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Location: MInneapolis, Minnesota, United States

I am now a simple Grandpa who's life is made richer as each grandchild is born. My wife and I have raised five children and the 30 year love labor of raising them has begun to yield sweet fruit..... And then there are fruits of 30 years in ministry ... I am a satisfied old man full of the joy of the Lord.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Violet Elaine Kjell Harpel

I am in Memphis Tennessee tonight blogging through my Bluetooth phone. (Oh my gosh! Word just auto corrected Bluetooth. I had failed to capitalize it. That’s freaky. A computer shouldn't be that smart)

Today we buried my Mother. She was 85 years old. She had battled with dementia for the last 6 years of her life and has been in a nursing home now for the last 3 years. At Christmas time she had a big set back and lost her swallow reflex. Since then she had been fed by a tube in her stomach. She lost something else at that time though. She had lost her friendly cheerful childlike disposition. Since Christmas she had been withdrawn and I was only able to reach her once during that time. Here is the text from the eulogy. I post it as a tribute to a noble and courageous pioneer who followed her man wherever he led her and built a home at each place out of what she had at hand. They just don’t make them like this anymore.

I was called out of town suddenly on Thursday night to come to the bedside of Violet. She had not been doing well for the last 3 years of her life and at 84 it was only a matter of time. Dementia (probably Alzheimer’s) had been slowly stealing her away from contact with us. Her last crisis had stolen her swallow reflex and so now she was even being fed by a feeding tube. It was not a pretty sight.

She had fallen into what was to be her final challenge and crisis of her life. An opportunistic infection had settled in her lungs and as a result her lungs had filled up with fluid. This time we did not take her to the hospital but treated her with antibiotics in the nursing home where she was. With the addition of oxygen and Tylenol she was holding her own and as Gail, Henry and I left to eat some supper I was even optimistic about her recovery. While we were out she took a turn for the worse.

Her breathing rate was at 60. This is over 3 times the normal rate. She did not have much of her lung left. I sat in the room with her during her final hours. I calculated that I sat and watched her final 130,000 breaths. There was nothing I could do. Nothing I could say. She had been unable to communicate even in the smallest way now for over 9 months. She would have to win this one on her own.

She did not win. After about 30 hours her breath rate began to decline. I called Henry to come to her bedside when her breathing had declined to 31 breaths per minute. He had been taking a short break after caring for her for over 6 years. When he arrived 20 minutes later she was down to 17 breaths per minute and we knew we were getting close.

Her mouth hung open as she gasped for breath. (As a matter of fact, one of the reasons I was optimistic when we left for supper was because she had closed her mouth and opened her eyes earlier that afternoon. We left after she fell back asleep)

Her eyes were to open again about 6 hours later but this time there was no pupil response or even a response to touching. They slowly came open involuntarily and were glazed, unfocused, and they did not react to the light. Plus she had become sort of rigid and would not yield to movement or positioning. I actually thought that she (her spirit) was gone and some sort of rigamortus had set in. As the minutes ticked off she lost about one breath a minute in her breath rate. At 4:50 AM I thought I saw her take her last breath. And she really never breathed again. But what fallowed will be precious to me forever. `

In her final moment her unfocused eyes closed. Her face became soft. She became human again. She closed her mouth and I thought for a moment I saw the faintest smile. I actually thought she was waking up and might turn and talk to us. But instead she gathered her arms like she was giving herself a hug and then, with a sigh, she went limp.

I believe I saw my Mother’s spirit leave her body. She was gone and I knew she was with Jesus. I don’t know why she had to live out the last years of her life like this but I do know she was now at peace and beginning a life of joy indescribable. She will join my Dad and begin her life of eternal oneness with her God.

Jesus purchased this for her. He gave it to her as a free gift. It did not depend on how well she achieved or how high she rose or even if or if not she ever accomplished the personal moral goals in her life. Her transition to eternal life was totally free simply because she believed.

In a special moment about 6 months ago, as I sat with Mom’s hand in mine, and with Johnye Lynn at my side, I was just speaking to Mom who, up until then, had not really responded, (although she had unclenched her hand and was gently holding mine.)
I encouraged her to not be afraid, and I told her not to worry. (she battled with fear all of her life. She was especially afraid of thunderstorms) I said, “ You know Mom? I believe you have some really good days ahead of you.” Suddenly she looked up at me and smiled and shook her head and said yes.

I don’t know if she understood, but I hope she did. And she had a right to look forward to better days. She had a rough time with her real Dad. She was ill with what I always heard her call adenoid problems and had to travel to Madison Wisconsin for surgery. The illness caused her to fall behind a grade in school. Kids made fun of her. Everything she achieved she seemed to do with a struggle.

Dad was the best thing that ever happened to her and yet he led her into a low pay military life. She lived in so many places that she began to loose count. She lost a son in a car accident. She almost lost two sons to drugs and alcohol. She never felt adequate. Never felt like she had done enough. And would often plunge into a frenzied darkness that it seemed like nothing could penetrate and would lash out in anger.

But she always returned to the Lord. She is the reason I am a Christian. She would be so crazy some days as I would leave for school that I was afraid to come home. But almost always, when I did return home I would find her sitting in a rocking chair with the bible open in her lap and a serene look on her face. I knew that she had been with God.

God was her faithful friend. Jesus never failed her. On the night that I came to a crisis in my own mixed up life. At the peak of the moment in a thunderstorm. The moment that God reached out and revealed Himself to me after 16 years of darkness. At that moment, Mom woke up in her bed and sat up. Dad asked her what was wrong. She said that she knew something was happening with me at that moment.

Jesus never failed her. When we, her family, failed her from time to time, she would just turn to Jesus. That was her refuge in the storm. That was her rock when all around her was sinking sand. When she spent time with Him, the clouds would pass, and the sun would begin shining again.

One thing that I feel bad about is the fact that my Mom tried so hard to have and to make things nice. Her African Violets were one of the things she would work. She would work hard with what she had to make it nice. As sure as taxes we would break something else that she held dear and she would say, “Why can’t I ever have anything nice.” (Now after raising 5 children I know what she meant.)

Many of you know how she out did herself when it came to hospitality. Every week we would have another German chocolate cake. Funny cakes and caramels and cookies. And who of you remember Marzipan? And those weird Swedish cookies. Were they called Krumkaker? And frute soup. And as Gail said, we will never figure out how she got all of the food to the table at the same time and it was all still piping hot.

You will still get a few of these dishes if you come to our house in Minnesota or Henry’s house here in Geneseo, but they will probably be cold. And I know Henry still has Dad’s sausage stuffer for Swedish sausage but I think him and I have our own sources now so why bother with the mess? Of course it is not exactly the same.

And I guess it never will be again. My favorite was the funny cake but even though I have the recipe, I don’t think I will ever make them again.

Mom, loved her family. She didn’t get to see you much…. but there’s getting to be a load of them up there in heaven. I’ll bet they are all different now but somehow they will also be the same !

And the nicest of them all is Aunt Ester but she’s reluctant to leave.

It would be great if we all could gather together for eternity. Having forgiven each other and having been healed of the peculiar glitches that each of us have.

By God’s grace and Jesus sacrifice we will. If we believe with faith. The kind of faith Mom had.


Blogger Amber Lynn said...

My prayers are with you, Bruce. I am sorry for your loss. But just think, she now has her mind back and her body in the presence of her Lord. The next time you see her....well, I can only imagine!

6:43 PM, February 21, 2005  
Blogger King of Fools said...

Very touching eulogy. I especially like how you ended it. (Hope is a wonderful thing!)

Thanks for sharing!

8:35 PM, February 27, 2005  

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