Friday, July 10, 2015

Uncle Al

Family Remarks and Memories
Funeral Liturgy of Albert J. Drackert
Peace Lutheran-West Seattle
July 7, 2015
Rev. Erik Gronberg, Lead Pastor, Trinity Lutheran-Fort Worth

45 seconds: Intro remarks: Introduce self, greetings from Karl and Sharon, thanks to Pastor Kindem, gratitude re: welcome, inclusion, warm temps (Easter-like)

I won’t speak for you. But for me today is tough. We have lost a father, grandfather, uncle, friend, cousin, parishioner, educator, and most importantly a servant of the Gospel. Albert J. Drackert was baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection as a child and affirmed that gift of faith living out his baptismal vocation. In Al Drackert’s death St. Paul, Minnesota has lost a loyal son and the City of Seattle has lost a great citizen and public servant.

Some of my first memories are of summer visits to Seattle. Although Anna Marie died when I was but 4 years old I have a vivid memory of both of them at the house on Rose Street. This house was so very important for us Texas Gronberg kids and I asked my siblings for memories.

My younger sister Rhia, in her succinct style, summed it up well for us all…frankly we are all just “really bummed” that Al is gone. Indeed, we are.

Kristen, the oldest Gronberg child, who looked up to Amy and Sarah a great deal, remembered playing princess in the yard (Al never yelling at them for dragging clean sheets in the grass), learning new phrases like “three sheets to the wind” when sick, participating in the “cascade ice cream company,” basement piano concerts, games of “monster,” and picking apples and making applesauce…quite the novelty for us Texans.

My brother David remembers Al smiling and laughing at the wrestling, “little bear cubs” (that would be he and I) on that infamous green shag carpet.

The youngest Joel wrote to me about Al being a man who set him an example of how to live a life of “faith, family, and integrity.” He recalled a visit and dinner at Ivars, always a special spot, when Al “flowed with pride and love for his grandchildren Luke and Tirzah and for his children Amy and Dave, Sarah and Pat, and even us ‘Texans’.” 

That Al included us was a part of his expansive sense of community and family. For me he is part of what Hebrews 12 calls “the great cloud of witnesses.” A family history of almost mythical proportions I have and continue to try to piece together.

Al was a remaining connection to a story of folks with last names like Drackert, Peterson, and Gustafson and first names like Hedvig, Joel, Paul, and Harriet. Stories of Anna Marie Gronberg going east from Port Orchard to St. Paul with Barb Eckstrom. While there, her Uncle Joel’s (Uncle Joel was a doctor by the way) son Orval, introduced her to his friend Al and they were married at Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church in St. Paul. He was a part of connections to faithful disciples gathered in Lutheran congregations like Sunne in Wilton, ND, Elim in Port Orchard, Gethsemane in Seattle, And ultimately to Peace Lutheran here in West Seattle.

Al took seriously the Lutheran emphasis on the vocation of the baptized and lived his faith in service. My parents always made a big deal to us about how important Al’s work as a teacher was, his calling was just as important and holy as the calling to Word and Sacrament ministry. These were different, but equally important, ways of fulfilling our prayer that God’s kingdom might come among us.

Perhaps most importantly Al lived his vocation as a Dad. When Anna Marie died in 1981 Al’s role changed from husband, dad, and caregiver to both dad and mom. And he lived that faithfully. Kristen, my sister, remarked that visiting the Drackert’s was fascinating for her because there she watched as Al, the dad, provided vitamins and cooked the meals (something that in our house would have been cause for great fear and trembling, and finally, hopefully, slightly burned toast).

He also took on a new role of friend and companion to grandpa A.A. I can only imagine how many times he smiled that Al Drackert smile as A.A. decided to remind another server at Ivar’s that A.A. and Ivar were old friends. We can learn so very much from the grace and tenderness he showed in being a companion, like Ruth to Naomi, for our grandfather.

Al was faithful to the covenant God makes with us and we make to each other, all while being fully saint and sinner. He was not perfect and never claimed to be but showed us how to be a man of faith and love. To proclaim the good news in our daily lives. Through ups and downs to not “make a fuss” (except when the legislature threatens budget cuts to public schools). To live as one baptized and called. Our world is emptier today because his constant presence, our assumption, is gone.

So it is to us to steady on and to that end I commend you these words from the Apostle Paul to the Philippians. “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me (and seen in Albert J. Drackert and all the saints in light), and the God of peace will be with you.” That is a promise. God keeps God’s promises. Amen.

Please remain seated as we sing together “I Love to Tell the Story”

Photo of Annika and I at the reception at Ivar's Salmon House on Lake Union after the funeral. This has been since the 1970s, and continues to be to this day, a family ritual and favorite place to eat, fellowship, and remember. The photo of Uncle Al and me was taken there in early May of 2015. The last time we were with him in this life.