(Continued from yesterday.)
I recall the events that day as plain as it happened yesterday. Dad held on to Bowden until he calmed.
Two months later Bowden was in and out of the hospital. Dad visited each time and when he came home would sit and think for a while. I asked Dad each time how
Bowden was doing and he’d tell me whether it was a good day or bad day.
It was a warm fall Saturday. Dad was in the field combining soybeans. The phone rang and I answered it. It was the church secretary. She told me that Bowden died just within the hour and he wanted Dad notified immediately.
I climbed on a small tractor and raced out to where Dad was harvesting. I wasn’t sure how Dad would take the bad news. I wasn’t even sure the men liked each other.
Nevertheless, it seemed strange to me that one of Bowden’s wishes would be that Dad be contacted so immediately.
I waited till Dad came to the end of the field. He shut down the combine and waited for me to climb up into the cab.
“What’s up, son,” Dad said.
“I just took a call from the secretary at Bowden’s church,” I said and paused. “Bowden died about an hour ago.”
Dad tightened his lips and though for a moment and nodded slowly. “They say anything else?”
“No, that’s it,” I said.
Dad thought some more.
“You want me to take over for a while?” I said.
“No,” Dad said. “When I’m working these fields I get a lot of thinking done. Go tell your mom and ask her to take my best suit to the drycleaners.”
Dad completed the field three hours later. By the time he arrived at the house three men in suits were waiting for him. Their names were Blevins, Herrnstein, and Lukmam, members of the church board.
Dad washed up and invited the men to sit at the dinning room table.
“We won’t be long,” Blevins said.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t like coffee are some refreshment,” Dad said gesturing toward the table. Dad pulled a chair from the table.
Lukman looked at Blevins waiting for approval.
“Please sit,” Dad said. “I imagine this must be a difficult time for the church.”
“We really don’t have the time,” Blevins said.
Dad returned the chair. His eyes darted across the men’s faces. Dad’s friendly and sympathetic face turned firm.
“What brings you men here?” Dad said.
“A situation has arisen,” Herrnstein said. “One which you can easily alleviate.”
“I’ll do what I can,” Dad said, “but I’m in no position to help, I’m not a member of the church.”
“That’s the problem,” Blevins said. “It seems Bowden had a will made out. In that will he said you were the only one to speak at his funeral.”
Dad was stunned. He pulled out a chair and sat.
“You see,” Blevins said. “You are not permitted to take the pulpit at the church. You are not a member. An exception could be made if you were even clergy, but even then that would be restrictive. It requires seminary approved by the church.”
“So if you would merely decline that would be the end of the matter,” Lukman said.
“But what about the wishes of Bowden?” Dad said.
“He’s dead,” Blevins said.
“Not according to church doctrine,” Dad said.
Blevins, Herrnstein, and Lukman all looked as if they wanted to leave. The kept eyeing each other and the door.
“Bowden taught that doctrine,” Dad said. “He knew it when he wrote his will. He knew the position he was putting us all in. It seems we are at an impasse.”
“Blevins pulled a folded piece of paper from the inside lapel pocket of his jacket. He unfolded it and pressed it out in front of Dad. Herrnstein pulled a pen from his pocket and laid it next to the paper.
“What’s this?” Dad said.