I love to look at the journey of my paintings for it is an utter surprise, an alchemy of process. I am in a subconscious state when I paint, I do not sketch out ideas ahead of time I just let the brush be my guide. I suppose it is being a Visionary or a Soul Artist unsure of what the result will be but trusting in the process. I see all the symbolism in my art reflecting on the world and what seemed to call out to me most was the word: ECO GUARDIANS. I was not sure if this word existed but upon my searching I found the words being used in the Maori Tradition: Kaitiakitanga. This means one whom is a guardian, protector or conserver. This traditional role is important with the Maori Peoples. They help shelter the lives and species around them. They help foster and preserve these traditions generation to generation. This role means speaking to the land, the waters, the air, the sea and all forms of life as a living entity and one that connects us all. ALL of these entities have their own individual sovereignty. This ideology knows that we are not greater than the animals, planets, trees, we are part of the fabric and web that we share intrinsically together. We co-exist and must survive together in a language of sacred reciprocity and respectability.
My house is full of what seems like 200 paintings or more over the last two years. Images of shamanic birds, horses, Indigenous Peoples, plant life, bears, Ancestors, Spirit figures, fires, water ways, sacred landscapes and so much more come alive in their own narratives. I feel I just show up but know I am never alone. I just finished writing about INTERCONNECTEDNESS and have been contemplating on this relationship of being an ECO GUARDIAN for days now. Can a lake, river, sea life, plant species, a pack of wolves or whales be a part of our subtribe of humanness? We are all connected and one thing I see over and over in my paintings is we are not alone. When I picture the children being all alone on the Border I wondered whom would comfort them in the night? I dreamt of a large red makwa Ojibwa bear that held the children so they were never alone despite the fact that employees were not allowed to hold the children at the detainment shelters. This to me was heart breaking. I decided to create a narrative that no one would suffer not even animals if they were alone through my paintings. Being a guardian means one respects all of life and comforts them to the best of their ability. Even the art we create can have protective boundaries. I pictured those whom were abused in an exhibition I was in called THE LONG RED LINE: ONE BILLION RISING in Chicago focusing on the voices that had been silent. The atrocities were happening world wide yet I created a narrative where red bears, spirit birds, Zulu Warriors, birch bark trees comforted the night sleeper and held all their truths and sorrows. I felt if I could change the narrative of such pain maybe it would comfort someone on the planet. Surely the role of the ECO GUARDIAN cherishes all life and helps to alleviate suffering in even one life. If this is what it meant then surely one persons’ pain abated would not be in vain.
Spirit Horses went through the fires of California, the Amazon, Siberia, and places all over the planet in my paintings warning of the fires to come. They brought rain and allowed the water to dissipate the pain of all that was being burned. ECO GUARDIANS brought the best healing they could in the situation and a source of resurrection. Water Protectors were brought more springs of water flowing at their feet. Taos Deer Dancers performed the dances that would help the coldness of winter to bring forth the right ingredients of light and warmth for a new growing season. Meanwhile the New Ancients, the ones originally on the cave wall paintings brought forth hope in the dire of circumstances that in the waning hours of the sun and moon the planet Earth might be able to keep breathing and surviving.
How can artists be ECO GUARDIANS? First of all you can not be afraid to protect the innocent. Safety is an illusion in these times but we must step up. We must validate what is right through our voice, our paintings, our poetry, our songs, our spoken words, our actions. I am re-writing a new narrative, it is not naïve or sugar coated. I am well aware of what is happening keeping up with literature, news, writings reflective of the times. I also know we are hungry for solutions, for ways that beauty can dispel the pain and sorrow. Books, paintings, films and so many forms of art can explore how can we take care of all the planet and ourselves. The time of being guided by the ego is over. Deceased. We must care for one another or we will not make it. Our very breath and lives depend on it. Extinction of landscapes, plants, animals, water and so much more is real and we know that with acute awareness from the devastation of the burning of the Amazon now. I challenge all of you followers to take a good look at what is happening. Do not deny it. I want to see what creative solutions you come up with in your processes, dreams, day dreams, and flights of fancy. Sink your bare feet into the earth if it is warm and feel the breath of the Mother, in her winds, the trees, the whispers of signs given to your eyes and ears only. She is speaking to us all the time. Let us write this new narrative. Are you wanting more to this existence? I urge you to join me as an ECO GUARDIAN. Can I count on you? Let me know what you thinking, writing and creating.
We are in this together… In Lovingkindness, Donna Alena
I have laid in bed thinking of all the paintings I have done since Blair died. My beloved. At first I thought the bulk of my work was about losing him so quickly and unexpectedly. I was devastated beyond all words and the only healing that worked for me was painting. I have been in my studio painting continuously since his passing 2 years ago. When I am not working, I paint; it is my healing medicine. What I realized was this was my ceremony for grief. Along with the grieving process, I grieved for the United States, the devastation of global climate changes at such a rapid rate and the pain of our leadership and where we were headed. I realized in the process I was painting about the Mother Earth and all the events that were happening at an exponential rate. I was grieving at such a deep level and my dreams became more and more prolific and vivid.
This is a painting that came to me in my dreams. I saw a Hopi woman going through the earth with a large yellow serpent as if she was a Guardian of what was to come. I asked where she came from and heard “Guatemala.” I had this dream before the insurgence of the refugees from Central America were heading this way at such a devastating rate. I saw her as a HOPI woman, and she was on a journey to Texas and New Mexico. This was before the detainment of what was to happen in Texas and on the border. I was told in the dream she was protecting the pathway of what was to become before us. Then, the detainment camps happened, and the pain of the suffering and deaths of all those trying to leave Central America escalated. It is not easy to be a visionary in these times but our roles are so important. I know the artists are needed with such urgency. I feel this deep in my art and dreams.
This Hopi woman speaks of the moment of catharsis. Please write your stories, poetry, paint and pay attention to your dreams. We are at the crossroads and the time is now with urgency on every level.
My next post will be on Eco Guardians and being a Warrior in these times.
Thank you so much for reading this and for your journey with me.
Several months back, I wrote a piece about Consciousness Warriors. As I tried to conclude this piece, Notre Dame burned. What follows is what I wrote then:
“As I struggled to tie the lose strands of the thoughts in this blog together, I watched Notre Dame burned. I thought of the ancient oak turning into smoke and blowing away as I listened to reports about the sacred, precious relics and art inside. Everyone was wondering if all was lost. It sure looked like it from the powerful flames. When the brave, courageous fire fighters could finally be seen spraying tiny streams of water onto the fire beast, it all seemed too little too late, leaving the only thing people could do was watch and witness, unable to look away.
Notre Dame means Our Lady… Our Mother. She was built as a place for people to gathered—for this is what church means—a place to gather and remember there is a touch of the divine inside of us. Chris Cuomo dedicated his hour that night to Notre Dame saying she was a place where people gathered to embraced by her divine beauty and remember this beauty is inside ourselves and in others too. There is tremendous strength in gathering together in community. We may have forgotten how gathering together in places and ways that elevate and celebrate our highest and best potentials that nourishes us and strength us, even at the worst of times. It was Notre Dame where people gathered after the devasting terrorist attacks in France. It has been a place for people to gather and remember we are more than just flesh and blood for centuries. She reminded us we are beings imbued with spirit, light, and beauty.
As I watched Norte Dame burn, a thought occurred to me: What if this is a foreshadowing of what is to come? What if we do nothing to mitigate Climate Change and the monster we created using our Westernized, over-civilized, profit-centered thinking continues to grow and consume and become so big our individual streams of consciousness are just too puny and almost useless to put it out? Even banning together in small groups, we are outmatched on every level by this beast that is the collective, which is us as well . This would leave us with only one thing left to do, and that is watch and witness the horror and terror of knowing we are losing our home, we are losing our mother, we are losing the place we have gathered for countless millenniums, a place so precious, so sacred we will only realize what we are losing as we watch it being destroyed.
After the fire was quelled, we learned about the brave fire fighters and the Chaplin at Norte Dame who ran inside the burning church as fire rained down on them from the inferno above them to save the precious relics and paintings. They saved them, and the organ survived the fire, and the cross still hung on front wall. Even the bees living on top of the roof survived. I don’t know if we dare hope that we can somehow do the same for Our Mother—Earth. That the people who show up and run into the center of the coming disaster can save enough of the precious beauty that has evolved on Earth so that Our Mother can survive and recover. I can only foolishly hope that we can like the fire fighters, the Chaplin, and the bees escape the jaws of the dragon at the last possible moment.“
Even in my grandest imaginations, I did not believe Earth would reach a crisis point this year. Yet, here we are, several months since Norte Dame burned, and 2019 is the hottest year yet on record, there have been massive fires in Russia’s arctic, glaciers in Greenland are melting faster than ever (the last time they melted this fast was in 2012), Antarctica’s biggest ice shelf may be more vulnerable to climate change than previously thought, and now the fires in the Amazon rain forest that have turned the skies of São Paulo black at mid-day.
Yes, we know many of the fires in the Amazon have been intentionally set to clear forest for farming. Yes, we know this has been a practice for decades. But, this year there are more fires than ever, and some burn out of control. There are theories that once enough rain forest has been destroyed, it will flip and all of the rain forest will die and become grasslands. While this will be wonderful for farmers who want to grow soy or corn or wheat, the lost of the lungs of Earth, the diversity of life in the rain forest, the lost of the people who have lived in harmony with nature for thousands of years is incalculable–it is a tragedy of mammoth portions that will feed the fire of climate collapse.
Here now is a call to all artists, seers, and people of conscious. What we are seeing here and now in 2019 is urgent. My friend and collaborator, Donna Alena Hrabcakova, shares her vision and message:
This piece was painted by happenstance, SPIRIT. This beautiful one just jumped through the canvas with a message for all ARTISTS to hear. I am just a humble channel for my paintings. I have been painting with social consciousness/subconscious for years. Most of my images come through my dreams. The plight of the INDIGENOUS ONES have always been a deep place in my heart. I had the lucky privilege to live on a Northern Indian Reservation for years and learn about their culture and language and it was one of the best things I did in my life, learning about the Ojibwa Peoples. My background is in the arts and art therapy. I am a woman whom is Slovakian and knows the plight of my family being run off their land due to leaders whom had no conscience and only took and sent many to their deaths. That trauma is in my DNA. I felt the Portuguese name of Airia came through and I looked it up it meant WOMAN OF PEACE. This is what I wrote very quickly this morning on my beloved mother’s birthday Audrey from the Other Side:
“The artists, YOU, writers, dancers, play and screenwriters, filmmakers, ceremonialists, dancers, choreographers, musicians, ALL OF YOU, please note we will appear with URGENCY to your pages and canvases. You will be our lungs and breath for it is so difficult to breath where we are now, full of smog, chemicals and fire. We are gasping…
This story is about death and resurrection, of corruption at its deepest darkest level. It is about the dictators that want to live by their rules only and are not concerned about the Mother the Earth for all she gives to us, the lungs she provides, the nutrients, the soil, the water, the food and substance. This does not concern them for all they want to do is consume like a hungry ghost, nothing will fully satisfy them. Their beings are run by the ego not the soul axis and nothing will quench their neurotic greed. It is their own personal cancer. The time is ending for them to rule in this way, they know it so they have become more and more obsessed with power and their wants and needs. Yet no desire will satisfy them. They have been raping and pillaging the land for so long now…NO MORE.
They are choking the Mother. The Mother is on life support now. We used to say she was in the ICU but she is on life support!!!! Do you hear this, do you know it??? Will she rally and make it? Who will be near her for her vigil? It can go either way and you and I know it could be the last hours or it could be resurrection. That is why we need the ARTISTS more than ever now to write a new narrative. Quickly. Your pens, your paper, your acting, dancing, documenting, pictures, paintings, historical recordings, of the narrative you are living now, and what we are experiencing. HELP US! It is not too late to rewrite this novel. Please. The life force plug has not been pulled. Our grief is inconsolable at this stage. We are wailing at the highest octave, and the whales can hear our cries deep in the oceans and they are carrying the messages from the beautiful birds, our family, that live in the canopy of trees and this Paradise on Earth. We are the epicenter, the life nucleus and we need you.
The story needs to be sung, cried, prayed, chanted to the sound waves and energy fields of where you live. It’s not too late, yet. We are speaking to you. Do you hear us??? Do you have the patience to translate, those whom will listen we will show up and we thank you for showing up. WILL YOU BE OUR TRANSLATORS? Carry your journal and notebooks close or memorize the words that come to you. Pay attention to your dreams even the day visions we send you. We do not know the hour we will visit but like mist and fog we will show up. Please document the stories, the birds, the vast array of insects, the undiscovered healing plants and the discovered, all the multi-universes of life forces. Please hear us! Do the ceremonies, the dances, rituals, prayers, poetry, performances, paintings, songs, narratives, stories, talking fires, storytelling…do not stop. You are Her lungs, our lungs, our breath.
Will you listen?
Will you translate?
The air is so thick it is palpable and I am sure your breathing is effected too.
I was with him when he died. I was reading him the story I have been working on for the past 7 years. The previous night, I made a very difficult decision. He had been making phenomenal recovery from what should have been a fatal event 10 days earlier. But on the 9th day, he was sitting up in his hospital bed. He had a bible under one hand, and a pen and paper in the other. He immediately greeted me warmly when I walked in with a huge smile on his face, and I greeted him equally warmly. I asked him what he was doing. He told me that he had a lot of thank you letters to write but didn’t know where to begin. The nurse came in after a little while and fed him his medicine crushed up in pudding so he could swallow it. That was the problem. The day before, he had been more in a state of delirium than lucid consciousness. That day he worked his feed tube out of his stomach 4 times due to coughing or by using the back of his tongue. His entire critical care team was flummoxed by how quickly he was working it out, requiring it to be reinserted (not a pleasant experience… in fact, quite traumatic). The night nurse that night decided to leave it out. Dad rested peacefully. And, then I found him so happy to see me and wanting to write thank you cards. Everyone was so excited. Nurses who had cared for him earlier popped in to make sure I saw him. There was so much hope he would pull through this devastating event–where his heart had been stopped for more than 15 minutes as first responders worked so hard giving him CPR to get a shockable pulse.
So, here was the problem. To get him back to full health, he needed the feed tubing reinserted to get all the medicines he needed, and the doctors were not certain yet if his swallowing reflect had been damaged. How could we know after reinserting the feeding tube this final time that it would send him into a delirium he would never return from. That’s what happened. If I could do this over, I would have followed my gut and not allowed it. He would have died… I know this… but he would have died possibly more peacefully.
After almost 48 hours of non-stop movement of mind and body, my father was lost in space and time and utterly exhausted. The medicines were not calming him any more. Just before I was about to leave at midnight on the 10th night of him being in the ICU, his night nurse said, “If he was on Comfort Care, I could give him more medicine to help him calm down and rest.” The doctors had talked to us earlier that day about our options. I knew Comfort Care meant he was dying. And, so before I left, I gave instructions to move him to Comfort Care.
The next morning, he was sleeping. He nurse told me he had cleaned him and was doing everything to make him comfortable. He looked peaceful. He never woke, but I talked to him. I had a vision that morning about what I needed to do for him. So, after the nurse left, I told dad what I was going to do. Earlier that summer I promised to send him the latest part of my story. I hadn’t sent it yet. It is set in the time of the Vikings. My father was pure Norwegian. The girl in my story was on a glacier between Odda and Rosendal, Norway. My father’s family is from Odda. This girl in the story had just been in a terrible accident that left her companion unconscious and with broken ribs. My father’s ribs were broken from the CPR.
I told dad I was going to read him the story. It was going to be a sleigh made of sound to help him get across to the other side. In my story, my girl had just made a sleigh out of a bear hide to pull her injured companion across the glacier. So, my voice and this story they were going to serve as a sort of sleigh to help him cross. I told dad that his mother, his brother, brother-in-law, and all the people he knew and loved who had already passed were waiting for him. I told him he could leave any time during the story or wait until the end. Then, I started reading. The hospital Chaplin came after a while, and I told him all about dad. He said a prayer incorporating all the things I had told him. And, he recited Psalm 23.
I continued reading the story.
I read to him until 2:40 p.m. I held his hand as I read. I had just finished reading the part of the story where the priest meets a woman who mysteriously washes up on the shores of Dublin, Ireland. He helps her recover, find work, and get a home. They fall in love. They have to keep it hidden. They have a baby, but she dies during childbirth and the priest cannot admit he is the father, so he gives his daughter to the nuns who live in a nearby nunnery to be raised. I had read to him about this girl’s early childhood and a very scary nun she encounters. I was about to read him the part about Resurrection Sunday when I heard his breathing change–dramatically. I saw his pulse rate dropping–dramatically. I knew what was happening and rushed to him, my heart pounding. I told him mom and my brothers were 15 minutes away, he needed to wait. His breathing quicken and pulse went up, but only briefly. Then, it plummeted again. I knew the nurses could give him a drug through his IV to bring his pulse back up, but I also knew I had moved him to Comfort Care last night. Instead of running to get the nurse, I threw myself over him and hugged him fiercely. His nurse and doctor came in. They held my hand and hugged me. No one said anything. After some time I looked up and asked the doctor if he had gone. With the kindest face and deepest empathy, he nodded. Neither he nor the nurse left. They stayed with me and never once did I feel like they had anything more important to do–though I knew they were responsible for many people in very serious conditions. My mother and brothers arrived 10 minutes later. They had indeed been 15 minutes away, though when I told dad I had no way of knowing this. My brother thinks at the time of dad’s passing they were at the last rest stop, and mom was picking daisies. I had just been reading to dad about daises.
So, one year later, this is my telling of the journey I have been on since his death. It is told through music and art. The starting image I drew on the plane on July 27, 2018 as I flew out to be with my father one day after this heart attack. As I drew, I listened to Asura’s Life2 album. I listened to one song in particular over and over as the image took shape. This song was Celestial Tendencies. Each song from Asura’s album held special meaning and energy for me during this time. The music was a way to hold onto some divine and sublime at a time of great crisis and ultimate tragedy. The visual journey is an expansion of my original drawing in my notebook. Please forgive my indulgence as I spent a lot of time drawing the different layers. Ultimately, I decided to use each of the songs that helped me to be strong for dad and my family during this terrible time. I realize it is a video that probably only I will ever watch in its entirety.
The visual story of this journey can not be viewed. I have tried, but I believe algorithms used by most of the major social media platforms flagged this image possibly as a man on a cross and this has been tied to White Supremacy. I understand this concern. It is validate given our time. I would just say that this is how the vision of my father appeared to me as I flew out to be with him, and that during my 10 days with him, he indeed held his arms out this way many times for he was suffering. I think outstretched arms like this are also a symbol for the suffering of the world, and my father felt this deeply, our collective human suffering. It powered him and transformed him as a force of compassion in the world. As this image progresses, it transforms from an image of human suffering into one of transcendence. I am sorry I cannot share this work at this time, but that is our current reality and I accept the collective wisdom of our time.
You may be able to view the video if you can get to my Art Page on Facebook; here it is pinned to the top of the page.
I would like to end with two stories about my father that were given at his memorial service. One is by one of my brothers and the other by me. My father was one of the kindest, most caring, and compassionate human beings anyone could ever hope to encounter. His deep and unconditional love for everyone was felt by all who got to know him, even when they messed up, he held them in patience and love. What a lesson for the times we live in now.
This is my brother’s eulogy:
Monrad Kicks the Hell’s Angels Out of Yellowstone
As we go through life, our impressions and feelings toward our parents change. I’m going to share with you some impressions from my childhood, Around the age of eight or nine when we lived in South Dakota. At this age boys want a tough dad with street creds and unfortunately, I was convinced my father was a wimp. The previous sunday he had preached Yet another sermon on love. By my count the 4th sermon on love that summer .
But it didn’t matter because we were about to commence on a treasured family tradition ; the summer vacation. We’d take a popup camper and head out West for one or two weeks . On this trip, I believe we went to either Grand Teton or YellowStone, let’s just say it was Yellowstone.
We had the camping routine down pat. We’d set up camp, spend a few days hiking or fishing then move on to the next location. In these popular parks you needed to get to the next campsite early, well before 5 pm, or the campsites could fill up. On this particular day we had had a long drive and almost all the sites were taken but we finally found one and a nice secluded spot at that. After we had set up camp and were settling in, some loud motorcycles pulled up to a clearing just across the road from our camper. They wore leather jackets and skull caps. We kids immediately knew who they were because they had been covered in last week’s TV news. This was none other than the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang. About this time Monrad notices what is going on and Yell’s across to the gang “that is not a campsite, you can’t camp there.” The reply came back to “Mind your own business” or something similar. Monrad responded even louder and more angry “That is not a campsite you can’t camp there “. We kids were terrified, we were sure our dad was going to get beat up … or worse. But to our surprise after a few more exchanges, maybe a few insulting gestures exchanged as well, the bikers revved up their engines and moved on.
That was the day I was proud of my father, he just kicked the Hell’s Angels out of Yellowstone.
This is my eulogy:
Born: April 16, 1935; Died: August 4, 2018; Age: 83
My father… Monrad Mandsager… He is why you are here today… Monty! And, do you know what he would have said?
He would have said, “Goodness sakes… you’ve come all this way… for me! You shouldn’t have… thank you… thank you so much… thank you for coming!”
SHOWING UP & PAYING ATTENTION = LOVE
His whole life dad never felt worthy. In his mind, he was a poor, simple farm boy from Iowa who could never quite do all the things exactly the way his dad wanted them done, and he grew up without his mother’s kind and loving warmth and support. These early beginnings always left him questioning his worth. But my dad would always show up and give any task (big or small) his best! For him, what was most important was making time, paying attention, and creating a space to understand the needs of others because dad knew this is one of the greatest gifts we can give each other… for it is the most basic way we show our love to each other. Dad’s capacity to create and hold a sacred space for others was one of his superpowers! He would listen with empathy, kindness, and unwavering attention to someone’s life story, latest frustration, or good news. And, he would remember what you told him and ask you about it the next time he saw you.
SUPERPOWERS OF ATTENTION + LISTENING + UNDERSTANDING
Dad’s ability to pay attention and listen combined with his humbleness allowed him to be there for people at their greatest time of need. I remember one tragedy where dad demonstrated his tremendous capacity to empathize and be there for a grieving family after their 16-year-old son was killed in a hunting accident. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember my parents explaining to me how this family had lost several children before this tragedy and this was their last son. I remember going with mom and dad many times to visit the family after dad broke the terrible news to them. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of helplessness and sadness. But, I also remember knowing being there with my parents was important. I was no older than first grade, but I remember this experience vividly, and I’ll come back to this later for as I was reading through dad’s writings to figure out what I would say today, I found his reflections on this same tragedy for it had profoundly impacted him too. Grief it turns out is not bounded to one day or one week or one year… it is a deeply personal journey and dad understood this. He understood a time of grief is not a time to give people “pat answers” about why death or a tragedy occurred… neither is it a time to tell the person how and when to recover from it. He knew he didn’t know, but what he did know was he needed to be there for however long it took and at whatever capacity the family or individual needed, even if it meant just sitting in silence with them. I’m going to share with you several of dad’s amazing traits (I call them his superpowers), and now that he’s gone, I realize they were precious gifts given freely and in love to me and I suspect he gave them to many of you!
One of his wonderful superpowers was his adventuresome, wandering spirit. Little more than 6 weeks after being ordained at Luther Seminary and marrying mom, they took off to Brazil where dad was to serve as a missionary in Sao Paulo and the surrounding area. Mom and dad had to learn Portuguese and spent almost a year studying and learning it before dad began his mission work. He was one of the first missionaries to give all of his sermons in Portuguese, and of course, this is where I and my brother Craig were born. We learned Portuguese too and spoke it to everyone outside of our immediate family. I am told when we returned to the states, and I met my grandparents for the first time, I sat on their knees chattering happily away in Portuguese as they smiled and enjoyed meeting their granddaughter and grandson for the first time. I was pretty young in Brazil, but I have snap shot memories of life with my parents such as galloping on my father’s shoulders through the jungle with monkeys shrieking at us from high in the trees (that was magnificent)! Watching a steel drum band at a gathering and marveling at the beautiful music coming from the steel cans the musicians had turned into their drums dad had explained all this to me for he loved the steel drums! I also remember traveling with dad in our jeep over muddy, rutted, red roads and being surrounded by hundreds of sheep on their way home, leaving dad and I to revel in the wonder of the moment.
From Brazil, we flew back to the Midwest, this is where my brother Phillip was born. From there, dad helped his brother-in-law Bob start a new church in Southern CA – so, we moved to Sunnymead where my brother Peter was born – and, then our family was complete! I won’t go into all the places we moved or family vacations we took, but dad loved to travel, and he wanted us to experience and see the vast, beautiful, wondrous places of this land, and we saw many thanks to him!
THE DREAMER & LEARNER
My father was also a dreamer and lifelong learner! He loved geology, astronomy, anthropology, paleontology, and even astrophysics; he transferred his love of learning to me and my brothers! Dad would tell you that his love of learning and interests in science was sometimes disturbing to his faith, and he often navigated between the waters of faith and doubt. But, this made dad stronger, not weaker for he was able to transform his doubt into a deeper, vaster faith in God.
In his own words, he says, “Since I am often between faith and doubt, my stockpile of “pat answers” has diminished considerable. Life is discovery, growth, affirmation of faith in God in the midst of doubt. Life is affirmation of the creation of oneself, of others, of the goodness and love of God. Christ is our best light of this, pointing us to a loving Father God through the goodness and light His life has given for us in loving service through suffering even onto death.”
And, so here again you glimpse dad’s superpowers of kindness, compassion, and deep empathy for people and all living beings, and this guided him through his journey between the waters of faith and doubt; and it greatly informed his ministry for he saw himself as a humble servant who would stop to help anyone in need—and this is a gift he gave freely and frequently!
TRANSFORMATION OF FAITH
As I was reading dad’s writings, I found one piece he titled an Account of My Life to Age 43 where he describes honestly and elegantly his life journey, especially about the transformation of his faith. Here he accounts the same story I remembered about the 16-year-old boy. (I’ve changed the names for it seems even after all these years, the family is entitled to their privacy) Dad writes: “…the summer of ’72, we moved to Redway to serve Grace Lutheran Church. At that time, the KindFamily was a family of four: Joe, the father, a Roman Catholic and lumberjack; Corothy, the mother, a member of Grace; David (16) had been confirmed that Spring; and Lucy (13). Previous to our acquaintance, they had been a family of 7—two boys had been born with progressive muscular dystrophy and died in their young teens and a baby girl died of lung cancer at age 3. … About two months after our arrival Corothy talked about going to stay with her husband for a week in the woods – something she had never done before. She was apprehensive about leaving the kids. They ended up taking Lucy, while David was to stay with the next-door neighbors who were trusted friends. They left Sunday. Late Tuesday afternoon, council member, Karl came running up our steps, out of breath, a strained expression on this face. “Pastor, Pastor, something awful has happened, they found David dead beside his motorcycle and rifle along a trail. He’s been shot! This is awful. I can’t believe it… David’sthe only boy they had left! They were so proud of him. He was such a good kid. What are we going to do?”
Dad writes he was equally shocked as he attempted to reassure Karl that with God’s help they’d find a way to help the Kinds. Karl asked if dad would be there when the family arrived home to tell them what happened. Dad said yes, and he’d like Karl to be there too since he was a supporting friend of the family.” This event solidified for dad at a moment of great tragedy and grief, it is not a time to theologize or to tell a person not to protest to God as they grapple with the question why… why… why… Dad describes how he simply sat in the ditch with the father as he wept, and when he asked questions dad answered them simply with the information he knew. Then, they wept together, talked a little more, and wept again. Dad was there for days and weeks later walking with the family one small step at a time. He came to understand, as he tried to answer the agonizing question why, that we live in a world where accidents and disease happen, death is a mystery, and we don’t know all the answers. He came to believe it is not God who appoints the hour and manner of death, but more evil and death have come into our world through the backdoor (as it were). However, God is on the side of goodness and life; nevertheless, since evil, accidents, disease, and death have come among us, God Himself in Jesus, went through suffering, sorrow, and death… because he loves us and wants to show us he understands, cares, and shares our burdens and carries them with us during our greatest times of grief, pain, sorrow, and need. And, so the gift of faith was given to me—a gift dad demonstrated vividly throughout his life!
The Gift of Courage
The last gift I’ll mention today is courage. It was a heart attack that took him down the evening of July 25, and it was the heroic efforts of first responders and hospital staff in Albert Lea and the Mayo Clinic that brought him back along with our good neighbors who brought Mom to both hospitals that night to be with Dad. One nurse who had also been an EMT told me about 4% of patients flown in after such an event survive, so dad was a miracle—even if it was just one week. Each day on the ICU was a battle, but dad made amazing progress regaining consciousness and recognition surpassing the tempered hopes that the excellent doctors and nurses held for him and worked tirelessly to achieve. The best the team could work out is dad probably went without oxygen to his brain for 15 to 20 minutes—most agree after 9; severe brain damage can begin. Despite tremendous gains coming back consciously, his body continued to reel from catastrophic system failures. The doctors figured out one problem was a blockage in an artery in the heart, which they fixed this with a stint, but the other required a pace maker. This was a challenge because dad had several broken ribs since CPR is really only effective when ribs are broken. But, pneumonia set in creating a vicious cycle of needing to cough, which caused pain that sent him into cycles of delirium. It was a delicate balance the medical team at St. Mary’s walked, moment by moment to figure out what dad needed.
Two days before his death—I call it his Lazarus day. I arrived in the morning. He was sitting upright in bed with wonderful color to his face and a sparkle in his eyes. He was holding a pen, paper, and bible and exclaimed happily as I walked in: “Debbie!” I returned: “Dad!” I sat down beside him and asked him what he was doing. He told me he had a lot of thank yous to write but was having a hard time getting started.
The day before had been pretty rough for he had worked his feed tube out 3 times, earning him the title of the Hundi of Feeding Tubes. He still did not have it reinserted, and so his nurse fed him pudding with his pills crushed in it. It was slow, and dad was having a hard time swallowing. But, this day, everyone was so hopeful he could recover at least to this point; however, to do so, he would need the feed tube reinserted. This sent him into a delirium he would not come out of, and this is where the courage comes in… I had to have the courage to see the totality of his reality – I needed to reconcile the hope of his recovery with the despair of cascading system failures in his body. After 36 hours of continuous delirium, I made the tough decision to move him to comfort care, allowing the nurses and doctors to give him stronger medications to keep him comfortable and out of pain. The Mayo team was magnificent in providing me and our family with all the options ranging from further invasive interventions to comfort care, and it was his night nurse, Luis, who said something about being able to give dad stronger medicines that night, which finally made me understand the reality of dad’s situation. We had never made it out of the Sea of Delirium, and dad was suffering and needed me to make a courageous choice. So, I did.
When I returned the next morning, he was sleeping—the delirium was over. His day nurse told me he had cleaned him, and they were making him comfortable. He looked at peace. I could hear the gurgle of the pneumonia in his lungs, but he was not struggling for air. I sat down next to him and began to read part of the book I have written for I had promised to send him the manuscript but had not yet sent it. The Chaplin came in after a couple of hours. I told him all about dad and the past week. He recited the 23rdPsalm, and then he said a prayer incorporating everything I had told him. I resumed reading. His nurse came back to turn him. I continued reading holding his hand, comforted by his warmth. Less than 45 minutes later, his breathing suddenly changed. I looked at his monitor and saw his heart rate dropping just as it had been doing over the past week (this is why he needed a pace maker). I felt panic and pleaded with dad to wait for mom to arrive (for I felt she was 15 minutes away). Dad breathed, and his heart rate went up, but for less than a minute; then it plunged again. I wanted to run and get the nurse to give him a drug to increase his heart rate, but I didn’t… I knew he was going and I needed to let him go… this took tremendous courage… how could I let my father go? I couldn’t, so I threw myself on him, hugged him and cried. His nurse came in and put his arm around my shoulders as I held onto dad, and his doctor came in and held my hand. After a while, I looked up and asked, “Is he gone?” His doctor simply and compassionately confirmed dad had gone. My brothers and mom arrived 10 minutes later. His nurse and doctor stayed with us for a long time. I did not feel for one minute they had anything more important to do than to be a witness to dad’s passing and our grief—a tremendous gift.
The Gift of Love
So, thank you all for being here to remember dad and to celebrate his life and the many gifts he gave to so many of us.
I know dad never felt he deserved this sort of attention, but dad, if you are listening, you deserve it, every last bit of it for your gifts have healed so many people in our broken world, which desperately needs the compassion you shared and your capacity to listen and be with others during their greatest hour of need and to do so in kindness and with empathy, all of which came so natural to you.