of cancer in 1996. Because of a brain tumor, Dorothy was unable to speak during her last two weeks of life but could write on the cards.
Janna Holm, who says she enjoys puzzles, tried to decode the message with her brother and two young cousins in the months following her grandmother's death, she told AP. But when her father recently came across one of the cards, she decided to take up the challenge once again, but with the help of the Internet community.
The back of the note card she posted to the Internet had two identical series of letters written on it, which began with the letters "OFWAIH." After just a few minutes, one of the MetaFilter.com's users determined that the letters represented the first letter of each word in the Lord's Prayer, which begins with "Our Father who art in heaven…"
"Holy cow! 14 minutes to solve the back of the card that has been bugging my family for 20 years! That is amazing!" Holm wrote on the site.
She later shared that her grandmother was raised Catholic but became Lutheran in the 1940s when she got married. Holm also said her father believes her grandmother wrote the code as a sort of "cheat sheet" to help her remember the prayers.
"The popularity of this thread has become a bit shocking, but it has inspired some renewed interest by my family," she wrote. "My aunt and grandfather are attempting to find other cards that she left, and I've learned more about my grandmother today than I have in years."
In her last post on the MetaFilter.com thread, Holm says she doesn't think much more if the card should be decoded, though she thanked those who offered their assistance in deciphering the card's contents.
"I'm okay leaving a little mystery with this one," she wrote.