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Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



*Note…this is the final of a three part column series. If you enjoyed reading let me know and tell a friend.

When you get that call that you know is coming it still shocks you a little bit. The teary voice on the other end told me Dad was gone, which in my usual comic mode would have been followed by me asking where he wandered off to, but at this point I thought I better just play it cool. I shut down my rig at work, calling the boss and letting him know that I was leaving and looked around trying to grab everything I had brought with me and yet at the same time being suspended in this weird kind of zone between total rush and just wanting to sit down and breathe.

I think the first phone call I made was to the ex and then my friend Shannon as I headed towards Des Moines from Adair. Looking down I noted that I was doing in excess of 80 mph, which if you ever have ridden with me knows that I probably was fearful that the skin on my face was going to peel off at such high speeds. It occurred to me that my speeding to the hospice house certainly wasn’t probably the smartest thing as I was sure Dad would still be dead when I got there.

Maybe I’m a little strange, but there was no collapsing in grief, no screaming and not really many tears, I think I had come to terms with his dying long before it happened. It’s a part of life, and although it is surrounded with sadness, the opportunity he had in front of him was what each of us spend our entire lives working towards. Can you imagine the homecoming as he stood there with my Grandpa Max and Jesus? You can be sure that Grandpa James was there also to take him fishing and Great Grandma Lula would have picked him up and twirled him in her arms. That friends is what this horribly terrifying end to our existence here on earth is all about. It isn’t the end, but a beginning and a homecoming, the tears shed there are different than here as they are only happy ones.

The next week would be a blur, and even though we had planned ahead there were still a million and one details that needed to be taken care of. We all handled his death a little differently and we prepared for the end of the week and a sendoff that he would have loved and sure would have wanted to attend. I was known as “the rock” that week and as long as I stayed busy I did alright.

As we went through boxes of things to find items to display at the visitation I was amazed at the things he had kept. Perhaps the moment that shook me the most was finding his FFA jacket in a box. The jacket, which I also wore during my years in FFA, I had thought had been lost years ago, so it was as though Dad was saying to me, “hey, I knew you would want this.” That blue jacket holds more memories than I can count on both hands and now holds even more meaning than it did before.

How do you sum up the life of someone? It has often been said you can get a pretty good guess from the people who come to a visitation. The outpouring was amazing and they continued to come, and stood and talked and sweated and squeezed their way into the Friends Church in Stuart, Dad’s Church as it will always be known to me, to visit with us, share a laugh or just come for a hug. Most of what happened over the next twenty-four hours was a blur to me and ended out at the cemetery as the grandchildren released their balloons and the crowd left leaving me with just my brothers as we made sure that there was good dirt on the top of his grave.

To wrap up, some general thoughts about this whole process. First, I can’t begin to thank my friend Lynn Ochiltree and his entire staff. Through the entire process they bent over backwards for us and worked with us when we came up with ideas, and spent hours on the road between Winterset and Stuart to make sure what we wanted for Dad came to life. The Historic All Saints Center is an amazing underused building. If you have a need for a building to hold an event in, please reach out to them for details. To the FFA members and advisors who showed up in official dress, you almost got me to cry at that point, and I am thankful for your friendship. To the Melody Makers and the many friends of ours, that sent cards, notes and made phone calls, your kindness was overwhelming and to all of those who still check up on me from time to time, I appreciate it more than you know.

Death is a part of life, and in the end, whether the struggle is long or short, the death sudden or not soon enough, know that in the end there are some things that we think are really important that turn out not to be. Would I have liked to have told my Dad that I forgave him for not always being there for us growing up? Of course, but in the end I think he knew how I felt, and more importantly I knew that he loved each of us, and each one of you that he interacted with. I’ve also learned that sometimes it is best to let grudges die when people die. Not only those grudges we might hold against the person that died, but more importantly the grudges they carried against others. It was their fight, not ours and if we are to truly meant to honor the memory of someone, I think that they would rather we honor them with the kindness of our hearts and our words and of our deeds towards others, so that when it comes our time, we can be there to see them standing beside Jesus, and run up and throw our hands around their neck and hug them as they welcome us home.

See you next week….remember, we’re all in this together.