Last Thursday, we headed for Pendleton, Oregon for the weekend. Though it was Easter weekend, we were there for the purpose of my Grandpa's funeral.
We arrived to find my Mom and Grandma in good spirits. My Mom had been with her all week - helping to prepare for the funeral and help my Grandma get her affairs in order.
My Grandma told me exactly what happened as Grandpa suffered an asthma attack, took him to the hospital, him passing out in the car on the way, and then the medics trying to revive him for 20 minutes to no avail. And then the doctor coming out to tell her they couldn't revive him. She was shocked.
On Friday, the rest of our family arrived. My Dad, all of my brothers, my mom's cousins, my Grandpa's siblings, great aunts and uncles, and friends. It was also the first time that our immediate family had all been together in a very long time.
On Friday night, my Dad, Mom, Grandma, Aunt Leslie, brother Shaun, and I got to go down to the funeral home to see Grandpa and say personal goodbyes before the big viewing the next day at the funeral.
I had only seen a dead body once before, and so I was quite nervous. When I first saw him, I had to divert my eyes because it scared me a bit. But then as I looked at him again, I saw Grandpa laying there. We all had a very special time saying goodbyes to him that night. I'm so glad that I took the opportunity to do that - as the next day I would not have had the privacy that I wanted amongst all the people attending his viewing.
The public viewing the next day was the only time I saw my Grandma really break down - when they closed the casket and it was the last time she was able to look at him. It made me so sad to see her cry like that - to say good bye to her companion of 60+ years.
After the memorial service, a police escort took us through downtown Pendleton to the graveyard site. It felt weird - like we were a parade coming through. All the traffic had to stop for us and we got to drive through all the red lights.
Once we finally made it to the Memorial Park, I realized how perfect of a place it was to bury Grandpa.
The surrounding landscape reminded me of all the times in Grandpa's truck as they drove us to the mountains to go backpacking, or to the lake to go fishing, or just on a drive through the wheat fields. It reminded me of his grandparents making the trek to Eastern Oregon from New Zealand to settle there and the heritage his family brought to this land.
Surprisingly, as the weekend went on, I too felt at peace. The knowledge that my Grandpa is happy, with his family, smiling down on us, no longer suffering in a physical body...really made me happy. I could finally understand why my Grandmother felt such peace. I heard many family members talk about individuals who had passed away years ago who were probably so excited to see my Grandpa again.
Something I realized this weekend - is it's not about how you die, but how you lived your life.
The only thing I worry about is Grandma being "single" now. There were times over the weekend when I was hugging Will, or saw other couples being affectionate in front of Grandma...and I couldn't help but wonder if this would be a difficult thing for her from now on. Not having her companion there to hold hands with, to hug, to sit next to, etc.
Easter Sunday was spent with the family. We had a big breakfast together, and then those that could stay went to church together.
Just a few of the other (many) photos that we took over the weekend...