Monday, December 31, 2007

Frosty the Mailbox......& Books

This morning I found myself humming, "Frosty the Mailbox......was a jolly, happy soul......". Yes, we awoke to a fairyland scene, with frosty artwork gracing tree branches, pine needles, fences, vines.......everything in the out-of-doors. It was beautiful, until the breeze kicked in and scattered nature's fragile lacework. After morning chores, I spent about an hour wandering around outdoors taking photos.

Yesterday, on New Year's Eve Eve, we had one more holiday gathering; my side of the family came over. It was a potluck, and our 4'X5' kitchen island counter-top became covered with yummy food dishes. We had to dodge several little people, as my brother (11 years my junior) and his wife have four young children. What fun to see them! Their 18-month old son, a very solid little fellow, squealed with delight when one of our cats appeared after a sneaky escape from the basement. We had fun watching him chase the cat.

I had wrapped up white elephant gifts to give to my mom, sister, and sister-in-law. I had such fun the other day, browsing in a second-hand shop, looking for the items. And for the kids, I had a pile of books for them to look through and choose from. Some were from the second-hand store, and others from our bookshelf here at home. My sister's kids love to read. Her son needed mysteries to read for school, so he chose some Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown. His sister picked out some Nancy Drew books. Oh, how I remember reading so many of those back in 5th and 6th friends and I would trade them back and forth, along with Trixie Belden mysteries. Ah, yes, the good old days!

While looking through my old books here at home, I had run across two that my parents had given me years ago.........Tom Sawyer and Little Women, unabridged editions. I remember receiving them one Christmas, but I had no idea what year that might be. Inside the front covers of the books my mother had written the date......Christmas 1965. I was seven-and-a-half, and in second grade. I recall that I started reading the books right away......Tom Sawyer was first. I don't many second graders today read Tom Sawyer and Little you suppose? I really failed to challenge my own kids in that way. Possibly, reading is taught in a different, less challenging way, now, too. Unfortunate, if that is so.

But, as a kid, I always was very interested in reading. In first grade, our teacher read from Little House on the Prairie every day after noon recess. I sat there listening, completely engrossed, and couldn't wait until I was able to read the other Little House books on my own, which happened in the next couple years. By third grade, I had read all of them.

Katie John and Homer Price were two other characters I loved reading about back then, and I still have those dog-eared books on my bookshelf. I can't part with them. Another series from way back in early grade school was about a horse named Blaze and his owner, and their adventures. Other animal books I enjoyed were Bambi (the novel) and Brighty of the Grand Canyon. Vaguely, I remember another set of books that I enjoyed very much, but recalling the name is difficult. They had a Mrs. Oldknowe in them, and her grandchildren, and an estate called Greenhowe, I think. They were sort of magical fantasy stories, with a ghost-girl named Linnet, and a alchemist that lived in the woods nearby, and shrubbery in the shapes of animals. I should look it up on the internet to get more information.

A few years ago, my mom gave me my old baby-book. In it she had written that at age 18 months, one of my favorite books was Pitidoe the Colormaker, by Glenn Dines. I don't remember the book at all, and have been trying to locate a copy, but have had no success. I've also left a request for it on eBay.

Yes, reading has been a favorite pastime for as long as I can remember. My younger sisters used to yell at me because all I wanted to do was read. They would say, "You never play with us.......all you do is read!" That probably wasn't very nice of me. And in all my years of motherhood, my constant wish was to have more time to read. But, somehow, it seems I didn't pass the reading passion on to my kids very well. I read books to them, but probably not enough. Sometimes, I'd be so tired, I'd get dozy while reading aloud, and the kids would poke me and yell, "Mom.....wake up!"

I remember we learned phonics in the early grades, but I don't think phonics is taught much anymore. Maybe we learned to read earlier and quicker because of phonics, I don't know. And I do read fast, which is probably just a natural ability. When I was a kid, sometimes my mom would give me an article to read, and I would read it and hand it back to her, and she would act like she didn't believe I had really read it. She'd say, "You couldn't be done that quick." I did have a classmate who read way faster than I did, though. In high school, she read every book in our school library. I would watch her read took her just a few seconds to scan a page. She was our class valedictorian and went on to become a lawyer. The salutatorian went on to become a physician. I was third in the class........and became a farmer's wife!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Funeral Lunch

Today was that funeral I mentioned a couple posts back. It was scheduled for 10:30 a.m., so we of the lunch committee needed to be there by 9 a.m. or so to get things ready. We had set tables up yesterday afternoon, along with the centerpieces, coffee cups and creamer packets, silverware wrapped in napkins at each place, etc. This morning we mixed up the scalloped potato dish, filled pitchers with water and lemonade, cut butter sticks, and received all the salads and desserts that were brought in, keeping a list of who brought what. That's traditional at funerals at our area churches------people coming to the funeral bring a dish, usually a salad or dessert. We also call a list of our own church people to bring a dish, too. That way there is plenty to eat.

We serving ladies walked together to the church narthex to view the deceased. He had been in very poor health for a couple years, and had been disabled years ago due to a fall from an apple tree. He had served in World War II, and there was a frame full of medals by his casket, including a purple heart. He had been born on the summer solstice and had died on the winter solstice. I had a chance to quickly hug his wife, an admirable, super-nice lady, before we got seated in church.

We serving ladies always sit in the back at a funeral, so we can duck out early. Today, halfway through the service, one of the funeral home guys suddenly sidled into the pew and started whispering in my ear. He said the truck hauling the vault for the casket had gone in the ditch, so the lunch would start immediately following the funeral, instead of after the committal service in the cemetery (which is right behind our church building). So we got up right away and returned to the parish hall to get the food out on the serving table. Much to our surprise, there were about 15 men sitting at the tables when we got there. They were dressed in American Legion uniforms; they had come to do a military ceremony at the burial service. And that meant they would eat with us, too. Yikes, we hoped we would have enough of the potato hotdish.

It all turned out fine, and we had just enough food. We had to set up a couple more tables in the gym next door to accomodate everyone. There was lots of bustling around, getting coffee pots on the tables, keeping pitchers filled, fielding requests for more silverware or whatever------a typical funeral lunch. The family included several young grandsons, and I got a kick out of watching them choose their desserts.

Clean-up went quite well. A few ladies came late just to help with that. I was trying to wipe tables and kept getting caught up in conversations with various people I hadn't seen for awhile. Husband, much to my surprise, had shown up at the funeral and helped with putting tables and chairs away. I figured he wouldn't get done with barn chores in time.

When I finally got home, I flopped right down and took a nap. Its nice to help with funeral lunches, but it really shoots a day.

Christmas Boredom

Well, somehow I survived Christmas Eve evening, Christmas Day, and Second Christmas. By the time we got to church on Christmas Eve, the pews downstairs were full, so we sat in the balcony where we couldn't see a thing. The little kids sounded cute, as they recited their parts of the Christmas story and sang various solos and duets. There were several congregational hymns, and as is traditional at our church, during "Silent Night" the church lights are turned off and we hold lighted candles. The first verse we sing in German to honor the founders of our congregation.

After that, we came home and ate and opened gifts, and ate some more. It was more fun when our children were little.

Christmas Day morning meant off to church again after morning chores. I sang with the choir------a quintet. We sang from the balcony, and my family told me afterwards that we sounded like more than five people. Hooray! Good thing there were several Christmas hymns sung by the congregation, for our vacancy pastor didn't mention Christmas at all in his sermon.

For Christmas dinner, we had roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, and rolls. Nothing too spectacular. Husband's uncle and aunt were here, too, and after our meal we spent the afternoon looking at old photos and listening to stories from the past. Some of them were very interesting, and filled in gaps here and there for me, as I have sometimes been confused over the years about certain events, deaths, etc., in the family.

On the day after Christmas, "Second Christmas", as the old Germans used to call it, between chores we sat around and watched TV. Nobody seemed to want to play any board games. My new son-in-law must think we're the most boring family on earth. Husband had to keep going out to do cow chores, and when he did come into the house, he fell asleep in his chair right away. Well, that is the normal routine on this dairy farm, 365 days a year!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve Day

Well, its midday of Christmas Eve, and I'm sitting down for a few minutes to take a breather and blog. Otherwise, the day has been taken up with calf chores, walking to the mailbox, shoveling snow, straightening the house, fixing food for tonight. Not to mention, Husband and sons needed a substantial noon meal, so that had to be attended to, also.

At this point, I need to go upstairs and put up a new shower curtain and make sure the bathroom is clean for company coming, our daughter and son-in-law. I cringed the first time he came and stayed here, figuring his mother probably keeps an immaculate house, and that he might change his mind about our daughter after he saw my housekeeping. But, he stayed around, so I guess he's comfortable with us.

I also need to attend to myself and do something with my stupid hair for tonight. It needs a coloring job, so maybe I'll do that this afternoon, too, while I'm working in the bathroom. Actually, I wish I could just stay home from church tonight, and get all the food out and ready. My mother and stepfather will come to our church service and then to our house to open presents and eat. Things are not as much fun as they used to be, when the kids were little, excitedly ripping open packages from "Santa" on Christmas Eve. What fun it was to watch that. And tonight we will also be without Father-in-law/Grandpa/Dad for the first time, and that will be hard.

Because our children are older, and not a part of the Christmas Eve church service anymore, I have sort of lost interest in it. That's terrible, I know, but its just the way it is. It used to be a really big deal, to see them up there in church, rosy-cheeked and singing, taking part in the nativity scene. For a few years, when I was a Sunday School teacher, I was very involved in the Christmas Eve service, too. But, after a time of head problems last year, I gave up SS teaching and other church activities, including Ladies Aid and choir. I wish I could get interested in them again, but it is difficult, knowing that people know about my breakdown, and wondering if they think I'm a complete weirdo. There's no one else in our church who's had mental a mental breakdown, at least that I've been aware of in the last 30 years.

Last evening, I got a phone call from a lady at church telling me that we have a funeral coming up on Thursday, and wondering if I'd be available to help at the lunch. I said yes. The man who died had been in bad health for a long time, and had been living in a nursing home for several years. He was a really nice guy. His wife would spend time with him every day. Father-in-law would visit him, too. So that is another person now who has passed on in the few weeks since Father-in-law's death. Maybe his passing has helped some others to let go and move on, too. Actually, a few nights ago, in a dream, I saw a man from my church, and he was dressed in a vivid sky-blue shirt......the same color as our town's funeral home vehicles. The man is a brother-in-law of the man who died, so the dream was off a bit, as is the habit of dreams.

"Be the peace you wish to see" tonight on Christmas Eve, as you remember and contemplate the meaning of Christmas, the coming of God to earth as a human baby, to provide a way for us to Heaven. Some of the theologians put it this way......that God broke through from eternity into time, to be our Savior, to eventually take us out of time into the eternity of Heaven. Something else to ponder......the difference between the world of eternity and the world of time. Leads one then to think about Einstein and his concepts of space-time.

Anyway....."Be the peace you wish to see".

Happy Christmas Eve, 2007!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

An Obtrusive Visitor

Our area of Iowa has been taken over by an obtrusive visitor.......the weather! Just in time for holiday travel, several inches of new snow has arrived, along with plenty of strong wind to blow it around. Our church service was cancelled this morning, as were many others in the rural areas of our corner of the state. We probably wouldn't have made it to church anyway, with a driveway full of snow that can't be cleaned out until Husband gets done with all the livestock chores.

Yes, Sundays can be difficult on the farm, even in good weather. Cows don't take the day off------they still need to be fed, milked, and cleaned up after. By the time Husband has seated himself in church on Sunday mornings, he has milked 80 cows, and fed them and all the other cattle on the place. I can't swallow the idea that our eternal salvation is dependent on having passable roads and a driveable vehicle to get us to the church building at a certain time so we can hear the pastor's voice proclaiming the Word of God to our ears. But, orthodox Christianity seems to teach that in a roundabout way. Praises be for the internal combustion engine and well-maintained roads! Orthodoxy works best when people live closely in a cluster right around the church building.

We know many dairy farmers who, while being church members, rarely make it to church services. Over the years, as the numbers of livestock farmers has dwindled, church services have been scheduled at earlier times to satisfy the majority of church members, who don't farm, but have many leisure and social activities to go to.......sporting events, golfing, etc. And do you think a city-raised pastor is going to have any comprehension of a livestock farmer's responsibilities and lifestyle? No way.

Anyway, enough of that belly-aching, and back to the weather........we have been effectively snowed-in all day. Of course, we can still walk to the barn to do chores, but driving anywhere is pretty much out of the question. After our noon meal, the guys were watching the Bears vs Packers game on TV, and Daughter and I covered up with a blanket in the chilly north room and watched a DVD movie, "Flight 93". I had bought it for the family for Christmas, but we opened it early so we'd have something to do on this snowy afternoon. We knew the movie would be sad, and it was, but it was very well done, telling the story in a matter-of-fact way. Clearly, I remember that morning of Sept.11, 2001, being glued to the TV watching the burning World Trade Towers and listening to speculations on where that final hijacked plane might be headed. Then we heard of the plane crashing in western Pennsylvania, and the incredible facts that emerged. In the movie, the air traffic control room scenes are intense, as, of course, are the final moments on the airplane, when the passengers stormed the cockpit. Truly, I consider it one of the most moving and heroic events of my lifetime.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. I wouldn't really care if we were still snowed-in, although my married daughter and her husband are supposed to drive up here from the Des Moines area, so I guess I should be praying for the snow and wind to subside.

B the Peace U Wish 2 C

Interesting little experiences came my way the day before yesterday. I had to take a long drive in pea-soup fog, on two-lane U.S. 63 in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota. For over sixty miles my Envoy rolled along in the fog at about 50 mph, hemmed in by two pickup trucks, ahead of and behind me. The two glowing red taillights ahead of me became beacons of constancy, security, and comfort in the midst of the murky cloud of fog. Maybe I became almost hypnotized by them.

When that pickup ahead of me suddenly put its blinker on and turned onto another road, I felt momentarily disoriented and cut off from my secure moorings. I was uncomfortable not having a leader ahead of me. Soon, for some reason, I suddenly felt like I had missed my turn toward Stewartville, MN. I signaled, slowed down and pulled off at the next intersection, thinking it was where I needed to turn, but it wasn't. I happened to glance in my rearview mirror, and saw that the pickup following me had pulled over, also! As if we were somehow connected! I pulled back onto the highway, and the pickup did the same!

Maybe that driver behind me felt the same way I had felt about the vehicle which I had followed for so many miles. Like it was my friend, someone to depend on to lead the way through the fog. Thus, when I veered off the path momentarily, he instinctively did the same. It was an interesting little moment of perception.

In Stewartville, the city of many, many white-globed streetlights, an electronic sign proclaimed this message to passersby: "Be the Peace You Wish to See". Yes, truly, that is as much as any one of us can accomplish in this life. Start with your own self, and the place that self occupies in the world.......pray for grace to be a peaceful bit of space, wherever you happen to be, whatever situation you find yourself in. Don't fret about the chaos and confusion......(or fog!) around you...... just "B the peace U Wish 2 C". Be the Peace. And then maybe you can be a faithful beacon of God's comfort and constancy to those who happen to be in your vicinity.

As Christmas rapidly approaches.......Be the Peace!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

College Graduation

The week following the funeral found me at exhaustion level and battling a nasty cold. I worked on keeping up with thank-you notes for the memorials that continued to trickle in by mail. Many of the sympathy cards included personal notes with kind words and memories of Father-in-law, helping to keep him near in heart and mind. Amazingly, too, since his death, several other area folks have passed away, like a domino effect.

Then last weekend arrived, with a whole slate of activities on tap. On Saturday, my son graduated from Iowa State University with an Electrical Engineering degree. His girlfriend, my younger daughter and son, and I, made the journey to Ames for the commencement program at Hilton Coliseum. Husband stayed home to take care of the cows, as usual.

Once in Ames, though, before we went to Hilton, we had to get our Envoy hooked up to a U-Haul trailer at a business east of town. That took awhile because we had to go back into Ames to buy an adapter for plugging in the cord for the lights. Finally, we had the trailer attached and lights working, and off into Ames traffic we went. We parked way out on the edge of the Hilton Coliseum parking lot, and followed the crowd of graduates and families streaming into the huge building.

The Commencement program lasted around two hours. The graduates came in by disciplines......Agriculture, Engineering, Education, Design, etc. Engineering graduates wore orange tassels. Simon Estes sang the National Anthem. Iowa Govenor Chet Culver gave the Commencement address. Then graduates lined up and received their (empty) diploma folders as their names were announced.

Once that was finished, and congratulations and photos were done, we had to hurry back to my son's apartment to load his belongings into the U-haul. We had quite a time getting the trailer backed through ice and snow into a position for convenient loading. The first and worst thing we had to load was the large sofa. Once that was in we could fit everything else around it. It took us a good two hours to get everything packed in; by then it was almost dark, and we had a four hour drive ahead of us.

To my pleasant surprise, the Envoy pulled the trailer with seeming ease-----I just needed to adjust my braking and turning to accomodate the size and weight of the trailer. We zipped south on I-35 and then headed east on I-80. I decided to stay at 55 mph and let traffic zoom past us as it wished, for I had no desire pass vehicles while I was pulling a trailer.

We rolled along without incident until just east of Iowa City, then the weather conditions started to subtly take a negative turn. The windshield seemed to gather a fine mist, which worsened every time a semi went zooming past us. We started to see DOT salt trucks out and about with their yellow flashing lights. The visibility through my windshield was getting worse and worse, icing up with gunk every time a semi went by. We soon had to reduce our speed to 40 mph, and I could tell the road was slippery. We also started seeing vehicles in the ditch, some being ones which had recently zoomed past us, as my daughter pointed out.

Finally, we came up upon a line of brake lights reaching far into the distance. We sat in the line-up of vehicles, crawling ahead slowly every now and then. Finally, I realized we were nearing an exit, the one to Durant, so I told my daughter to look on the map and see if we could get to Davenport by that route instead. Yes, there was a road from Durant to Davenport, so we turned off and went that way. By then, the roads were completely ice and snow-covered, and we had to drive slowly the rest of the way. Our hotel reservation was on the east end of Davenport, so we had to drive all the way through town, too. It was after 11 p.m. when we finally got there, and I was completely done in, exhausted by the long day and the nerve-wracking driving conditions.

The next day, Sunday, was not much better, although it began peaceful enough for me, as I sipped coffee in the hotel lobby and watched political commentators on TV. By noon, we were in our vehicles again and heading for my son's new apartment. He had hurriedly chosen it a few weeks ago after being offered a job in Davenport. Once we got there, I was disappointed in his choice, and managed to not keep it to myself. Its hard sometimes, standing by and watching the launching of kids into the world, and feeling anxiety for them. I can't live my son's life for him......he'll just have to figure some things out for himself.

Getting the U-haul unloaded was more hard work and trudging through snow and ice. Then we had to find the place where the trailer was to be returned to. Looking for it took us along the riverfront of Davenport and Bettendorf, which was interesting. It looked like a nice area to come back to in better weather, like in the summer.

By 6 p.m., we were ready to head for home, another 2 1/2 hours of driving. Fortunately, the roads were good this time. It was a relief to finally get home again, and I was thankful for traveling mercies granted.

The next day, on Monday, my mood was completely in the dumps. I was worried about my son, but mostly I was exhausted. After morning barn chores, I came in the house and curled up on the couch and bawled. My daughter brought a cat over and it snuggled in at my side for a nap, making me feel better somehow. We slept most of the afternoon, Kitty and I.......probably just what the doctor ordered.

Young children are alot of work, but big kids can be alot of work, too. And, the anxieties are worse, in my opinion.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Day After Funeral

December 4 was the day after Father-in-law's funeral. Everyone gathered here at our house to open cards and write thank-you's. Six sons, their wives and an assortment of grandchildren filled our house. My father-in-law's twenty grandchildren range in age from 33 down to five years, so that was a wide variety of lifestages represented!

An assembly line for opening the sympathy cards and memorials was set up. Those present with good penmanship were drafted to write thank-you messages and address envelopes.

My main focus of the day was to keep enough food available. It turned out that we had just enough of everything to make it through the day------ two meals and various snacks for in between. Keeping a smile pasted on my face was also a priority, and being cheerful no matter what I felt like inside.

After finishing the day's thank-you's, the sons went to their dad's house and brought back several boxes of old family photos. These were sorted and each son took a pile home. The really old photos were left here at our house, meaning we'll probably be looking through them all winter. Some are over 100 years old and are really a hoot, with the severe facial expressions and hairdos, and clothing of the era.

By the time evening barn chores were done, I was completely exhausted. Thankfully, everyone had remained in remarkably good spirits despite all the time we'd spent together the last few days. Father-in-law would be happy about that. Let's hope that feeling of love and goodwill can continue through the upcoming process of settling the estate.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Day of Funeral

The day of Father-in-law's funeral dawned crisp and cold, with several inches of fresh snow on the ground. We were at the church by 10 a.m., greeting another long line of people filing by the casket one more time.

Right before the funeral service, the immediate family was allowed one last moment by the open casket. I had brought along a small stone engraved with a cross to put in the casket before it was closed. At the last minute, I handed it to Husband so he could put it in. He tried to put it behind his dad's shoulder and then suddenly we heard a loud "clunk"........the stone had fallen down into the hollow bottom of the casket, where it will stay until the Resurrection, obviously. We all started laughing and sobbing at the same time. I'm sure Father-in-law would have slapped his hands to his legs and laughed heartily, too. One of Husband's brothers quipped, "Well, that's one rock he'll never make us pick up!", referring to the many rocks their dad had made them pick up in the fields over the years.

The funeral service was meaningful. The hymns sung were "It Is Well With My Soul", "What A Friend We Have In Jesus", and "Great Is Thy Faithfulness", all from the Lutheran hymnal, but all three also very familiar to the Baptist side of the family. So, hopefully, everyone was satisfied.

The burial was in a cemetery about ten miles away, where Husband's mother is buried. The roads were slippery, so the procession of hearse and follower vehicles moved slowly. It was a special time, though.......I had happened to throw a Relaxing Christmas CD into my purse, so we listened to that on the way. It provided the perfect background for the meaningful little journey.

At the cemetery, we trudged through the snow to stand under the canopy by the grave. Since Father-in-law had been in the Marine Corps years ago, three relatives did a flag-folding ceremony at the grave. It was very solemn and somber. Then the pastor had a committal service. After that, we all stood around and hugged for awhile, then headed back to the church for lunch.

Husband and I had just sat down at the lunch table and taken about two bites of food, when his brothers came up and said we should take pictures of all the families now, before people started leaving. So we spent the next hour or so taking photos. We never did get back to our lunch plates.

Then after that, the funeral home director reminded us we needed to divvy up the flower arrangements and plants. So that took another hour or so, trying to decide what should go where. We sent large sprays to all the churches in town, and plants home with close relatives who wanted them. One of my close friends had given a lovely white ceramic angel, so we brought that home to our house.

Finally, it was time to go home. Milking cows and feeding calves actually sounded like fun at that point, for I was so weary of being surrounded by people, even though they were all very well-meaning and kind. Enough is enough for one day.

Funeral Home Time

Two weeks have flown by since my last post. The day after that post, an ice storm descended on us, leaving treacherous roads for traveling. I was getting rather panic-stricken, realizing how much food would be needed for the visitors arriving for Father-in-law's funeral. Thus, my daughter and I braved the icy roads and drove slowly and carefully to town to get groceries.

We went to Sam's Club and bought lots of thin-sliced turkey and cheese, bulk boxes of hot cocoa and apple cider packets, and paper plates and cups. At HyVee we stocked up on small buns for sandwichs, bags of potato chips and Doritos, bags of tiny carrots, cookies, and several 12-packs of soda pop. My goal was to have easy food to serve, knowing there would be little time to cook anything. Our vehicle was pretty well filled with food by the time we started to creep home again on the ice. If we'd have gone in the ditch, at least we'd have had plenty of food to munch on!

When we got home, there were already visitors here.......a nephew and his family from Tennessee. Four cute little kids-----what fun to spend time with them! Their dad and mom are serious Baptists and are committed to homeschooling. What an undertaking! I could never have done it.

The next day, Husband's aunt and uncle graciously hosted a noon potluck for the entire family in their large farmhouse. After that it was time to go to the funeral home for the family's private visitation. Father-in-law.....Dad.....Grandpa......Great-Grandpa.....Uncle......Friend.......there he was silently in his casket, ready to put up with an afternoon and evening of people peering at him. The many flower arrangements added lovely, bright, colorful relief to the scene.

The pastor led a devotion service for the family, after which the funeral home doors were opened and the room became jam-packed with people. Evidently, everyone wanted to be there early due to the roads and weather. Any hope for an organized receiving line vanished when the crowd moved in, and that was fine-----it didn't matter. I ended up spending quite a bit of my time arranging food items on the table in the corner. It would be a long evening for the family, and they would need sustenance-----especially, all the little kids needed food to snack on.

By mid-evening, when I had been standing so long that my feet were numb, I found a seat to plop into for awhile, next to one of my younger sister-in-laws. We both shook our heads in amazement at the mass of people around us. Eventually, one of my best friends from high school days arrived and we sat and talked until the crowd thinned out. By then, it was time to clean up the food table area and get everyone bundled off for the night.

Before we left the funeral home, I had a chance to walk over to the casket by myself, and contemplate things alone for a few moments. I had always had a difficult time knowing how to address my father-in-law. I couldn't call him "Dad", and I couldn't bring myself to call him by his first name, so I didn't call him anything to his face over the years. So I stood there by his casket and said his name several times------finally I could do it.

The most comforting thing to know is that he was ready to go.......he had said that many times. He wanted to die in his sleep, he said, and he almost got his wish, for his death had been peaceful, like simply falling asleep. He had been a lifelong, church-going Lutheran. His type does some drinking, swearing, telling of off-color jokes, and the like, but always attends church on Sunday morning, and would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He was a good-hearted soul, flown now to Heaven, thanks to a gracious Savior.