Life and Death

It has been just over two months since a proper post, and how the time flies. This post today will serve as a kind of “catch up” to what has been going on, and then we’ll get back to the regular programming.

Easter came and went much the same as it does every year. Honestly most of April felt like Advent as we were anticipating the birth of our son, while things winded down and the pastor at the church I work at left for her new call (which leaves me as the only staff member who is directly involved in ongoing ministry [not to discount the administrative person who has to try and find pulpit supply while I’m out on leave and . After four induction cancellations we finally received the call on the 30th to go to the hospital. We had really wanted an April birthdate due to the large amount our families have in May, but, after 25 hours of labor, my lil’ comrade made it in time for May Day. I’m going to skip the birth story, and save it for another day because, not only was it really intense, but the story itself ended up being worked into a a breakout group for our Northwest Ohio Synod Assembly that was two weeks ago. A few of us were asked to share a story that related to the theme of the assembly which is the Emmaus road, so I am finessing what I told there into its own blog post. Stay tuned for that down the line.

Meet Evan

His first two weeks were busier than we wanted, not only because of a slew of May birthdays, family visits, and other things, but also the death of my last grandfather. He was a complicated person, who turned into a real prick the last decade of his life. While I say, “turned into”, what I mean to say is, a lot of these tendencies were there, and became more apparent when his (so far as I know) undiagnosed dementia came on. The last time I had seen him was when I dropped off dinner to him in October of 2020, and had to deliver the news to him about my brothers terminal cancer. He decided it was a good opportunity to complain to me that no one talks to him. It was a frustrating time. The last time I saw him was less than 12 hours before he died. He went on hospice, complained no one had been by to see him to my mom, and she texted me. My wife and I had decided before her text that we were going by the next day, but asked us to come sooner saying he was telling her he “wouldn’t last the night.” So the first time he met Evan, was the last time I saw him, because he was right.

It was a weird mix of feelings when he died. I have a lot of great memories of him, and really loved him for most of my life. There were times where he was also an awful person, like when we were visiting West Virginia (his home state) and he tried to impart his “wisdom” on me. This “wisdom” was done driving around his hometown explaining to me his views on race which I will not share here. Let’s just say that as a sixth grader I realized he was a racist. He had spent the better part of a decade alienating himself from his family, to the point where when it came time to write his eulogy, no one could think of anything to say. Mulling over my own thoughts, I ended up sending this to my mom the morning of his funeral in West Virginia:

Edward Mann Senior was born with his twin brother on Friday, September 9th in 1938 in Lester West Virginia, and on Saturday, May 14th he died in Lambertville Michigan with members of his family by his side. 381 miles separates where he was born, and where he died, and as a salesman there were many more miles in-between, but he never stopped dreaming and thinking about West Virginia. Like the road that takes you from Lester to Lambertville, there are many twists and turns, and it is both beautiful, mundane, and harsh. It is like a human life.

He was a nuanced, and complicated individual, and so were his relationships with his family. Part of what makes this time so complicated, is that, like us, we’re many different versions of ourselves throughout our lives, and salesman Ed versus “retired” Ed were two completely different people. And this was hard for all of us to watch, but this was a part of the life he lived.

Death tends to bring out many different emotions, good ones, bad ones, and conflicting ones. Ed was a father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and although he never met her, a great-great-grandfather. Each one of these relations had a different experience, and version of him. From the time he went with him to West Virginia with a few of his grandsons, and Ed was recanting the time he was able to toss a can, pull his gun, and shoot it before it hit the floor and did a pantomime of it, and Adam labeled him, ‘Quick Draw Paw-Paw’ [we called him Paw-Paw instead of grandpa] to the times he was nothing short of cruel to his children, and some of his grandchildren. He was loving, harsh, encouraging, racist, funny, misogynistic, helpful, and hot-tempered. A human life is full of nuance, and when someone dies, and the scales are tipped to where there are more harder memories than easier, we tend to feel bad. Ed was a man that alienated himself from his family towards the end of his life, and even though he did not see it, his family was still doing their best, in spite of his harshness, to care for him. Even though he would say that his five children were the greatest accomplishments of his life.

Even though he would say he spent a lot of time by himself, in the same breath he would also say that he was never alone because Jesus was always with him. That he would talk to Jesus all the time, he was right with God, and while he was afraid of death, but he was ready for heaven. Towards the end of his life, he cared quite a bit about keeping the Sabbath, and more of the Jewish roots of Jesus, as Jesus was Jewish himself. It was because of that he felt alienated from most mainline churches, which is why he did not want a church service. But making space for Jesus was something instilled in him by his mother Rachel, and it was something he kept for the rest of his life.

381 miles from the place he was born to the place he died, and many miles in between, and now his body rests in the family plot held in the mountains he loved so much, while his soul rests far from here. Trusting in the lord, he welcomed death with hesitation and readiness because he knew the promise that the Gospel of John writes in chapter 14 verse 27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

It is okay to have complex feelings right now, because Ed was nothing short of a complex man.”

I’ve lost count of the amount of funerals I’ve either presided over, or assisted in, and could not even guess at the amount I have attended. Because I express myself through writing, I wanted to write something honest, because in my experience, most funerals act as a way to canonize the dead. Sometimes that is fitting, but for him, it wasn’t. I had seen the pain he had caused my mother, aunt, and others. So when I called my mom to warn her about what I had sent, apparently it was just what was needed and they decided to use it as the eulogy. Of course they edited some of the more raw parts out, which makes sense I suppose. After all, funerals are also for the loved ones left behind.

There isn’t a great place to end this post, so I’m just going to stop here. Death is complex, but, as I am finding out, so is welcoming new life.

Grace and peace y’all.

One thought on “Life and Death

  1. I swear this was written to my soul, and was a great comfort to me as I try to understand the complexity of my relationship (or lack thereof) with my father, who has dementia but is still alive. I look forward to the next installment.

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