My grandpa Dickson died on July 10, and Neal, the kids, and I all headed off to Utah for the funeral. My initial plan was to go alone, although I really wanted to bring my children. I didn’t think that Neal coming was even an option. But when he called me from work letting me know he’d arranged things so he could be there, I threw my frugality to the wind and bought some plane tickets. Neal’s grandma died two years ago, and Sally and I stayed home while Neal went to the funeral in Utah. Both Neal and I regretted the fact that I stayed home just because we didn’t want to spend the money. What is money for, anyway, but to be used on the things that matter most?
I am so grateful that we were all able to go. The trip was full of family and fun. We arrived in Utah on Friday afternoon and pizza at Spencer and Korrin’s house with all of my siblings (even Angie and Hyrum, who cut their vacation short and traveled around the world to be there) before attending the viewing for my grandpa. The viewing was a very relaxed environment, and I had a great time visiting with all of my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Sally and Austin wandered around and played with their cousins, and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The only thing I didn’t enjoy about the viewing was, well, the viewing. I hardly recognized my grandpa and was sad to see how gaunt he had become in the last few weeks of his life.
The next morning was the funeral. While I shed quite a few tears, I really enjoyed the funeral. The talks were touching and at times humorous. My dad and all of his siblings but one spoke (my uncle Mark, who later dedicated the grave). I accompanied my sisters and female cousins in a song that my grandma wrote for my grandpa. I really felt the Spirit during the funeral and felt a lot of comfort in the knowledge that I will see my grandpa again, that he is happy, and that he had lived a righteous life and was ready to graduate to the next phase of his existence.
One of the best parts of the funeral was that there was a nursery for the children provided by some of the young women in my grandparents’ ward. What a huge relief for me and Neal (and the other parents with small children) to be able to sit and enjoy the service without trying to entertain our children. Sally and Austin seemed to have a good time, and got to spend time with their cousins. Bless those young women!
Another highlight of the funeral was visiting with several of my cousins that I hadn’t seen for years. It was fun taking with them, and touching to see the sacrifices they had made to travel so far to be at the funeral. I miss being able to spend time with my extended family. I am thankful that I am able to see them from afar by reading their blogs and emailing (and I’m sure that Facebook would be helpful if I were into that sort of thing!).
After the funeral was over, the rest of the trip was all fun and games. On Saturday night we all (parents, siblings and their families) got together at Al and Tyler’s house for a “Fantastic Mr. Fox” party. I didn’t see the entire movie, but I liked what I saw. Sally had a fantastic time watching the movie and playing with her cousins, as did Austin (although he didn’t actually watch much). Neal and I enjoyed being with the family and relaxing, as well.
Neal went home on Sunday right before the big family dinner at my parents’ house (the bimonthly family dinner). More talking and laughing and cousin play time for Sally and Austin. I think that Sally’s favorite thing in the world to do is to play with her cousins. She was on cloud 9 the entire time.
Monday was Ada and Kate’s birthday party—the highly anticipated event that was probably the highlight of Sally’s trip. Sally and I helped Alison with the cupcakes—5 color layered rainbow cupcakes. They were fun to make, and I’m glad I could help out. The party started at the Kangaroo Zoo, a play center with lots of inflatable slides and play areas for kids. Both kids loved it, and I would have had more fun if I hadn’t been going crazy trying to keep m y eye on both of the kids. After the Zoo we met at Al’s house for dinner and cupcakes. Alison set up a table with several jars of candy with scoops in them. It was decorated like Candy Land and was very cute. Austin, being the smart little guy that he is, quickly learned that if he hung out near that table, he could pick up the candies that fell to the ground whenever a little girl for boy scooped out some candy. I don’t know how much candy he ended up eating, but let’s just say that he was incredibly happy, and a sticky mess by the end of the evening. He also loaded up on ice cream and cupcakes. Between the Squire family and the Dickson family, there were lots of kids at the party, which meant lots of dessert plates left unattended, which led to Austin getting much more dessert than he needed.
On Tuesday Ella and Grace were at my parents’ house while Korrin went to work, and Sally had a fabulous time playing with them. Sally and Ella played “beach” in the backyard together for quite a while after running through the sprinklers. It was fun watching them play. Little children are so full of energy and imagination! That evening the kids and I went to 7 Peaks Salt Lake (formerly Raging Waters) with Abby, the Squires, and the Marstons. I wasn’t initially thrilled about going, but ended up having a great time. Hyrum watched my kids for a while so I could go on slides with Abby and Ang (Al , being pregnant, opted out of the slides). I was pushed into going on the super scary steep slide that you go down on a sled, and I’ll never do it again! It was fun, but too scary for me! The highlight of the night was going around and around the lazy river. Austin wore a puddle jumper and Sally wore a life jacket, and we all just floated lazily along.
On Wednesday my mom took the kids and I to the Living Planet Aquarium. Austin loved looking at the fish and the penguins, and Sally loved being with my mom and eating macaroni and cheese for lunch. I thought that the aquarium was very fun and well-done. It was fun seeing the penguins dive and flip in the water. They seemed so carefree.
Thursday we went home, but not until packing in a full day of activities. In the morning I went with my dad and the kids to visit my Grandma Dickson. It was the first time that I had seen her new house since it was finished. She had gifts and a little tea party waiting for me and the kids—she is very creative and thoughtful. Sally loved how “fancy” her house was, and composed a little song for the occasion. I spied on her as she played the piano and sang to herself. This is the gist of what she sang:
“My mommy’s grandpa is gone. He has gone to heaven, and now my grandma is all alone. But she will be alright because Jesus is here to watch over and comfort her. My grandma is so fancy and her house is so beautiful. Now that I’ve seen her beautiful decorations I love her even more!”
We finished up our visit just in time for me to drop the kids off at my parents’ house, put a dress on, and head with my mom to the Mt. Timanogos temple to see my best friend, Kim, sealed to her husband Christian. The date was July 21, her anniversary as well as mine. To make a long story short, Kim and Christian had several stumbling blocks along their road to getting sealed, and got the happy news that their request was approved just a few days before their anniversary. They called the temple and made the arrangement to be sealed July 21. When Kim told me the news, I extended my trip so I could be there (I was supposed to leave the previous day, and had I not purchased a ticket on a bereavement fare, I wouldn’t have been able to change my flight—I guess it was meant to be). I was so grateful I was able to attend the sealing. It was a beautiful ceremony, and while it was uncharacteristic of me to be so emotional, I cried through the whole thing. I was so happy for Kim and Christian, and I was also reminded of my own wedding day.
After the sealing, I flew like the wind to pick up my kids and head to the airport.
Our flight went from SLC to the O’Hare airport, then to Kansas City after a quick plane change. I was incredibly nervous about the flight, by it couldn’t have gone any better. Both kids were on their best behavior, the plane change was a breeze, and we arrived in Kansas City right on schedule. Neal and I were able to spend about 1.5 hours of our anniversary together, which is more than can be said of some of our anniversaries!
It was a great trip, and I feel so blessed to have had such a great experience.
Since this post isn’t quite long enough yet, here are a few of my memories of Grandpa Dickson:
Before his health and memory really began to decline, Grandpa was always cheerful, friendly, and talkative. He called me Emma Lee from over the sea. He loved telling jokes, and often had a hard time telling the punch line because he was laughing too hard. He loved telling stories about his family, his missions and his ancestors.
He was intelligent, quick, and witty. When my dad told him that I had won my elementary school spelling bee, he quickly began spouting off obscure words for me to spell. I didn’t know how to spell some of them and tried to change the subject, which worked for a time. At the end of the visit, he didn’t let me off the hook, and when I spelled a word incorrectly, he quickly set me straight.
He liked trying to stump his grandchildren. When I was 5 or 6, he and my grandma took me, Alison, and Abby to the zoo. He asked me what direction we were going, and asked if I knew all of the directions a car could go. After I answered north, south, east, and west, he said that I was missing two. I had no clue, and he finally told me: up and down.
He had a very strong testimony of Jesus Christ and the Church. He loved to read the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, and would often quote scripture. He always served faithfully in his church callings, and was kind and generous. He had a library full of books by apostles and prophets and could always be found reading one of them. I never doubted his testimony, his commitment to the Church, or his desire for all of his posterity to be faithful. When I told him that I was engaged to Neal, he questioned me to make sure that Neal was a faithful member of the Church, a returned missionary, and had a good family background. I knew that he wanted only the best for me.
He loved taking care of his yard, and had a beautiful lawn and productive garden. I especially remember his sweet corn, walnuts, cherries, and raspberries.
He loved sports, cold cereal, and chili. He would often make a huge pot of chili and invite all of the family over for a chili party.
He was happy, easygoing, hardworking, and loving. He left a great example and legacy for his posterity to follow.