Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Bittersweet Trip

My Uncle George passed away last week. George was my fathers brother and the little boy that you see in the photo at the top of my blog sitting on my grandmothers lap.  He was quite a character, my Uncle. All of the Smith men are. He loved to tease, tell a good story and drink a good cold beer. 

Several years ago, my Uncle and his family moved to Idaho. From the very beginning, Uncle George would tell us how Challis was God's Country. I knew it was beautiful, but this trip I saw it through George's eyes...

The Salmon River
The Sawtooth Mountains
...breath taking beauty.

My Mom and I left Oregon for the 7 hour drive early Friday morning. One of the perks of traveling with my Mom is that we get to catch up on all our visiting. Though we talk daily, our trips are a time to talk about old memories and family history. And I love to take her to beautiful areas that she's never seen before. The road to my Uncle's home went through country that I hadn't seen for years and the memory of family adventures in that area warmed my heart as we traveled through.

We arrived in Challis late afternoon and then gathered with family that evening. It was a time to catch up with cousins that I hadn't seen for years and to get to meet all the new family that had come along since we had last been together. I forgot how much time had passed until I saw Jeff and Laura's children all grown with children of their own. 13 grandchildren in all with one on the way. I looked around and saw Jeff's son Josh, just a little boy last time I saw him, with his beautiful wife and daughter and another daughter on the way. My cousin Sheila came with her family and I was happy to finally get to meet her husband Wayne and see her sons Billy and Nathan again. It had really just been way too long.

We gathered at my Aunt's house on Saturday before the service and I was happy to get to connect with my brother Steve and his sweet daughter Lily and sister Michelle and spend some time with my Dad and Charol.

My Uncle was a very proud Marine and the American Legion conducted the military part of the service...

Photo by Melody Smith
There is just something about the 21 gun salute, the flag ceremony and the playing of taps that touches me on a soul level. My stepmother Charol mentioned that when you knew the words, it was even more heart wrenching. I hate to admit that, at 51 years of age, I had no idea that there were words to taps and not just the tune. Charol was right. When I think of all of the men and women who have served our country and been laid to rest with this haunting melody played, the sorrow is almost unbearable...

Day is done,
gone the sun,
From the hills,
from the lake,
From the skies.
All is well,
safely rest,
God is nigh.

Go to sleep,
peaceful sleep,
May the soldier
or sailor,
God keep.
On the land
or the deep,
Safe in sleep.

Love, good night,
Must thou go,
When the day,
And the night
Need thee so?
All is well.
Speedeth all
To their rest.

Fades the light;
And afar
Goeth day,
And the stars
Shineth bright,
Fare thee well;
Day has gone,
Night is on.

Thanks and praise,
For our days,
'Neath the sun,
Neath the stars,
'Neath the sky,
As we go,
This we know,
God is nigh.

That evening we gathered at the home that my Aunt and Uncle had shared for so many years. As we sat on the porch in the warm September evening, you couldn't help but feel that Uncle George was there in spirit enjoying all the teasing and story telling and a few good beers. It reminded me of similar gatherings on my grandmother's porch in John Day. If there is one thing that we Smiths do and do well, it's porch-sitting and visiting. I think we get so busy that we forget how comforting something so simple can be. I was sorry that I was there to say goodbye to an Uncle I loved, but on the other hand I felt so blessed that I was able to spend time with a side of my family that I'm seldom able to see.

They scattered George's ashes on the hill over looking the area that he loved so much...

Photo by Melody Smith
In my mind's eye I could see him restored and in the prime of his life looking over his shoulder with that smile of his, his heart filled with love for the family that mourned his loss. And then I saw him turn and head over the hill with eager anticipation of being reunited with all our loved ones that have gone before.

I can't begin to imagine how hard it will be for my Aunt Sharon, facing life without her love of over 50 years. She's blessed to have two children that love her deeply and several wonderful grandchildren to comfort her as she goes into this next chapter of her life. One thing I know without a doubt; somewhere out there is a group of Smiths, sitting on a beautiful porch welcoming home the grandson/son/father/grandfather that they had missed for so long. And there is comfort in that.


  1. very beautifully written, dad would have loved it. Love you :)

  2. what a wonderful tribute wren... i am so sorry for your loss...but what a wonderful place to be laid to rest xx


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