HIS OBITUARY READS IN PART: From 1952-1953, he served in the U.S. Army during the Korean Conflict. He served on the front lines, receiving the Purple Heart after being wounded…He enjoyed his weekly visits with his veterans support group. He enjoyed bird watching, making horseradish and tomato juice with his family.
Elvern Kletscher passed away Thursday, April 3, 2003, at the Sunwood Good Samaritan Center in Redwood Falls, Minnesota at the age of 72 years and 29 days.
Yesterday, on the eight-year anniversary of my father’s death, I failed to remember. How could I? How could I forget the day he died, the day I lost my dad? How could I?
It breaks my heart that I would forget. This failure to remember the date of his death seems like a dishonor to the father I loved. He was a man who worked hard tending the earth, who loved his family and God. He was a soldier who served his country and, because of his time on the killing fields of Korea, suffered from a lifetime of demons that at times robbed me of my father.
But in the end, in his last days, I came to terms with the issues that sometimes made life with him difficult and challenging. I saw only the goodness as I stood at his bedside in the Veterans Administration Hospital where he lay dying of cancer and congestive heart failure.
As I held his hand, stroked his thick white hair, held a straw to his lips, I tried to be brave, to cheer him, to comfort him.
But when I couldn’t keep my emotions in check any more, I fled his room, stood outside his hospital room and wept.
Once I pulled myself back together, I returned to his bedside, listened to him tell me he was going to a better place, that he wanted all of us to take care of Mom. And then I cried, right there, holding nothing back because I couldn’t no matter how hard I tried.
Two days later, after being transported back to his home county, into a nursing home, my dad died.
And on April 7 we buried him, deep in the soil, in the hillside cemetery that overlooks his beloved prairie, the place where, except for his time in the military, he lived his entire life.
On that gloomy April day of biting cold wind, I held my mom close, my arm wrapped around her shoulders as she shivered uncontrollably. Together with my siblings we huddled inside a tent, next to the coffin.
As the guns fired in a military salute, as taps sounded their mournful wail, as my mom accepted a carefully folded American flag, I wept.
Today I weep, too, as I remember the father I loved.
© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling