In Memoriam: Edward S. Dalland, Sr.
Brooklyn beckoned again. Eddie Dalland, the father of the namesake veterinarian, for whose family I have served as something of a personal chaplain, died April 4th in a nursing home in central New Jersey. But I also have a little personal history with Eddie Sr., as you may read below. The family and friends gathered for the funeral service Sunday, April 6th, at The Mundy Funeral Home in Dunellen NJ, not far from Eddie and wife Ruth's home since Brooklyn, in Piscataway, where daughter, Geraldine Vastano and her husband Tony reside.
Toward the end of his days Eddie had lapsed into dementia, only sometimes recognizing family members. I remember him as a mentally quick, opinionated, proudly Norwegian, and vocally expressive soul. 94 years had clearly taken their toll, and I had not seen Eddie since a baptism for a grandchild on his son's back lawn twenty-five years ago.
Herewith is the message and prayer offered at Eddie's funeral service.
Del Sharbet, anyone remember him? The announcer on the Jimmy Durante Show. Jimmy Durante? Eddie took me in hand one Saturday afternoon forty years ago to the auditorium of the Society for Ethical Culture on West 64th Street just off Central Park West in Manhattan. To hear, among several people giving their personal testimonies, Del Sharbet, he of the velvet voice. You know how insistent Eddie could be. I mean it was, after all, a Saturday, the day before Sunday, when a preacher has got to get his mind and heart in order for the big moment when he stands in the pulpit the next day. But Eddie prevailed with the pastor, overwhelming my reluctance. And we went to a city-wide gathering of Alcoholics Anonymous to hear Del Sharbet tell of his own experience “hitting bottom” and finding redemption (that’s my word, not his or Eddie’s) through AA.
Eddie wasn’t an avid churchgoer, so I am assuming that one of you - Ruth, Sonny, Geraldine? – had reported to him that Pastor Howard had put in a good word for the AA program in one of my sermons. Eddie found me in my basement office at 673 - 45th Street, Brooklyn, and offered to, no insisted that, I get a firsthand knowledge of the program which I held in such high regard. So I went to Our Lady of Angels for Eddie’s anniversary night. And I went with him to hear Del Sharbet.
In the process and in conversation with my guide I learned, for instance, that alcoholism is a disease, not just a lack of will power. As Eddie put it, about getting soused, that it takes a lot of will power to keep putting your fingers in the car door jamb and slamming it over and over again. He taught me the wisdom of having to “hit bottom” before you can rise. I have abstracted that lesson for an illustration of the necessity of the crucifixion before the resurrection.
And, more than once, Eddie wryly observed that when he was drunk he never got sick; but when he sobered up he was forever coming down with a cold or flu.
As we make our way through these days and years on earth, from one eternity to the next, we meet people who, knowingly or not, help us make sense of the experience, add color to it, give us reference points, take us to places we would never have gone on our own, illumine a larger world for us. Eddie did that for me; and I am grateful.
I have gotten the message over the years that you, wife and children, Sonny certainly, have mixed feelings about Eddie’s life story. I understand. I came on the scene shortly before he “hit bottom.” I was not witness to, nor were you, Diana and Julie, the hard years. Through which, I surmise, you Ruth, were beyond faithful and patient and enduring, hoping against hope that somehow a way would be found to hold life and marriage and family together. And your perseverance paid off, in far more years of marital satisfaction that you probably ever imagined before Eddie found his way to AA. But how can a child take it all in, the uncertainty, the hurt, except through the eyes and the mentality of a child… until with the eyes of his own maturity he can read the hand of a merciful providence weaving the way through those troubled times to a better, no, a wonderful outcome? To be able to see at last that Dad was in his own way, for all his mistakes and problems, a courageous guy, who did what he had to do, by God and with Ruth, to get his life in order.
You are the evidence, children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, plentiful, vibrant, prosperous, smart, eager for the march of years, finding your own joie d’vivre in ways that remind me very much of the Eddie I knew.
That corner of Brooklyn – I think now of our last meeting, the one in Flushing the first week in March, when we said goodbye to Mary Moon – was not only a melting pot but a launching pad.
Which is a way to think about death, that it is not the “be all end all here,” but the moment of transition, from life to life. A far better existence than even the best moments on earth afford. You, better than many who have come to this place, see the limits of our mortality, that we, like the grass of the field, wither and die, of necessity. For Eddie the life to come to be a life embraced with joy would have to be more than just more. Not just transition but translation beyond mortal imagining. But, of course, we have imagined and will, at any rate. I take the Bible as my clue. Where the life beyond life is likened by Jesus to being cradled in Abraham’s bosom, held, as it were, in the everlasting arms. Or like a family reunion – think the Prodigal Son – when we come to ourselves after wasted years and are welcomed into the Father’s House and the Great Banquet Feast. Picture it for Eddie, if you will, as being announced, by Del Sharbet maybe, a guardian angel now, at the threshold of those more stately mansions, welcomed into God’s presence, knowing as he has been known by heaven, mind clear, heart full, waiting only for our arrival.
God and giver of life, who seeks to share with us the love and joy for which was made all that has been made, we thank you this day for one, lately among us, now again with you, your child, our friend, brother, grandfather, father, and husband, Edward Dalland, with whom we have shared your love and joy for a season. His journey here by your grace was long and fruitful. If he struggled early, yet greater, far greater, were his years of strength and abundance. On his behalf we thank you for providing him with a loyal, caring, and patient helpmate for better than sixty years. Thank you for blessing that marriage with children, five of them, all of them making him proud. Thank you for equipping him with intelligence and tenacity to make a living and a life. And thank you for sparing him and the family yet further regrets for his slipping away into a twilight of the mind. You were good to Eddie, and he never forgot it, relying on you day by day to keep, as he often said, the “cork in the bottle.” You have promised to receive with open arms those who turn to you with a contrite heart. Your son has beckoned us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden.” And he tells us that he has gone on ahead of us to prepare rooms for us in your heavenly mansion. Receive, then, Eddie, into your arms, your heart, your home. For we ask these things in the name of him who is your mercy, your love, our hope, and our redeemer in this journey through time, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
The clergy record provided by the Funeral Home reports that Eddie and Ruth have five children, fifteen grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren, nearly all of whom were present for the service. Family and friends gathered again following the service at a restaurant; and though it featured Italian fare, not Eddie's favorite (think lutefisk), the liveliness and warmth of the meal together was certainly Eddie's style.