Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Goodbye Gary: Beloved Father, Father-in-law and Papa

My father-in-law Gary passed away early yesterday morning.  He was an excellent, marvelous man.  My best memories of the seven-plus years I’ve known him have been passing through my mind like close friends:

Camping up at Box Lake, Idaho, when Jason took me to meet his parents for the first time.  I didn’t know then all the many wonderful backpacking and camping trips that would follow that one.

Trying to focus on his words as he officiated the ceremony that married me to his son.

Being reassured by his strength and resolve as my husband Jason, his only son, was activated and mobilized to Kuwait.

Walking with him down to My Father’s Place, a local grill joint in McCall, Idaho, and ordering burgers and shakes.

Watching him fly fish at countless lakes in Idaho and Oregon.

Enjoying his handiwork around my house; he’d always have to have a project when he and my mother-in-law Tricia came out for a visit.  Once he bought and installed a spice rack Tricia had described to me and I’d wished for.  Once he painstakingly hung a piece of art which they’d carefully hand-carried on the plane from Pennsylvania to Oregon – it still hangs in my living room and is one of my very favorite things.  Once he was out behind our back fence, valiantly fighting the wild blackberry bushes threatening to overtake our backyard when along the train tracks behind our house came a huge piece of tractor equipment the rail line had been using to groom the sides of the track.  The man driving the enormous machine stopped, asked Gary if he’d like any help, and then proceeded to dig out the bushes in about 5 minutes, saving Gary at least two days of work.

Watching my husband and Gary ski together.  Jason would snowboard and Gary would ski.  They so enjoyed these times together.

Listening to Gary talk about the many passions of his heart and the latest topics he had been reading.

Talking with him about countless different ideas, issues, and thoughts.

Being encouraged by him to continue my writing.

Having him drive us through New York City, expertly navigating the extreme streets, and then him getting a ticket for talking on his cell phone.  That was funny.

Enjoying the banter between him and my mother-in-law.   Watching them hold hands.  Seeing him come home with Hallmark cards for his beloved wife, for no real reason other than she was so special to him.

Watching him enjoy his first grandchild.

Listening to him talk about his dad Alvin, who passed away when Gary was 14 years old.

Visualizing my husband’s first baby steps as Gary re-lived the memory; we all sat parked in front of a little house with a little yard in Idaho; Gary and Tricia debating the details of the yard and the overalls baby Jason wore; me holding the hand of Jason’s first baby as Jason himself was half a world away from us in Kuwait.

Hearing Gary bless God for no particular reason other than he was thankful for life.

Trying my hardest to find peppermint ice cream to have on hand before Gary’s visits because he loved it so much.

Listening to him talk with his relatives, two of my very favorites gone on before him: Uncle Johnny, Uncle Mel.

Giggling with Jason as Gary and my mother-in-law Tricia would bicker; then quietly make up (as always) and go on as if nothing had ever happened.

Feeling so safe in his company, whether it was in the deep woods or navigating the crazy streets of New York.

Being so thrilled and thankful that I was marrying his son, the heir to such a beautiful line of strong and God-loving people.

You will be very much missed, Gary.  So missed, I can hardly say.  I wish we’d had years more together.  I wish you would be here for the grandchildren yet to come.  I know it wasn’t always easy having a headstrong daughter-in-law, but I hope you enjoyed that quality in me, as you yourself were always surrounded with strong women in your own family.  The good memories are always more resilient than the tough ones, and I choose to hold onto those when I think of you.  Thank you for raising up a son who is such a fine husband to me and an excellent father to his children.  You were a good, strong man of God and I pray that your legacy will inspire even more of those men to come.  Be blessed now in your peace and seeing the face of our wonderful God.  Enjoy seeing your mother again and your father, from whom your time away was much too long.  Have nice long discussions with Uncle Mel and tell him I miss our talks together.  Enjoy Uncle Johnny and his banter.  Please give my own two babies lots of hugs and love; you’ll be seeing their faces before I.  Tell all your stories to my twin nephews and enjoy them.  You are certainly one of the best of our treasures in heaven.  We loved you when you were on this earth, and we’ll love you til we see you again.

So come everyone let’s gather together 
and sing the Song of the Lamb
Come every angel from the highest of heaven
Sing to the great I Am
So come every nation
Come every tongue
Lift up your voices in praise
So come all creation
All in one voice
Sing out your praises to Him

For He is a good God
He is a Great God
His love will endure throughout every generation

We will be planted by the River
All of the days of our lives
And it will be well with our souls
And it will be well with our souls

                                        Come, Everyone
                                 Brian and Jen Johnson


James & Kristin said...

Oh, Jessica, what beautiful words. Love and prayers to you and Jason.

Terryl Kaiser said...

Darn you made me cry. Beautiful tribute to a great man.

Sarah and the Gentlemen said...

Hugs and coffee to you, my friend.

Amy said...

This was so beautiful. Prayers to the entire family.

Jen Rouse said...

It's so good that you have these memories to treasure.

sam said...

Lovely Jessica. I lost my dad two years ago and it's these kind of memories that I still cling to.

Kathy Sheldon Davis said...

So nicely written, Jessica. I will so enjoy meeting this man!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for your loss. That was a beautiful tribute to your husband's father.

Karen said...

I am so sorry for your loss! What a wonderful way to remember him.

Rebekah said...

Wow, I'm in shock. This was an excellent tribute.

Jeff and Kim said...

Beautiful! Simply beautiful. Thank you for helping me to know this amazing man that I will never get to meet on this earth.

Our husbands do, indeed, come from a wonderfully blessed line of Godly men. Praise the Lord.

Love, hugs and prayers to you, Jason and Siennalee during this time.

Anthony and Kristi said...

Such a beautiful tribute! Thanks for sharing your memories. Our thoughts and prayers are with your family.

Anonymous said...

What a blessing to have such a wonderful Father-in-Law - Mine died in late January. He had only been diagnosed with cancer since two days before Christmas. We're still numb with the loss. After having a father who was never in my life, God blessed me with a tremendous father-in-law. I am so sorry about your loss. Great men like that should live forever!