What a long and emotionally exhausting weekend. I drove over to my grandma's house on Thursday, and we continued from here (I am still currently at my grandma's house, going back home tomorrow) to Omak, Washington. Itty bitty little town in north central Washington, home of the Omak Stampede and Suicide Race.
Got to Omak, and we found out that there was going to be a potluck dinner at the Grange Hall in Okanogan (another little town, just outside Omak), so Grammie and I headed over there. We got there, and there was probably 35 people there, most of which are family. Let me sidetrack here and explain that my grandmother is the oldest of 13 children, so my family is HUGE. Got to see aunts and uncles and cousins that I haven't laid eyes on in over 10 years. Was difficult to see my uncle Kenny, as he is the twin brother of my uncle Pete whom passed away, and was the purpose of me being in Omak. I walked up and he gave me a hug, and I was half expecting to hear when asked how he was "Gooder n' snuff and not near as dusty", which is a classic uncle Pete-ism.
Got to visit with my uncle Lyn for quite a while, my favorite memory of him was when he let me drive his 1998 Ford Cobra, candy apple red with a tan ragtop when I was about 17 years old. We had a great visit, and then we headed out to my uncle Danny and aunt Cynthia's house. Got to see my cousin (whom I've always called Aunt) Bert, and I haven't seen her in a VERY long time.
The next day was the funeral, and I managed to hold it together until they started doing the military honors. The first report of the rifles for the 21 gun salute hit my ears, the tears began falling, and when Taps was beginning to be played, that was it, I completely lost it. I watched as they folded a flag with the utmost precise movements, and present it to my aunt Margie on behalf of the president, to thank uncle Pete for his service in the US Navy. Talk about a gut wrenching experience.
As I was walking out of the church, my uncle Lyn gave me a huge hug, and told me that the entire family knew how I felt about my uncle Pete, knew he was one of my favorites, and that he just wanted me to know that he loved me very much. After the funeral, we headed back to the Grange Hall for a huge dinner.
One of the things that struck a chord with me was watching my cousin Adam, in his dress greens, speak about uncle Pete (his dad). He pointed out that the best way to describe my uncle Pete was the term "love in motion", and more true words were never spoken about that man. Uncle Pete loved everyone, the way he figured it is if you were alive, you were worth loving, regardless of anything else. Adam mentioned "If you want to honor my dad, be a person like he was."
The dinner at the Grange Hall was full of hilarious stories about my uncle Pete, and the evening was spent laughing and joking around, just like uncle Pete would have wanted. The next morning a bunch of us got together for breakfast (pancakes and chili, a family tradition), and my aunt Bert gave me a gorgeous silver necklace. The pendant is a silver mobius, and on it is engraved the following:
"Count your blessings, instead of your crosses, count your gains instead of your losses; count your joys instead of your woes, count your friends instead of your foes; count your smiles instead of your tears, count your courage instead of your fears; count your health instead of your wealth, and love your neighbor as much as yourself."
Very true words, and albeit simple, they are so easily forgotten. This necklace is exactly what I needed yesterday, and I have been thinking about those words since she gave it to me.
I'm taking a lot away from this weekend, and while I am still very sad about my uncle Pete's passing, I am happy for the fact he was able to do it on his own terms, surrounded by family and friends that love him so very much.
RIP uncle Pete. Fifteen two, fifteen four, and a pair of socks... I love you.