06.30.07

The line between life and death

Posted in family, kids at 8:43 pm

The difference between my dad on Tuesday and my dad on Wednesday was obvious in some ways and invisible in others. After the accident, he was quickly put on a ventilator to keep his lungs inflated (I never really heard the exact number of broken ribs he had). Despite the medication to keep him relaxed, he still wiggled his toes when we tickled his feet. His brain wave monitor would go up when he heard our voices. And it went way up when the nurses gave him a bath (gross, I know). He showed all the normal reflexes. So in some way we knew that despite the sedation and injuries, he was in there somewhere.

But in the early morning on Wednesday, a clot blocked all blood flow to his brain. And all of the feet wiggling and brain waves were gone. The machines may have been breathing for him just like before. His heart was beating (with blood pressure better than mine!). But everything that made him “Dad” was gone.

Isn’t that the definition of a soul?

The kids had lots of questions for us. There were very few visible differences for them to define as their living grandpa and their not-living grandpa. And I struggled to explain to them that even though his heart beat and his lungs moved in and out, Grandpa wasn’t there anymore.

It’s a strange thing how subtle a difference there is between those two phases. James knew what he was saying:

13Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” —James 4:13-15

06.27.07

Taps

Posted in family at 11:38 am

My dad was in the Navy before I was born, and so was elligible for a military burial. I was suprised to learn that Taps has lyrics, which make the song that much more meaningful.

Day is done, gone the sun
from the lake, from the hill,
from the sky.
All is well, safely rest. God is nigh.

Thanks and praise for our days
‘neath the sun, ‘neath the stars,
‘neath the sky.
As we go, this we know. God is nigh.

06.23.07

We don’t do the “step” part

Posted in family at 7:50 am

It has been awesome to be surrounded by family during this crazy time after Dad’s accident. I have especially enjoyed the time with my step brother, step sister, and half sister – but you won’t hear me call them that very often.

I have always felt pretty strongly that the whole “step” prefix is just kind of mean. When people ask how many siblings I have, I tell them three sisters and one brother. The technical answer is: one sister, one step brother, one step sister, and one half sister. But that’s a lot of steps and halfs, and doesn’t really describe how I feel about them. I was happy to hear that they all feel the same way.

I remember watching my step brother and step sister crying just after dad was pronounced brain dead. At first, I was wondering why they were so upset. He was my dad, but their step dad. But then I quickly scolded myself and remembered that he has been a part of their lives for about fifteen years. And it brings me a lot of comfort that our family has made the “blended” part work so well. All five of my siblings, along with my step mom, have had to make some hard decisions lately. And we’ve done it so well you would never know how blended we are.

06.21.07

David F. Rotert

Posted in family at 12:37 pm

Father’s Day dinner was interrupted with a call from my sister. My dad had been in a car accident while driving to Kansas City. Details were sketchy, but we remained by the phone. At 2 AM Monday morning my aunt called with news that his heart had stopped, but he was resuscitated. We got in the car and began the 8 hour trek to Kansas City. By the time we got there, he was on a ventilator, but stable.

At 9:55 AM, Wednesday, June 20, my dad passed away. He had suffered a large stroke several hours earlier.

Most of the family is here. We all go through huge swings of emotions. One minute we’re laughing about a funny story about dad, and the next we’re crying. But we’re all doing it together.

We’re still making arrangements. The funeral should be in Sioux City on Tuesday.

I don’t have any clue why I’m blogging about this. In some ways “The Roterts in Italy” has become like a diary to me. Please be praying for the family. I’ll try and keep people posted.

06.17.07

So much for the goal!

Posted in church, home service, kids at 3:37 pm

Central CC VBS Goal BannerWe’ve been very privileged to be a part of the Central Christian Church Vacation Bible School. Several months ago they asked us if we would be their missionaries for this year’s VBS. I was a little nervous, not really knowing what to expect. Now that it’s over I realize that I had nothing to be nervous about. Teaching about 170 kids about what it’s like to be a missionary in Italy can be a little overwhelming, but we had a blast trying. We were also blessed by an offering from the kids each night. They had a goal to raise $1,000, which they tracked each night with a little car with all of our heads sticking out navigating an Italian road. On the next-to-last night the kids had raised about $950. They were very close to the goal. Everyone was amazed when, after counting the final night’s offering, the total was over $1,900! Amazing!

We are planning on using the offering to get some kind of vehicle in Ancona. We’re not in a huge rush to get something, but we’ll have our eye open to see what God puts in our lap.

Thanks, kids, at Central! And thanks to all the workers who helped pull of an awesome VBS!

06.12.07

Are you kidding me?

Posted in home service at 8:49 pm

Trey and I had an errand to run today and I noticed that the car was about out of gas. I pull over, put $10 in, and start the car. The gas light came on about 5 seconds after pulling out of the gas station. The great state of Illinois has been a little hard on the wallet.

Makes me miss my bus pass.

06.05.07

Attention to Detail

Posted in church, home service at 5:37 pm

While we are planted in one place for a while, I thought I would join the Grounds Crew at the church. An amazing older man heads up the work on the substantial lawn that surrounds the church. I stopped him after church Sunday and asked him when we were mowing this week.

“Tuesday,” he said. “Need to move it up because of the funeral.”

A three-year-old in the church passed away. He had suffered all of his life, and finally went Home last week. The funeral was scheduled for Wednesday. Mowing is normally on Thursday.

I kind of mulled over this schedule change for a while. I tried to put myself in the parents’ place, and wondered if I would even notice the state of the church lawn as I entered the building for my child’s funeral. But he wanted to make sure the church looked its best for this grieving family.

This morning as I circled the huge lot on my smallish riding lawn mower, I thought about his desire to spruce things up. Though it seemed a small thing, it was his thing. It was a tangible way for him to show his respects to this family. I think his act says something about the Body of Christ. Paul wrote to the believers in book of Colossians and said, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” My retired friend has obviously taken those words to heart.

06.02.07

The National Anthem

Posted in culture, family at 4:31 pm

Today, thanks to my awesome sister-in-law, we got to go to the Rockford AirFest. Growing up, I’m not sure I ever really attended an air show, but Heidi’s dad is a pilot and I have definitely been bitten by the aviation bug. As the air show began, a team of paratroopers glided down, and one of them had an American flag attached. The National Anthem began to play, and I realized that it has been a long time since I had heard it! A couple of tears welled up (but I think I hid them pretty well) as I thought about how good it was to be in the US for a time. I love the country God has sent us to, but I don’t imagine I will be crying at Il Canto degli Italiani anytime soon.

06.01.07

Concentration Camps

Posted in books, family, ministry at 8:00 pm

I have been reading a classic C. S. Lewis book called Surprised by Joy. It is, as he calls it, his autobiography and the story of his conversion. I’m only a few chapters in, but the second chapter, called Concentration Camp, talks about life at a boarding school he attended as a boy. I’ve known a lot of missionaries who, not having any schools to send their kids to in the country where they serve, have also sent their kids to boarding school. The results of such an education are decidedly mixed. Some who I know have done great in this kind of learning environment, some not so well.

C. S. Lewis vividly explained the tyrant that he had as a teacher at his school. This man, a supposed religious person, routinely beat the students with a cane pole. Any mistake was grounds for punishment. Lewis’ description of his teacher, who the students called “Oldie,” is enough to scare anyone away from religious education. As I read the chapter, I thought of my mom, who has often told us how teachers in her high school mistreated the students. Instead of encouraging the students to learn, they scared the students into submission. To this day, my mom, an intelligent person, has doubts about her abilities because of what several “religious” teachers told her.

I think it’s a miracle that C. S. Lewis walked away from his experience and was able to move on and grow in his faith. Unfortunately not every student in a similar position can say the same. Our work in Italy involves a certain amount of religious education. It’s my prayer that our education inspires people toward a relationship with Christ, and doesn’t scare them into some sort of “holy” fear.