Feb 16, 2011

Papaw

I just spent a week with family. I rushed to Papaw's bedside on Saturday evening and he passed away Sunday morning peacefully in his sleep with all of us who could be there surrounding his bedside. How does one sum up a life? Many thoughts pass through your head as you sit with one in their last moments in it. My mom didn't leave his side for a second the whole day. Here is a picture of her holding his hand. We watched the clock as he hung on for a few hours longer than the doctors expected. Long enough to pass away on Sunday morning, February 6th, at 3:32am, on what would have been my Mamaw's 92nd birthday. What are the odds that he would make it to her birthday and then join her in heaven?
Here is what was written for the newspaper:

"Walter Joseph Hendrick
Walter “Walt” Hendrick was born on October 16, 1923 and died peacefully in his sleep with his extended family by his side on the morning of February 6, 2011. Walt is survived by his brother Ivan, his two daughters Cynthia Leonardo and Diane Pate, his six grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and his dear friend and companion in his later years, Zera Spreadborough and her family.Walt grew up in Berkeley California, but spent a lot of time on his family’s ranch in the Sierra Foothills near Murphy’s. Walt’s roots in Calaveras County stretched back before the Gold Rush, with one relative having the distinction of being the shotgun rider on the last stage holdup in Calaveras County.
After enlisting and serving proudly in the U.S. Navy during WWII, Walt married his sweetheart Bea Landes. They lived in Orinda California, where Walt was a pattern maker. Later they moved to Walt’s “home country” in Angels Camp, where they both lived the rest of their days. Walt was preceded in death by his wife Bea, and his brothers Norman and Jim.
Walt loved his family, he loved the Navy, he loved Model A Fords, but he especially loved telling his kids, grandkids, great grandkids and friends stories about his time in the Navy and silly jokes. He is with his Lord Jesus Christ and his wife Bea. Walt went to his Lord on what would have been Bea’s 92nd birthday."

Funerals are interesting. You are missing the one who is gone, but relish the close family time with those that are gathered. The funeral was as simple, touching, unpretentious, and dignified as my grandpa was.
We stayed at Papaw's house. All of my siblings were able to fly in and be there. I grew up going here all the time. I kept expecting to hear the clomp of his footsteps, the door creak open and the sound of his voice and cough. It was hard walking in the first time and seeing his clothes from the day flung over the chair, his leftovers carefully wrapped up in the fridge, the vestiges of his life now not needed.
But it was wonderful family time with my three siblings, cousins, and parents.
The house is tucked at the end of a mile and half dirt road up in the foothills.
The family is keeping it as a vacation home. I am so glad I get to keep going there over the years with my children. We heard the coyotes yip at night, we caught frogs in the creek, we stopped the car so we wouldn't run over a garden snake, we smelled a skunk who was milling around, watched the squirrels and jack rabbits come up to the front porch, watched the ducks in the pond, shot our BB guns off the front porch at tin cans, and enjoyed the beauty of nature. (Just for the record, I'm still a decent shot when it comes to shooting. There's quite a bit of country in the background of this gal).
Other than my hubby, who was still in training, and Krista's hubby, Thomas, everyone was able to come. Here we all are on the day of the viewing.
And yes, this would be a typical type of photo for our family too. Laughter in the midst of sadness.
The most memorable thing we did was the last day when everyone left except for my mom, sister and I. We knew about a box of letters that my Papaw had written to his mom during his stint in WWII. My great-grandma had kept every one that he had written her and there was a full box from his years in the war. My mom carefully took out and read several over the course of his time in the navy to my sister and I before tucking them back in order and putting them back where we got them. They were so touching. Topics ranging from boredom, to homesickness, his time with friends, tedious work, to appreciation for his parents and hopes for the future. Some hopes were realized, some weren't, but he began and ended his letters always the same. "News is scarce" and "much love". It was the great adventure of his life and he always talked about it. The letters were written with such youthful enthusiasm and hope for the future. He always spoke about the Navy with idea that those were his glory days, but the letters reflected that many days were just humdrum, sometimes boring, and not always exciting.

And now he's gone. We miss him.

Today I am home, and trying to get back in the swing of things. My shop orders are extremely behind, the yard needed massive pruning, I have loads and loads of laundry, the house needs to be put back in order. Time marches on. In the humdrum of the everyday it marches. In the normalcy of life, our hopes and dreams are made and unmade, our legacy is made, and the last few weeks were a reminder to pause, relish the moments, and make them count. Afterall, someday I may look back and think of this time as my glory days. If so, whether they seem humdrum or not, I want to relish each one.

3 comments:

  1. I thought and prayed for you all last week. I was afraid that he had passed away since you'd been gone so long. I'll continue to pray for you because I know how bittersweet the death of a loved one can be. Have a wonderful day filled with good memories!

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  2. That was a really touching post, BP. I am so glad that your family gets to keep the house as a vacation house. I know that will make future vacations extra special as you keep on making new memories there. P.S- I love the last picture of you all making faces. Especially Ainsley. She looks like she's embarrassed to be in the middle of such craziness! :)

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  3. I'm so sorry for your loss, but what a wonderful legacy he left behind.

    I'm glad you were able to spend some last moments with him.

    My aunt's memorial was this past Saturday and despite the sadness that inevitably surrounds loss, it's always nice to spend some extra moments with friends & family.

    --Dawn

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