On the day after my father-in-law’s funeral, I bought a dancing cow pin in a Mason City thrift store. My husband, daughter, and I were driving a round-about way home from the Minnesota funeral to our home in central Iowa via Mason City, where my in-laws used to live. My husband wanted to drive by their former house. We stopped at the thrift store on a whim, to take a break from the drive and because we like those kind of places.
I almost missed the jewelry display, tucked in a corner behind the checkout counter. An assortment of cast-off pins were clipped to black cloth. And there she was, a happy golden bovine with a heart etched across her girth. As I examined her hoof-tip elevé, all I could think of was angels in heaven, dancing and celebrating my father-in law’s life. (I guess that shows how warped I am.) So I picked up the little cow, paid the 75 cents marked on her price tag, pinned her to my sweater, and smiled. After all the crying the past few days, it felt good to wear a smile and a happy, dancing cow.
My father-in-law was a Lutheran minister and a Lieutenant Colonel Chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. After the Lutheran funeral, members of the Air Force Honor Guard presented my mother-in-law with a U.S. flag as a tribute to his service. He was a good father to my husband, a dear grandfather to our children, and a fine father-in-law to me. I was privileged to know him for nearly 31 years. I know I still will cry from time to time as I mourn. But I will laugh and smile as well, as I celebrate his life well lived.
* In memory of Andrew William “Bill” Hampton, Sept. 12, 1928 – March 8, 2016 *