Birger Axelsson – My father, my role model and my idol…

It has now gone 3 years since my father passed away, with this I want to salute him and honor him in my own way. My dedication to you father, I know you look after me from above, as I am now in your land, Tanzania.

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Birger Axelsson.

What is there to say about my father? When I know that my opinion and view of him  will most definitely differ from others?

Many have seen one side of him, I have seen another. And today, I’ll give you I’ve decided give you my picture, my own very private (not anymore)  picture of him, detailing how I’ve seen him and the  experiences I had with him in my life.

As children, we have different roles in the family, Marie has been the one  who lived close to  mom and dad  in Umeå, Stefan has always found time to visit them during trips there and Helen’s sweet  singing voice that could reach the angels up in the sky, bringing joy at home. Mine? Mine was the way I expressed myself, my thoughts.

That was nothing!

My father, my idol and a role model for many years,

With this view of him, “I see myself as a tiny worm.”

My dad, my hero and my childhood guiding principle.

One who was nothing and chosen by God to lead.

I remember when he was preparing his Sunday sermon, my mother would say “be quiet child, dad is still preparing.” My mother’s voice still rings in my mind.

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He was a master in preparation.

You will notice that despite my preparation, this becomes a jumbled recollection of Birger, my father and my hero. Failure of preparation is to preparation of failure, was his motto.  So, I’ve prepared myself, in my father’s spirit, the very best way. All so his legacy stays alive.

The one you love, you beat, as a child from those times, I now see it as his way of showing love! Lots of it! Even though he showed it only in an unusual way.

“You are beautiful as you are,” was as far as he could go.

When he showed his love, it took me by surprise too. I remember once, he woke me and my brother Stefan at 3AM one morning with the words “Lets go out and hunt boys.”

All that I write is my perception, thoughts and experience. Birger remains to be highly ambiguous and contradictory in my mind, but whatever the case, he was my father. It is what it is. I am his son, his offspring. I have his blood flowing in my veins. His blood is my inheritance.

What I will say today is arguably ambiguous, double-sided and perhaps to some extent contradictory, but the fact remains, he was my father, my idol and my hero.

He was also paradoxical, double-sided and subtle, which I’ve noticed through my life, some of it being what I’ve heard about him. Too many times I have thought, that others talk of his actions but I had never witnessed, heard or noticed. Sometimes I found it difficult to agree with the positive reviews and in many cases amazing words I heard about him because I never got to see this side of him.

He was the patriarch, but still with a desire to listen and absorb new ideas.

… and was always straight up as a pine, but still fragile as a crystal glass.

“Lift your feet boy” he’d tell me when he noticed that I had a lazy walk.

He found it hard to communicate at home though, as he wasn’t sweet and cuddly with his words. Not like mom.

“Now we do not talk more about it,” he’d add.  Hitting his fist on the table and I knew that the topic wasn’t open for discussion. He had spoken!

At the same time, he inspired, uplifted and was a vessel of God’s redeeming grace.

He was from nothing but was chosen by God, he looked at himself like a worm.

Bilder Birger pigg

What I now try to find out is: is it genetics or environment that shapes a person? Or is it inherited? Regardless, perhaps it is not surprising that he became who he was and I, the person that I am: another one who is nothing. Another worm.

We had our discussions, sometimes fueled with anger and sometimes full of laughs, but always rewarding. Sometimes I had to give in, sometimes he did, although I must say, could take some time. The journey to the country side is such a subject as well as an occasion to remember.

Another time, a car was involved, a green Skoda, a green that struck the eye with its richly adorned body that had red undertones, studded tires and manual transmission. He asked me to buy the car and I said I would. However he was sick. “You didn’t trick me now, did you?”, was the final word on the day of that discussion. Dad, I tricked you, but with sensitivity, sorry.

Ung Birger

He was one of God’s best sellers, I have recently understood and embraced that. He got people to listen, he took the time to lend his ear and he saw their needs and gave them a solution. This, I realized, I also inherited as it’s evident in to my occupation.

As a small child, we were assigned certain roles, and one of them was that I would become a priest like my father while Stefan would be the philosopher. That said, he also wanted me to apply to Johannelund, (theological institute) and I did so, 3 times but got a NO on all three. He supported my endeavors and he probably saw what Johannelund did not see me being a priest. He understood my answer to questions about any church affiliations: “I have 350 hairdressers who I visit every 6 weeks. They are my church.”  Despite this being my response, he was very proud to stand behind me, even when the principal of the school came by.

Some other events:

  • When he found out that I was a smoker: “I do not like that we smoke.”
  • When we went by car and I fell asleep in his lap, 5 years old, and the scent of his crouch area within reach.
  • How he was when he was preparing, filled their preparatory papers from corner to corner, with minimum spacing. He also wrote out on the margins if possible.
  • That he had almost always a little chocolate in the office.
  • He always had the radio on when I came down to breakfast (which always included porridge)
  • When we picked berries after the first frost came and the first snow had subsided. We’d just do it.
  • “Don’t you see the blueberries?” “They’re right in front of you, HERE!” Then it turned out that I was color blind, or color deranged as it stood on the statement I took home from school.
  • “HOLD THE BOTTLE!” (Another way of saying SHUT UP) Dad responded with that when we were a little too loud in the backseat one Sunday on his way to church in Borås or Alingsås, and I replied that I did not have a bottle to hold. He struggled to not smile.
  • When he helped me in the warehouse where I worked in Linköping. He came down and “became” a warehouse worker, packed and folded cartons.
  • His big and molded hands that gently stroked on the armchair frame. Eventually my mother had to make crochet overlay.
  • The engagement he had when he looked at the Olympics in boxing or wrestling, and was just as tired as the competitors, because he became one with the game and played the game.
  • When he quietly told me that he had Alzheimer’s, at Helen’s wedding and did not want to make a speech risking making a fool of himself or to forget words and that would be too obvious.
  • How he built the garage for our “big brother” Ruben and gave him food and shelter and supported him when he was a boy to a young man who would now (40 years later) become a successor doctor who owns his own village in Tanzania.

His drive was great, his will was indomitable, and his spirit was endless. In another time, with a different job and a different situation, he had been called an entrepreneur, which he was, in the truest sense. I firmly believe that he was a person who would been a huge success in the business world, just with his will, passion and commitment to what he was getting into. But no, he chose God, or rather, he was elected, he the one that was nothing.

He had a calling, a vocation he shared with my mother, my mother who was my safe embrace. My mother, who stood by him, supported him and followed him in all his travels, both external and internal. His calling, or their calling, was so big and so deep, so true that nothing would stand in the way of it, no, no. It also had its consequences, but whether he was firm in his belief and the conviction was faithful. Hats off to that father.

“Dad, you did not take no for an answer. You bumped your forehead bloody. You found solutions for evangelists and the employees you had around you. You put weeks in the bush to reach out to the people. You took yourself into the Maasai land, even though it was said to be impossible.

You spoke quietly and rarely at home, but preached large and vivid outside. Although you sometimes, most of the time, found it difficult to get to the point, to tie it in together. Maybe as hard as I find it here today.

In my memory, I’ve gotten myself told that your long and sometimes endless sermons of an impatient and restless toddler as myself got me at one point to go up to you in the pulpit, close the Bible and say, “Amen.” You smiled and took me up in your arms, and continued. It’s my turn to say amen, I have slammed Your Bible for the last time father, my hero, my idol, the one that was nothing, the one chosen by God. You’re home now, with him, who chose you for you not because you saw yourself as a worm or as nothing, but because you were Birger.

I live by the adage that there are only two must-haves in life, you must die, which you have now done after long struggle and many rounds in the hospital (which I wish I swapped with you) and you have to choose, which you did. Sometimes choices had consequences you didn’t expect, but you had the courage to choose and above all the strength to carry it out.

I also work at finding out what needs to be done differently to make the difference/development, and with all the required clarity you made a difference, in both large and small. You found the difference that made the difference.

“Development requires change” is another motto I adamantly believe in and look back at your life as you created the development through the right change. If we list all the changes you made, it would be a long list, and since I’m soon about to say Amen we will take it another time, but you did it and with it came the development.

We have all the resources in us. You saw it in others, the list is long. Sorry to say you didn’t see it enough in yourself.

Sometimes I do things I hate to get what I love and when in my little world, I look back on your journey through life, I see a lot that I think you hated to do, to get what you loved. Right now I’m doing something that I hate; saying goodbye to you dad, to maybe get something I love, whatever that may be I still don’t know.

Most important of all is to have a goal in life, which you also really had. I look back at how your life was and I realize that I’ve rarely seen such a goal-oriented person like you. From the time you skied between villages in northern Sweden, to driving between the villages of Southern synod in Tanzania to build a house with room for all your kids. You set targets and achieved them, something that I am grateful I learnt and inherited from you.

You were a clever man who became wise over the years and with age. This too, we discussed in length. When do you become clever and when do you become wise? I also hope it can be inherited. I miss you more than you may know.  I hope I have made and will continue to make you proud, because I am and was proud of you, not always, but basically, you were and will always be my idol, my great hero and my role model. You were Birger, was my father and a grandfather. Not you as a worm, but you as larva, which eventually became a beautiful, amazing and spectacular butterfly! Goodbye dad. I love you.

Amen!”

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