I have been blessed with the some of the spirituality of others being passed on to me upon their death. Pastor Diane told me she was aware of such happenings. This is mine.
Uncle Art was one of my heroes and mentors. He was my dad’s brother and he lived in Wisconsin. He farmed and raised cattle and hogs. My dad farmed and raised hogs. Uncle Art also had other livestock that intrigued me. There were chickens, ducks, geese, and sheep. On Uncle Art’s farm there was also a timber and a swamp. Both interesting places for an Iowa boy used to bare, flat, well drained land.
Uncle Art always had a kindness and a gentleness that I admired and appreciated. Uncle Art was always going to a meeting. He was active in various civic activities in the community. He always put people first and work second. That was a philosophy that I wasn’t used to. It was a philosophy that I admired.
In my life, Uncle Art was the only man in my family, and extended family, who consistently went to church on a regular basis. Some people thought his arriving at church on time was a miracle. Uncle Art had a wife, five daughters, and one bathroom.
Uncle Art served in the Army in England in WWII. He was part of a field hospital that cared for the wounded of the 8th Air Force’s daylight bombing raids. Once, the field hospital was bombed by the Germans. Art was chosen to write the prayer for the service of those killed in that bombing raid. I can only imagine the spiritual strength it took to write that prayer.
Uncle Art seldom talked about the war. The memories were just too intense. He did talk of the people of England and how they took him in, and helped him manage the time away from home. As he told those stories there was a reverence in his voice. He held the English people in the highest regard.
In October of 1943, Art’s dad, Glen, passed away from cancer. Art was in England as the Allies prepared for D day. He could not come home for the funeral. Yet another time he had to rely on his spiritual strength.
I am Art’s first nephew. He first saw me in December of 1945 after he returned from the war. It would be fair to say he spoiled me, and we always had a closeness. I’m not sure he ever knew how much I watched him and admired the way he lived his life. When he was in the beginning stages of dementia I wrote him a note. I told him he had been an important factor in developing my character. Hind site tells me that writing that note was the response to a nudge from the Holy Spirit.
After Uncle Art was diagnosed with dementia he told me some stories about growing up on the French farm in Richland Township. His tales are future stories I hope to write. As the dementia advanced, Uncle Art didn’t act like he recognized any of us. However, he always smiled when I walked into Marilynn’s house. Somehow he knew who I was even if he couldn’t express it.
I will always remember the August morning Maxine and I were leaving Marilynn’s to return home. Marilynn was leading Uncle Art through the kitchen. He was getting on a bus to spend the day at an Alzheimer’s day care. As Uncle Art went through the kitchen he stopped, turned toward me, and stuck out his hand. I got up and shook his hand. That hand shake felt special. That hand shake was the last time I would see Uncle Art alive. He passed away in November.
I went to Wisconsin to be with Marilynn and her sister’s at the funeral. Marilynn had lost her husband and her father in 5 months. At the funeral, we sat in the front row next to each other. We clung to each other for support. We were holding on to each other so tight I’m surprised we didn’t break our hands.
Sandy Schehan, a friend of the family, gave the eulogy for Art. She recalled the same things I remembered about Uncle Art. She talked of his kindness, gentleness, his service to others, his love of people, kids, 4-H, cattle, and his love for the Lord. I was very moved and so was everyone seated in the church. As she gave the eulogy, a strange thing happened that I cannot explain.
Somehow I felt some of Uncle Art’s spirituality being transferred to me. It was just this warm and wonderful feeling. I just don’t know how to explain it. I think the stories I have been able to share comes from Maxine and Uncle Art passing part of their spiritual strength to me. They, along with the Holy Spirit, are guiding me to write these stories. Although I can’t really explain all of this, I firmly believe it was, and is, the Holy Spirit at work. Later, Pastor Diane would tell me she was aware of such happenings.
So as Uncle Art passed into the next life he passed some of his spirituality to me and to others. Uncle Art’s life is reflected in the lives of his five daughters, four nephews, and one niece. Each of us is a better person because of the life he lived. As each of us navigates our path on this journey of life, a portion of Uncle Art’s spirituality goes with us each day. For that gift, we thank the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.