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In Memoriam

In Memoriam: Ruth G. Dalland

Of the several families with whom I have stayed connected from my years as a pastor in the Sunset Park corner of Brooklyn, no connection has been more regularly reaffirmed than that with the Dallands of 46th Street.  On this website you can chronicle the signal events in that family's life at, in chronological order:
Barbara Dalland/Shawn Turner Wedding (which also celebrates other occasions), Antonia Herwick Funeral,  Eric Dalland/Karen Durgee WeddingEddie Dalland Sr. Funeral,  and Birth of Abigail Dalland.  Sunday, March 28th, I drove in the early afternoon to Dunellen NJ to the same funeral home, Mundy's, in which the service was held two years earlier of Edward Dalland Sr..  This time the funeral was for Eddie Sr.'s widow, Ruth. 

    This death notice lists Ruth's accomplishments, familial and vocational, through 88 years:

    At 3:30 PM on Palm Sunday family and friends gathered to celebrate Ruth's time among us.  Two years is but a small fraction of 88, yet within that brief span since last we gathered, Eddie Sr.'s sister and nephew, Pastor Thomas Johnson, a United Methodist minister who prayed and read Scripture at his uncle's funeral, had gone on to join the senior Dalland.  Which made son Dr. Edward Dalland, Jr. the family patriarch, who has been my main contact with the Dallands for forty-two years.  Ruth's second daughter, Geraldine Vastano, has also been a frequent Email correspondent. 

    Here is my message in tribute to Ruth.  It is interspersed with photos from the afternoon, most of them taken by Ruth's grandson, Michael Dalland, although some of them are borrowed from photos of previous gatherings of the family. 

My first impulse with the thought that I should stand up here and tell you about Ruth is, “Pastor Howard, who do you think you are?”  Everyone of you knew her better and longer than I did.  Yes, Ruth was a congregant at Christ United Methodist Church in Brooklyn when I was the pastor.  Yes, I visited that small apartment on 46th Street where she raised her family.  Yes, I have woven my way, by invitation only, mind you, mostly by Lynette and Sonny, through her days post-Brooklyn for her and for me: baptisms, weddings, funerals… most recently for the funeral for her husband Eddie Sr., by whom she remained through thick and thin for sixty-six years.  I know Ruth’s journey here in some of the particulars, but nowhere near as well as you.

But, of course, I am the pastor, the PASTOR, which Ruth always named me, Pastor Howard; and, since she encouraged me so heartily when last I stood in this place, this place at the Mundy Funeral Home, telling me words that preachers never can get enough of, that she wished I had spoken much longer… since, I suspect, she would not protest as long as I have, let me dare to enter Ruth’s world.

It’s a world, for all its struggle and trouble, on which Ruth would pronounce the benediction sounded on the days of creation, each of them, more or less, “It is good.”  I look around this room and see the fruit of her labors: children, five of them, fifteen grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.  Good people, loving people, who have done something with their lives, brightened the corner where they are, as the Sunday School tune would have it. 

Over on 45th Street where we lived for seventeen plus years we had three bedrooms, one and a half baths, four main rooms on the first floor, and the biggest backyard in Sunset Park.  A block away Ruth and Eddie had a four room apartment, four kids (Carolyn was gone by the time I arrived in Brooklyn), a tiny bathroom, and no backyard.  How did she do it?  Considering those harsh years of Eddie’s alcoholism before AA?  I marvel at the steadfast and uncomplaining courage which she showed the world… well, the world of this pastor anyway.  Ruth was in her quiet and unassuming way resolute to see it through, her marriage, her life, getting you going in your lives.  Surely she raised her voice and her hand at you from time to time, but what I saw was a steady and certain soul, determined to make the most of the hand she was dealt.

And she did, make the most of it.  I mean, just look at you, how you have prospered, the lives and loves you have experienced, if not everything being hunky-dory, still people ready to agree with Mom that it is good, this life given us.  For me the crowning evidence of Ruth’s wonderful determination was the discovery after I left Brooklyn that she was a nurse; that she had gotten the training and the certification in mid-life, when the nest was mostly empty, and proceeded to provide her patience, encouragement, and gentleness to the sick and infirm at Lutheran Medical Center… and then at another medical facility here in New Jersey.  When I asked her about it, she spoke of it in a matter-of-fact way, as if it was something anyone could do.  And I thought to myself, “No, Ruth, most of us would have given up a long time ago.”

Now at eighty-eight, a nice round number the Moon Family would especially appreciate, she took her leave of us in the same way, deliberately, without much fuss, judging, I surmise, that it was time to go. To that gathering of those on whom the Master of the house with many rooms invites the faithful servant:“Well done… you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”  I suspect, however, the Master will amend that verse from Matthew Chap. 25 to accord with the reality of Ruth’s time here, namely, that she has been trustworthy in a lot of things.  Let everyone of you say Amen, even as you never fail to put her at the top of your list in your prayers of thanksgiving.  As she steps across the threshold into those more stately mansions Eddie will be there and will greet her wondering, as he probably did often in these scenes, “Ruth, what took you so long,” only he probably would provide a spicy adjective I didn’t. 

When we spend our life in giving, as Ruth did, we fulfill the loving and generous purpose for which God gives us life.  As sure as that way through life provides us with satisfactions while we are on our way, greater still are the satisfactions promised in the life to come.  A new journey on which Ruth has now begun.

God of our lives, every day of them, from beginning to end, who has shown us in Jesus what is good and right and true, loving and serving you by loving and serving each other, we thank you for one who did just that, again and again, year in and out, often in the face of obstacles that would daunt most of us; that is, we thank you for Ruth, mother, sister, friends, grandmother, and great-grandmother.  You provided her with a steady temperament and personal resources of courage, patience, and intelligence. And she used them all for your sake and ours.  She held the family together.  She persevered until the better day she just knew would come came.  She showered three generations of children with her love and wisdom.  Through it all, she cherished your name and guided her children in the way of Christ.  We laughed and sang with her, cried too.  But she never allowed us to cry very long; because she knew there was always something we could do, as she did, to make things better.  Thank you for her resilience, her steadfastness, and her faithfulness.  Receive her into your house with many rooms.  Place her beside the blessed of every generation at your great banquet feast. Hold her close to your bosom.  Delight her with the songs the angels sing beside your throne. Surround her with those whom she loved and those who loved her, who have gone on before and with those who have yet to arrive.  And grant us a healthy portion of her courage and love that we might spend our days as usefully as she did hers.  For we ask it in the name of the one who today has heard our Hosannas and soon will hear our Hallelujahs, the once and coming King, our Lord, the Lord of love, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 The family and friends, many of them, left the funeral home to reconvene at the Assante Restaurant on Rte 22.  No sooner had I entered the dining room than I was greeted by a woman whose face was very familiar to me, for a reason I did not at first understand.  Dawn Johnsen, Ruth's granddaughter, Carolyn's daughter, is an Obama nominee for his administration's Office of Legal Counsel.  She awaits confirmation, stalled in the Senate, while commuting between Bethesda MD and Bloomington IN where she is a professor in the law school at Indiana University.  Her face was familiar to me not, as I first thought, from earlier family celebrations, but from the newspapers and TV.  Her husband, John Hamilton, is a PK (preacher's kid); his father and I may have bumped into one another at Union Theological Seminary in the 1950's. The presence at funeral and reception of two other notables deserves attention: Ruth's great-grandchildren, babes in arms, Abigail and Vincenzo... which is not to say that the other "greats" present were not notable, just that they were not new arrivals. 

 These two, Abigail and Vincenzo, are each scheduled for occasions for family and pastor reunions this spring.  Watch for the unfolding and happily unending narrative of the Dallands and Pastor Howard.

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