Featured image: Sycamore trees in the heart of Elkhart’s Island Park.
MEANDER #6 Friday 16 June 2017 My dad, Lloyd Bender, would be approaching his 105th birthday. He died in 1998 at age 85.
Thanks to enterprising niece, Amy Harder, our family has a wonderful record of Dad’s life. Amy put together a Creative Memories publication that includes text and photos of Dad’s parents and siblings and also text and photos from us six siblings and from grandchildren. The generations remember!
In thinking about Father’s Day I meant to do a quick scan of the 32-page book, but ended up spending extended time with it. Amy and each of the contributors tell an engaging story. It’s funny, serious, revealing, personal, precious, memory-preserving.
Dad and Mom came from farm families, four generations removed from German and French immigrant forebears who settled in Waterloo and Oxford Counties, Ontario, Canada.
Dad and Mom continued the farming tradition.
The oldest grandchild, Jim Bender, wrote, “Gramps truly loved the land, and everything that flourished from it. Checking the corn or beans, preparing the wood for winter, checking on the trees that were just planted or watching the birds and squirrels scamper about the lawn. All of us are left with memories of our Grandfather. Memories that now live on in us.”
Dad and mother were married January 1, 1939. Some years later Dad donated his wedding suit to Mennonite Central Committee and put a note in the pocket with his name and address.
This is the reply he received, typewritten in German:
Itzehoe, February 6, 1952
Dear Sir Lloyd Bender !
I would like to thank you very much for the good clothing which I received last year from the Mennonite donation. I would also like to explain to you why it is only now that I can thank you for them.
“Last year as a refugee, I received from the Mennonite donation centre a good jacket and a vest. Because they were too large for me and at the time I did not have enough money to pay for the alterations, I first had to save the money for it. A week ago I had enough money saved and found your note with the address in the jacket and would like to thank you once again for it. I would also like to tell you a little about my circumstances so you will know who received your items.
I am married and have a wife, a 20 year old son and a 16 year old daughter. We are refugees from Breslau [German city given by the Allies to Poland in 1945; today called Wroclaw, fourth largest city in Poland today]. In 1945 we were exiled by the Poles from our homeland. That means that within half an hour we had to leave our home and were allowed to only take what we had on our backs. Everything that we had worked for in our 20 years of marriage was robbed from us. We were as poor as beggars.
We then arrived in Itzehoe, in Schleswig Holstein [50 km or 35 miles north of Hamburg, Germany]. Here we received a room with 4 other people. Many refugees came here from the west. Because we came from a large city where industry was the main occupation and here in Schleswig Holstein none is available, we are still unemployed and have to live from the weekly welfare we receive of 26,70Dm. The money is barely enough to live on. How long this life is to continue, –our children can hardly get a job because the country is filled with refugees, even today after 7 years.
Please understand me correctly, because you gave a donation to the refugees I wanted to give you a true indication of our life here. Again I would together with my family thank you for your generous donation.
I am also returning your note so that you have a confirmation of it.
Sent with heartfelt greetings by the family of Bernhard Konway
In Dad’s honor
I’m not aware of any further correspondence with the Konway family. The incident reminds me of how much Dad and Mom during their lifetime supported the various mission and relief, service and development programs of the church.
At the end of my part in the book, I wrote: “With various assistive devices, Dad was able to stay at home in his latter years. One lasting memory for me is walking with him to the end of the farm lane and back. It was winter and the snow and ice were packed down. We donned various layers of clothing. Dad took his walker and off we went. We had no work or errand to attend to. Just a slow walk in the brisk winter air. That was the last year of Dad’s life. If I can walk in his footsteps, I will consider myself blessed.”
Dad was especially pumped that after five boys, their sixth child was a girl, Kaye Christine. I can still see his atypical animated enthusiasm in sharing the news.
Sister Kaye in the book spoke for all of us: “Going to his funeral down the 16th line of East Zorra Township on a crisp and sunny March Day, I had a sense that the world stopped for a moment and there was complete bliss. I remember the police escort getting out of the car and saluting as the funeral procession proceeded with the hearse. It is a moment I’ll never forget. Life is never perfect, but I do count my blessings. Lloyd was a man who made this world a better place in his own unique way.” The last page contains the Twenty Third Psalm.
A year after Dad’s death I attended the annual meeting in Washington D.C., of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. During that conference I was part of a small delegation who visited the offices of our government representatives from Indiana. I think what I shared in the conversation at the table was how my dad faced his declining years with dignity, not fearful of being burdened with health costs, since Canada has a national health program. Should he have needed any major medical procedure or nursing care he would have been able to secure it. He needed none of it, cared for and dying peacefully at home.
Dad was one who modeled peace living, peacemaking–by which I don’t exclude some extreme discipline measures he took with us kids at times. It’s more about exemplifying the New Testament approach to making peace, learning and living what Jesus taught and lived. Contributor Paulus Widjaja makes the point for Christians to be part of the church becoming a culture of peace in Forming Christian Habits in Post-Christendom: The legacy of Alan and Eleanor Kreider, edited by James R. Krabill and Stuart Murray (Herald Press, 2011).
Widjaja, a Mennonite pastor in Indonesia, teaches at Duta Wacana Christian University in Jogjakarta, Indonesia. He refers to Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God,” noting “that a human being is one who makes peace, not one who makes others enemies, excludes others, brings harm to others, kills others, etc.” That’s what Dad modeled, a life consonant with bringing peace into the world. Widjaja again: The ultimate question Jesus wants to answer is not, what should we do? but, what kind of person should we become? This is the question of roots, not rites and rules.”
On Sunday as we walk I’ll walk in Dad’s honor, thanking God for the rich social, cultural, faith and peacemaking heritage he and mother passed on to a wide circle of family, friends–and strangers.
Snaps from out and about this week
More Seward Johnson sculptures, these in the City of Elkhart, on display to October 20
On permanent playce-ment
Ringing the bell in memory of Alan Kreider
Thursday morning family and friends of the late Alan Kreider gathered at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary to share memories and dedicate an oak tree in his honor. A permanent plaque will be placed next to the oak tree. The bell rang 75 times as we shared brief thoughts.
Be true to your roots. Be curious. Be a bridge-builder to a better future for generations to come. Bonus: Be happy. Bonus #2: Be thankful for your dad. Bonus #3: Be.