Old Sven collapsed one chill November Saturday after chopping maple wood near his house in the birch forest, five miles outside of Eagle River, Wisconsin.

He arose, sauntered home and changed into his flannel, tractor-print pajamas. It grew quiet and his breathing became labored. So, Sven lay down on the plaid-quilted single bed in the green guest room. His wife, Lena, tended to his care. He said nothing and sipped only a cup of water or two. On the evening of the sixth day, Lena looked out at the Big Dipper and then glanced back at Sven’s furrowed brow. She sighed and prepared, touching his cheek. She found the phone mounted on the wall near the Kelvinator washing machine and dialed their three children, Ole, Karl and Ingrid.

Over the next hours, they drove north from Milwaukee and Madison, gathering for a wake.

Each, in turn, came to the guest room, sat down on the paint-streaked wooden chair in the corner and told Sven of love and of old times. He nodded and mumbled quietly.

As the children talked and cried, Lena retreated to the kitchen and baked three-inch tarts with peach and cherry filling. She swirled a flaky butter crust across the fruit. As the tarts cooled, she dolloped a tablespoon of sugared, whipped cream on the golden crust.

Miracle of Miracles!

Sven smelled the tarts and placed his legs on the floor. He sat, stood and wobbled out the door. His gait grew longer. His pace faster and more sure.

Sven ambled through the hall, down the pine stairs, across the orange, shag-carpeted living room, around the red dining room table and into the brown, paneled kitchen. He halted, stood taller and reached for the biggest peach tart.

A wooden spoon rattled across Sven’s knuckles. Whack! Lena pointed and shook her index finger two inches from his face. “No!” She said. “Those are for the funeral!”

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