Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In this season of ongoing grief, I hold hope July 18, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo of Valley Grove Cemetery.


THESE PAST SIX MONTHS have marked, for me, an unprecedented, extended period of grief.

Jan. Carl. Harold. Elaine. Deb. Michael. And, yesterday, news of Ruth’s death. Whether family by blood, by faith and/or by friendship, each of these individuals held a place in my heart. I grieve their deaths.

But I grieve in hope, because I am a woman of faith. I believe in heaven, in eternal life. Therein lies my comfort.

On Saturday, that hope rose in familiar hymns like “Crown Him with Many Crowns” at the celebration of life service for my friend Michael, also my (senior) pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Faribault. He died on June 9 from complications related to cancer, diagnosed only months earlier. He died while traveling in Sweden, far from his Minnesota home.


A snippet of Jesus’ face in a stained glass window at Trinity Lutheran Church in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


At the service, Michael’s pastor friend the Rev. Mark Noren advised us all to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart…and He will make your paths straight.” We repeated those words aloud from Proverbs 5. Words of strength and promise in a difficult time. He urged us to love our neighbors, to be there for others in prayer, support, encouragement and companionship.

I witnessed that care throughout the service. When a Sudanese choir of six sang “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” in an upbeat tempo of unrestrained joy, I observed one singer gently wipe away the tears of another with her open palms. Such tenderness.

I watched, too, as a friend leaned into Michael’s youngest daughter, shoulder to shoulder, compassion in the closeness of two grieving young women.

More compassion came in the caring words of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Minnesota South District President, the Rev. Dean Nadasdy, who spoke of the mutual love between pastor and congregation.


The Good Shepherd stained glass window at Immanuel Lutheran Church, rural Courtland. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


I felt that love in a tangible way at the visitation when I grasped the handle of the shepherd’s staff Michael received last year at a celebration of his 25 years in the ministry. At that event, I was honored to read a poem Michael wrote. He held an MA in English with a focus on poetry. We both loved language and words and penned poetry. He excelled in preaching. And he excelled in humor with a dry wit that often caught me by surprise. I marveled at his quick comebacks, his ability to unleash a humorous line with seemingly no effort. It was a gift.

But he sucked at gift-wrapping. Forgive me if you find that word inappropriate to connect to a pastor. Last December I was paired with Michael as our bible study group wrapped Christmas gifts for the Angel Tree ministry at our church. My efforts to teach him how to properly fold paper and wrap a gift failed. I finally gave up and suggested he dispense and attach the tape. I think he was relieved. Oh, how we laughed as we wrapped those gifts, extending love to our neighbors in need in the community.

I shall hold dear the memories of a man I valued not only as a pastor but as a friend. Life will always bring us grief as long as we choose to love. I accept that part of loving. For I have hope. Always hope.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling.


25 Responses to “In this season of ongoing grief, I hold hope”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    I am so sorry for your losses but I do know that you rejoice in the knowledge that each of these loved ones has his/her place in heaven now. Your memories of your friends were poignant and touching and I am grateful you shared with us today. Hold fast in that faith, friend.

  2. Littlesundog Says:

    Remembering the heartfelt gifts of friendship is the ultimate way of honoring the spirit of your friend. I was tickled about the gift wrap comment. What a joy to share the moments of laughter!

  3. Almost Iowa Says:

    But he sucked at gift-wrapping

    Sometimes our flaws are the most endearing.

    Are we just at that age where our relatives, friends and acquaintances begin passing away or is it that we take more notice because it hits us harder?

  4. That is a lot of losses in a short period of time – sorry to hear that. Loved that you shared the gift wrapping memory – ha! Memories and hope. Reminder to celebrate life – every day is a gift to be savored, cherished, lived, etc. (((((loveandhugs))))) Take Care

  5. This is a very fitting tribute to Pastor Nirva. Thank you for writing it. He will also be missed by his fellow pastors in the area.

  6. Cheryl N Says:

    Dear Audrey, This particular blog is the reason I “follow” you! Thank you for sharing your thoughts at this time – we all go through grieving periods, and I was moved by your insight.

  7. becky spitzack Says:

    The Celebration of Life service can be viewed on http://www.trinityradioandvideo.org
    Click on Steaming Player (go to July 14)
    Or go to the Youtube link.

    Thanks for your words; so much about him we want to say and remember. Thank you.

  8. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    I’m so sorry for your losses. I’ve gone through periods where loved ones have passed in clusters and it seems like you can never catch a break. I love your gift wrapping memory!

  9. **But I grieve in hope, because I am a woman of faith. I believe in heaven, in eternal life***

    OHHHHH, that’s our HOPE, our destiny, our healing, Audrey.

    Your pastor is giggling right now about the SUCKS at Wrapping part! xxx

  10. My heart goes out to you dear friend!

  11. Jackie Says:

    How are you doing my friend? This is so hard!

  12. JanBeek Says:

    Life is filled with challenges, isn’t it? And the older we get, the more we see our dear friends and family falling ill – and sometimes leaving us to grieve. But, you are so right when you say ” Life will always bring us grief as long as we choose to love” And it is equally true, life will always bring us joy as long as we choose to believe. You said, ” I grieve in hope, because I am a woman of faith.” Therein lies the secret, right? God bless you, Audrey. May your love always win out! Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed your blog … and I’ll be back! ❤

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