In the Spring of my Junior Year at St. Olaf College, I received an eerie and disturbing phone call. A British gentleman explained to me in a pained voice, that my uncle, William R. Grimbol, my namesake, had been murdered. I was stunned.
He went on to elaborate how my uncle hired a young chap to do deliveries, as Uncle Bill was the popular local butcher in Cheshunt, England. A 16-year old boy wanted to join the London chapter of the infamous “Hell’s Angels”, and membership required him to commit a serious crime. He clobbered my uncle over the head with a tire iron, then sprinted away, never thinking my uncle would bleed to death overnight.
After I got off the phone, I nervously pondered what I would say to my father. The detective from Scotland Yard with whom I spoke had told me he had been encouraged by Uncle Bill’s wife, Florrie, to call me before my Dad, as she knew it would be overwhelming for Lenny.
She was right. When I told him, he dropped the phone, and my mother then spoke with me briefly, and haltingly, before making him a cup of coffee, and then sitting in their respective rocking chairs on the front porch. I told her I would pack and head home immediately. I said it all felt so odd. I also expressed how much Dad had been looking forward to spending time with his brother following retirement.
I wish there was a happy ending to this story. There is not. My father became a very anxious and frightened man, and spent endless hours listening to the police radio. He would check to see all was locked before bed, sometimes as many as five or six times. Dad tried to be his old jolly Self, but the bitterness of raw evil had ruined his capacity for relaxation or joy.
A few years later, while on vacation from Seminary, I sat with him on the same front porch, in the same rockers, and asked if he still missed his brother Bill; he nodded and wept. He said nothing would ever be the same. I told him I agreed. I told him it was normal to feel this way – even if I did not have a clue. I even told him how I hoped he would find his way back to Life, as he had a leading role in my life’s play. He smiled and thanked me for saying so.
O, Lord of Lent, remind us that following a tragedy, not only does Life go on, but the clock continues to tick and count the moments. Give us the courage to hear that beat again, and rejoin the dance – even if we can barely recall the steps. Amen.
Reverend William R. Grimbol has spent the past 30+ years helping people create and develop strong spiritual connections with loved ones and God. He is also a published author, with over a dozen books to his credit.