Life Goes On
Last week we experienced the loss of a husband, a father, and a grandfather. John simply picked up his cap, put on his coat and walked out to the farm that he had tended most of his life. It was bitter cold, snowing and icy rain. His mind, clouded with dementia, and his failing eyesight compounded the situation. We will never know what he was thinking. Did he need to milk the cows, bale the hay, plant or harvest the crops? He had done this before. But, this time we were not watching close enough to interrupt his walk and send him back to the warm and safe house. The ending was tragic. He became lost and died from exposure and hypothermia.
Family gathered and the next few days were spent planning the funeral, many phone calls, visiting with neighbors and friends and remembering his life. We celebrated our Christmas dinner as planned. Sitting around the table, we hungrily devoured the food. Grief did not seem to affect our appetites. Satiated, we remained seated around the table, reminiscing. Soon the conversation became lighter. We laughed about our lack of sleep and resulting brain fog. More jokes and anecdotes were shared. Loud laughter erupted…so much the baby was startled and began to cry.
No one can tell a funny story like the Kilheffer men. The “joke gene” and dry sense of humor has even showed up in the next generation. Everyone tries to top the previous story and jokes and admittedly, they are successful. No one seemed to miss the quiet person, who before, was always sitting among us. Sure, he was thought of when Dennie said grace. Grandpa always said the grace. With a rich cadence to his voice and in the King James Version, he gave thanks for the meal, those gathered around the table and God’s grace extended to us by His gift of salvation. His blessing and prayer, beautifully stated, reflected his love of the Savior and his steadfast faith. I looked back over the evening and felt somewhat guilty that we had spent a lot of time not mourning or grieving. Instead, we ate and laughed heartily as if the very public events of the previous days had never occurred.
The funeral meal followed the service and soon we started wiping laughter tears from our eyes rather than grief-stricken tears. Had we not learned our lesson? Were we not to be missing his presence at the table, lauding him with eulogies? Couldn’t we just pause for a moment, put aside laughter and joking and shed some tears for the departed grandfather? Why did this always happen at funeral meals? My nephew, a seminary student, stopped by our table to chat. He was taking a pastoral care class. “This meal is the most important part of a funeral,” he said. “It signifies that life must go on.” Ah…life must go on! I could finally validate our feelings and reactions.
So, we pick up our forks and feed our hungry, physical bodies.
We are thankful for Grandpa’s love. His expressions of affection to his grandchildren were not always known or seen. But he frequently would ask Grandma to tell him, one more time, the names of the grandchildren so he could plant them in his muddled mind and somehow recall them when needed.
God’s grace and time will heal our guilt ridden hearts. Why were we not watching close enough? Could we have searched more diligently and differently so that we could have found him before death stole him away? Why did we not place him in a facility that would restrain him and keep him safe when we knew he occasionally wandered? These questions may never be answered but they will eventually stop haunting us. My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cor 12:9
And, we will continue to laugh and try to best each other with the humorous witticisms and quips. Because we know a smile would break across his face and he would chuckle quietly. We will mourn his loss and miss his silent presence among us. Dennie will now assume the patriarchal role, sit at the head of the table and offer grace at the meals. It won’t be the same. But God will see our hearts of gratitude for the man who lived his life in faithfulness to his Maker and Savior.