Beloved Dad, In Memory

March 10, 2014

Dad, you will always be with us in our hearts.

Dad, you will always be with us in our hearts.

“To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal,
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it,
and, when the time comes, to let it go,
to let it go.”
— Mary Oliver

My Dad died last week.  His was a peaceful death.  One day, you could tell things just were not quite right.  Dad was more confused and unbalanced on his feet, but he was still as hospitable as ever, offering his visitors in the nursing home a beer (he kept a stash at the nursing station so that he could offer his drop-in guests a beer, a ritual of hospitality he maintained all his life).  Two days later he died peacefully in his sleep.

Dad had just celebrated his 95th birthday, so his was a long, full life.  He experienced the joys and sorrows of a life well lived.  He suffered the losses of his parents, ten of his siblings, and countless friends.  But he found comfort in and was sustained by his family — nine children, 18 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren — his faith, and his farm and community.  Here are some words from his eulogy that reminded us of what such a long life entails:

“Dad would have been 8 years old in 1927 when Charles Lindbergh made the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic.  Could that 8-year old have even imagined that someday his children and grandchildren would have passport stamps from Israel, Peru and Ecuador, Thailand, Botswana and Morocco, and dozens of other countries?

Dad left school after 8th grade because, back then, there was no system in place to bus farm kids to the high school in town.  So at age 14, he finished school and stepped into the working world.  Think about Dad as that young adult.  Could he have imagined that he would send nine children to the University of Minnesota, and have several children and grandchildren with advanced degrees?

Dad would have been in his mid-teens when the New Deal’s Rural Electrification Program brought electricity to Minnesota farms.  Could he have imagined then that 80 years later we would be checking e-mail and taking photos with Smart phones smaller than a deck of cards?”

Dad was a loving parent and an exemplary role model.  When I was growing up, he worked a day job and then farmed full time on evenings and Saturdays. (Sunday was always a day of rest.)  So we are grateful that he had three decades of “retirement” with more time to fish, hunt, bowl, and play cards.  He played on the community’s over-35 baseball team well into his 60s!  Even when the tillable fields were eventually rented, Dad always cut and baled the meadow hay.  He planted a small patch of corn for the wild deer.  He mowed our expansive lawn and kept it tidily groomed. He bought huge bags of birdseed at Fleet Farm and suet from a local butcher so that he could feed the birds every day.  He was a good steward of the land.

And now his work is done.

The family came together to mourn his death and say goodbye.  All nine children gathered from Israel, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin and Minnesota.  His son, who is on the parish cemetery board, helped prepare the burial site.  His granddaughters did the readings for the funeral mass.  His grandsons were pallbearers.  The church choir, of which Dad was a member well into his 90s, sang at the mass.  The town’s miliary honor guard added color and touching solemnity to the ceremony and honored Dad’s army service in WWII.  Countless people contributed salads and side dishes for the luncheon after the funeral — lots of Minnesota hot dishes.

We are all so grateful that we had Dad with us for so long.  He will always be with us in our hearts.

Let Evening Come
by Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn.  Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass.  Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down.  Let the shed
go black inside.  Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid.  God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

The funeral procession took Dad past his farm one last time on the way to the church.

The funeral procession took Dad past his farm one last time on the way to the church.