This season of Lent our theme is “We are turning.” Lent, this season of spring, serves as a time of reorientation, of turning back to God.  Repentance is a part of that, as it reframing, reimagining, refocusing, and simply turning around to get a new view. Each Wednesday in Lent we are blessed by hearing stories from members about a “turning” experience from their life, a time when they have seen things in a new way or discovered God right in the midst of things. May you be blessed by these stories and may they get you thinking about your own stories of “turning.” In Peace, Pastor Ruth

By Antoinette Sveom       

It was Thursday evening, December 18, 1975, that I sat on the sofa enjoying the relief that comes when final exams are done for the semester and I could heave a sigh of relief.  I had thought about my friends up the block who were going to leave the next day for Christmas in Alabama.  Dale Manley had his pilot’s license and was renting a small aircraft to fly his family to their destination.  Manley’s had shared Thanksgiving dinner with our family in November and I hadn’t seen them since then due to studies and work.  I owed them a visit.

During the previous summer, Dale and Trudy had invited me to join them on an overnight camping trip up north.  I adored watching their 15-month-old daughter while they enjoyed some hiking time.  I was over the moon when we stopped at Dairy Queen on the way back to the cities and Dale said, “That first cone was so good, let’s have another!” Fulfilling the dream of ‘having another’ ice cream cone never happened as I was growing up in my family!   

My mind went back and forth that night weighing the options; visit Dale and Trudy – rest on this sofa.  Resting won out as I pondered my way into dozing in front of the television.

The following Monday morning around 7 AM while I was getting ready for work, I heard the radio newscaster report of a small aircraft that crashed in a field near Vinton, Iowa on Saturday in which all three passengers had died.  Their names were Dale, Trudy, and Karri Manley of Minneapolis, MN. 

I was shocked and so very saddened.  I was in a fog at work that day and wanted to talk with my parents about this tragedy because it was the first loss of friends by death I had experienced. I felt such remorse over choosing to doze on the sofa that prior Thursday evening instead of visiting them before they left for Alabama.  My parents and I were talking about our mutual sadness over dinner when the doorbell rang.  I was shocked for the second time that day when I received the gift from the delivery person and read the card in disbelief.  

I carried the gift into the kitchen to where my parents sat.  I know I had a strange look on my face.  My mother, who was named Rose, expressed delight at seeing the beautiful bouquet of roses and asked who they were from.  I read the attached note to them: Merry Christmas from Dale, Trudy, and Karri.  We looked at each other and were stunned to silence.  That’s when the tears came streaming down my face as I realized the thought they’d put into ordering a gift for us before they left while I was dozing on the couch. 

I gazed at those roses throughout Christmas week which included the memorial service for the Manleys and reflected on the gifts of friendship, love, generosity, and thoughtfulness I received from Dale and Trudy over the short 18 months they had lived near us. That painful event pushed me to examine my behaviors and make a change.  I vowed to myself and to God that I would make certain to complete the simple act of ‘saying good-bye’ to others whenever possible in the future. Life changed in the twinkling of an eye and God used that event to help me change too.