My father in law, Jacob Ehman, was a German farm boy in North Dakota. He met my mother-in-law, Helen, a German farm girl, on a Ferris wheel ride in Ashley, North Dakota. Helen and Jake bought a small mobile home and hauled it to New York, parking it near the seminary where he studied to become a pastor, as they had no married student housing available.
He served churches in Oklahoma, Montana, Iowa and Michigan and traveled extensively in the Midwest pastoring other pastors. It wouldn’t make sense to say he loved the church. He didn’t exist, save the church. Even in retirement, he taught two Bible classes a week until he was past 90. He survived cancer, heart attacks. He raised four children, all of whom encountered their own bumps in life. After all four kids graduated college, he supported Helen, with her 8th grade education, in getting her own college degree and launching the teaching career of her dreams.
There was always a twinkle in his eye. Even as a brain tumor grew and his body ceased to move, he maintained a sense of humor and exhibited a gentle graciousness to his caregivers. Last Friday, his two daughters, his pastor, and his nurse, stood around his bed singing hymns as he transitioned from this life. He opened his eyes in surprise, took a couple more breaths and was gone. Though we are grateful for his 95 years and supported his wish to depart this earthly journey, we are still deeply saddened to lose him.
His grandchildren include a US Amy Colonel who has been tapped to become a General, a missionary teacher in the Philippines, a nurse, two teachers, a musician, and two business executives. But what he would want you to know about his eight grandchildren is that every single one of them is involved in the life of his/her church and devoted to growing in faithfulness. Oh he would love them the same if they didn’t find their home inside the house of God. But it brought him joy to know that they felt the Spirit’s claim of love.
We have a black and white picture on our fridge of him kissing Grandma, his beloved wife of 66 years. I don’t know what happens when we die. But what gives me hope is picturing them kissing again.