March 22nd……..“HOW OLD WAS GRANDPA RUSSELL WHEN HE DIED? WHAT CAUSED HIS DEATH”?
T’was a dark night, in 1975, when those ominous headlights, in the rear view mirror, were coming up fast and beginning to fill that reflective glass. With no indication of their slowing down, and no way of escape, Russ braced himself the best he could in that old 1958 Chevrolet Stepside pickup truck. Just a couple more seconds ticked by and “kerrrBAMMM”!!!!! the car rear-ended that truck and Russ was knocked unconscious by the impact.
During part of his tenure as Head Custodian for the Battle Ground, Washington School District, our father, Russell Noorlun, drove the District’s pickup truck to and from his school each day. Not only was he custodian at Glenwood Heights Elementary School, but he was also a “Mail Man” and “Delivery Driver”, too. Each morning, Dad would stop at the District office to pick up and deliver school mail and any supplies that were bound for Glenwood or Laurin Intermediate schools.
On that fateful night, Russell was finished with his work shift at school and rolled out onto NE 117th Avenue as he headed that old Chevy north towards Battle Ground, Washington and home sweet home. Flashing police lights, up ahead, signaled an accident being cared for, so Dad down-shifted that old Chevy pickup as he rolled to an obedient stop while officers cared for those in the accident just in front of him. What Russ didn’t know, was that HE TOO would be in an accident in just another minute or so. A sorry excuse for a man, driving his car in a fully drunken stupor, came flying up that same avenue behind our father. That terribly irresponsible man, with his senses completely numbed by alcohol, “ate the steering wheel” on impact and lost all his teeth as his car became a battering ram and crashed, full speed, into our dear daddy. Now there were TWO accidents on the highway that night and our poor father was one of them.
After transport to a local hospital, our precious father was released to go home with a neck brace and bruises to suffer with for the next few weeks. From that day forward, in my own humble opinion, that accident signaled the declining phases of our father’s life here on earth. For the next four and a half years, Dad complained of a number of physical ailments. He often went to see his P.A. (Physician’s Assistant) and followed that man’s advice who said it was “just your nerves, Russ! Eat more whole grains and health foods”. Well, it is my hindsight conjecture that, unbeknownst to our daddy, that rear end collision, in 1975, had triggered an injury to his pancreas that was beginning to metastasize as a cancer within him.
Summer of 1979 saw our sweet sister, Rosemary, accompanying Mom and Dad on a vacation back to our beloved family in Minnesota and Iowa. Upon waking one morning, there in the farmlands he knew so well, everyone saw that Dad’s whole countenance had become jaundiced. He was yellow/green in his skin coloring from head to toe and bloodshot eyes, too. Our dear father was immediately flown back home to the Northwest while Mom and Rosemary drove the family car back, as fast as they could, from Minnesota. The doctors who operated on Dad, there at the Kaiser Hospital in Portland, Oregon, could not do anything because of the pancreas being fully involved with that cancer. The doctors told him to “put your house in order”, meaning Dad didn’t have very long to live now. Every person’s body reacts to cancer in their own way. His doctors said our father might have a year of life left, or even ten years. Alas, though, the cancer ate away, within our daddy, at a fast pace.
Here was the mighty and handsome Norwegian father who helped create me and joined mother as they rejoiced in my birth back in 1954. He was able to toss me into the air like a toy, back in my tiny days, and I often watched him exhibit his manly power through many ways and times on our farm back in Minnesota times. But now? Poor Daddy. He could barely make the short trek from his bedside to the bathroom. Even then, I had to help him have a seat on the commode and be there to help lift him off again. So frail, and barely able to stand, he was. One day in the bathroom, after assisting him to a standing position, I held my beloved daddy in my arms, there in that bathroom, and gave him a kiss on his hollow, whiskered cheek as I said, “I sure love you Dad”!!!! To which he tenderly responded, through his pain, “I love you too, Son”!!! The chemotherapy and related drugs he took, to relieve some of his suffering, also seemed to alter his ability to stay “in the present moment”. One day, as I was visiting with my brother, Lowell, out in front of our house, Mom stepped out the front door and said, “Elliott, Dad wants to see you in his bedroom”. “Sure, Mom, I’m on my way”. Now, it had been over 13 years since we sold our farm, back in Minnesota, yet, when I arrived in their bedroom, Dad had a yellow, gel-filled, see-through Vitamin E capsule in his hand. Giving me his farming advice he said, “Elliott, if the cows get mastitis, you break this open and rub it on their tits and they’ll be just fine”. Well, knowing Dad’s deteriorating condition, I wasn’t about to argue with him about the fact that we no longer had a farm and cows. I just acknowledged his offered wisdom and said, “Sure, Dad, I’ll remember to do that”. All the while, with tears welling up within me and streaming down my cheek.
God, in His lovingkindness, had allowed our handsome daddy to see the completion of 61 years of life here on earth. Yet, father was not destined to see anymore years in this life, for on February 19th of 1980, after a valiant courage shown, Russell Conrad Noorlun left his cancer-ridden body for the portals of Heaven. In those days, there were very few, if any, cell phones to let me know Dad was being taken by ambulance to the hospital. The only “modern” communication device I had then was called “pager”. By the time I had received a page and had arrived down at the Greeley Avenue Kaiser Hospital……Daddy was gone from us in death. Our patriarch was no more. While Mom and our family waited out in the lobby, a nurse led me into the Emergency Room, and then around a curtained corner to see Dad still laying on the gurney from the ambulance ride. There lay the body shell of who was once our beloved daddy. No longer did he live within that empty frame that had carried him through 61 years and 171 days of life here below. His lifeless eyes gazed at that hospital ceiling, but they no longer registered life. His crossing of that threshold into eternity, to this very day of writing this, brings a flowing of tears in my mourning.
As Christians, though, we do not mourn as others do. In the New Testament book of 2nd Corinthians Chapter 5 and Verse 8 it says: “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord”. Yes, we miss the daily fellowship of our father deeply, but, I know that I will once again enjoy full fellowship with Russell Conrad Noorlun in Heaven someday and tell him, once again, that he is loved by this Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!! ><>