The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 2, 2013

In Sickness and In Health, Part II: One step at a time into her decline



“I might have been in some denial,” Jim said. “This was the point at which I said, ‘Taking trips with Judy isn’t going to happen anymore.’”

Depression, and the hand of God

Jim will be the first one to tell you he was struggling. And not just needing-a-little-more-sleep struggling. He was spiraling into depression. He saw it. And so did Gerndt.

“I started getting lonely a lot,” he said. “And I started getting obsessed with planning the super funeral.”

That depression-based obsession grew like a cancer. The more it grew, the more devastating a toll it took on Jim.

“I found myself not being able to decide what to wear, not exercising. I’d sit in the chair and mope around. It would take me two hours to decide what to eat and make a meal.”

Jim wanted nothing more than to create an event that would celebrate the life of the woman he met over a milkshake at a resort in Glacier National Park so many years ago. When this funeral was over, he’d want everyone to know how much she meant to him, how her sense of humor lasted until the end, how he never regretted anything and wouldn’t give back any of their days, even the difficult ones.

But it wasn’t coming. The man who’d helped plan and presided over hundreds — thousands — of funerals, couldn’t pull himself together enough to plan the one that mattered most.

“I was afraid … I was afraid of failing Judy in terms of celebrating her life. I felt incapable of doing it,” he said. “I’ve done marvelous funerals for people. It’s not like I’ve never done this … There was just an enormous fear that I’d fail at doing it.”

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