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Family stories [funeral tales]

As sytharin wrote about the occasion, my grandpa's funeral was the "World's doofiest family reunion to send Grandpa Delmer on his way. All the cousins. So much love. So many inappropriate jokes."

Many of our family's gatherings look like some variation of this:
Family gathering
It's possible to sit quietly, for the introverts (and the tired), or, if you're Sytharin, work on coloring a comic, or, if you're me, work on knitting. But after a period it can get to be pretty intense.

The morning of the funeral, the immediate family gathered for a family portrait. Based on the lighting, my uncle Da decided the best spot would be back behind the chicken house. For most of my life, the chicken house was a mauve color, but a year or two ago, one of grandpa's old flames decided it should be repainted a proper Barn Red. This caused a bit of consternation, but what are you going to do.

The only problem with the location was that the pasture had held cows sometime recently, so the space was full of cow flops. Nothing like shoveling cow manure in fine clothes (uncle De and cousin J).

That resolved most of the problem, although uncle Da had to leap over a small pile while running between the camera and his spot in the photo.
Great Leap

We took a photo while all wearing Grandpa's hats, then a second photo without.
Family portrait with Grandpa's hats
Family portrait

After the family portrait wrapped up, I walked through the barn to take a few photos as the winter sunlight streamed in. It is a space rich with history. Many of the more significant tools have been moved along by now.
(click through for many more photos of barn things, if that's your thing)

Then, the funeral. A mix of the many memories and stories that accumulate over a lifetime, mostly fond and happy, tinged with the sense of inevitable loss.

At some point, as my grandpa got older, he gathered up several of the foods that were most meaningful to him, with the idea of saving them so our family could partake of them at his funeral. I believe there were huckleberries and salmon involved. He was a fisherman, and had several special spots on Mt. Rainier where he loved to pick huckleberries in the summer. Those mountain huckleberries were also one of the foods my cousin Zachary relished as he hiked his way around the mountain in 2005.

Well, the way things worked out, we weren't really in a position to all gather and eat the things he'd carefully gathered in for us, but his fishing and gathering came up during the eulogy in one particular story. On a fishing trip some 40 years prior, he had caught one special trout of which he was especially proud, so after the requisite photos he popped it in the freezer, and would pull it out to show to people. Forty years later, the fish was still in the freezer. In fact, my uncle Da brought it to the funeral so we could all see it - still there, freeze-dried to fish leather from its entombment, encased in a couple of plastic bags.

What do you do with something like that fish? Well, after the funeral, while family and friends looked at old photos and a family quilt, and told even more stories and visited with each other, the time came for us grandchildren to assume our duties as pallbearers. As we gathered around the casket, my brother came flying down the aisle, carrying the fish. So, at the last minute, into the casket it went.

I think this partly explains my siblings' and my facial expressions in this photo, next to the hearse:
Not exactly an occasion to smile and laugh, but not entirely serious, either.

One of the things that we will all cherish and remember from that day (aside from the fish story) is the weather. While cold and wintry, the weather was clear, so we were also able to enjoy one of the other simple things that Grandpa relished across the decades, a fine view of Mt. Rainier as we brought him to his final resting place.



( 9 remarks — Remark )
Jan. 7th, 2015 03:09 am (UTC)
to me, it's not a proper memorial service without some loving jokes and humor amidst the tears.

It looks like it was a peaceful day, and was the things it needed to be.

The salmon freezer-jerky story cracked me up. :)
Jan. 7th, 2015 04:41 am (UTC)
Something should always be slipped into the casket of a person who was well-loved and well-lived. I've never heard of an ancient freeze dried fish making the cut before, but I found the story extremely touching. Thank you for sharing it.
Jan. 7th, 2015 03:46 pm (UTC)
I'm relieved to have written about the whole experience - this has been a really hectic time, and I wanted to take the time to note my thoughts and feelings about it all. I wish the time in Washington had been a bit more reflective and less chaotic, but there just wasn't quite the time and space for that. So at least there are the stories and there was good time with family.
Jan. 7th, 2015 05:05 pm (UTC)
your write-up
Wonderful write-up and photos, Rebecca.

Thank you!
Jan. 7th, 2015 07:13 pm (UTC)
I really liked this post. I think you captured the emotional essence of tending to the death of loved ones.
Jan. 7th, 2015 08:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you, G. I think that one photo of myself and my siblings captures a whole lot of the emotions all at once, too. I'm also incredibly grateful that I was able to be present, though it was a difficult time for me to travel.
Jan. 8th, 2015 03:58 pm (UTC)
Yeah, seconded... that was a really good photo. It sounds like a super complicated trip, emotionally, but I'm glad there was so much good to leaven the difficult parts.
Jan. 9th, 2015 08:24 pm (UTC)
Often those things are worth it. Even with the range of emotions. I appreciate the time with family in those experiences.
Jan. 7th, 2015 08:18 pm (UTC)
The best thing about funerals is the people who show up, and the stories they tell. Sounds like you had a particularly fine collection of both.
( 9 remarks — Remark )

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