It has struck me this week as we grieve the passing of Gene’s ninety-five year old dad, how we spend a life time building our own personal empires; collecting, saving, fixing, buying, preserving, working, and with one breathe, life stops and none of it matters any more. With the stroke of a pen, an executer will disperse the hard-earned cash, a much-loved farm handed-down from previous generations is development opportunity and personal treasures become “bargains” to fill other people’s homes.
Even though it has only been a few days since dad Hertzler passed away the process of disposing of his 95 plus years of collecting has begun. The things that consumed his day and made him tired don’t matter any more. His tools lie unused, food in the fridge is thrown away, and his equipment is parked where he last used it. Family members will treasure family heirlooms that have special meaning, junk will be tossed and the little farm in the middle of the city will be no more.
I wonder who will read the books he treasured, stretch out in his lazy boy chair, drink from his chipped, mismatched coffee mugs, sleep on his wedding bed, or sit at the old well-worn desk. I wonder who will appreciate the story behind the creaky rocking chair, the worn, stained quilt, cracked platter, or lace tablecloth? The favorite pillow, blanket, pen, shirt, chair or rug is now ordinary. I mull over how much is out-dated, worn, and old. A century of memories and stories will only be treasured by the few who remember.
King Solomon mulled over this ….. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun? One generation passes away and another generation comes…” (Ecclesiastes 1:2b-4a)
Dad was thrifty, honest and hard-working. He was a home-body, and only once took his family on a trip to Florida. He was a small, wiry man but he had a strong, spunky spirit. In the midst of all his living, Dad cultivated a strong faith that was tested and tried. He wrote notebooks full of his spiritual ponderings, and “preached” to everyone who would listen; “repent and be saved.” He cherished the hymns of old and often sung them from memory. His Bible is worn and tattered from use. His ministry was mostly out of the spotlight. Through the years his shop became a haven for a men’s Bible study and he cherished meeting weekly with several men at a local restaurant for coffee and fellowship. In his younger years he picked up neighborhood children and took them to church. Those who knew dad received a spiritual treasure. The most valuable things in life can not be bought or sold.
(Sign hanging in the shop)
Dad had his own unique set of challenges in life and some were very painful and difficult but he ran the race, he fought the fight and his dying words were “I am at peace.”
On Sunday there was a message on our answering machine when we got home from church that dad was being” called home”. We immediately headed to Denbigh. He had been in the hospital a week and his lungs were filling with fluid. Time was running out. On the drive down we didn’t know if he would hold on until we got there. Your mind remembers many things as you process the events taking place. Dad’s mind was clear and we had a precious two hours with him before heading home. Talking was very difficult and labored for him but he had some things to say. Once I realized he was trying to sing “Amazing Grace”. We sat by his bed, gently massaging his face and hands and quietly sharing our last moments together on earth. I softly sang numerous beloved old hymns to him. He was looking forward to seeing Jesus and numerous family members. We assured him that we would see him later in heaven. It is so hard to say your last goodbye, give your last hug and walk out of the room, knowing this is it. There are no more words to be spoken and the last “I love yous” have been said. We were so grateful that God in His mercy granted us this time together.
Thank-you dad, rest in peace. We love you.