My father passed away two weeks ago; we have just returned to Kenya after being with family in the States for his memorial.
There is so much we could say about Edward Diener. He was born in 1917 as the second in a family of eight boys. Growing up on a farm in central Kansas, there was always a lot of work to be done. The boys all helped on the farm, of course, but it is reported that Edward was the one who most often helped his mother in the kitchen and helped take care of his younger brothers.
He was ordained in the Mennonite church in 1942, and served in active pastoral ministry for 44 years. But even in his retirement, he continued to serve the church and people. He had an amazing capacity for recollection of facts, dates and details. He could rattle off every important event in Anabaptist history with persons, places and dates completely intact. He also memorized a lot of scriptures, that is, entire books and chapters. When my mother was hospitalized prior to her death, Father and I often “read” scriptures to her: me by reading the Bible but Father by drawing from the repertoire of verses he had committed to memory.
My father followed a vigorous “visiting” routine in every community where he lived, bringing cheer to those who were elderly, shut-in or hospitalized. We always said that he was “out visiting old people.” And he continued to visit “old” people even when he was in his 90’s himself!
When in his 80’s, Father came to Kenya seven times to teach pastors. Studying and teaching God’s Word had been his passion throughout life, and it was such a privilege to receive that ministry here.
Obviously Father was very aware of his decline in short-term memory in the last several years. He seemed to find refuge and pleasure in one specific joke.
“I might have told you this before,” he would start. Even if you responded that, yes, you had heard the joke approximately 20 times before–it didn’t matter. He would still tell it again:
An older couple was out on a drive. The gentleman got to driving a little fast, and before he knew it, he was being pulled over by a policeman.
“Do you know you are speeding?” the policeman asked. “Why are you going so fast?”
“Oooh,” the old man replied. “I am sorry. But we have to hurry up and get there before we forget where we are going.”
In moments like this when the landscape of life changes, when eternity cracks through our self-induced cocoons and seems just a little more tangible for all of us, when we take a pause from the relentless routines of life, I wonder: are we also in danger of just plain going too fast? Or maybe in danger of forgetting where we ARE–ultimately–going? Is there a policeman who should also pull us over, and bring us back to a sane pace and appropriate focus?
It is always difficult to lose a parent, but I thank God for my father’s full life. Being together with all of his 32 descendants during the memorial was a source of great strength even in the grief. His was a life very, very well-lived, and I thank God for the years we had together.