The Rychner family lived next to Erling Kindem for over a decade before they moved passed saying hello or waving as they went about their errands. But their relationship changed unexpectedly when their two-year-old son, Emmett, became curious about the old man who was outside growing tomatoes in his back yard.
Mom wasn’t sure how the older gentleman would react, but was touched when Kindem, a World War II veteran, bonded with the child. Kindem didn’t mind when Emmett would rush outside anytime he was doing yard work. And when he wasn’t doing yard work, Emmett would end up at Kindem’s door, asking if Kindem could “come out to play.” Often, Kindem would come and sit outside with the boy, glad of the company.
The Rychner family (much to Emmett’s dismay) moved away to the countryside two years ago, and just one month later, Kindem and his wife moved into a senior apartment, unable to keep up with the daily demands of living on their own. Emmett still wanted to visit his old friend, so his family made efforts for the two to spend time together, even though they lived farther away.
Kindem’s health continued to decline. A year later, he moved into an assisted living home, and his heart condition worsened. One month ago, he moved into a nursing home to receive hospice care.
All the while, Emmett’s family prepared him to understand what it meant when someone passed away. They took him to visit Kindem, explaining that the man was growing older and that he was sick.
Kindem told Emmett to always listen to his parents, and Emmett read the Lord’s Prayer to the man.
Three days later, Kindem passed away.
While Emmett was sad to see his friend go, he has faith that he will see him again one day, and learned a valuable lesson about what it means to live.
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