When it comes to influence, sometimes I think we underestimate the simple things, those simple gestures that may not seem so significant at the moment, but whose gentle influence has somehow altered the path we walk in life. My father-in-law is like that. He is a central figure in our small hamlet of St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin. My husband’s family ran the funeral home in town, and everyone knows his father John. I always laugh when my husband answers the phone with the phrase “Who died?” because I know he is talking to his father, who mentally keeps record of the people in his community. He’s the kind of guy, you could meet once, and I don’t know if it was because he was a mnemonic master, but he would not only remember you but have pertinent details about your family and life events as well. We’d travel all over the country and, it happened all the time, we would be at a gas station in Texas, or some other far out place and someone would come up to him and say, “Aren’t you John Edling?” and talk about how he had helped them, or how he knew a family member of theirs. When I was in Law School, my torts professor had to miss a class because of the death of his mother and when he came back and found out I was married to an Edling, he told me that my father-in-law had arranged the funeral and what a wonderful person he was…(his father had been the butcher in town). Things like that happen a lot. John was voted the best athlete of all time in St. Croix Falls a couple of years ago, his high school basketball team still holds the record for the greatest point spread in Wisconsin state high school tournament history. He in turned passed that passion forward through his children, and countless other town athletes. Even after he stopped driving, he would still find a way to stand on the side lines of every varsity football game.
Right now, John is sick, and he is moving closer to the Kingdom of God. His mortal life may be coming to a close, but the ripples of his influence will go on and on forever. To him, it is effortless to help and comfort people, which is why he is so beloved. Simple gestures are what make him a great person, gestures that touched more hearts than he will ever know, and will ripple outward through others who learned how important those gestures can be to someone’s life. I hope it makes him happy and gives him comfort to remember that. I also know it will give comfort to My mother-in-law Rayola, to Steve and his siblings, Jude, David and Barbara to remember how many lives he has influenced. He is a true character, and in many ways, Steven is just like him…generous to a fault, kind and altruistic, passionate about sports and feels totally comfortable in hanging out in boxer shorts. Blessings John, fear not…I see a heavenly ticker tape parade in your future soon.