Persons, places and things: A big heart for love

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By Barb Arland-Fye
Editor

Arland-Fye

Dan Ebener sat in a chair, keeping vigil, as the setting sun’s rays cast a glow in the bedroom where his wife DeAnn lay in bed during her final days on earth. A young granddaughter entered the bedroom and cuddled in Dan’s lap. Other family members — Dan’s two sons, Josh and Zach, and their wives and children — entered and exited the room as I sat in another chair next to De’s bed.

Although her breathing was audible and deliberate, she did not appear to be conscious as each family member kissed De’s forehead and stroked her hands. Parents lifted up the little ones to give Grandma a kiss. One young man, a close family friend, sobbed, as he stood beside De’s bed, filled with bright-colored, plush stuffed animals. All of these genuine, tender expressions of love stirred my heart. I had entered sacred ground and treasured the experience.

I met De through Dan, a leadership professor for the Master of Organizational Leadership program at St. Ambrose University in Davenport and director of Parish Planning for the Diocese of Davenport. De and I served as Dan’s “graduate assistants” while he was doing research for his Doctor of Business Administration degree (SAU, 2007).

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We accompanied Dan on visits to parishes on Sunday mornings, where we attended Mass and visited parishioners afterwards on the topic of parish life. Although De was an avid Lutheran and Dan an avid Catholic, she thought of their marriage as a witness to the importance of ecumenism. 

After our “gig” concluded, De and I saw each other mostly at diocesan or chancery celebrations. I felt a special connection with De even though our encounters were far less frequent. De and Dan have been in my prayer intentions for years as De dealt with serious health challenges. When her health took an unexpected turn for the worse, I emailed Dan to let him know that I would offer extra prayers “as the two of you journey through her hospice.”

I asked about the possibility of stopping by to visit him and De. “Yes. Any time,” he responded. So I did, the evening of June 4, and felt welcome from the moment I walked up to the front yard and Josh took me into the house to De’s room.

She died two days later, on June 6. Dan was grateful to have De at home and for the constant flow of friends and family, praying over her from many faith traditions. He said doctors had estimated De would live just 1-5 days after her final health crisis. “She lived precisely to the end of the sixth day, then rested on the seventh,” Dan said.

The service of thanksgiving to God celebrating De’s life, on June 15 at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport, underscored her commitment to ecumenism and family. Pastor Sarah Olson-Smith led the service. Worship leaders who offered prayers were Father Ken Kuntz, diocesan administrator for the Davenport Diocese, Rabbi Emeritus Henry Karp and Cantor Gail Karp and Bishop Stacie Fidlar of the Northern Illinois Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Josh works for the Synod as director of Evangelical Mission.

De was a tiny woman with a big heart that had room to love family, friends, neighbors and strangers. I felt blessed to catch a glimpse of that faith-filled witness to God’s love for all, especially during the bedside vigil.

(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at arland-fye@daveportdiocese.org)


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