Monday, November 15, 2010

Going Home

We returned from Ethiopia last Sunday.  We managed to unpack a few of our things, but found ourselves crawling into bed early in the evening before the sun had set. Completely off-schedule and wide awake at 2:00 a.m., I had just finished making the morning coffee when we received a phone call from Dave's sister, Paula, with news that their father had passed away in the middle of the night. Within hours, we were back at the airport for flight number seven, destined for Dave's home state of Arizona.

While the get-togethers do not happen often enough due to the many miles, to be in the company of Dave's family is always a blessing, regardless of circumstance.  Dave and his sisters, Paula and Shelley, have a wonderful relationship based on mutual respect and a deep admiration for each other. Also in Arizona, Dave has two top-notch brother-in-laws, three charming nieces, and one handsome nephew. Poppa had good reason for the pride he possessed for his family.

Wednesday evening Shelley and Lee held an open house for family and friends in the Tempe area. Many of Poppa's childhood friends, his union electrician brothers, and family attended. All agreed it was a wonderful combination of remembrance, laughter, and tears.

Thursday morning, the three siblings and their families caravaned 138 miles to the small mountaintop town of Young, Arizona, where Poppa spent the last years of his life. A "Celebration of Life" was held at the family home of cousins Stan and Karen Marshall on their mountaintop acreage.

Family and friends gathered in blue jeans and boots around an outdoor fireplace in the cool mountain air. Samantha, Toby, and cousin Catherine began the ceremony by carrying up a wooden cross that a friend of Poppa's crafted for the occasion. Cousins Kelsey and Katelyn shared readings from the Old and New Testaments. Cousin Myron, a pastor from California, delivered a heartfelt message. Nieces led the gathering in "The Old Rugged Cross" and "Amazing Grace. "

Dave shared about his father as a teacher, not of things learned in books, but of things learned through his life experiences. Paula spoke about her father as a motivator, a provider, and his relationship with Christ. Shelley, the newly published author (proud sister-in-law had to throw that in there), recited a poem she wrote the night her father passed entitled "The Mountain".

The ceremony was uniquely wonderful and Poppa would have loved every thoughtful detail.  He would have loved the fact that his family traveled together up the long and winding dirt mountain roads.  He would have been thrilled when his children stopped to enjoy a few moments reminiscing at their grandparents cabin in Strawberry, Arizona.  He would have beamed at the sounds of the crackling fire, children playing in the background, and the horse whinnying at the most perfect moments.   It was a perfect, most appropriate way to celebrate the life of a man who deeply loved his family, his friends, and God's glorious outdoors.