"Dad, why do you need the undertaker?"
"Well, I died, didn't I?"
"No, Dad, you just had surgery."
Dad laughed in his quietly humorous way, as if to say, "Life is such a joke, sometimes."
The night of his surgery, I remained at his bedside. He would have been so bewildered to wake in this strange place, alone. He slept off and on and I curled up in a chair, listening to him breathe. Then he would begin talking, as if in his sleep. Soon, I realized he was having a conversation with the Almighty, Himself.
"Oh, what treasures I leave behind!" he groaned, as he had been listing the names of loved ones, especially us children. That was when I stood at his side, leaning against the side rails of the bed, listening to catch every word. This would be one of those unforgettable nights, a not-to-be-missed event that I praised the Lord He let me witness.
Over the course of the night, his sorrowful-rejoicing praises escalated. He began preaching, railing against the accuser of the brethren. Then he would sleep awhile, until his discomfort, or the effects of medication, would prompt him to speak again. Toward morning, he sounded quite angry, and I wished I had been prepared to record what overflowed from his heart all through the night.
It was about that time, just before dawn, when his tone changed, as if he were more awake. He asked, "Has anyone called Larson?"
"Who is 'Larson,' Dad?"
"Why, he's the undertaker from Pelican!" he said, as if surprised that I wouldn't know that. Pelican Rapids, his birthplace, full of so many memories he had shared with us during bedtime stories over the years, had to be his favorite place on earth. The beautiful old clock-tower church, where he had been baptised, confirmed, and ordained into the ministry, had become a precious landmark for all of us.
I made a mental note to phone my cousin Virginia, who still lived in Pelican. It would be time, sooner or later, to plan for the worst. And, Dad had dropped clues as to his desires for his final journey.
Over the next five months, I pursued the arrangements that would be needed. Two plots, one for Dad and, eventually, the other for Mom, were purchased at the Ringsaker Cemetery out in the countryside, west of Pelican. Two spots remained alongside Dad's own mother and father and brother Reuben. Funny thing, the plots were not side by side. Grandma Dorothea's resting place was centered between Grandpa Thore and son Reuben. Mom and Dad would have to take the outside sites. With my sisters and brothers, we decided Dad should have the place next to his father, and Mom would take the final plot, next to Reuben. (When we explained the situation to her, she magnanimously replied, "That's okay, I always liked Reuben better, anyway." We were a bit shocked, but also amused by her candor. We older children remembered Reuben as a kind-hearted uncle who surprised us with unexpected treats. He had lived with us for a short time when we were little and we only learned after the fact that he was dying of cancer at the time.)
To this day, I thank the Lord for giving us advance warning to prepare for what was just ahead. We had 'Larson' waiting in the wings, and he did such a great job guiding us through this first event in our experience of taking responsibility for carrying our beloved papa through funeral preparations and on to his final resting place.
When the time came, it gave me great comfort to know that we had done everything, just the way our dad would have wanted it. In the same clock-tower church of his childhood, family and friends gathered from across the years to bid him farewell.
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