I’m sitting beside my father-in-law’s, Arling’s, bed as I write this post. Arling is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease. He hasn’t known me for months. The hospice nurses don’t believe he has many more days on this old earth. Soon his faith will be sight and Alzheimer’s will be a distant memory (pun intended).
For my Flint Central Nazarene friends most of you have only known Arling with Alzheimer’s. You didn’t get a chance to know the man who is as unique as his name. (Have you ever run across another “Arling”? I bet not).
There is a beer commercial that touts some guy as “the most interesting man in the world.” The fictional character selling beer can do all sorts of remarkable feats (usually with a beautiful woman by his side). Arling truly was an interesting man (usually with Mary his wife of 56 years by his side). He was a tool and die maker for most of his life and I’m told a very precise one. But Arling was much more than his employment.
I played golf with him a few times. Once we were on a par three hole that had a pond between the tee box and the green. He proceeded to sink a half dozen balls into the water before finally getting a ball onto the green. “I knew I could do it,” he proudly proclaimed. He was a bad golfer (consider me as the pot calling the kettle black) but he was determined.
He wasn’t a great businessman either. At least not when it came to his Christmas tree farm. I think he gave away more trees than he sold. “No one should be without a Christmas tree,” he told me.
He was snowmobiling into his 70’s, cut ice with the Amish, served in the army reserves and was an inventor. (He came up with a better umbrella for his Amish friend’s horse and buggies). One skill I wish he would have taught me is backing up a car with a trailer attached. He could back up a trailer straight as an arrow for two hundred yards without batting an eye. I have trouble backing up my car with its rear-view screen and no trailer at all.
I took Arling on a mission trip to Dominica about 25 years ago. Arling was usually the last one on the van. His tardiness annoyed some of the team members (truth be told, sometimes it annoyed me too). But Arling wasn’t delayed by extra-long grooming times or slowly eating his dinner. Usually he had found a child and had devised a game to play or noticed an older person with whom he could have a conversation. Some things were more important than being on time.
Arling was a faithful servant of the Lord. A lifelong member of the Reading Church of the Nazarene, he taught Sunday School and was the head trustee for years and years. Teaching the Word and serving Jesus were Arling’s loves. When he finally passes, his obituary won’t make the headlines of the New York Times, but this world will have lost a most interesting man and heaven will have gained the man I’ve been honored to have been his son-in-law for almost 30 years. Arling doesn’t remember my name, but I assure you the Lord has written his unique name in the Lamb’s Book of Life.