Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Two Weeks in Utah

April was a memorable month filled with special moments. After receiving an e-mail stating dad’s health was deteriorating rapidly, and noting that he probably had only 2 weeks to live, I e-mailed Sister Cordon asking her advice – knowing she had also had this experience. The reply was to get a ticket home on the first flight out of Brasil. It turns out that I also needed permission from the Area Presidency. 

Dad - much healthier at home
than he was at the hospital.
I actually had to gamble on getting permission because I had to be on a bus to Curitiba to catch the flight before the final permission came through from President Costa. So I booked a two week stay with flight insurance, then John and I hopped on the bus for the 4 ½ hour ride, and we were very glad when President Cordon said I had the permission needed. It took a day of travel.  I flew through São Paulo and Dallas, Texas in an overnight flight to Utah where Phillip picked me up at the airport on Saturday.
A little down time from school!
We had a lot of special McKinney family moments. We were able to have a dinner at James and Chelsea’s where we had good food, great visits, and terrific hugs and I got to meet and hold Abigail for the first time. What a doll. We even played a few games. Olivia also had a special birthday and baptism. It was memorable to have all the children and grandchildren together. 

Nine special spirits - aren't we lucky!

When I first arrived Ryan was working with mom and dad to help make sure their finances were all in order. He had to return home & work knowing that he wouldn't see dad again in this world. I will never forget him giving dad a hug and telling him that he would try to be like him.

I was able to stay at Mom and Dad’s home for the duration of my stay. Jeri had chosen to take time off work to care for Dad at home no matter what the time frame was. She is an unbelievable care giver – so kind and compassionate as well as competent. She didn't get much sleep as she monitored his care 24 hours a day and tried to make his life as pleasant as possible. Mom was such a trooper as dad was moved from bed to chair and finally to a hospital bed in the living room and the hospice people became involved.
Dad spent a lot of time in this chair. James & family visit!

I was also very impressed that all of the grandchildren were able to check in with dad, one way or another. In our family, Daniel had flown in the week before me for a brief visit while dad was still alive. He really didn't get to do much since Dad was in the hospital and in a lot worse shape than after he came home and was in Jeri’s care. Jeremy and family were able to Skype with dad and he was miraculously able to hear them and reply. Shaliese came with her kids as did James and Chelsea. Deborah was able to come spend time at their home while AJ, Cami, and Phill had been here all along.

Grandpa Skyping with the Oklahoma McKinneys
The boys talk to Grandpa Smith

Allie and McKenzie and their spouses were so kind and helpful – what a trial for Regan to have to stay home because of finals at school. Jennie who came nightly to visit was able to bring her kids. Jill was probably really grateful for the week she spent with mom and dad when her foot was operated on. And so excited when Tia flew in. Tia was so helpful in many kind and thoughtful ways – I learned a lot. One thing that so impressed me was the way she added a really personal touch when she edited the obituary mom had written. All of Jeri’s kids have always been close to dad - dropping in often. Corinne and her children were at the house before the mortuary came to take dad away.
Jackson and Kennedy at
Grandma Smith's bar.

Shaliese had loaded her two kids in the car and made the drive from Texas in one long day to be able to visit with us and participate in visiting dad and staying long enough for the funeral. She was a real trooper since Jackson had picked up the stomach flu that Mike had the day they left and was not feeling well the whole time they were in Utah. She, Kennedy and Jackson stayed a few days at Grandma Debbie Sermon’s home while Shaliese took her intense 24 hour turn at not being well. They were later able to stay in the bunk room at Grandma Smith’s home.  They liked it so well that they were able to return again in May with the whole family to stay again. 

Mom fixed breakfast everyday!
Because I was at the house I had an opportunity to see many special moments. Deanna Rassmussen, her husband, and family came repeatedly to bring food, treats, and love to mom as her visiting teacher – what empathy and care – from a woman with a large family who was in school full time and taking her finals. I didn't have a hard time returning to Brasil because I knew she would be there to continue to look after mom.
A windy cold day - but the grass was green!

Dad was pretty much confined to bed for the last few days but when Jeri noticed the weather was pretty good, we were able to dress him warmly enough to go out and see the great job of lawn care that had been provided. Ryan was so inspired to hire a crew to do the cutting, trimming, etc. so that Dad wouldn't worry about mom.

Jeri talks dad down the ramp
 Then he followed through by getting some women to come in to help with housework. JaeLeen was scheduled to fly in on Friday. She let us know that she didn't need dad to hold on waiting for her to come. I think that thought, the lawn service, and mom’s loving comment whispered into dad’s ear that she didn't want him to be in pain anymore were the things that made it possible for him to finally leave us.

Bishop Warburton hugs mom at the graveside.
 This whole time friends and neighbors were in and out bringing food and love and checking on mom and dad. The last visit was from Bishop Kendall Warburton who stopped by the house on his way to work on the morning of April 11th. He took one look at dad and mom and said, “I’ll be back!” He went home and changed into a suit, and returned with his counselor to give dad a blessing of release. That is all that was needed. It was only a few hours before dad peacefully passed away. 

Young photo for obituary
When Jill, Jeri, Jennie, mom, and I went to Anderson mortuary on Friday to plan, they thought we would be looking at a date toward the end of the next week for the funeral and were surprised at our choice of Monday. However, mom was prepared and things fell into place as we planned the program and had the newspapers print the obituary. 

Jeri was again a real trooper as she finally returned to her home for a few days before the funeral and pulled together all of the collected photos to make dad’s slide show and give a talk on top of that.  Jill did amazing things with coordinating all the music and being able to perform at a time when most people break down crying. She had helped gather together a book of cards, thoughts, and messages sent to and about dad.  Ryan was able to distill gospel principles clearly in a very short amount of time and helped outline our program into one that didn’t last for hours as it could have with us all talking about dad. JaeLeen was great at remembering dad and his personality. Jennie added a fresh perspective about being the youngest that had me thinking and all of this while setting up her new home with her husband away in Italy making a film.

We Love You, Dad!
Bowen in front of Grandpa's casket.
JaeLeen and I were able to pick out flowers for the casket as well as a spray from all of us children at Sweat Pea. We arrived there a few minutes before closing on Saturday afternoon … on the day of AF Prom…. and were treated like royalty …. Even though the selection of flowers was depleted because of prom and the manager had to come in special to have the arrangements done for the viewing.

Mom and family were always most important!
Sheepman, Soldier, and Supervisor -only a job to dad!
Then I watched as JaeLeen pulled pieces of our memories of our dad from barrels in the garage and drawers in the home as well as pictures off the wall to tell a story of his life in a magnificent display that was set up first in the basement of mom’s home and then at both Anderson Mortuary for the viewing, and later in the 9th Ward Scout room for people to see as they waited in line to express condolences.
Dad's Life story & his scriptures tell a lot. 

Jeremy and his boys were able to fly in for the funeral and stay at the McKinney home. He helped mom and JaeLeen pull dad’s belongings from boxes, barrels, and chests. While there he learned that Karissa’s car had broken down in Texas on her way to drill and had to rent a car to return home. Mom graciously offered to lend him the green car to help them out of a bind while he and Karissa completed their semesters in law school. So he ended up missing more days of school as he drove instead of flying home.  [Since we were later able to purchase this car from mom—he will return it to Utah so it can be used by others when he is able to replace the engine in Karissa’s car.]

Dad was responsible for quite a legacy - can you imagine offering to feed all these people on fast day?

I was glad he was here to help arrange people for the photo that Mom asked Shaliese to take. Jackson was still sick and clinging to Shaliese, who likes taking photos of places more than people. Between the two of them and everyone’s patience we got a pretty good impromptu picture of so many people with the mortuary as a backdrop – just before we started the viewing.
It was such a privilege to have so many McKinney family members together at one time.
Thanks to James for taking this photo!
The funeral was tough for me. How do you fit 83 years of a busy life into a 5 minute life sketch? The highlight for me was the grandkids singing Love is Spoken Here. The men singing “Mine is a home where every hour is blessed by the strength of priesthood power….” with such power and conviction – just blew me away as I thought “How true!”  
The Smith name and tradition carry on!

Ryan gave a beautiful blessing at the dedication of the grave. 

The military rites were really touching. 

The ward had made a special luncheon and allowed us to visit with relatives. I haven’t mentioned how helpful and kind all of dad’s siblings were. Reva and Connie both brought food and love to the house and there were flowers sent in beautiful arrangements from them all. It was good to have a chance to visit with them.
 Mom, JaeLeen and I were able to drive to several monument places to get an idea of what was wanted for a headstone to be placed on the grave. With ideas in mind, and expressed to Shaliese, who was then able to design several options for mom to choose from, mom was able to order the monument quickly. The people at Nu Art Memorial Company in Salt Lake were then able to redesign or re-define the mountains of Timpanogos and the rocking R and make a beautiful headstone in time to be placed for Memorial Day.

I know I have left out many of the beautiful and touching experiences that we had with dad – some because they were too close to the heart to share and others because I forgot. I hope as everyone writes their Smith Family News this month that the blanks will all be filled in.  We were blessed to attend a session at the Mt. Timpanogos te
Olivia - newly baptized
mple – mom, Jeri, and I. Then participate in the baptism of Olivia before I flew back to Brasil.

What a privilege to be part of such a great family!

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