Monday, March 8, 2010

memories of Mel

On Thursday, March 4th at 6:30 p.m. my stepdad and Victoria’s grandfather, Mel, went to be with the Lord at 93 years of age. He’s someone I wish you all could have known. Anyone who knew Mel would have wonderful anecdotes to tell you about him, but for now I just want to share a few of my memories.

Mel and Mom married when I was 16 years old. We moved into a new home and began life as a new family. Within the year there was another member who joined our group. After being an only child for so long, I couldn’t believe I finally had a baby sister, Debbie, and was she ever the joy of our lives. I also gained an older stepbrother, Mel’s son, Duke. Interestingly, Debbie was born the same night as Duke’s wedding rehearsal and dinner. Mom asked me if I would represent her at Duke’s wedding the next day. I was thrilled to attend.

Mel came to know Jesus as his Savior and Lord. As time went by, I noticed he no longer practiced certain lifestyle habits. One day I asked him how he could just stop these practices cold turkey. He said, “Bevie, when the Holy Spirit tells you to do something, you do it!” And that was that! What a profound impression that made on my teenage mind. From then on Mel was committed to serving Jesus and was very active in church ministering in several different capacities. After he retired, Mel and Mom enjoyed working together on many church projects.

Mel loved to play golf and was out on the greens as early as possible on Saturday mornings. When he wasn’t on the course, he would practice putting on the driveway or in the living room during the winter months. One of his proudest moments came when he made an officially recorded hole-in-one. After his 18 holes of golf, Mel joined Mom and they would go for their Saturday bike ride through the suburbs. When they returned home, Mel would mow the lawn and do yard work. Both he and Mom were very physically fit and were able to enjoy walking and exercising together up until two years ago. I don’t know how many hundreds of Bible verses Mel memorized while exercising.

Mom was a loving stay-at-home mother and always kept a beautiful, organized home. Mel contributed greatly by doing Mom’s painting and wallpapering projects as well as performing any necessary repairs and maintenance.

Just as there wasn’t a person who didn’t like Mel, there wasn’t a food group that Mel didn’t enjoy eating. He loved to get together with family, relatives, and friends which also meant there would be lots of good food.

Mel always treated me as his own flesh and blood. I knew he loved me, would have done anything for me, and was always there for me quietly cheering me on in any of my endeavors. Our first Christmas together, his present to Mom was a beautiful cashmere sweater. I was wowed. But when I opened his gift to me I was flabbergasted! He had also given me a cashmere sweater. I felt like a teenage princess. When Mel was president of his transportation fraternity, he asked me if I would type up the reports and paperwork for the group. I can’t tell you how important and wonderful it made me feel that he would entrust me with the responsibility. Years later after I was married and my husband’s health problems increased, Mel and Mom were always available to take care of Scott and Victoria when we had to rush to the hospital for medical emergencies. I remember several times tracking down the folks to restaurants where they left their meals to come help us. At one point, it was evident we needed more reliable transportation and Mel said to Mom, “Honey, buy the kids a new car!” When I expressed an interest in going to Israel, Mel said to Mom, “Honey, send Bev on the Bible Lands Tour!” Of course, I couldn’t accept such generosity but I share these incidents to give you an idea of what a wonderful, generous, loving person Mel was to me.

By the time my sister married and had her family, the folks were retired. After breakfast and mall walking, they would go over to her house to help in any way possible. As an example, when it was time to replace all the windows in the house, Mel took on the enormous task of staining and varnishing each one before they were installed. Because Debbie’s husband had a very busy job with teaching and extracurricular activities, Mel would take care of the yard work and home maintenance. Mom would do the laundry and help Debbie with projects. While Debbie and her husband were on vacation one year, Mom and Mel decided to help complete painting the entire interior of their house. When the grandchildren were little, we would all enjoy getting together each week with Mel and Mom for lunch and other activities.

I remember Mel recounting some of his life experiences. During the Depression it was difficult to find work to put food on the table for a family with five children. So Mel, as a teenager and the oldest sibling stood in lines with many others waiting for the chance to be hired. When it was finally his turn at the head of the line, he was asked what he could do. He looked at the workers on the other side of the fence and said, “I can do what they’re doing.” During World War II, Mel served as a Marine throughout the Pacific including Iwo Jima. At one point, so far from home, Mel learned his brother was in the area. I can’t even imagine what a joyous, yet bittersweet, reunion that must have been! In her later years, as it became more difficult for Mel’s mother to care for herself, Mel and his brothers and sister helped her in their own special ways. Mel regularly visited her and cleaned her apartment.

Mel and Mom were always together. I can count on one hand the times they were apart for any length of time. Even when Mel went out-of-state for three months to facilitate a new plant opening, Mom went along with her portable sewing machine and preschool Debbie. When they could no longer live together, it was made all the more poignant by their loving displays of affection when Mom visited Mel in the nursing home.

Two years ago at our Christmas gathering, Mel got up and told us all how much he loved his wife and family and how grateful he was to the Lord for the life he had been given. It was a precious, unforgettable moment! From that time on, Mel deteriorated into dementia and physical disability. After several hospital stays last year, it became necessary for him to live in a nursing home. February 13th, he suffered a stroke that paralyzed his right side and made one of the last things he could enjoy - eating - very difficult. Then March 4th, this devoted husband, proud father, doting grandfather and great-grandfather, and caring brother and uncle was released from his imprisonment and brought into the glorious presence of his Lord and Savior whom he loved and served with all his heart.

I am so grateful and honored to have shared 51 wonderful years with Mel, my Dad-at-heart. His kindness, generosity, encouragement, and love of Jesus have made an indelible impression on my life. Of this wonderful man it can be said he fought the good fight, he finished the race, he kept the faith. And now there is in store for him the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to him and to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Tim. 4:7-8)

Finally Home
by Don Wyrtzen

When surrounded by the blackness of the darkest night
Oh how lonely death can be.
At the end of this long tunnel is a shining light,
For death is swallowed up in victory!

Just think of stepping on shore
And finding it heaven
Of touching a hand and finding it God’s
Of breathing new air and finding it celestial
Of waking up in glory and finding it home.

Blog Posting Written by Momba (Beverly Drong - Victoria's mother)

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