Yesterday, with his 11 kids and my mother surrounding him, my 2nd father, Earl Thelander — who’s been a part of my life for more than 25 years — died as the result of a cowardly thief who burglarized my grandparent’s former country home (which was mostly empty and now belongs to my folks), for a $10 piece of copper piping. The burglar didn’t bother to shut off the gas before cutting the copper gas line, and let the home fill will gas for the inevitable explosion.
“Dad Earl” — as my four siblings and I always called him — wanted to live. And, he had everything to live for. He was healthy, happy, and couldn’t wait until his tomatoes finished ripening on the vines. He’d planned to give some to each of us and looked forward to the BLT sandwiches my mom always made for him.
Yes, he wanted to live. Even after the explosion, he somehow managed to crawl through the fire, climb into his pick-up, and drive the two miles back home in town, where my mother then immediately took him to the hospital. With both his knees burned clear through to the bone, he’d managed to make it back to her.
Yes, how Earl wanted to live.
Yesterday, we each took turns holding the tips of his fingers … one of the few parts on his body without the full-thickness, third-degree burns, and we told him again and again how much we loved him, how much he’d taught us about life and respect and hard work and looking out for one another and reaching out to help a neighbor in need.
I shared 28 years with my first father and 28 years with “Dad Earl.” Both my fathers died on Labor Day weekend. Both died the Saturday before Labor Day. Both died unexpected and extremely tragic deaths.
Who was this person who exchanged $10 worth of copper piping for a good man’s life? What right did he have to make such a gentle and loving man suffer so?
We will find him. I tell you this with certainty; we will find the one who did this to our father and he will be brought to justice. God, the pain this has brought to my family.
Earl, you will always be with us, in all ways. The heavens opened and the angels wept down upon us the day they gently carried you through the clouds and then lay you down to rest here while we prayed and held your hand and they prepared your place in heaven. And when they came back to take you home, they opened your eyes one last time to hold with those of the woman you so loved ~ so that as you ascended to meet your God you knew you were ever safe and wrapped within an everlasting love that would never die.