Dear Family 'n Friends –

 

My 92 year old Dad, Ralph Arensmeier, went home to be with Jesus Saturday afternoon, January 18, 2003, at 1:55 p.m.  It was a time for celebration, as this dear guy had walked with Jesus for over 71 years of his life; had been very happily married to my mom, Carol Kiser Arensmeier for over 68 years, and was surrounded by my mom, Carol, my only brother, Dan and myself at the time of his death.

 

Dad had started a physical deterioration on Saturday of the previous week.  The nurse at the Health Center of FriendsView Retirement Community, where Dad 'n Mom have lived for the past 16 years called me to tell me of their desire to transport Dad to the local hospital for "rehydration." 

 

I asked if they were aware of the fact that both Dad 'n Mom had each signed documents stating that they didn't want any "heroic measures" taken to keep them alive, including the declining of rehydration.  The nurse said that they knew that, but wanted to check with the family.  I told her that Dan and I (along with Jan) loved and honored my Dad sufficiently that we knew what his desires were and would honor them.

 

Dan and I talked several times on Saturday, the 11th of January, and agreed that we should both show up in Newberg, Oregon, to visit with Dad for what would inevitably be the last time.

 

Jan and I drove from Sonoma, California, after church on Sunday the 12th, arriving late in the night.  We saw Dad 'n Mom on Monday morning.  Dad was alert, communicative and appreciated our showing up.  We visited and prayed, then left them both for a mid morning nap while we drove into Portland to pick Dan up from his flight from Denver, Colorado.

 

Dad was very pleased to see Dan, and we all had a good time, and rejoiced over the fact that soon Dad's faith would become fact; his hope a reality.

 

In all of this it must be said that Mom was quite quiet since a series of strokes in November and December have left her quite mentally debilitated.  She does speak, but very slowly and with little emotion.  For those of you who ever met my mom, you know that that is highly unusual.

 

On Monday evening, we were joined by our family pastor and friends from our days together in Roseburg, Oregon, during the years 1948 through 1951:  Rev. Clark Robb and his lovely wife Jeanne, who have always held a special place of respect and love in our family, came up from Salem, where they live in their retirement, about 30 minutes away.

 

"Uncle Clark" as he was known to Dan and me as young boys, very tenderly ministered to Mom 'n Dad, Dan, Jan and me, and we were blessed as he concluded their visit with the reading of that wonderful song of the singing shepherd king of Israel, Psalm 23, and prayed for us all.

 

Jan flew back to Oakland on Tuesday, and was picked up by Shireen, our oldest daughter who lives here in Sonoma with her husband and three sons.

 

Wednesday afternoon, dad spoke his last words on this earth.  Dan and I had lunched with mom, and as I rolled her back into their room in her wheelchair, I rolled her next to dad’s bed.  She tenderly reached her right hand out and laid it on dad’s left hand as he was lying on his right side.  He opened his eyes, and while softly, yet distinctly he looked her in the eyes and said, “I love you.”  I don’t think it gets much better than that!

 

The week proceeded with contacts with Hospice (quite possibly the closest people to angels most of us will ever see in this life), the arrangements of what to do when Dad actually dies, and during their rather substantial naps more than a few games of pool in the activities area of the retirement center.  Dan is disgustingly good, but we had fun in spite of his overwhelming superiority on the pool table.

 

Of course, when Arensmeiers get together, there's normally a laugh or two . . . would you believe a lot of it!?  This was no exception.

 

Finally, on Saturday afternoon, while the nurse (Paula) was attending and we were all talking quietly, Dan said, "Stop."  We observed what he had:  Dad had stopped breathing. 

 

The nurse checked his heart with the stethoscope and agreed that he was gone.  Dan was closest to Dad's head, and gently cradled it, and quietly cried.  I was seated on the bed near Dad's knees, and was holding his left hand in mine, amazed at the life of this godly man with whom we had spent such wonderful years; who had been the greatest mentor and example of what walking with Jesus meant, and . . . all of a sudden, he gasped and inhaled a great breath and finally let it all out!

 

Dan and I immediately laughed.  It was as though Dad had had the last laugh, and conveyed, "I gotcha . . . one last time!"

 

I told Mom, who was in the next bed, "Your sweetheart of 68 1/2 years has gone to be with Jesus."  Her quiet, contemplative response (with quite a smile) was, "Well, Praise the Lord."  That's about as much response as we received over the next couple of days.

 

Saturday night, at Shireen's instigation, Jan and Shireen arrived* at 7:29 PM, for the 7:30 PM, memorial service held in Dad ‘n Mom’s room, Clark Robb presiding.  The folks had asked me several years ago if I'd like to do their funeral or memorial services.  I said an emphatic NO!  Knowing myself to be a blithering melancholic who can cry at our daughters' weddings, I knew better than to even think about it.  "Uncle Clark" did an admirable job for a small group of around 20 people, including Dad's sister Irene Reynolds (whose husband Vic had died in July -- whose funeral I was privileged to perform in Redmond, Oregon), one of Dad's nieces, Frankie Ruth Mitchell Keefe; Esther Clagess (age 98, who acknowledged that she had been Dad's baby-sitter in Metolios, Oregon . . . ), Anna Nixon (missionary to India for over 40 years, and a dear special friend not only of Ralph & Carol, but of Dan, Jan and me as well) and several friends from FriendsView who had known Dad 'n Mom for the 16 years that they had lived there, as well as some who had known them from earlier years.

 

Jan read, from a favorite volume of ours, the Redpath Library of Universal Literature (which we’d seen before we were even engaged in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and which I bought for Jan as an engagement gift on December 24th 1962), the following:

 

From the writings of George Washington Doane, an American clergyman and poet, born at Trenton, New Jersey, on May 27, 1799, a poem by his son, W. C. Doane:

 

WHAT IS THAT, MOTHER?

 

“What is that, Mother?”---

                                    “The Lark, my child:---

The morn has but just looked out and smiled,

When he starts from his humble, grassy nest,

And is up and away, with the dew on his breast,

And a hymn in his heart to yon pure bright sphere,

To warble it out in his Maker’s ear.

            Ever, my child, be thy morn’s first lays

            Tuned, like the Lark’s, to thy Makers praise.”

 

“What is that, Mother?” ---

                                                “The Dove, my son,

And that low, sweet voice, like the widow’s moan,

Is flowing out from her gentle breast,

Constant and pure, by that lonely nest,

As the wave is poured out from some crystal urn,

For the distant dear one’s quick return.

            Ever, my son, be thou like the Dove. ---

            In friendship as faithful, as constant in love.”

 

“What is that, Mother?” ---

                                                “The Eagle, boy,

Proudly careering in his course of joy;

Firm, in his own mountain vigor relying;

Breasting the dark storm, the red bolt defying;

His wing on the wind, and his eye on the sun,

He swerves not a hair, but bears onward---right on

            Boy, bay the Eagle’s flight ever by thine,

            Onward and upward---true to the line.”

 

“What is that, Mother?” ---

                                                “The Swan, my love:---

He is floating down from his native grove.

No loved one now, no nestling nigh;

He is floating down by himself to die.

Death darkens his eye, it unplumes his wings,

Yet the sweetest song the last he sings.—

            Live so, my love, that when death shall come,

            Swan-like and sweet, it may waft thee home.”

 

 

As Dad had been a lifelong Gideon, and therefore had distributed thousands of Gideon Bibles, gifts could be made by providing Gift Bibles through the Gideons International at their secure web site:  https://www.gideons.org/_mem_bin/FormsLogin.asp?/tginet/donationsmemorialbeta.cfm

If you do that, each bible placed is normally seen by over 140 people during its lifetime, and a nice card will be sent to Mom.

     Since this was written and posted to the Web, my mom has also joined my dad at the Throne of Grace, God calling her into His Presence on July 25, 2009. 
    Gideon Bibles may still be sent in honor of your loved ones or mine . . .

 

 

Yours, In Christ,

 

tim 'n jan . . . rejoicing over Dad's "Promotion!"    

(. . . while being keenly aware of the fact that we'll not have privilege of seeing him anymore on this plain.)

 

*Shireen had been in Santa Rosa, 35 minutes north of Sonoma where Jan was.  Shireen phoned the airlines, and arranged for the two of them to fly to Portland, landing at 6:10 p.m. -- at the time, the memorial service had been planned for 6:30!  We changed it.  They had to drive south from Sonoma to Oakland, an hour and 20 minutes; clear the security, which because Shireen was wearing a metallic bracelet that she had forgotten, was “searched” (looking like a terrorist!) only to learn that the airlines also was flying out of the north terminal, and that was a 10 minute run for Shireen.  Jan arrived and while she never does this, glanced into her purse and discovered that her wallet was missing!  She had needed to show her ID to the security personnel at the counter where she had purchased her ticket and had inadvertently left it there.  She immediately burst into tears!  A flight attendant said that he would sprint to the location where they were paging Jan that her wallet was being held.  All in all, it was exciting and they ultimately made it.

 

(Another “relaxing” weekend in the life of the Arensmeiers . . .)

 

 

Web posted:  January 20, 2003

Upgraded:  August 17, 2011

Home | About Us | Kids & Grandkids | Written by us | Write us | 911 | Devotional & Meditative | Anecdotal Info | Links

Web master