The Celebration Cycle Continues

Dave Moen, Jerry Ray and Keith Lura at a 1972 wedding

Dave Moen, Jerry Ray and Keith Lura at a 1972 wedding.

We’re going to a funeral this week. It’s not the first, but it’s a first in another way. It’s a big enough deal to provoke me to write one quick post on my “vacation.”

Last month we went to Don’s funeral. Don was the pastor at our church a long time ago, back in the seventies. He had a full and wonderful life, over eighty years of living. His funeral was a testament to his contributions to this world. That funeral felt like a celebration. We’ve been to a lot of those celebrations over the years. Parents. Grand parents. Uncles. All those old people. That seems like the way of the world. Old people die.

Eight years ago we buried a nephew. Barely twenty years old. Nobody expected this, he was too young. Who would have thought that a brain tumor caused his headache? A tragedy. Our friend Sonia was taken by breast cancer not that long ago. She left behind beautiful young children and a wonderful, grieving, husband. Not much to celebrate there; young people aren’t supposed to die. Most don’t. Another tragedy.

This week’s funeral is similar in one way, cancer was the proximate cause of death. But this wasn’t someone from our parent’s generation. This wasn’t the tragedy of a young life cut short. It was one of our own. My age. I went to college with her.

Could it be that another transition has started? Continue reading

Life turns towards the better

Eric writes:



I am a rich man. I have friends and family. My brother and his wife took me in when I had no place to go. I looked for a job for seven months to no avail. My younger brother pitched in to buy me a car so I could get around. When the transmission went out all my brothers pitched in to get it fixed. A friend of mine in Denver invited me to come out and try for a job there. All my friends and family pitched in to get me the money to go to Denver for the interview and make the move to a new state for a new start. My brother and his wife in Arvada gave me a place to live while I looked for work.

I was able to get a job with the Denver Public Library as an On-Call Intermittent Security Officer. My friend that got me the job said that to go any further, I would have to do it on my own. He pulled himself from the interview process to make sure that I would not receive any perceived preference. I was able to land a part-time position as a Security/Circulation Clerk at a branch library. Then a full-time position opened up and I was able to land the full-time job.

Lori, Eric, Guy, Wendy and Linn at a Starbucks in Denver.

Lori, Eric, Guy, Wendy and Linn at a Starbucks in Denver.

After almost two years, I am finally back on my own two feet. I am a rich man. I have a family that helped me through an extremely tough time. I have friends that did not abandon me in my time of need. I now have a wonderful partner in life, Lori, that loves me for who I am and not for money. I am blessed. Every day I wake up, I thank God for the countless blessings I have received. I now have a job where I have the opportunity to work with homeless people and others in need of help. I have the opportunity to help others get back on their feet. I love my life, I love my family, I love my friends, I love Lori.

Life is wonderful again.


Five years have passed since I wrote this letter. Changes keep coming on a daily basis. I accept them all and give thanks for the blessings every day. Ups and downs still happen. But at least we are completely out of debt, have a nice home that is paid for, and smiles on our faces.
Thank the Lord. Amen.

— Eric H

NDCUL 1966

Jim worked with a lot of people at the NDCUL, including a team from Uganda.

Jim worked with a lot of people at the NDCUL, including a team from Uganda.

The new job at the North Dakota Credit Union League was exciting for Jim, and that excitement shows through in this letter. This was where he belonged. He became the expert, traveling the state to help people organize and run credit unions.

As mentioned in earlier letters, I learned a lot from Jim’s job at the league. He showed me how to deal with people, teaching both by example and through evening conversations during commercial breaks in the Red Skelton Show. Jim dealt with a lot of people, some nicer than others. One of the nicest people worked as a secretary at the league. Judy was just a couple of years older than me (and drove a hot 1957 Chevy).

Their special relationship lasted from that first meeting in the office to the end of his days in 2007. Watching them helped me understand how to treat other people, especially a woman who deserves love and respect. Jim was part of Bob and Judy’s wedding, a guest at their holiday meals, part of the children’s celebrations, and a friend for life. Jim had us in Rochester and Judy’s (not my Judy, the other one) family in Jamestown.

He was one lucky man.

Jim writes:

The Director for Personnel of the State Employment Service was also the Treas. of the IAPES Credit Union in Bismarck. Even tho he knew I had been hired by the league some two months prior he called to inform that I was still on the register and that there were several openings in the state for interviewers … would I be interested in Valley City at $430 a month? Now they tell me! Again I was in a quandary!

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End of the Road for Louie

Mara and Louie - January 2007

Mara and Louie – January 2007

Not too long ago a friend of mine talked about making a list of what behaviors would persuade him to move out of the house they’ve lived in for well over thirty years. That brought up the topic of when is the right time to move from active care to palliative or hospice care. These are all difficult choices. Sometimes they are more difficult for the living than the dying.

In the case of Louie, he had a good handle on how to manage the end of his life. He had a tough life in general, at least it looked that way from here. In the last quarter of his life he had reconciled with his boys, quit drinking, and quit smoking. Those were all good news for me.

He didn’t quit smoking soon enough. Emphysema came on, and with it the need for carrying oxygen all the time. Breathing was difficult even with the aid of an oxygen bottle. He developed sleep apnea and a few other medical issues that really messed with his sleep the last couple of years. I think the chronic fatigue got to him. After working part-time at the Campbell County Jail as commissary, he finally had to quit. His hobby became keeping track of all the deputies by listening in on the police scanner. He knew all the codes and all the officers.

He was very aware of the trajectory of his life, and started making plans quite early on. On one visit, I remember arriving at his apartment for a visit to find that most things with emotional value had a label on them. Guy. Linn. Eric. Chris. He had taken the time to think about everything he owned, judge its value, and tried to make a fair distribution.

Louie made a point of doing things when I visited. There was a nice county historical museum in town. He liked to go to the coal mines and watch the activity. When there was a county fair or rodeo we would always take it in. Every time we had to go out for dinner at one of the nicer places in town. These outings got shorter and more strenuous as the emphysema caught up with him. Carrying the oxygen was cumbersome. He couldn’t walk very far. Getting in and out of the car was just too much work.

Louie didn’t ask us to join him for most of his medical evaluations, but the time came when he received a diagnosis of something that would eventually take him out. He was never very open about what it was, to the point where I’m not sure even he knew what was in there. He didn’t want to go in for the definitive tests to get a specific diagnosis. He didn’t want any treatment to stop or slow down the disease. Life was getting too damned difficult, to the point where shorter was better. His world had pretty much become just that apartment.

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Gentleman Farmer

Eric writes:



I was a rich man. I had a 10 acre farm with access to the 10 acres next door. We raised horses ranging from a very intelligent reining horse to a wary give-away that nobody wanted. I was part owner in seven airplanes. We had the money to take a plane and go where ever we wanted when we wanted. I had a great home inspection business that was bringing in plenty of money to afford the lifestyle we had become accustomed to. My wife had a new car and I drove a new truck. Life was good. I was truly blessed. I was enjoying building stalls in the barn and putting up fences for the horse boarding business we were getting ready to start.

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Does it feel like something new happens every day? Are too many things going on? Ever wanted a day to just sit quietly and wait for the next day? Even though I’m retired with “nothing to do” the number of things going on can be overwhelming. Then we get to a letter like this one from Lucy. Her life was just as full from the beginning.

Most of her letters have been focused on one topic; Sweet Adelines, a school story, meeting Ken, or sending Judy to school. Now we get a letter that’s kind of like my day; a series of disconnected items, every one of them fun and exciting in its own way. But there are so many little stories that I really don’t know much about.

Grandpa's garage in Gardner

Grandpa’s garage in Gardner

A wonderful part of reading Lucy’s letters, and those from Louie, Grace, and Jim, has been the revelation that they all had lives. Just regular lives, full of challenges. Their challenges were different from ours. We each face them in our own way, coming out the other side in good shape, happy to go on for another day. Having gotten a glimpse of Lucy’s life in this letter of one-liners, I’m left with a need to spend time asking her about each little story.

I should have done that ten years ago.

Lucy writes:

Grandpa Thurlow’s first job was in a blacksmith shop where he learned about metals this is what made him famous for his welding expertise. I saw one of his report cards and he was a straight A student. I always thought of him as someone special.

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