A prolonged absence from writing anything lengthier than Facebook posts has definitely taken its toll on me; while it hasn’t interfered with my reading other material (including blogs), my available time for writing was spent interacting with people online and off, and once again immersing myself in 12 Step recovery groups while dealing with life on life’s terms. It has been time well invested in mission as well as missionaries, vision as well as visionaries, and while it has been well invested, it has not been without a fair amount of trade-offs and struggles both within and without. Gains and losses. Joy and grief, and sometimes? Both are contained within a moment.
Examples? Two granddaughters joined us in the greater family – Eliza Rae to Matthew and Laura on August 15th, followed by Anna Elizabeth to Jesse and Jessica on September 15th – and one of Warren’s World War Two brothers in arms died. In the cases of the births, I could not be happier for my sons and their families, but the reality is – with one son’s family in Texas and the other set to relocate to Okinawa within weeks – that I will not be able to do more than see pictures and have the occasional Skype conversation with the grandchildren for the foreseeable future. In the case of Dad’s lifelong friend? The extremely condensed version of a life looks something like this:
Jake Marvin Boomgaarden, of Luverne, died Friday, September 19, 2014, at the Sanford Luverne Hospice Cottage. He was born June 2, 1921, in rural Lyon County, IA, to Lewis and Tilla (Kruger) Boomgaarden. He graduated from Magnolia High School in 1941, and attended Mankato State Teachers College. Jake served his country in the 8th Air Force in England during WWII from 1942 to 1945.
Jake married Evelyn Bartels on December 25, 1942, in Wichita Falls, TX. After their marriage, Jake returned to the Air Corps. He owned and operated several businesses in Sioux Falls, SD. For over sixty eight years, Jake umpired baseball and softball, and refereed basketball and volleyball without missing a call. He was also honored to umpire the Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Tournament. Jake umpired his last high school baseball game at the Metrodome at the age of 88.
He was a member of Grace Lutheran Church in Luverne; the Luverne American Legion; past Commander of the Luverne VFW; and past Master of the Ben Franklin Masonic Lodge. He enjoyed coffee with friends and the “Last Man’s Coffee Club” at Glen’s.
Jake was one of those crusty old characters who could be warmly endearing and highly offensive within the span of a few moments, depending on your sensitivities, and all it took for you to know that would have been to pull up a seat nearby when the Last Man’s Club convened on weekdays. His love for country ran side by side with his biases, about which he was blunt, and his death reduced the club to six active members. While I was sitting listening to the young pastor talk at the funeral service about Jake, I couldn’t help but think that the man he was describing was so unlike the Jake I knew – the guy he was describing might have been a nice man, but I kept coming back to a thought that struck me when I watched the movie “Gran Torino” – when the only person to speak at your funeral is less than half your age and you didn’t see them all that often, the character sketch they paint won’t hold up to close inspection. I know I didn’t know Jake as well as Dad did, but I also know that the guy I joked with nearly every day for two years about his lousy parking, and (sometimes) fussed at when he would use epithets instead of seeing people as people? He was real. The relationships he shared around the table were real, and if he was frustrating at times? He was also gracious and generous, gregarious to a fault. That is the man Dad will miss – the man he had a relationship with – not the cardboard cut-out of his friend we all tacitly agreed to pretend was real for an hour.
Real relationships take time, energy, and effort. Bonding? That can (and often does) happen quickly, but my own experiences with long-lasting relationships is that they move past the initial bonding stages at their own pace. Unforced and unhurried, we work through the difficulties and grow into true intimacy with a rhythm unique to us. The internet changes some of the dynamics in that it isn’t always possible to get face to face; just as I will not be able to hold my grandson or granddaughters for a long time, I may not be able to hug a long-time online friend. Though the relationship beginnings don’t always look the way they used to in this wired world? The gifts these new friends bring into the virtual room with them can take your breath away. Consider this, from one of those friends:
Once we have taken the time to listen to somebody’s exhaustive and exhausting tale, after the initial relief born of disbelief (“I can’t believe he actually listened!”) there is a certain…void which opens up in that person. A sort of emptiness where the wound of lovelessness is exposed. That is when we pray with that person.
That description, so perfectly framed as it was, got better with their next entry (in quotes) to which I had to respond:
“Prayer is the intellectually unpopular, but effective, solution.” – Yeah. That? Truth – especially because it puts our intellect out of work and our selves in conduit mode for the miraculous.
Thanking God, as I frequently misunderstand Him, for the relationship with Him, and with family near and far. You, my friends? You are also family. Loved as much as I can, in the best way I can, this day. Forgive me my trespass as I forgive yours, and let us grow into the best examples of what He can do – miracle workers who may never know the part they played in each other’s lives.