Tomorrow will be the memorial service for my father, Burt Kisling, who died March 21, 2018, after a three week struggle with pneumonia, which triggered heart and kidney failure. He was an awesome father, teacher and role model. I’m thinking of “attitude is everything” that I read somewhere. Dad always had not only a good attitude, but engaged everyone around him, improving their attitude as well. It took me a while to appreciate how significant it was that he interacted with anyone near him, especially strangers. Nearly every time, the person he spoke to would light up and share their story with him. Although he had a wealth of experiences and stories himself, his real gift was to create the space for others to share their stories with him.
Anytime there was an opportunity to help, he would, no matter the cost to himself. His employees loved him because he knew they were the heart of the business and treated them well. They became part of his extended family.
Although he wasn’t a Quaker when he met Mom, he quickly adopted the Quaker way of life. They both served on the Scattergood Friends School committee for many years, and each served as clerk of the committee at one time or another.
He worked for years with his good friend Chuck Day on several projects. Lyn Crossing is a Dream Cather community in Des Moines designed for people with physical and mobility challenges.
They were also involved with the Path of Peace public sculpture.
Chuck and were also involved with STAR PAC, a political peace organization.
His wife, Alberta (Birdie) Kisling, was the light of his life. Theirs was a model of a great marriage and family.
Throughout our lives we would travel around the country, camping in various National Parks, although Rocky Mountain National Park was everyone’s favorite. They visited the park more than thirty times, in the later years staying at the YMCA of the Rockies, instead of camping.
Dad fought valiantly to recover from his last illness. It was difficult to accept when it became clear he would not recover. We feel very fortunate that we were made aware of Taylor House Hospice. Mom had worked with hospice patients for years. The final day of his life Dad was transferred there and we are very grateful for how things went. The staff were very kind and gentle with him and us. A red t-shirt replace the hospital gown. We were able to open doors near his bed so he could enjoy fresh air. The combination of oxygen and medications they gave made him much more comfortable than he was in the hospital.
An amazing thing happened at the end. We were offered to have Dad placed in a warm, whirlpool bath. We asked for that, and Dad immediately, visibly relaxed as he was lowered into the water, and quietly took his last breaths there with a smile on his face.
I love the idea of Dad continuing on his spirit journey. And the truth that “what comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we’re here.” I believe Dad did that exceptionally well, and he changed the world one story at a time.
ALL THAT WE ARE IS STORY. From the moment we are born to the time we continue on our spirit journey, we are involved in the creation of the story of our time here. It is what we arrive with. It is all we leave behind. We are not the things we accumulate. We are not the things we deem important. We are story. All of us. What comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we’re here; you, me, us, together. When we can do that and we take the time to share those stories with each other, we get bigger inside, we see each other, we recognize our kinship — we change the world one story at a time. Richard Wagamese (October 14, 1955-March 10, 2017) Ojibwe from Wabeseemoong Independent Nations, Canada