Footprints in stone Print
Grand Mom
Thursday, Apr. 15, 2010 -- 12:00 AM

Grand Mom by Audrey Mettel Fixmer

On March 20, in the early hours before dawn, with two of our faithful daughters at his side, my husband Bob entered into eternal life.

Within moments the remaining eight of us arrived at Countryside Home and joined our pastor, Father Jay, to offer a final prayer over a body that seemed chiseled out of marble. We were all enveloped in a spiritual embrace of peace that can only come after a long and difficult battle.

We wanted Bob's funeral to be a celebration of his life, and it was. It's amazing how a lifetime of "Living Large, Living Catholic" provides incredible blessings and all of the ingredients of a fine funeral.

Loving tribute

They all came: Six tall grandsons carried Bob's casket; 10 grown children each placed upon it a white rose, and 19 grandchildren placed red roses, signifying a continuation of his legacy.

Three granddaughters did the readings and petitions. Two small grandsons carried up the Offertory gifts with their parents. Nine tiny roses represented great grandchildren.

Both at the visitation Tuesday evening and at the church on Wednesday morning, with the Knights of Columbus standing their guard, people streamed past Bob's coffin, offering condolences and memories: students from his first graduating class and his last Scripture class, fellow bookmen, actors who performed with him, salesmen who brought him national renown, the author who created the role of Chief Black Hawk that brought Bob local fame, and nieces and nephews who memorialized "Stories by Uncle Bob" in a floral piece.

Pastors, both current and former, concelebrated the funeral Mass and eulogized Bob's love of books, of family, friends, and faith. A grandson performed a pre-service concert on trumpet. The organist and cantor were old parish friends, and a son and five grandchildren sang, "Teach Your Children" with guitar and banjo. A grandson's trumpet set the tone for a jubilant recessional of "Joyful, Joyful We Adore You" with the congregation joining in the celebration of Bob's entrance into heaven.

Our daughter Kris (#6) welcomed family and friends into the dining room as our parish ladies put the finishing touches on a delicious luncheon they had prepared in a true spirit of Christian community. Our son Tim (#3), representing his siblings, spoke lovingly of his dad and the footprints he has left behind.

Tim's eulogy

"We think of ourselves as human beings capable of a spiritual experience, when, in fact, most likely the opposite is true. We are really spiritual beings, in the midst of a human experience. And so it is with that faith we take my father to his rest today. With the faith that he is in a better place, a safer place, further in the timeless quest for spiritual perfection . . .

"Dad carried many titles in his career, but first and foremost he was a teacher, by far the most important title to him; teacher, the title that carried the highest esteem, . . . the highest of all values. Teacher, educational consultant, philosopher, actor, theologian, yellow-dog-democrat, teacher. He instilled solid values, not just in his children and grandchildren, but in all he knew. Morals, ethics, and integrity: these are the things 'The Great Teacher' taught us. These are the values we carry with us today.

"They say that the world should always be a little better because a man has lived . . . I know that the world is a little better because my father lived. When I look back at his life, I am struck by the countless number of lives he touched with his thoughts, with his words, and with his deeds.

"The stories he read to us, to his children, to his grandchildren. The countless memories of children on his lap listening intently to his deep, rich voice, filled with expression as he read the words, page after page.

"And the stories he told. Ah, the stories he told, like only he could tell them. Occasionally with an unintentional blurring of the line between the facts and the embellishments (at least we think they were unintentional). But always entertaining, and always presented with a slight flair for the dramatic, and always with a twinkle in his eye.

'Countless lives touched'

"Yes, I am struck by the countless lives he touched. I feel blessed for the thousands of teachers who were inspired and who learned new techniques and new methods from my father. I feel blessed for the hundreds of thousands of students whose lives have been enriched because my father showed their teachers how to more effectively use the books and tools for their educational experiences.

"He loved learning and respected the educational process. With undergraduate degrees in philosophy, social studies, and English and graduate work in English literature, Dad worked continuously on enhancing his vocabulary and sometimes even inventing his own.

"When we were young, instead of taking the Lord's name in vain or using 'cuss words' as many other adults did, my father would quote Shakespeare in moments of anger.

"And so it was that before his three oldest sons had taught him 'proper' swear words, we each entered kindergarten knowing that an appropriate response to an anger situation was, 'Oh, that this too, too solid flesh would melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!' . . .

"A theologian, Dad was an avid student of the Bible and loved teaching Bible classes both at church and at a community college. Yet he never felt compelled to press his beliefs on anyone else. It was, I believe, part of his intellectual integrity to maintain a deep-seated respect for individual differences.

"He loved the debate process, a love that was shared by some of us and was a source of annoyance to others. But he loved and respected us all, and each of us knew it: Rob, Tom, Elizabeth, Kathi, Kris, Gretchen, Patty, John, Mark, and me. He loves us all for who we are and not for what he wanted us to be.

"For all the words he knew, for all the literature he studied, for all the books he read, for all the quotes he quoted, for all the biblical references he memorized, the one he truly understood was, 'The greatest of these is Love.' "

Living large, living Catholic, and living long result in leaving footprints, not in sand, but in stone.

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