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In memory of Rev. Deines

Standing beside the open casket of the Rev. Donald Deines on Friday, June 11, I shared my thoughts with Don’s wife, Judy, as she warmly stroked her deceased husband’s hand.

My only purpose, as we stood together, surrounded by her family members, was to let her know how clergy and members of numerous churches would long carry Don’s compassionate influence into the years ahead.

May of us have attended funeral services where it is standing room only. I’ve attended some of those. I have also been the presiding pastor at funerals and memorial services, with the uncertainty of my own internal conversation. I’ve asked myself, “On this day, is it possible for me to adequately relate the fond memories of others?”

We pastors, in the will of God, as we may embrace the mystery of death — despite a bit of public professionalism, with robe, stole and cross about our necks — often tremble and have our own questions. Inside of our hearts, there is our own silent weeping.

Rev. Deines, after pastoring in several churches, came to Austin to expand the growth and building of the grand church on Oakland Ave.

The former pastor of Austin’s St. Olaf Lutheran Church, the Rev. Harold Usgaard, now a bishop of the Lutheran churches in southeast Minnesota, expressed in his sermon the needed affirmations.

The leaders of religious organizations are scattered across the land. We in the Austin area have persons of every stripe; ultra conservatives, spiritual-humanists, variations of liberal thought, middle-of-the-road commitments and a variety of so-called cults and examples of non-Christian associations, but devoted to God. One would prize, if possible, a common denominator that all the great religions, their scriptures and teachings, hold as ideals to be pursued.

One word for me that would summarize those ideals is an authentic compassion. I lift up that all-embracing virtue to commend to your memory the practice and example reflected in the life of Pastor Deines.

Think with me of a few observations from the funeral service.

Near the main entry of the church stood the senior pastor, Glenn Monson. I noticed the embraces and line of people; the exchange of words reflecting Glenn’s years of support to Don, the former pastor of Our Savior’s. The support was, through Glenn, the people’s affirmation of Don, a man whose illness from Alzheimer’s met increasing decline in health.

I was aware of my friend, Curt Rude, who was in attendance. His phone call from his semi-trailer truck along the California-Nevada border reminded me of the deep love he had shared with Don. They were neighbors in southwest Austin. Curt made it back to Austin in time for the funeral.

Sitting next to me in the service was a woman who more than once wiped the tears from her cheeks. Following the benediction, I said, “You must have been close to Don and Judy!” Her answer was thoughtful sadness: “Yes, he baptized our children.”

And sitting across from me at the lunch after the service, breaking a chocolate chip cookie in half (Don liked chocolate chip cookies), was Marcia Leathers. She had rescheduled her hair-styling appointments at the Golden Tress to the morning hours. “Don was a marvelous human being,” she said. “I had to attend this service.”

Some minutes before leaving this event of thankfulness, a brief exchange with Cleo Softing game me assurance of the importance of spirituality that is blessed, as spoken of in the sermon. Cleo remarked with a joyful memory, “When we were new in Austin we joined this church. Don was the pastor.” And she smiled.

The respectful manner with which Dave Clasen of Clasen-Jordan Mortuary served Don’s family through the difficult days of preparation for the funeral were evidence of person-to-person affection. There is care and then there is care! Dave’s support for the entire family was reflected in his attentiveness when he walked at the head of the casket as Don’s family, following the body, was brought before the altar of God in the church.

The funeral for a beloved pastor was a tribute to a rare, beautiful human being. From the human side, I again say to myself, my understanding of the mystery of death is only deepened. Again I have questions about illness and a too-early death.

The Rev. Marv Repinski is a United Methodist pastor and adjunct professor at Riverland Community College