Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Cowboy Rode Away

After Thanksgiving my Granny took my Pa to the VA. He had not been feeling well, even more so than his usual over the past few years. Sure enough he had pneumonia. After 2 weeks at the VA hospital, they decided it was time to put him in the nursing home.

Typically, this is probably a very hard decision. But my Pa really needed the extra care, and my Granny needed the help. Pa had always been a big, tough cowboy. However, he was losing so much strength and desire that that strong tough look was being transformed into a fragile, old man who needed some help.

Pa feeding the catfish, one of his favorite pastimes

36 hours after my Granny left him in the nursing home she found him unable to talk with a bloody elbow and bruised head. Seeing how much pain he was in, she and my aunt called an ambulance to take him to Washington Regional.

It was there that the doctors discovered he had shattered his hip. They informed my Granny, Mom, and aunt that unfortunately there was nothing they could do. He was sent to hospice on December 17.

For 2 days I sat at home twiddling my thumbs. I longed to be with my family and say goodbye to my Pa, but Cash really needed to be at work. Finally, on Tuesday morning I decided to take both kids with me and make the long 600 mile trek with them by myself. I could not sit at home any longer.

Pa and I at Christmas 2010
Pa had always requested to have Silent Night sung at his funeral. Who knew it would be Christmas 2017 when we buried him and sang that song for him. ...sleep in Heavenly peace...

11 hours later we found ourselves in  Arkansas amidst family. I walked into the room where my Pa was and felt such peace for him. He was asleep, which he remained the rest of his life. Watching him that week was one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. I watched this man, this soul, go from earth to Heaven. You wanted nothing more than to let him go. It was beautiful. And hard. 3 days before Christmas our big, strong cowboy left this earth.

During that week we shared such sweet memories we had of Pa. Granny shared about their dating life, and I still can't get over that she was 15 years old (apparently had been dating for 3 years already?!?!?!) and he was 21. Scandalous!

A few months after they were married, he was drafted and inducted into the U.S. Army. Granny had their first child 9 months and 1 week after their wedding (seriously, scandalous!!), but Pa was already stationed in Alaska. He found out via telegram he was a dad, and he did not get to meet his child for 15 long months.

They went on to have 4 children, 9 grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren. They have lived in the same little home on Mountain Top for nearly 40 years. From hunting to horses he went all over that mountain that he loved so much. And on December 27 we got to bury him there. The words "go rest high on that mountain" never echoed so loudly in my head.

Granny being given the American flag in honor of Pa's service
This past week Fr. Jonathan was talking about what we leave behind to our families. Is it the silver and the land and the things? Or is it something intangible?

No doubt my Pa left those intangible virtues of doing right and being good. He never had much money. He was born poor, and he died poor. But at his funeral you saw a rich man. Friends and family stood up and told countless stories of a cowboy they knew who was a good, good man. He did right. He paid his debts. He kept his word. He loved his family. And most of all he loved the Lord.

My cousin Brad shared how Granny and Pa were always there. Every game (and all 9 of us had plenty of them), every birthday party, every little and big moment in life. Granny and Pa were always there.

when we went to tell them we were pregnant with baby #1 (Pa knew it was a boy...we didn't know he was right until the day Henry was born. Henry was named after Cash's grandfather, but it also happened to be Pa's dad's name.)

Like so many of you who have no doubt lost a loved one, we are heartbroken that we have lost such a good Pa. As I sat and watched my dad, uncles, and cousin put the dirt over his casket, my heart literally broke in two. Some days we mourn. It is okay to fully mourn and grieve. But we must also get up and move to a new day, a new month, a new year. We can long for someone on earth, but we can also be assured we will see them again in Glory if we too have made that commitment to Christ.

Henry hanging out with Pa
I don't know what Heaven will be like. I can't imagine all the wonderful sights and sounds. I wonder if we will look anything like our earthly selves? I don't know. But I do know that if we do, I'll recognize Pa right away. He'll be the guy in a gray Wrangler shirt and Wrangler jeans with boots and a cigarette. And he will probably be playing cards...or a joke.

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