My father-in-law, Dennis Hansen, died just before this past weekend in Pageland, South Carolina. I found out about it yesterday. It is difficult to understand why, other than the normal feelings caused by the passing of any good soul, but his death indeed makes me very sad, in a personal way. He had been ill with an unusual deterioration of the brain lining (if I remember correctly) for quite some time; that does not lessen the surprise of last week. He was a fighter, though, and with the care and love provided by his wife (my mother-in-law) Linda and his mother Edythe, who I know as "Ma," he managed to stay with them much longer than could have been expected and they were happy to share the time they had. I heard that he suffered frequent lapses in health, only to bravely and stubbornly battle back. His mother told me that it was nice that over the last month or so many family members were able to visit with him and chat; that is a special thing, something many are not graced to experience. I always felt quite blessed that by a great good fortune I was able to spend a week with my mother just before she left us. How I would have suffered mentally had I not had those precious moments and conversations to cherish when I needed it most. Edythe said that she was happy he was at peace, smiling, enjoying the company. He was a Vietnam veteran (Army I think) and a former firefighter/paramedic, mostly in Columbia and Pageland, who for a while also worked weekends providing medical coverage at the auto races at Darlington (and maybe some other tracks). He reportedly was active in starting a professional organization for paramedics/ambulance drivers in the state. He helped raise three children and left behind five grandchildren. He and Linda founded an organization to rescue orphaned Vietnamese children (one of whom I married many years later). My condolences and sympathy go to Linda and their children, and to Edythe, who for the longest time was my solitary and always cheerful link to that side of the family (augmented recently by unexpected and supportive correspondence over the last year and a half with Linda, which I have much enjoyed, even in these difficult times for her). I will light a candle in his memory as soon as I get the chance.
I never really got to know Dennis in any substantive way, as I had been effectively screened away from my in-laws for the most part. One thing I regret is that he didn't get to really meet his grandsons either, although I am sure he followed their progress when I sent reports and pictures. I only once had anything close to a semi-lengthy chat with him, when we got to talk for a few minutes outside of the Charlotte hospital where he was working. The only other time I met him face-to-face, the conversation was brief and confrontational (he protecting his wife and me thinking I was doing the same thing), the result of great misunderstandings on my part, the hidden truth of which I was not privy until much later. Sometimes life plays cruel tricks. I would have loved to have brought the boys up to see him over the last couple of years, but I was told the stress was judged to be possibly life threatening, so we weren't able to visit. I haven't told my sons yet, and may not for a long while, for they struggle with separation issues; both can be very tenderhearted. I am not all that religious, though I think myself somewhat spiritual nonetheless, and I pray for a nice place in heaven for him and for strength for the family he left behind.