On July 24 I wrote about my mother-in-law and entitled it "A Servant Heart." At the time, her sweetheart of 65 years had just been moved into a nursing care facility down the hall from her assisted living apartment. She carried hope in her heart that this was a temporary move for him, though the rest of us were certain it was not.
His quality of life has been negligible for quite a few months now. Today, he is slipping into eternity to meet with the Lord he has served and loved for so many years. It is only a matter of hours, and Hospice is caring for him. His sweetheart now finds it easier to be in her apartment than to be at his side when he doesn't know she's there.
I can't get really mushy about my father-in-law. He was not a mushy kind of guy. He has been a character all the years I've known him. He wasn't a sit-on-the-lap, saying "I love you" kind of grandpa. He used to scold the kids when they wouldn't eat all of their food. He did mellow greatly as he got older.
I would classify him as a stubborn Swede, the same as I classify my own dad! He was a Chicagoan who spent time in Sweden as a youth. He knew quite a bit of Swedish and never forgot it. His dad was a butcher in Chicago, but though he was a born and bred city guy, I always thought of him as a farmer at heart. He pastored small rural churches and always had huge gardens - keeping Mom busy canning in the late summer and early fall. One thing he did carry over from his butcher background, though, was his creation every year of Swedish potato sausage.
He was a musician at heart as well. He had a beautiful singing voice in his youth, and enjoyed playing the "mouth organ" or harmonica. In fact, he was making music with it just a few weeks ago - no matter that people were sitting around him trying to visit! He also had an antique zither that he loved to use as accompaniment to singing.
He was a maniac driver. I'll never forget when I was pregnant the first time, we were visiting them back in Wisconsin. I was in the back seat with my head in DC's lap so that I wouldn't throw up in the car, as he took the curves way too fast. I have heard many stories of when he was a young pastor and was on his way home for the day - you could see the dust flying down those country roads from several miles away. He actually had his motorized cart taken away from him a few months ago because he kept speeding down the hall and running into other elderly residents! Not a good thing with people shuffling behind their walkers!
He was also an amateur fixer-of-everything. Some of his inventions and solutions to problems were hilarious. He also loved to create his own medicines and frequently diagnosed his own illnesses with the prescription to match. I'll never forget the day I went to visit them and the house absolutely reeked of garlic - he was making his own garlic salt and he had enough to salt everything in the state of Colorado!
As he aged, one of the things he began doing was talking to the pastor in the middle of the sermon - mostly in the smaller evening services, fortunately. He was so used to being in the pulpit, I think, that he couldn't stop "preaching." Then he would fall asleep (or "rest his eyes") during the rest of the service.
When they moved from the apartment to assisted living, we took many of their things to our house, where they reside in our basement. I was going through them recently and found so many notes that he had made for sermons. Many were for radio broadcasts. I would have liked to have known him when he was young and on the go, running from appointment to appointment, coming home at night to his young family, making them laugh, being a wonderful dad.
He could pray! I loved to hear him pray. When we would visit them before they moved out here, they always had devotions with breakfast. He literally prayed around the world for every missionary he'd ever met, for the country they worked in, for every grandchild, every relative. The kids would get antsy, but that never bothered him! One day recently he was sitting in the corner in his big recliner as the rest of us were visiting. You never knew whether he was sleeping, ignoring, or didn't hear what was going on. This particular day I asked him what he was doing. He said, "I was just thinking about how to improve my prayer life." Wow! That gave me a start. If he hadn't figured it out yet, what hope is there for me??
He will be missed by his 3 children, their spouses, his 9 grandchildren, his 11 great-grandchildren, parishioners from many churches, members of our church, residents of the apartments. But he will soon join those who have gone ahead of him, including one of his grandsons. We do not want him to stay here just for us.