It’s been a wild weekend. The hardest part for me was knowing that at the end of the sprint was a marathon.
Where to begin? Way back in August I flew out to Salt Lake for many reasons. I realized yesterday that the biggest reason was to pick out my father’s final resting place. I assumed this was something my brother and sister would do. I never felt like I had to be there. So in my mind it just happened to work out that while I was already visiting and immersing myself in my dad’s things, that Deanna made an appointment with a funeral director.
Like I said before, I never thought I cared so much about where my dad would be finally laid to rest until we found it. We chose the cemetery because it was a place my dad loved to walk around with his sister Cathy. It was near his home. My dad had a period in his life where he moved around a lot but he always seemed to be in the Salt Lake City area. He was most happy in the city.
With all that in mind we knew that Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park was the place for him. Matt showed us around the expansive space and all our options for niche walls. When we got to the wall in the middle of the cemetery I knew that was it. It was just a beautiful peace that came over me and I knew that was where he should be laid to rest.
At the interment yesterday, Tyson talked about how we wanted to wait to bury our dad so we could pick the perfect place for him. We wanted to honor him the best we could and Tyson was quite pleased with the spot that was chosen for our dad. Interesting side note, Tyson had never seen the spot until yesterday morning when we met there for the interment. He felt the same way we felt. That it was the perfect spot for Dad.
Originally that’s all my weekend trip was supposed to entail. The plan was for me to fly out Friday night and return home Monday morning. About a month before my trip Heath was told he needed to do a SAS training at work. He was grateful to be able to put on his resume that he was formally trained in a computer language. Heath is a brilliant man and has taught himself many computer languages, including SAS. But this training would be official, which always looks better! He even has a gold star sticker on his certificate because he answered so many questions in the classes!
The training ended at 5:00 pm on Friday, October 10. The day I was supposed to be flying out to bury my dad. Luckily we hadn’t booked any flights yet. When we tried to book flights there was nothing on Friday night that would work with Heath’s schedule. Well, there was the one flight that would take twelve hours between three different states before I got to Salt Lake! A direct flight from Oakland to Salt Lake City takes one hour and twenty six minutes. Trust me. The pilot said it last night when I flew home.
The best we could do was have me fly out at 6:00 am Saturday morning and come home Monday morning. The service for my dad was scheduled for 11:00 am. I think it’s worth noting that my mom said, “You land at 9:00? Cutting it a little close huh?” I just have to laugh at that. None of us had any idea the twists and turns this weekend would take on.
Last weekend was General Conference. I was so excited about it. I had my own list of questions that I hoped I would receive answers to. And I couldn’t wait to see what unexpected inspiration I would receive. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined my life would change the way it did.
Between sessions on Saturday Heath got a text from the Stake Executive Secretary saying that a member of the Stake Presidency wanted to meet with Heath and me the next day between sessions. Our minds started racing. Obviously Heath would be offered a new calling (church responsibility). What could it be? I quickly dismissed it thinking that it was probably something low profile like Stake Athletic Director or something like that.
The next morning I saw an email from our Bishop to the ward stating that the following Sunday (the 12th) a new Bishopric would be put in. Whatever Heath was thinking about a prospective position called by the Stake Presidency changed in an instant. Our hearts both stopped. Then resumed as if we were on a exercise wheel being chased by a rabid animal. Neither one of us heard much of Sunday’s morning session of Conference. Time stood still. It felt like 11:20 would never come!
Because time really does march on, despite how we feel in certain moments, 11:00 came and we kissed our babies goodbye. We knew we were leaving way too early to make the appointment but we couldn’t stand the suspense any longer. We got to the church with our hearts in our throats. My mind was racing. Do I cancel my trip? What do I do? What if Heath is called as a counselor to the Bishop?
Finally the Stake Presidency member (also a member of our ward and our financial advisor) came out and asked me if he could borrow Heath for a moment. The two of them went into the Stake office and shut the door. They were out quickly enough and I was asked to join them. President B. told me that he had conducted a worthiness interview with Heath in preparation to offer him the position of Ward Executive Secretary. Then I was asked if I could support Heath in this position. Yes, of course.
Executive Secretary! Possibly the busiest job an individual can hold in a ward short of the Bishop. Heath is the Bishop’s secretary. He does it all. I get to sit with him in Sacrament Meeting unlike the Bishop’s wife and the wives of the counselors. But I will not really see him on Sundays anymore. The rest of the week will be incredibly busy too. I’m so excited for him and this tremendous opportunity but I’m selfish and I don’t know if I’m ready for this sacrifice. We’ll go through with it obviously, but it’s going to be a big sacrifice for our close knit family.
The first phone call we made was to my grandma’s house. My family has a longstanding tradition of meeting at my grandparents house for General Conference. It was perfect because we could talk to everyone all at once to let them know what was going on.
My family’s reaction was mixed. They were excited for Heath but definitely didn’t want me to cancel my trip. Deanna complicated things further by informing us that Grandpa Clarke was not doing well and would pass away soon. My aunts and uncles said that if he died that week they would definitely hold his funeral on Saturday (the same day we were burying my dad). I hope it wasn’t wrong for me to think this but I hoped for everyone’s sake my grandpa would die that week. Especially for my grandpa’s sake I hoped that. I haven’t seen him in well over 20 years but when I saw him at my dad’s memorial service in June he looked like a shell of the man I remember.
He finally gave up the fight hours later at 2:00 am Monday morning. Saturday just got busier. In the meantime we needed to do something about my flights. I had to be home on Sunday. We had no idea what Heath’s schedule would look like on Sunday plus I really wanted to be there when he was set apart. (A special blessing specific to the responsibilities he would be assuming.)
Heath called Delta and worked his magic. All he had to say was that I was flying to Salt Lake to bury my dad on Saturday and he needed me home on Sunday. The lady asked for the name and number of the cemetery and said there would be no charge to change the flights. On the one hand I’m not surprised. People are generally very respectful when it comes to funerals. But I am still so stunned at the wonderful blessing of how easy, not to mention free, it was to change my flights.
New plan: fly out at 6:00 am Saturday and fly home at 8:00 pm the same day. Of course we received word that Grandpa passed away the next day and that only added to an already busy day. In the best way possible. My aunts and uncles were already traveling to support us and be there when their brother was buried. It was perfect that they could have their father’s funeral the same day.
A wrench was thrown into the plans. It was the last straw so to speak and I will freely admit I completely lost it. Maybe some people can beautifully handle large amounts of stress. I am not one of them. The mental anguish of this whole summer has been more than I can bear in some moments. The stress of traveling alone to do somewhat unpleasant things is not my favorite thing in the world. I was already stressed out about my day trip knowing I would come home to say goodbye to my husband. Then one little email threatened to send me to the loony bin.
The email simply stated that due to a scheduling conflict at the mortuary my dad’s service would be switched from 11:00 am to 9:30 am. I could not keep my blood sugar up all day I was so upset. I ate copious amounts of carbs and still could not keep my blood sugar up. It would have been so easy to throw up my hands and say SCREW IT!
I finished my little temper tantrum after stormily crying on the phone to my mom, my sister, and my husband. Then I did the right thing and looked into the future. Then I meekly texted my family to apologize for my outburst and let them know I would be there in the morning.
As luck would have it my flight left a few minutes early which meant I landed early. Ed picked me up from the airport and we went straight to the cemetery where my family was patiently waiting for me, expecting me to be late. We arrived shortly after 9:30. Any nerves I still had about the events of the day melted away when I was greeted with so many hugs. First from my brother. We’re not a hugging sort of family so it meant a lot to me to have him be the first to smile so big at the sight of me and hug me hard saying he was glad I made it. I was glad I made it too.
My dad’s service was beautiful. Tyson talked about why we waited for this final part of the process. He said that Dad conferred on him the Melchizedek priesthood and he was honored to use that priesthood to dedicate Dad’s final resting place. The funeral director had fresh baked cookies for us. Technically it was probably his way of apologizing for the accidental double booking and bumping us up 90 minutes. They were delicious and it was a really nice gesture.
We chatted for a while and everyone signed my dad’s guest book again. We put that in the niche with the gorgeous box he was in. I was grateful to see my dad’s best friend there with his wife. I grew up with Gary in our home often. I remember when he married Elizabeth. He wasn’t able to make it to my dad’s memorial service since his dad passed away and he needed to be with his own family. Elizabeth was there for the both of them. It was interesting to see Gary. I would never have recognized him! Elizabeth looks exactly as I remember her only with gray hair. I must have grown up because Gary was not nearly as tall as I remember! But they were every bit the wonderful couple I remember them to be. I’m so glad they were there and that my dad had them as friends all these years.
Soon we were all going our separate ways. My aunts and uncles were grateful for the change in schedule because it gave them more time to prepare for their father’s funeral in Tooele. I guess it’s not all about me after all! No, it is so obvious the Lord had His hand all over this weekend. He really does know us each by name and He knows what is going on. He knew when Grandpa needed to come home. It’s very humbling and inspiring to see the hand of the Lord blessing a family this way.
It’s actually pretty miraculous to realize that after decades of estrangement, my family could come together in this way. The love is still there. I still see my dad in my uncles eyes and it feels as if years of misunderstandings immediately melt away when I look into their eyes. We are family. I just hope we can stay in touch. These people are a part of me. I am a Clarke. I hail from generations of cowboys and hard workers.
It was really fun to learn more about my grandpa at his funeral. Not only was he the 14th of 14 children but he was thought to be stillborn! He was put to the side so his mother could be attended to. She and her husband quickly came up with a name for the headstone, which is why he doesn’t have a middle name. But Grandpa was meant to live and he revived himself. Then lived a full 89 years of hard work and service. His cowboy hat was put on his chest before the casket was closed. He was buried in a beautiful and simple pine box just as he wanted.
My aunt Cathy gave me a huge binder full of pedigree charts and family trees. She said all the temple work has been done. I don’t care! That book is gold to me. Doing the temple work was always second in my mind to first and foremost finding out who my family is. It looks like there are some stories in there. I look forward to connecting myself to these names online and learning about my family.
The day ended and it would have been great if I could just be done for a minute. But I had to wake up early enough to get my family to church by 9:30 this morning. I freaked out the Primary President by being there. She came over just before Sacrament Meeting started and asked why I was there. Callings in our church are kept confidential until the person is sustained in Sacrament Meeting. All I could say to her was that I changed my flights. She found out soon enough what was happening but I’m sure her mind went wild for the next 20 some odd minutes of anticipation!
After Heath was set apart he suggested I take the kids to Primary. I saw one of my best friends in the hall with her baby. This is the girl who gave me the courage to find help for my anxiety. Can I just point out that I went off medication a year ago. A month later my Grandpa Swain passed away. Eight months later my dad also died followed closely by my Grandpa Clarke. I have been through a lot without the help of medication.
My friend was so sweet to reach out to me last night by asking how my trip was going and hoped to hear about it when I got back. I sent my kids on to Primary and I stayed out there to talk. Slacking on my duties as Primary Secretary for a while was the only part of my weekend I could say no to. I just needed a minute to catch my breath from everything going on.
Eventually Heath came home from church after many meetings with the new Bishopric. We are officially a two car family at church for the foreseeable future. He explained some of his responsibilities to me. He has a lot on his plate but I know he’s going to be awesome.
The Lord knows what we are capable of. If He thinks we can handle this we can. There are so many changes in life. Yesterday I drank my liquid courage on the flight to Salt Lake. Then again at lunch and a final few ounces on the flight home. I told my mom I would deal with my budding Diet Coke addiction later. For now I can only handle one thing at a time. I buried my dad and grandpa in the same day and kissed my husband goodbye the next day. Don’t judge me!
Heath gets Columbus Day off tomorrow. The kids have to go to school. This happened last year too and my Grandpa Swain passed away that afternoon. Wow it’s been a year! Heath told me that I can sleep in and he will take the kids to school. Do I have the best husband or what? I’m looking forward to a date day with him. Maybe the slower pace will help me reclaim my sanity. Christopher Columbus’ only discovery was really a day for me to relax. Because I like to believe it’s all about me.