It was one of those incredibly “blue sky” July Days

by Eunice Lindberg Milbrath

…It was on one of those incredibly “blue sky” July days, I set out from the house to walk our own beloved River Road path. I had at least forty minutes of time to myself—to enjoy this wonderful gift of freedom, to fully invest in setting my self free to listen, to observe, to respond to all the sensory images I could drink in at this moment in time. It was exhilarating beyond comprehension, I felt a lightness, nay a giddiness, in this world opening up to me. I was free to walk without the nagging thought that I should be at home with its attendant problems—I was given this beautiful gift, walking without guilt, to only enjoy and experience—and to remember.

To remember all the joyous tramps along the river in the past forty-nine years with family, first with my spouse Elwood, then with children and dogs as they came, and then with grandchildren again making all the old familiar and yet new discoveries—the “frog rock”, the “horse tree”, the holes in the bases of the trees where we wove imaginary stories about forest animals of all sorts, and perhaps even a fairy or two.

With all the remembrance came a flood of gratefulness and thankfulness to God for seeing us through all those wonderful years and some not so wonderful—how good life had been. Certainly not without a lot of difficulties and stresses known to all families, but now in retrospect, we HAD known the hand of God leading and guiding, blessing us with children, friends, total involvement in church, community, new horizons, and satisfying, stimulating careers.

I can remember, oh how I remember, those feelings of release, that July day, of total joy in walking as if my feet had wings, the deepest joy in tuning into sounds, recognizable bird calls, and then a sharp disturbing pang in remembering how much Elwood loved birds, the joy that came in Sighting a new species which he carefully recorded until almost every sparrow (and there are many)—and every warbler (except the prothonotary—I am still looking) and other bird species had been sighted with that old huge heavy pair of Navy binoculars.

I had just come from releasing and telling my spouse Elwood, though he was now in a coma, that it was alright for him to leave his long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease. Though he had lost the ability to speak, to eat, or move without being moved; he still communicated love, devotion, care, and concern for me. I assured him I would be alright, and it was for him not his good choice to worry about us, but his to go to be with God.

With my thoughts in this terrible, confusing turmoil—still walking so joyously and freely, and unencumbered because there were so many loved ones at his bedside, and while still reeling with the uncertain; questioning feelings of freedom after so many tense, tired months of moments of crisis and care, came a sharp jab of panic—I hadn’t ask Elwood to release me!!!

I hadn’t ask him to release me to be able again to enjoy this freedom—to even take a walk alone without the over-riding feeling that I always needed to be available. I turned around and went back immediately to his bedside and though there was no response as such, I knew he heard, and I sensed and knew the peace that was necessary for relinquishment to joy—and to the ultimate joy of knowing he was at peace at last, free from his bodily bondage, his soul in the healing presence of His Heavenly Father.

Eunice Lindberg Milbrath lives along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis and is both Covenant and Lutheran.

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