Monday, April 21, 2008

Neil’s father is nearing the end of his life. It is a time for family closeness and quite a few tears. I (Miriam) feel very grateful to have had him as a father-in-law. He has loved me like a daughter, overlooked my flaws, spoiled my children, and filled me with wonderful stories.

Ah, the stories! Stories of growing up in North Dakota, spending the summer in Norway when he was 9, and driving truck during World War II with nothing but starlight to see by. The faint distinction between dark trees and barely lighter sky was sometimes the only way he could tell where the road was. We heard some of the stories so many times that the characters are like old friends.

With all of our parents still living, we have not had to deal with the sense of loss and emptiness that many of our friends have had when they lose a parent. We feel fortunate to have had Bob for as long as we have.

It has been five years since our fateful trip to Iowa to attend a weekend of Christmas concerts at Luther College where Anna was going to school. Nels and Lars stayed home while Neil and I, his parents and Aunt Jackie went on what was supposed to be a four day trip to visit Anna and hear beautiful music. Bob hadn’t been feeling well but the doctor said he was ok to go. The events of the days to follow were unbelievable. Both parents ended up at the Mayo clinic (an hour’s drive from Luther College), Alice for an emergency quintuple bypass and Bob with pnuemonia followed by internal bleeding. What was supposed to be a fun extended weekend was three weeks of gut-wrenching agony and Bob almost didn’t make it.

Since then, every Christmas, Easter, or birthday celebration has been a gift to be treasured. We are treasuring these days as well. Anna flew home this weekend from Gettysburg to visit and spend as much time with Grandpa as possible. When she was little, he would drop everything to come to our house and look after her if she was sick, then go to Luker’s for ice cream, when she was feeling better. He is alert and in good spirits. What a blessing!

One other thing that should not be left out is the legacy of faith that Bob has brought to his entire family. Like most men of his generation, he has not necessarily talked about his relationship with God on a personal level but through his actions it was always clear where his priorities were.

His children grew up with the church as a second home. When I married Neil, I wasn’t quite 21 and in that “What do I really believe?” stage. In the Lutheran church I found a place where questions were encouraged, not judged, and Bob and Alice accepted me and gave me time to wrestle with my doubts. By the time we had children, sharing a strong faith life with our children had become a priority in our lives. We did nightly prayers as a family and Neil often sang them to sleep with favorite hymns. When Anna was confirmed at age 14, the pastor chose a bible verse for her, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’” Psalm 115. Now she is at seminary to become a Lutheran pastor. Nels and Lars express their faith in their own ways but I have little doubt that this same faith will be transmitted to the next generation.

Thank you, Bob.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Philip Charis Said it Best

by Miriam Haugen
Eleanor had me sorting through some old papers today and I found this wonderful quote from Philip Charis that I just had to share. Philip Charis is one of the great portrait artists of our time. Classic elegance with stunning clarity and resolution best describes his work.
"Photography is the last link in a chain which started when people began drawing on the walls of their caves. From the days of the portrait painter portraying the privileged few, to the arrival of the daguerreotype that gave millions the possibility to have their own portraits, a fascinating development.
"Why then the need for the professional photographer? Simply, the professional photographer does not find pictures, he creates them. The success of the portrait still lies in the eye and in the mind of the professional photographer.
"Constant practice with constant goals, diligence, perseverance, and esthetic harmony are what define the professional photographer. He has the power to show the love a mother has for a child, to see tardust in the eyes of a young couple, to show the majesty and power in a pair of gnarled old hands, to show the grandeur of God and his creations in the sky, the mountains and the fields.
"In the scant 145 years since its invention, photography has revolutionized our lives."
Philip Charis