Taking Dad and family to Oklahoma

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Well, we didn’t really take Dad to Oklahoma, but we did take his cremains to be buried beside my mom’s earthly body under their joint headstone in what is basically the family cemetery in Enid.

It was a good trip with many significant events and experiences. I wrote about Dad’s life a few weeks ago here in The Citizen if you want to look back at that.https://thecitizen.com/2021/08/29/dad-a-life-well-lived/

The first leg of the trip for my wife and me was to drive from Fayetteville to Michigan to our daughter and son-in-law and our four grandkids there. My cousin later was honest enough to say we had a poor sense of direction if that’s how we planned to get to Oklahoma. He would be right, of course, except that we did that to fly with daughter and the four, which was only possible if we were along to herd the cats and round up the strays. Son-in-law had to stay put with demands of being the high school principal.

I actually grew up in Texas, and among the thousands of “sayings” prevalent there is this, “You can’t hardly get there from here.” That’s almost true of Enid, Oklahoma. Our flight plan was restricted to American Airlines because of other airlines’ poor schedule into Oklahoma City, and since there were no direct flights from Detroit, we had to stop over in Dallas and then on into OKC. This time it was “go south to go north.” Go figure. And a stopover in Dallas with a plane change is no cake-walk either, but we made it.

The last leg was the most simple, just rent a car in OKC and drive the last 85 miles on up to Enid. With the seven of us and luggage and car seats, etc., I had worked hard to specify a seven passenger mini-van to accommodate. In true rental car company fashion, however, their words were simply, “Oh, we’re sorry, but we don’t have a mini-van on the lot right now.” Well, thank you very much. Finally, they offered a seven passenger vehicle, but with almost no luggage space, which we packed and stacked and squeezed into. We then hooked up with our other daughter and her husband and their new baby girl.

The evening drive across the flat plains was quite pleasant after a mandatory stop at beloved Chick-fil-A, and the check-in at the Hampton Inn was without incident, so all was well as we said prayers and looked forward to the next day.

I won’t go into as many details for the first full day in Enid, which was one full day before the graveside service for Dad out at the cemetery, but it was a great day for connection to our family roots. We went out to the farm that my grandpa owned and farmed and later rented out to another farmer as he and his family moved into town. I went there many times as a boy, and we took our kids there many times as we visited my mom and dad when they lived in Enid also.

The Okies are serious when they sing, “We know we belong to the land and the land we belong to is grand.” There is a real sense of connection to the sacred creation of the fertile earth that gives and gives and gives. On our family farm, the wheat crops and some mineral rights have produced and blessed us over and over and over through more than a hundred years. Thank you, Lord.

That day ended with a music concert and sing-along led by my brother. The miracle and blessing about this was that the grandkids sat quiet and still and sang along for at least an hour and a half. By the end of the concert, my son, many more of the family, and some faithful cousins had joined us to pay our respects to Dad and enjoy some family reunion time as well.

The day of the graveside service started early for all as everyone was getting ready to be at the mid-morning service. One of the best parts of a family reunion time in a hotel is the breakfast time together at the free buffet. The coffee and scrambled eggs and accompanying breakfast quickies make for great visiting and connecting. That was all certainly true about our three days together.

At the appointed mid-morning hour the whole family, some cousins, two local pastors who knew Dad, and some faithful friends and church members from Dad’s pastoring days gathered at the graveside. His cremains sat in a nicely lacquered wooden box atop a small table at the headstone where we saw my mom’s name and the dates of her life, which reminded us that cancer took her from us far too soon.

I was in charge of the service and was privileged to conduct it with the dear ones gathered around. Two important factors guided us through the service. One was our Lutheran heritage, which puts the focus of a funeral on the glorious resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ; and the second was that I could hear in my heart what my dad would have said, so I basically preached what he would have preached had he still had a physical voice. I know we were all both comforted and led to celebration and thanksgiving for Dad and his long and well-lived life.

I’ve said all this to say what’s really important: Family heritage is so important for our lives together as human beings. First of all, it is important to live our lives with faith in God and faith in Jesus as our Savior. It is important for us to live our lives in a way that displays our faith with signs of serving others and acting with honesty and integrity. It is so important to live our lives so that we are respected by our family and those who know us. All of this is important so that our family and those who follow after can look to our lives as good examples.

All of this also points to the call from God for us to honor and respect our mother and father and all those whose lives have influenced us toward a good life well-lived.

It was vital for my sister and her family, for my brother and his family, for me and my family, and for the rising generations to honor and respect the life my dad lived, and in so doing also again give that same honor and respect to my beloved mother as we remembered her in this special way as well.

Please take from this reading a renewal of your commitment to God and Christ, a renewal of your commitment to do whatever it takes to honor those whose lives call for honor and respect, and to a renewal of your commitment to live a life that can one day be honored and respected. We all say simply, “I shall and I ask God to help and guide me.” Amen!

[Kollmeyer, a Fayette County resident for 35 years, is Pastor Emeritus at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Fayetteville. Follow Pastor Scott Ness and this great church at www.princeofpeacefayette.org. Kollmeyer is also Interim Pastor at Word of God Lutheran Church in Sharpsburg. Find his weekly video recorded sermons at www.woglutheran.org.]