In lieu of flowers to the grave this year I will be instead speaking of the memories of those that have passed on and who’s presence is dearly missed. I have often reflected on the irony of flowers at the grave site. Although it brings a beauty to the solemn view of a grave yard, it also speaks of what I see as a depressing act of bringing something living to a grave yard to die like those who have departed. So instead each year I will memorialize my lost loved ones with stories of the experiences that we shared and of the triumphs that the achieved during their lives.
I have lost many family and friends, always to soon and with never enough time to prepare. There is a family in our ward who is going through such a trial. The father has been battling cancer and his wife and children are scrambling to spend as much time as they can with him and prepare themselves for the eventual end. This man, although I have not known him long has both impressed and humbled me with his faith and spirit. He is one of the many man that I hope that when it is my turn to go, I will have left but a fraction of the mark on those peoples lives as he has. My families thoughts and prayers are with the Wach family and hope that their sorrow will be lesson by the grace of God.
One of the first people that I can remember losing that made an impact on me was my Uncle Darwin. He was the Husband of my Mothers eldest sister Martha and I always remember how kind he was to me. He was one of those uncles to me that my Dad is to my cousins. Always the one to start a water fight, play practical jokes, but always took the time to acknowledge me and my sister. Although my memories of him are few, I cherish those that I can recall. One of the most prevalent was the Lake Powell trips that we took as kids. He was never stingy with swim breaks or allowing me to use the water toys that he seemed to have an unlimited supply of. I wish that I would have gotten to know him when I was older so I could have had the same relationship with him that I have with my other uncles. I spent a good deal of time as a child with guilt over the last thing that I said to him. I was tired and cold on one of the many boating trips that we were included in and when it was time for the ever-present swim breaks I did not want to go in. Being a kid I was probably whiny and driving everyone around me nuts. So like the prankster that he was he tossed me off of the side of the boat to cool me off. I told him that I hated him and those were the last word that I ever said to him. When I got older I realized that he knew I didn’t mean it and that he knew that I loved him so the guilt went away. My regrets never did but with the help of other family members I was able to learn more about him and with that affirmed what type of a loving uncle and father that he was.
The second person that I can remember was my Grandmother Ila. I was still fairly young when she died, and at twelve years old you still don’t understand cancer and sickness. I remember her and remember loving her very much but I did not spend much time with her. My Fathers father died when he was about the same age so I never knew him. My grandmother had remarried and her husband Grandpa Hutchins was always kind to me. I remember him giving me blocks of wood to play with but he was a rocking chair grandfather and generally liked the kids out of site. This was also the first funeral that I attended, I can’t say that I was traumatized but I still remember that I could not believe that this was my grandmother. Her hands were cold and hard and she did not look like herself. I did not as a 12 year old understand what happens to people that have suffered long sicknesses. Another reason that this affected me was that it was the first time in my life that I had seen my Father cry. Although I did not grasp the extent of her love in my adolescent mind, when I got older I saw all the the things that she had made us. My sister and I both received homemade gifts that were exceptional. From the hand made doll clothing for my sister to the scrapbook christmas stories her love was what I now know as a love that only a grandma can give. She died on Mothers Day.
Over the next several years I attended many funerals of Great Aunts and Uncles, Family Friends, Cousins, and so on, but most I did not really know or did not have a close relationship with. Our Family was always one to show up to funerals and support and give strength to our family members that needed us.
As I reached adulthood and matured I realized that some of the people that I admired and loved the most were getting close to the age where I could lose them. I started spending more time with my Grandpa and Grandma May. When my Grandma May got cancer I spent a lot of time thinking about death. I was not religious at least not active in religion I attended church as a kid and went through all of the motions that my friends did, but I can t say that I had a super strong testimony of the afterlife and what happens after death. I drove up to Ogden as much as possible after I heard the news. My Grandma Ruth was great. When I got older I learned a few things about her that it took me a long time to believe. but to me she was always loving and sweet. I would go and spend a week or so in the summer when I was young and she was attentive and funny. For those of you that ate with my Grandpa May you know that he had some interesting tastes. There was Limburger Cheese in the fridge, my Dad was served tongue, I remember something that looked like deep fried tripe, I think that he like the parts better than the meat that we normally serve today. I remember several trips that we made to the super market to get something that Grandpa wanted for dinner. On the way there we would always go to Warrens to get a burger before we got home. She would say, I don’t even like this stuff so I wouldn’t want you to have to eat it and would tell me to keep it our secret. 😉 Her absolute favorite meal was a Hamburger. She would tell me of the places that she would get hamburgers and where her favorite places to go. She would also let me listen to my music in the car while we drove.
Other than my father, the most influential man in my life was my Maternal Grandfather, Grandpa May. Ivan Clair May grew up in Rockland Idaho. He was the second son of a whole gaggle of children. He himself with his first wife Elinor Fifield had 8 children and lived in South Ogden, UT. Ivan was a teacher and eventually became a principle. His wife Elinor passed away from cancer when her youngest children were very young. My mother being the second to the last has very few memories of her mother and relies upon stories from her older siblings. Ivan was left with a young family and struggled to fill the role of both mother and father. He was married a couple of times over the next few years and eventually married Ruth May and was married to her until her death.
I looked up to my Grandfather. He was a musician, scholar, farmer, and a right good shot with a pocket knife playing mumbly peg. the times that I spent alone with him in the summers were filled with tests and questions on things that I did or did not know about history, english, math and music. If I could not answer one of his questions he would go into teaching mode. Some of the coolest things that I learned about our founding fathers were on my knees up to my elbows in rutabaga, I learned about sentence structure while in the apple tree with a burlap satchel over my shoulder full of apples, and I learned that some of the great composers used bird songs in some of their music while attacking weeds in rows of corn with an ancient hoe.
He spent a fair amount of time with us in Salt Lake attending various concerts and band recitals, I remember him sitting in the crowd with his eyes closed, not asleep but listening to the music. One competition I remember quite well. We were at the Stadium at Weber University for a Drum a Bugle Corp competition. He marched his way on to the bleachers but in his progressing age he was a little wobbly. He had tumbled down the bleachers and got up to finish the rest of the competition. I didn’t find out till the next day that the fall had broken his arm, but not wanting to miss any of the music he suffered in silence.
He was a sharp man with many stories and free with a word of advise or a silly tune, which made his deterioration all the harder to watch. Towards the end of his life he suffered from dementia and as his health deteriorated his dementia became more pronounced. I remember visiting him with my parents and while were were talking in the living room he would suddenly break off mid sentence or fall asleep. Then all of the sudden he would wake up or look over at us and his face would brighten and he would ask “Oh Goodness, When did you get here?”. He never had trouble recognizing any of us and praised my parents to me over and over. “That Marjorie” he would say,”She is a good woman”, or “I like that father of yours”. He was amazed at my two youngest sisters and how they could whip up multiple full course meals (TV Dinners) at their age.
There are so many things about him that I could write about, but I think I will save them for future installments. So I leave everyone with a short list of the people that I have lost that have made an influence on my life, and on this day of retrospect and mourning, I leave a little celebration of some of the accomplishments of these great people.