Last Saturday I stood reflecting in the autumn foliage at the place where my uncle Fred drew his last breath.
I looked at the nondescript patch of dirt where he had been found the day before. I looked up towards the forest canopy and felt the warmth of the sun on my face. I breathed in the crisp fall air. I pondered the beauty for a moment.
Like dried leaves blowing, my mind swirled with thoughts about what happened and what it meant—Fred was dead and with that a jarring reminder of the incessant march of time. The season was changing whether I was ready for it or not.
The words of Psalm 90:10 were not forgotten:
“The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
I was not alone contemplating. I was surrounded by a crowd that had gathered. We were together in our somber reflection about the events a day before. Fred was struck down in the very spot where we—his friends, family, wife, and children—stood.
I thought about my dad who I had accompanied on the journey back the trail through the woods. His hair seemed grayer today than my memories of that wiry hammer swinging construction worker who was once as invincible to me as the mountain under our feet.
I thought about my aunt Rhoda who would grieve this long after most of us by necessity moved forward. I thought of Fred’s children, his sons in particular, who now carried the legacy of their father and spiritual mentor. I felt their tears.
We surveyed the scene together—connected by our faith and love for each other. We remembered a man with an angular face, a rugged frame, and gentle spirit. He was a man who loved his family, was loyal to his wife and enjoyed his work.
He died with his boots on as I would imagine would suit him—he was seventy years old.
Fred F. Stoltzfus
May 21, 1945 — Oct. 31, 2015.