The moment you know it’s time to go

People of a certain age have some reckoning to do soon: They have to figure out when it’s time to go.

It’s important to get it right. Staying too long in a profession and a job threatens a person’s legacy. Leaving too soon can be personally heartbreaking.

So today’s Mankato Free Press story on Al Behrends — “Mr. Gustavus” — appropriately begins with a beautiful piece of prose describing the moment he knew it was time to retire.

Thinking back on it now, he thinks this may have been the moment he realized it was time.

He’d been hiking at Isle Royale National Park on Lake Superior for two days, lugging a 45-pound backpack through stands of towering pines, around rocky cliffs and down dusty trails.

It was summer and the park was beautiful — perfect for a weekend getaway with the boys.

But after many hours of hiking, Al Behrends was tired.

With his hiking boots on the shore, Behrends stepped into the cool waters of Lake Desor and stood calf deep, arms crossed, gazing at the sun as it dissolved into the horizon.

And then, like something out of a John Ford film, Behrends had a deep thought in that fatigued, setting-sun moment. He realized as he stared across the waters that, while he’s loved every year he’s spent at Gustavus Adolphus College making sure student recitals and wind orchestra trips to Europe go off without a hitch, the time had come for him to be done.

Leaving — retiring — usually isn’t easy when there’s obvious love between teachers and students. But it may well be easier than deciding when to leave.

Behrends, 62, director of fine arts programs and communications, at the St. Peter campus, is one of the few people alive to have been to every Christmas in Christ Chapel event, according to the school’s VP of marketing.

Behrends has picked his retirement date: January 1, 2018.

When he announced it, the kids in the Gustavus Wind Orchestra surprised him.

(Video link)

You sure couldn’t tell by the kids that it’s time to go.