Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Fitting Farewell

We got home Friday night from Babbitt where we'd gone for Tammy's father's funeral. Tammy went up earlier in the week and Rachel and I followed a couple days behind in some rainy weather. We dropped the pups off at Jackie's then set the Garmin for 58 Fern Court and put the car on autopilot. It was our typical drive up where we spend a good deal of time chatting and catching up. It's been a busy summer for both of us and with Rachel having been away much of the past month we had lots to talk about. Coldplay and Mat Kearney made for good background music.

(Her car is pulling to the right and it was annoying me to have to keep constant pressure on the wheel. She's grown used to it and didn't seem to notice that it was a problem. I took it in first thing Saturday morning to Tires Plus and now it's good until next pothole season.)

The further north we got the more I found myself reminiscing about Morrie. When we came through Virginia where he'd been living the last two years it hit me in a way it hadn't to that point that he was no longer with us. There was an empty bed at St Michael's.

How many times had he traveled these roads in his more than 50 years of living in this area? He had lived through the heydays of mining on the Iron Range. He'd seen the upstart city of Babbitt go from next to nothing to a thriving, bustling area that probably saw its peak in the late '70s. As he aged so did the city to the point that it too is dying with too little fresh blood coming in to sustain it. I commented to Rachel that I wondered what would be left in another ten years at the rate it was going.

We stayed in Ely, about 20 miles north of Babbitt. It's the last stop before entering the boundary waters where canoes on top of SUVs are a common sight. We headed out Friday morning for a 9:30am viewing with the rest of the family and the 11:00am funeral service. It was nice to see all the family who traveled from out of town to be there.

No doubt the Senior Center would be vacant this morning during Morrie's funeral. He hasn't been a regular there for over two years but every now and then he'd make it back and there would be big smiles and slaps on the back when he did. I wondered if they still had his coffee mug hanging with the rest of them and how long would it be before it's taken down?

I was one of the pallbearers and sat across the aisle from the family. Any other service would've found Tammy's mother sitting in her regular pew about half way from the front next to the butterfly window but not today. It was a nice service with a bit of humor thrown in which Morrie would have appreciated. I may have laughed a bit too loudly at one point but the image of Norwegians in a ditch hunting for Lutefisk was too much.

Pastor Barnes closed out the service by playing a Norwegian hymn that was also played at Morrie's father's funeral. Tammy found it online and had a CD player set up in the back of the church. It's a beautiful song that added a nice touch to the service.

In stoic Norwegian fashion there were few sniffles or tears that I could discern during the service but once outside during the 21 gun salute several people broke down. It was a touching tribute to the man that I think he would have been please by.

In typical Lutheran style everyone gathered in the church basement for lunch; a lunch which in another time would've found Morrie likely toward the front of the line and going back for seconds.

Glen Maurice Storbeck

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