Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The kindness of a faith community July 20, 2018

 

CHOCOLATE MAKES EVERYTHING BETTER, right? Or at least it helps.

Chocolate lifted my mood recently following the death of my friend and pastor, the Rev. Dr. Michael Nirva. He died June 9 in Sweden from complications related to cancer. His unexpected death while traveling with family hit me, and our congregation at Trinity Lutheran Church in Faribault, hard.

 

 

From across town, First English Lutheran Church reached out, gifting Trinity with a basket of hugs and kisses. Of the Hershey’s chocolate variety. The congregation’s act of Christian love and sympathy touched me and many others. How thoughtful and kind and caring.

 

 

Likewise, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church sent a plant to honor Pastor Nirva at a celebration of life service last weekend. What a blessing to live in a town where such grace is extended to a faith family grieving the loss of its senior pastor.

Thank you, First English and Our Savior’s.

 

 

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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A legacy of love in 10 words May 19, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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TEN WORDS IN A TELEGRAM. Ten words of love. Sent seven weeks prior to their December 7, 1945, wedding.

She saved the creased and partially torn slip of paper for 73 years, a reminder of the love they shared until his death a dozen years ago.

On Thursday that love letter, wired by my Uncle Glenn from Camp Patrick Henry in Virginia to his betrothed back in Minnesota, was shared at his beloved’s funeral. There, among all the family photos and remembrances, this piece of my Aunt Elaine’s life held the sweetness of young love and evidence of an enduring love between husband and wife.

“You don’t think of your grandparents in that kind of way, in a romantic way,” Glenn and Elaine’s granddaughter said as we stood (after the funeral dinner) reading the romantic words of Kim’s grandfather: DARLING. ARRIVED SAFELY. EXPECT TO BE HOME SOON. LOVE = GLENN.

Darling. That single word holds such love, such sweetness, such promise. I can only imagine the joy Elaine felt in receiving that October 19, 1945, wire from the man she was about to marry. While he served in the US military, she was back home on their native southwestern Minnesota prairie working as a nurse at the Marshall Hospital.

 

Elaine Borning. Photo from the Sunset Funeral Association website.

 

What a gift Elaine left to her six surviving children, 24 grandchildren and 47 great grandchildren by saving that telegram. Love of family threaded throughout her funeral day. In between comforting Scripture, we sang “I Was There to Hear your Borning Cry,” a hymn sung at every Borning family funeral. Song connecting generations, even in death.

I was there to hear your borning cry, I’ll be there when you are old. I couldn’t make it through that song without tears releasing at the death of my godmother, in the emotion of gathering in a small town Lutheran church to grieve and to celebrate Elaine’s life. There, on a May morning as perfect as they get in Minnesota, our voices rose in love and sadness and hope. When the evening gently closes in, and you shut your weary eyes, I’ll be there as I have always been with just one more surprise. I was there to hear your borning cry…

After the service, vehicles in the long funeral processional trailed clouds of dust through the under-construction gravel Main Street of Echo as we passed the grain elevator and boarded up buildings toward the cemetery. As I stood on the lush grass a tombstone away from Elaine’s gravesite, I took in the scene. Family gathered. Clenched tissues wiping tears from eyes. My cousin’s head bowed in sadness. A Spee-Dee delivery truck passing by. White clouds hung in a deep blue sky, farm fields just across the highway. And then, as the pastor led the graveside service, the noon whistle blaring, loud and clear across the land. So small town. So fitting. A moment to laugh within, to think, Elaine would have appreciated this.

 

 

Just like she would have appreciated the homemade chocolate mayonnaise cake served at her funeral dinner. She had a fondness for sweets, was known for the chocolate mayo cake she baked. After her death, her family found candy bars stashed in her freezer alongside bags of neatly-stacked homemade buns.

And they found, too, her life story written just for them. I can only imagine the comfort my cousins and their children and their children’s children will find in reading those words. Just like the ten words written in that telegram 73 years ago. Words that leave a legacy of love.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Grieving September 22, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:19 PM
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“THANK GOD FOR MY FAITH,” my mom said as she shared yet another piece of tragic news that has touched my extended family this week.

Her dear cousin Alice, 79, died Tuesday as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident in North Mankato. This I learned in a phone call on Wednesday. After I hung up, and per my mom’s request, I began phoning four of my five siblings.

A day earlier I had done the same.

My sister-in-law’s 64-year-old father was found dead at the scene of a single-vehicle accident in Cottonwood County early Tuesday morning, news I was asked to share with other family members.

This is almost more than we, my extended family, can bear right now. We’ve leaned on and supported each other and relied on our strong faith in God and on friends to get us through our hours and days.

Yet, I know the most difficult minutes are yet to come—when I see my brother and his wife and their two children. What will I say that will console them? Words and hugs seem inadequate. Prayers are not.

My mom is right. It is faith in God that sustains us. We are not alone.

And, certainly, we are not the only family grieving. In Waseca, many are mourning the loss of 11-year-old Jaiden, a sixth-grader who on Monday committed suicide. My sister, a Waseca floral designer, has been creating floral arrangements for Jaiden’s funeral. My two young nieces, who attend school in Waseca, and my other sister, who teaches in Waseca, have all been impacted by Jaiden’s death.

Grief runs deep.

In Faribault, family and friends are mourning the death of 25-year-old Wendi due to injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. She was a Faribault High School classmate of my eldest; my daughter did not know her well.

Grief runs deep.

We all know we are going to die. Yet, when a death comes unexpectedly, in a tragic way, it’s especially difficult to comprehend, to accept, to understand.

We do the best we can. We cry and pray and talk and, for me, write.

And last night I laughed, a laugh that built and rolled into a deep belly laugh that left my muscles aching. When I think about it now, the subject of my laughter wasn’t at all funny—as my husband told me at the time. But I asked him, “Would you rather I cry?”

So I laughed. Because I’ve already cried too much.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling