I PULL OPEN the bottom file drawer and reach inside, rifling through the folders until I find it: “Elvern K. (Obits, death certif.)”
Today marks seven years since my dad, Elvern Kletscher, died at age 72 of esophageal cancer.
Every April 3, I reread my father’s obituary. I remember the man who enjoyed making tomato juice and horseradish. I remember the farmer who milked cows and worked the land. I remember my soldier-dad who struggled with the demons of war. I remember the father who loved his family and his Lord and left his children and grandchildren with a legacy of faith.
So it is while attending Good Friday services at my church that I think of my dad and his death.
I blame the pastor.
He begins his sermon by painting a picture of a loved one upon his/her death bed surrounded by family.
I am here, at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Minneapolis on a Tuesday evening with my husband and son. We are at my dad’s bedside, two days before his death, although we do not know then that he will live only two more days.
The focus, says the pastor, is on making the patient comfortable.
I seek out a nurse for a glass of ice water to quench the thirst of my dying father. I lean in close, place a straw between his parched lips, so he can drink.
The family is gathered there, continues the preacher, to hear the dying wishes of the loved one.
“Take care of Mom,” he says. I listen to my father’s wishes as tears stream down my face. I can barely endure the grief. Although I am well aware that my dad will soon be gone, “soon” has always been an undefined time that I cannot comprehend.
It is then that the pastor’s message fully makes the impact he desired. I sense the grief the disciples felt in realizing their Lord would die. Tears seep into the corners of my eyes and I wonder if I will break down and flee from the sanctuary for the pain of this moment.
I am crying now, weeping, as my dad comforts me. He tells me not to cry, that he is going to a better place. I know that he speaks the truth. Yet I cannot endure the words. So I leave his side, but for a brief time, to stand outside his hospital room, to cry my tears of sorrow.
© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling