Funerals are a time to celebrate life
Goodbyes are made even more difficult when there will never be another hello.
Once the phone rings, bringing the news of death, thoughts immediately go to the last conversation, e-mail or face-to-face visit with that person. I last saw my Uncle Dan two summers ago when the family gathered in South Dakota. It was a reunion as well as a celebration of his 90th birthday.
I last e-mailed him when I was in Minnesota last month. His typing skills were not much better than his penmanship. Nonetheless, the message was always clear. His letters were prolific. I was guaranteed to receive one at the holidays and usually another during the year.
Mom would always share letters she received. It seems a lost art — letter writing. Now we just send e-mails with a couple lines that do not touch on feelings or emotions, that say little more than hi. Dan did not buy into that way of e-mailing. His e-mails were just as long and newsy as his letters.
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Dan and Margaret seemed more like a third set of grandparents to me than the great-uncle and aunt that they are. When I walked into their apartment Thursday, Margaret said, “There’s the newspaper lady.” It was hard to know her mind is not as sharp as it once was.
It was hard to hug her goodbye Friday — not knowing if that would be the last hug. She’s 89. The next family reunion will be in 2006.
She is my last link to South Dakota. Much of my family hails from there. In some ways I call it home, though I have never lived there. My parents were high school sweethearts, having just attended their 50th reunion in Rapid City earlier this month. My three sisters were born there. It will always be a special place.
I suppose I may go back from time to time after my parents die because both have plots there. My mom’s sense of humor is reflected in her desire to always have a view. She will, of the Black Hills, from her final resting spot.
It was her uncle who died. Fortunately Dan was not sick for long. His spirit and zest for life were such that he would not have tolerated a long, drawn out death. There was just enough time for immediate family to come to town to say goodbye.
At 92, Dan even had a role in his funeral. He picked the music — with strains of train whistles blowing through the funeral home. He had spent much of his working life on the railroad.
It truly was a celebration, a remembrance of a man who touched thousands of lives. The service was overflowing with those who knew him.
At the Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis he was probably chuckling when, during the 21-gun salute, there was a misfire. He had been a Seabee during World War II.
Dan always had a smile to go along with his wry sense of humor. He was a man whose love has been passed through the generations. His two daughters are more like aunts to me than second cousins. My bond to Dana and Jenna is stronger than it is to relatives who are biologically closer to me.
Dana’s sons are like first cousins, not third. I sat behind them during the services, their young sons between them. Danny and Darin clasped hands. I do not remember seeing such a bond between brothers, to see thirtysomething-year-old men be so unabashed about their love for one another and their grandfather.
Dan would be proud that his love of family is being carried on by the generations that live on.
— Kathryn Reed is managing editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune. She may be reached at email@example.com or (530) 541-3880, ext. 251.
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