By CHUCK OFFENBURGER
SHENANDOAH, Iowa, Feb. 12, 2014 — Kathryn Ketcham, 96-year-old mother of my lifelong friend and high school classmate Bruce Ketcham, died in late January. I’m really glad I was able to attend her funeral here in my ol’ hometown.
You know, I can hardly think of her as “Kathryn.” Even though she never would have insisted on it, she was always “Mrs. Ketcham” to me. She was one of those parents who was a pillar not only in Bruce’s life, but in the lives of all our pals, too. So many of our parents seemed like giants to us, even if they happened to be tiny, like Mrs. Ketcham was.
You never think of people like her passing on, and when they do, you can hardly believe it has happened — no matter how old they were. You think they’re always going to be around, with yet another good idea, or with another bit of insight and direction, right when you need them. I told Bruce, his brother Dennis, and sisters Karen and Kim that when one of these people like their mother leaves us, I always have this feeling that, “Oh, crap! Does this mean I need to step up to being one of the adults now?” Amazing statement to make when you’re 66 years old, but that’s how I feel.
So anyway, Rev. Carl Phillips presided at the service. He is now serving the United Methodist Church in nearby Malvern, but years ago he became close to the Ketchams when he was their pastor at their small Methodist congregation in the country crossroads community of Norwich.
When Pastor Phillips got near the end of the funeral, he mentioned how he often likes to include a poem, because there’s something about poetry that seems to help us focus our thoughts and emotions at times like this. Nice, huh? Then he read the following one, “If Tomorrow Starts Without Me,” which I was able to find on the Internet. It is attributed to a poet David Romano, in 1993. It sure meant to something to me at Mrs. Ketcham’s funeral, so it had to mean even more to the Ketchams. Let me share it:
If tomorrow starts without me, and I’m not there to see,
If the sun should rise and find your eyes all filled with tears for me;
I wish so much you wouldn’t cry the way you did today,
while thinking of the many things we didn’t get to say.
I know how much you care for me, and how much I care for you,
and each time that you think of me I know you’ll miss me, too.
But when tomorrow starts without me, please try to understand,
that an angel came and called my name and took me by the hand,
and said my place was ready in heaven far above,
and that I’d have to leave behind all those I dearly love.
But as I turned to walk away, a tear fell from my eye,
for all life, I’d always thought I didn’t want to die.
I had so much to live for and so much yet to do,
it seemed almost impossible that I was leaving you.
If I could relive yesterday, I thought, just for a while,
I’d say goodbye and hug you and maybe see you smile.
But then I fully realized that this could never be,
for emptiness and memories would take the place of me.
And when I thought of worldly things that I’d miss come tomorrow.
I thought of you, and when I did, my heart was filled with sorrow.
But when I walked through Heaven’s gates, I felt so much at home.
When God looked down and smiled at me, from His golden throne,
He said, “This is eternity and all I’ve promised you,
Today your life on earth is past but here it starts anew.
I promise no tomorrow, but today will always last,
and since each day’s the same, there’s no longing for the past.
“But you have been so faithful, so trusting, so true.
Though there were times you did things you knew you shouldn’t do.
And you have been forgiven, and now at last you’re free.
So won’t you come and take my hand and share my life with me?”
So if tomorrow starts without me, don’t think we’re far apart,
for every time you think of me, please know I’m in your heart.
The poem is by David Romano. If you want to write the columnist, you can reach him by email at chuck@Offenburger.com or by using the handy form below.