a (very belated) tribute

I can’t believe that it’s been four months since Norm Katerberg died.

[great. I’ve had this draft on hold for so long that now it’s been . . . more than a year. but there are other men like Norm that I’d like to share this with, and I don’t want to wait until they’re no longer walking on this earth to let them know how very grateful I am. so today it is, “finished” or not.]

At his funeral, people were invited to come up and speak about how he had affected their lives. I had that peculiar, yet familiar sense that I ought to get up and say something. The words were there; it was only a matter of getting my legs to move, of convincing my mind that it was okay. I held back, mostly out of fear that my desire to speak was more about me than about honoring this man and blessing his family. I don’t have any way of knowing if that fear was a valid one or not; however, it’s never too late to get it into writing, I guess, so here I am.

(I also played the, “I’ll get up after this person speaks” game, but that backfired on me also.)

At any rate, here’s what I would have said that day, and it’s still worth repeating now:

To help you understand what I am about to say about Norm, I need to tell you a little bit about my own early experiences that have formed my views about men. I do this, not because this day has anything to do with me, but because I hope it will give you a context for the depth of appreciation I have had towards men like Norm.

My father was not a gentle man. Not that he didn’t have the capacity to be gentle; towards me, he was almost always affectionate and loving. I always assumed that my grandmother had taught him that it wasn’t okay to hit women, although I’m not sure where I got that idea. What I know for sure, however, is that he had no qualms at all about hitting his sons, or rather, his son Michael in particular. This man who was capable of such affection towards me was also capable of turning into a furious, raging creature who was terribly frightening for my little girl eyes to behold. I feared him all the more because this person he became was so different than the person I knew him to be. i didn’t understand the bloody broken cutting board, or the shouting, or the sound of leather against bare flesh. I only knew that I was very, very afraid.

So I stand here today, knowing that I am not the only person here who has lost such a precious example of gentle godliness. I hope that I speak for others who come to this place, wounded and raw, and are almost incredulous that such men really exist . . . men who seem incapable of rage; men with their hands open to give, rather than balled into fists of anger. I was blessed by Norm, not directly, but by his example, and somehow the loss feels just as huge for me as I imagine it must feel to those among you who had the privilege of being a part of his family.

Norm never knew, I am sure, how much of an effect his gentle example had on me. I have found healing just by being in the presence of gentle men like him, just being able to see an example of a Christlike father, husband, and friend. And to me, this is the kind of healing that shows me the Body of Christ at its best.

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