It was a Friday night, and the kids were sleeping at my parents house because Brigham and I were to head out on a rafting trip with friends early the next morning. After we had been sleeping for an hour or so, Brigham got a call from his brother Tim. Brigham's dad had passed away in his sleep from a heart attack.
That night was very dark.
After spending a couple hazy days with my family in Washington, we left for Utah.
The kids were well behaved, but the drive was hard for Brigham. The closer we got to Utah, the more he had to accept reality. It was hard to see him suffer.
Tuesday afternoon we had a tearful reunion with Brigham's mom and brothers. And although we were sorry for the reason of our gathering, to be together and to have the support of each other was the best comfort. The hug from Nonie that night was painful and sweet.
All of the cousins knew of the circumstances and were somber at times, but still enjoyed playing and being together.
We swam, walked around downtown, visited the Church History Museum, went to lunch, and chatted at Dan and Nonie's house.
Dressing Dan for the viewing and funeral, and being with Nonie and his brothers, helped Brigham through his grief. He felt at peace seeing his dad and knowing he was happy where he was and that it was his time to go.
The viewing and funeral were emotional and hard.
It was surreal looking at Dan's body. He looked really good. But I didn't really care to linger because, although it was his body, it wasn't him. His spirit was elsewhere.
Brigham and his brothers stroke an imposing picture as the pallbearers for their father. I felt that it was a good testament to Dan, all these strong men that are his posterity.
The Salt Lake Cemetery where Dan is buried is a gorgeous, historical place, and the funeral was on a bright, sunny, beautiful day.
What a beautiful family! Dan's wife, Nonie, in the middle of all of his children: Brigham, Tim, Wes, Courtney, DJ, Tony, Paul, Sam, and Jake.
The funeral was the only time that each individual family was able to come and be together at the same time, in the same place. It was one of the most bittersweet moments of my life as we talked, and laughed, and hugged, and mourned together.
The services were beautiful. One kid from each of Dan's marriages was able to speak, and it was so enjoyable to hear the different respects they were able to pay. All of Dan's grandchildren sang "I Am a Child of God," and when Lydia broke down and started crying while singing, it was impossible to keep our composure. The love those kids have for their grandpa is touching.
Hearing all the stories and memories about Dan from friends and family meant a lot us. Especially talking with President Joe (Dan's old Bishop) and hearing how meaningful it was for Dan to get his temple recommend. President's Joe testimony that Dan was worthily with his Savior comforted Brigham more than anything else.
It was sad to say goodbye, excruciating to see Brigham in pain, and I was so grateful for the support of my family as they came to the viewing and funeral to support my husband and I. I truly was touched beyond words.
As I said before, seeing Brigham hurt so much was very difficult. Seeing all the family members in pain was harder for me than my own sorrow. Especially Nonie. Nonie - the sweetest, most selfless person - having to lose her spouse, tore me to the core.
And even in the midst of her tragedy, she was taking care of others, and sweet, and kind, and loving. Sad and grieving too, but still the wonderful women we all love. I wished we could stay and be with her for much longer than we were able to. When leaving, I was only comforted knowing that much family is still close by to be with her.
We love you Nonie. We pray for you. We can't wait to see you soon.
The week was busy and long. We stayed at a hotel close by, but besides eating breakfast and sleeping, we were rarely there.
Though, sometimes we were grateful to have somewhere to crash and collect ourselves again.
Saying goodbye to Nonie was the hardest part, and it sort of felt like I was tearing out a piece of my heart as we walked out the door and got in the car. She and Dan went together. And saying goodbye to her was like saying a final goodbye to Dan.
Through the heartache, we recognized so many small blessings that helped us know God's hand was in all of this. The timing was best-case scenario for so many of our families. Brigham was able to talk to Dan one last time before he died. Dan didn't feel pain in his death. The kids weren't home when we learned the news. We were able to make an early trip to Utah this year, and I had convinced Brigham to go when he wasn't planning on it. And many more small miracles. We don't know why Dan had to go now, but both Brigham and I felt it was his time.
Everyone got to say what they loved and remembered about Grandpa Dan. And I didn't really. I didn't feel like it was my place at that time. So I'm going to take a minute now to pay tribute to him and share what I know and love about Dan.
It was most talked about how charitable and loving Dan was. How his door was always open, and you knew he would help. And this is truth.
Anytime my siblings came to town, or any of my family, we knew Dan and Nonie would offer to feed, transport, and house them. Dan and Nonie's home became a permanent pit stop and safe house for my starving-college-student siblings, and my traveling parents. And if my family hadn't stopped by in awhile, Dan and Nonie would ask why they hadn't been around.
And this is the classic Dan that was talked about.
But there are a couple more aspects of him that are personal to just me.
I love Dan because of how much he loves my husband. Brigham needs his Dad. Brigham was the last person to talk to his dad because Brigham made his customary phone call on his way home from work. A blessing that we both give thanks for everyday.
Dan listened and participated in Brigham's rants, but he also softened Brigham. He rounded Brigham out and helped him to calm and straighten. Those two could talk about nonsense together for hours. And no matter what craziness and intensity Brigham spouted, Dan would always navigate the conversation with patience and a loving "Biggy" here and there. Brigham and I are really going to miss that irreplaceable connection and encouragement
I love Dan because of how much he loves my son. Dan had a soft spot for Ammon and he said it was because how much Ammon reminded him of Brigham as a little boy. Considering Ammon is Brigham's little mini-me, it makes sense.
I just loved hearing him ask about "Ammy" and picturing Dan's smile as we told of Ammon's latest antics.
Of course, Dan didn't just love Ammon. He loves all his grandchildren, and I love that too. It was a treasure knowing he was always willing to babysit and spend time with his grandchildren.
Another blessing we've recognized is being able to go down to Utah early this year for spring break, where Dan was able to to meet Kendrick for the first time.
My kids' favorite memories of Grandpa Dan are traveling to Utah and staying at his house. He would get them cereal or cook pancakes for them in the shape of the first letter of their name as they watched tv at the bar.
Or he would take them to McDonalds for lunch while Mom was out doing grown up stuff.
I love how much Dan loves Nonie. The experts say you need to show affection to your spouse in front of your kids to be a good example of a happy marriage. Well Dan practiced this for me. I loved hearing him call Nonie to see if she was going to be home soon, or to see if she needed a ride. His loving tone reminded me to be better.
I loved seeing his affection for her and reading the cards that he would get her for their anniversaries and birthdays. Sometimes they were funny, sometimes they were scandalous, and always they were just for her and therefore, so so sweet.
He was no perfect husband. But the beauty in that fact is, they love each other - flaws and all.
I loved knowing Dan would come to as many family events as possible.
|Lydia's first birthday party|
|Emery's baby blessing|
I love that he did what it took to provide as best he could for his family. He took jobs that were below his capabilities, and that he didn't enjoy, because he knew that's what needed to be done. That's a true man.
I love that he loved my egg rolls and stir fry and asked me to make them for him every once in awhile.
I loved that he encouraged each of us in our own passions.
And I loved that he would see something that one of us might need tweaking in our lives, give a little advice and encouragement, and then still love us anyway when we didn't listen.
But probably one of my most favorite things about Dan was his cooking and Sunday night family dinners at his house.
Relaxing, eating, chatting, teasing, and laughing. Those nights will always be some of the fondest family memories I have. Always with Dan at the center.
Looking back at my list of things I love about Dan, I realized that most of them are about the way he loved. And that's what he did: love. And when we came together at his house, and when we come together in the future, that's what we'll do too.
We love you Dan, Grandpa Dan, Dad. 'Til we meet again.