Today I said goodbye to a dear friend. Vern Moline Bengtson, at the young age of 97 years old, was reunited with the love of his life Mabel last week on November 10, 2017. His celebration of life was today.
Thirteen years ago, I was a waitress getting ready to marry my high school sweetheart. That summer, Vern came into my life. He was 84 years old, and had just lost the love of his life Mable. He would order his two pieces of fish, potato salad and lemonade every Friday and I would sit and talk with him about Mable and how much he missed her – they had married each other on April 17, 1943—just three days shy of his 23rd birthday. In the summer of 2005, Vern came to our wedding. When I wrote him a Thank You card, he wrote me a letter back. So, I wrote him a letter back. Then he wrote another one. That was 13 years ago, and up until last week, we continued to send letters to each other almost every week. If I missed a week he would let me know about it and ask if I was on vacation to China. My letters spanned the course of my newlywed years, my infertility years, the birth of our two sons, the change of different jobs, the start of my mission work, and the selling of our cows. Vern was a farmer, and he understood the hardship we went through this summer.
He saved every single letter in a box, as did I. An unlikely friendship between two people formed. At first, I wrote the letters because I was a young bride and thought that if something ever happened to me, I would hope someone would take time to brighten up my newlywed husband’s day each week– even if it was just a simple letter. But over the years, I began to learn so much from him. His love for his wife, their courtship, tough times, good times. We talked about our faiths in God, farming, and of course he gave me an update on corn and bean prices each week. Life lessons. There were letters where he talked about how worried he was about his heart condition, and letters where he prayed to God to take him home. There were letters where he talked about first falling in love with Mable and how much he missed her.
This last year, I slowly could see his handwriting getting harder to read at times, but he would still write those letters. This last month, I saw his health declining and I knew he would shortly be reunited with Mable when he sent me 3 birthday cards in one month (my birthday is in May). While in Guatemala on a mission trip this last week, I picked out a postcard and was excited to send it to him. I knew he would like to hear all about my mission trip and travels; he always did. When I got to the airport to return home, I received the message that he had passed away.
My heart is happy for him that he has been reunited with Mable, but a piece of my heart is broken knowing that when I check the mail each week, there will no longer be a letter in the mailbox waiting for me. 13 years of letters each week has come to an end.
I’m not sure how much postage it is to mail a letter to heaven, but in my last letter I will write:
Today I sat in a beautiful church full of your friends in family. The church you have attended your entire life. As I looked around at your children, grand-children, great-grandchildren and even GREAT-great grandchildren I saw how many people had the blessing of knowing you and having their lives impacted by you. I heard stories of you helping your neighbors, the kind of friend you were, the kind and caring person you were, the kind of farmer you were and the hard worker you were. Many people loved and respected you.
Thank you for taking the time to write letters to me each week. Thank you for the lessons you taught me in each one. Thank you for reminding me that even in the busyness of life and the age of technology, a beautiful handwritten letter in the mail can bring a smile to my face. It was nice to have a letter each week to look forward to in my mailbox instead of the junk mail and piles of bills. Thank you for that. Thank you for sharing about you and Mable, thank you for your continued prayers over my family and marriage, thank you for the birthday cards, the anniversary cards and the random treats you would send in the mail for the boys. They looked forward to those. Thank you for teaching me about life, thank you for teaching me to slow down, thank you for just being the person you are.
I know you have many friends who were excited to greet you in heaven. Lots of hugs, smiles, handshakes and catching up to do. And I know the best reunion was with your sweet Mable. It brings a smile to my face just thinking about how happy you were to see her and be reunited with her. For so long that is all you wanted, and now you are home.
Good bye my dear friend. Thank you for the letters. I will miss them each week, but I will treasure the last 13 years of letters forever. God Bless As Always-
Your Friend, Jenni
Today – my prayer, is that if you took the time to read this story, then you do one last thing. In memory of Vern, take the time to handwrite someone a letter. A grandparent, long lost friend, or someone who has made an impact in your life, and let them know how much they mean to you. Not an email, not a text, or a message on Facebook. But a personalized, beautiful handwritten letter just because you care. That’s how Vern’s memory can live on. By taking a little time to slow down and show someone in your life just how much they mean to you.