As was evident during the golden anniversary celebration of his ordination as a Christian minister, Russ Seger has many memories and stories to share. Two incidents that occurred in Iowa before he moved to Chadron are especially unique to him.
He notes that he is always saddened when someone he had come to know well while visiting with them as their Hospice minister in their final days completes his or her journey on this earth. He feels, though, that it’s his duty to maintain his composure during the funeral service so everything is done with dignity.
One time early in his ministry he said that didn’t happen. He had to pause before he stepped to the pulpit to speak, even though the deceased was 97 years old. Just a few days before that, this gentleman had requested that Russ baptize him by immersion before he passed away. He had been a church-goer for years, but had never been baptized and wanted that to take place.
“The whole process that we had gone through together got to me before I was supposed to speak. I had to ask the audience to bear with me for a few minutes while I shed some tears,” Russ remembers. “They were really mostly tears of joy.”
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The second incident was much different. Russ recalls that when he entered the hospital room where the ailing person was in bed, a long string of swear words were directed at him.
“He was trying to scare me off. To me, it was like saying ‘sic ‘em’ to a dog. It was a challenge that I rather enjoyed. I stayed and tried to convince him I was there to help,” Seger said
Before long, Russ said the Hospice patient mellowed and the two became acquaintances, if not friends. But what happened next came as a shock. The man confessed that he had two families and he needed Russ to do him a favor—get them together before he died.
That took some doing. The first wife and their three young-adult children lived in the Des Moines area. The second wife and their two younger children lived in San Diego.
“About a week after I had made some contacts, I went to the Des Moines airport and picked up the woman and the two younger children and took them to the hospital. They entered the man’s hospital room where the other wife and the three older children were already there. I introduced everyone and unfolded the story for them.”
Seger said the man, a well-to-do electrical engineer who traveled extensively while designing power grids, died a few days later while the Californians were still in town. They all sat together at the front of the funeral home while Russ conducted the service.
The man, who had already put his older children through college, also had made arrangements to pay for the younger children’s college.
“I’m not going to speak of the ethics of what had taken place,” Seger said. “But I was grateful I could help it have a peaceful ending.”