Saturday, October 22, 2011
The Last Ride – The Life and Times of Jim Seehusen
The October day was gloomy after a long run of above normal temperatures and clear autumn days. Monday was blustery with light rain. It was a day where you hunched your shoulders from the cold and pulled your coat tighter around your neck. I guess it was a good day for a funeral in Olivia, Minnesota. Blustery, growing colder with a sense of sadness in the air, it was my brother Jim’s funeral.
As we pulled away from the church for the one mile ride to the cemetery west of town, people watched along the street. The big shiny Cadillac hearse led the way; it was Jim’s last ride. The route passed in front of his house. Behind the hearse was a horse and buggy. The horse was “Pops”, Jim’s horse and the buggy was one of many my brother made. In the buggy was Jim’s slicker, cowboy hat and boots along with a wreath adorned with, among other things, feathers and a horse shoe—all representing Jim’s life.
The horse and buggy were driven by Doug and Steve, my brother’s “horse and buggy buddies”. It looked like they came from cowboy central casting. They rode stoically on the buggy. Doug wore his cowboy hat, boots and an oil soaked slicker to ward off the cold October rain, Steve in his cowboy hat, boots, Levies and wind breaker. It was hard to tell if it was rain or tears on their faces.
Pops the horse walked slowly with his head down facing the wind and rain. Pops knew something was up; the day before Jim died, Pops separated himself from the herd. He is boarded at Doug and Mary’s farm. They noticed Pops was standing alone, not usual for him; they knew something was up. Twenty-four hours later, Jim passed away.
As my older brother, we didn’t always get along as children. Seven years older than me, he, like my late older sister Mary Ann, took glee in bossing me around. I wasn’t really angry with them I just did my best to make their “supervisory role” miserable.
Jim and I visited a lot over the last year. It was never sad. Brain cancer can be a cruel master; he would have moments, yet he went gently and that was our only prayer. We never ordered God around; we asked for Jim to go gently. He did.
What did I learn from him? What was his greatest accomplishment? I’m sure those close to him would differ if asked the question. Here is what I think.
Jim and I grew up in a physically and verbally abusive home. As young boys, we pledged to one another to never do that to our wife and family. We never physically abused but fought dishing out our cutting verbal remarks for much of our life. As we have gotten older, we prayed more earnestly for that to go completely away. Jim had a great wife, Carol, of 50 years; they had 5 children and 10 grandchildren--all an accomplishment in and of itself. Jim never cheated on his wife. Why? Because he made a promise before God and he loved his wife. He was good looking and successful; I am sure he had opportunities but he said no. I told him if he ever cheated on his wife “I would beat the hell out of him”. I know some people might think this is unimportant or inappropriate to mention; Jim thought it was important.
Jim was an overachiever. He was a lumberyard worker turned trucker then a salesman. Jim was an accomplished business man. He hated sales training; we both hated sales training and were terrible at it. At one sales training session, Jim was presented with the booby prize, a flashlight to find his way out of the dark; a stinging insult. The joke was on the sales trainer as Jim was the number one salesman three years running and he didn’t learn very much from the snooty sales trainer. Sales were simple to Jim; it wasn’t magic words and techniques as the sales trainer taught, it was problem solving. We all like to help people; Jim helped people by solving their problems. His customers made money and so did Jim and the whole process flowed naturally. If you are a business person or sales person reading this, stop selling, start solving problems and enjoy the ride.
There is much to be said and Jim knew the Lord. He is with Christ—can’t be anything better than that--a God ordained and Jesus driven accomplishment.
Yes, his last ride was slow and sad. I am sure all of us will remember it. Over seventy years earlier on the east side of Olivia Jim was born in his Great Grandmother Schanil’s house; he was brought home to the farm in a 1936 Ford. Jim owned a 1936 Ford for awhile; he said, “It was too much bother.” He bought Pops and made buggies; he liked horses better than cars.
Always grateful, Jim got his wish; he went home gently to be with Christ. His last ride spoke to it all—a life imperfect (like all of us) but well lived—but now he is perfect with Christ. What a life; what a ride; what a Savior!