Monday, September 14, 2015

Marie's Memories of Randi

a marker for ten years of her death on August 17, 2005, 
Marie Sundet

Oh good, I finally have reason and opportunity to do some writing about our dear and precious Randi! This can’t be done, though, without some information about Lyle and “the boys.”

This year it is ten years since she left us. What a heart-breaking day that August 17, 2005, was! From phone calls from Nate and Nick to contacting Sathers because I didn’t know which golf course Wally was playing, to finally reaching Wally by phone and having him come home to hear the sad news, to at last reaching Lyle at a conference in Baltimore and telling him that his wife had died .   .   .   .   .   Oh my.

Sathers came and helped us think about which people to call and helped us pack to go to Bloomington to be with Nate and Nick at least until Lyle could get there from Baltimore. By the time we got there approximately five hours later, Lyle had gotten home. Heidi, Mary, Ken, and Sam were also there. Kathi and her family drove in from Arlington, Texas, the following day.

We were a gathering of sobbing, bereft people until we were able to begin thinking of Randi’s present happiness in her new heavenly home.

She is now a grandmother living in heaven, and I am sure that she is smiling and in full knowledge of the marriage of her son, Nathan, to Sasha, and the birth of their baby, Penny Kay. She also knows, I’m sure, that son Nicholas has started work at a “Nortdstrom Rack” store in Des Moines. She knows, too, that her nephew, Sam, graduated from Luther College last spring (2014), that nephew Jared is now a Luther student, and niece Hillari is busy with salon work and nannying. She also must be overjoyed to know about her sister, Kathi’s, wedding to Raymond Daniel, whom we all love.

I believe that she is experiencing great joy as she thinks of her dear former husband, Lyle, now married to  Andrea who is a fine addition to our family.

Now I need to recall some of her very young days. She made her entrance into our world on September 14, 1957, when we lived in the barracks at Luther College. Wally was a senior student then and was president of Nordic Choir. He also directed a church choir at Calmar Lutheran Church.

Randi was baptized at First Lutheran Church in Decorah with Lowell and Leila Gangstad her sponsors.

She was a fine-boned, strong baby who wanted to be on her feet much of the time. She was a tiny baby with colic, and kept her daddy awake late many nights with her crying. Finally, at three months of age, she found her thumb and sucked it a lot! We were relieved because she wasn’t crying, and her daddy could get his reading and studying done.

She was never a baby who slept a lot, and by ten months old, she was walking. She had her favorite blanket which she snuggled as she sucked her thumb. Of course, it needed washing frequently and had to be dried outside on a clothesline. Tiny Randi toddled out to the clothesline, grabbed a corner of her wet blanket, and sucked her thumb! Such a funny little girl!

She was present when her daddy got his Batchelor of  Arts degree in Music Education in the spring of 1958. 

Shortly after that, we moved to Kasson, Minnesota, where Wally was a music teacher. We lived in a duplex out in the country. Our only bathroom was upstairs. One day after Randi learned to climb steps, she came downstairs pulling the end of a roll of toilet tissue. She walked, pulling it through the living room and into the kitchen downstairs. She never made much noise, just busied herself doing things!

One of her favorite activities was taking a box of Cheerios out of the cupboard and making a pile of them on the floor. Then she stomped on them with both feet. I was not aware of what she was doing until I heard the crunch, crunch, crunch of her little feet on the cereal! She also liked picking flowers and loved our budding tulips. One day she brought me a little fistful of them.

Randi learned to speak very clearly at a young age. Her daddy asked her to repeat many long words – simply because she could! One day after many repetitious of words, one-year-old Randi said, “Daddy, why hippopotamus?” Apparently, she had had enough of that word.

When she was two years old, we moved to Monticello, Iowa, where Wally taught elementary music. At one point, we attended the wedding of a good family friend in the big Catholic church there. After seeing other folks being ushered into the sanctuary, it was our turn. Little Randi genuflected at each pew until we were seated – just doing what she had seen others doing!

Randi made good friends in school in Monticello, especially with Cindy Gilmore who remained a close-in-heart friend the rest of her life. They continued to communicate after we moved to Cedar Rapids just before Randi’s senior year in high school. After graduation, the two of them continued their friendship at Luther College, and then when they both married and lived and worked in the Twin Cities. Cindy and Randi were both artists. While at Luther, each had her own art show. Musical highs came for Randi when she sang soloes with a womens’ choir at Luther and sang with Nordic during part of her senior year. Following those experiences, she sang some solos with church choirs. Hers was a lovely soprano voice.

Back to earlier days, Randi and her sisters spent a week each summer at Camp EWALU near Strawberry Point. During her high school and college years, Randi worked as a Conselor-in-Training and as a Counselor each summer. We knew she was a profound influence on the lives of many young people – and she loved the work! Here, too, she met Lyle, her future husband, They just liked each other and “did things together.” They never “had a date,” she said.

In August, after graduating from Luther, she and Lyle were married at Camp EWALU. The place had grown close to their hearts.

It was to be an outdoor wedding, but weather didn’t permit it. We all pitched in and prepared the main room in the lodge for the wedding, and the adjoining room for the reception. Pastor Gary Hunstad from First Lutheran, our Cedar Rapids in church, came to perform the ceremony. Sharon “did” the flowers which we had bought at a farmers’ market. Lyle’s cousin baked the wedding cake, and Harold and the triplets provided string quartet music for the processional and recessional. The processional was Randi’s favorite, Pachelbel’s “Cannon in D.” Randi and Lyle had tie-dyed a beautiful banner portraying a dove descendin onto two wedding bands. This took center place in the front of the “camp sanctuary.”

Lyle wore a full-sleeved white shirt and his three attendants wore matching sky-blue ones – all made by a neighbor on Larry Dr. in Cedar Rapids. Randi wore my wedding dress, and I sewed the three blue bridesmaid’s dresses. Who would attend Randi other than her sisters? The three of them also sang a version of “The Lord’s Prayer.” The wedding was a simple, beautiful, faith-filled, and joyous affair. Even Grandma Streyle attended in her wheelchair!

Randi and Lyle first lived in a tiny, upstairs apartment in Cedar Falls while Lyle finished his college education at UNI and Randi worked in a bookstore.

After his graduation, the two of them worked with “Tentmakers” in Anoka, Minnesota. This was an organization which trained people to be youth workers in congregations. Also, during this time, they moved to seminary housing at Luther Northwestern in St. Paul, and Lyle studied to get his Master’s Degree in Youth Leadership.

Nathan was born while living in a seminary apartment, and they continued work in Anoka. Baby Nathan often went to work with them. Randi and Lyle were good and busy parents. Nathan slept in a beautiful cradle made by Lyle’s father.

Burnsville became home to them for several years as they worked as Youth Director and Childrens’ Education Dirctor in a chuch there. After almost three years there, Baby Nicholas was born.

We were together celebrating Thanksgiving at Mary’s Minneapolis apartment when Randi knew it was time to go to the hospital. Little Nathan stayed with us at Mary’s until a hospital phone call came from Lyle for Nathan! We were crowded breathlessly around the phone when Nathan said, “Nickowas?” We knew then that Randi had had a second baby boy! Such excitement! A bit later we took Nathan to the hospital to see his mom, dad, and baby brother. Lyle took Nathan into Randi’s room first to meet little Nicholas. He held him and looked so proud as he assumed the roll of “big brother.”

While living in Burnsville, Randi got her Master’s Degree in “Human Development” from St. Mary’s in Winona. Lois Brokering acted as one of her advisors and helped her design course work in her chosen major.

After some years in Burnsville, Lyle took a job as Youth Director at St. Luke’s, in Bloomington , MN, where Randi was the Christian Ed. Director.

Through her work with Lois Brokering and her connections with Augsburg Fortress Publishing Company, Randi soon became an editor there. She did much creative work doing curriculum development for children. Her work there was well done a well received.

Lyle began work at “Youth and Family Institute” where he became the National Director of Peer Ministry. He traveled and worked with many, many young people and their leaders in a myriad of congregations.

After her stint at Augsburg Fortress, Randi began work at “Search Institute” in Minneapolis. Here much emphasis was put on Forty Developmental Assets which help children and teenagers avoid problems and make healthy, positive choices. Randi loved this work and made very close friends with her co-workers.

She stayed continually active in a group of parents working to keep music programs active in public schools in their community.

Lyle added the work of continuous projects on their house – transformed their kitchen with new cabinets, etc., painted the outside of their house, added a den and large deck, etc.

Both parents remained consistently interested and supportive in their sons’ school classes and projects. Their sons were fortunate to have exemplary parents like Randi and Lyle.

And now, her life has come full circle, and Randi is again with Jesus. We wondered, “How could everyday experiences and activities continue without Randi living among us?” Yes, much of it has been painful, but somehow she – and we in her family – are all being held and protected in God’s hands. 

Lyle has done much beautiful writing about Randi since her death. She died in her sleep the night of August 17, 2005, and was found not breathing in the morning by Nick.

Her funeral service was on August 22, 2005. It was marked by meaningful hymns, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise,” “I Was There to Heae Your Borning Cry,”  “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee,” and Handt Hanson’s singing and playing his own composition, “Make My Life a Candle.” Ken wrote and read an emotional and meaningful eulogy, and Pastor Michael Foss delivered an uplifting message.

The burial service was beautiful – made so by the setting and by the presence of many of the 800 people in attendance at the funeral service. Each set of eyes I looked into seemed to be sending love and peace to our family and to Lyle, Nathan, and Nick. I was extremely grateful and reminded of dear Randi’s favorite expression and book title of Richard Rohr’s, “Everything Belongs.” These words are on her gravestone along with her signature, “Randi.”

Now we find joy as we think of  Randi being cradled in the hands of her Lord Jesus. We are indescribably grateful for the gift of Randi in our lives. She was truly a gift to many during her earthly life.