This is my first “remote” bredkrums…I’m sitting in a hotel in Fargo, North Dakota, waiting for my family to arrive. My brother-in-law, Dean Hall, died five days ago, and we are gathering from all parts of the country to bid him farewell and to support his wife in this difficult time. His grandchildren have come from colleges in various states, his brothers and sisters-in-law have flown and driven to be here for the visitation tonight and the funeral tomorrow. Friends and co-workers have driven in from Canada and Michigan and other assorted northern tier states.
All of this is normal life. We lose those who are beloved and we gather to honor them. But we don’t always gather with the prospect of a major winter storm looming.
It’s early March, and it’s cold here and a blizzard is working its way across the state and should be arriving by evening. Those in the know expect 6-10 inches of snow and lots of wind. And no one seems too excited about it .
Now if we were home in Southern Illinois and this was happening, we would be buying milk and stocking up on groceries. Don would have checked the batteries in the flashlights and would have brought in plenty of wood for the fireplace. In all likelihood, the schools would have already decided that closing would be the prudent thing to do.
Not here. Conversations in the restaurant where we ate breakfast tended to sound like this: “Well then, we’ll see how things go. “ “Maybe this will be big and maybe it won’t.” “Don’t get all stirred up until you need to.” They’ve dealt with storms before.
I was raised in North Dakota and the only thing I can remember about blizzards was the joy we felt on those rare days when we didn’t have to go to school. We didn’t have to go if the city buses couldn’t get through the streets. Or if it was 25 below zero. Otherwise, it was a normal day—pack your peanut butter sandwich and wear an extra scarf around your mouth and nose and march yourself out the door and off to class. Not saying it was right. Just saying that’s the way things were.
That same nonchalance seems to have passed to the generation running things now. A good healthy respect for the power of the storm, but an acceptance of the fact that life would grind to a halt if storms ran the show. Respect their power but plow the road and carry on.
So, tomorrow the Presbyterian church will be packed with well wishers wearing galoshes and heavy coats as the snow falls outside. We’ll stay for cake and coffee in the church basement, and people will hang on to each other to keep from falling on the ice as they go to their cars. Dean will be remembered and the storm will be forgotten. That’s life in the upper mid-west.
P.S. Because the ground is frozen, Dean will not be committed to the earth until Spring. Probably May. His remains will be put into a small chapel at the cemetery where they will remain until the soil is plowable and then there will be an internment service. So, come spring, we will come home again to be with my sister-in-law as she buries her beloved on the prairie he loved.