Sunday, June 22, 2008

In Loving Memory...

Ralph Arthur Youmans
March 11, 1920 - June 17, 2008
88 years

Laid to rest in Oregon on June 20th, 2008

"May the Divine assistance remain always with us and may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

This was my first official funeral. I really didn't know what to expect-- like, was everyone going to be sobbing or was it going to be all stoic with fancy black hats and rain? Was it going to be open-casket, or a mysterious box that could have been just for show for all I know? Well, it turns out that when you know the person who died, you just go. It doesn't matter what you wear or how your emotions are treating you, or if you approach the site laughing because the kids you came with are joyously yelling "HI!!" to all the relatives they are recognizing at such a somber occasion. You go because the person meant something to you, and you stand there to represent that relationship. You listen to the words spoken, the songs sung. If you are moved to tears, you are free to flow. If you are moved to joy, you smile and praise God! Oh, and it turned out to be the most beautiful day of the year so far in this area. Surrounded by snowcapped mountains, forests, and wildflower-sprinkled rolling hills, I felt like I was back in the valleys of Austria. It was truly lovely. The picture and words above were from the prayer card the Father gave us.

It began with a soldier playing taps on a modified bugle. I couldn't tell if he was really playing or just cheek-syncing. I've heard taps played by a true bugler and it's very moving. Today's effect was more like pushing play on a boom box to play a wedding march...a little disappointing, so I had to do a little research. I found out here that this soldier was definitely cheek-syncing and there were definitely buttons involved. Oh well. Moving on...

As soon as Taps was finished, Aunt Mary remarks, "Someone can't carry a tune!" Which is hilarious because that soldier wasn't even responsible for that tune and it was so far away she probably couldn't hear it anyway! Vikki told me she'd been wisecracking all weekend. I haven't decided if that is sad or funny.

The soldier came around and met his counterpart at the coffin to ceremoniously fold the American Flag draped across. As long as that takes, I always find it fascinating to watch, and I like to let it reignite the patriotism within me. The counterpart presented the folded flag to Mary with some words she had to lean in to hear, then she sat back and said, "Did you have to learn all that?" Echoes of "oh grandma!" are heard all around. I'm loving it...and realizing that it is more funny than sad. Cierra, accompanied by her brother Brandon, sang Amazing Grace, Uncle Ralph's favorite hymn. She was beautifully overcome with emotion after the first verse, so Laura stepped in with Brandon to sing the rest. It was a beautiful show of love for their Grandpa, and support of each other, something that Ralph himself set a standard for. The Father said some words and prayed, and I can only remember the part that brought me to tears: he spoke about Jesus conquering death by his own death and resurrection, and how because of that, the grave no longer represents sadness, but to believers it means hope and life. I love that Truth! Personally, I picture Ralph patiently waiting for Mary to be by his side again, a little sorry that he broke their pact for her to go first and for him to follow. And when he's ready, he'll be catching up on hugs and kisses with his sister and brothers and other loved ones who have already made it to heaven. Jumping around in their new bodies, for sure!
The sun will no more be your light by day,
nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.
Your sun will never set again,
and your moon will wane no more;
the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your days of sorrow will end.
Isaiah 60.19,20

After the funeral we headed to Tom & Adrienne's for food and remembering...I think all of Ralph's children and grandchildren were there, as well as a bunch of great-grandchildren running around, finding the fattest earthworm for Jake to eat for $100 (a collection was taken!). I sat around with mostly my second cousins, the "first cousins". Judy had to get a picture of them all because they are almost never all together in the same place all at once. It was beautiful to hear their stories about Grandpa. He was a hard worker, with very little patience (from which they learned patience), maybe a bit proud, but he had a servant's attitude, and lived to help others. Especially his Mary... it was profound the way he loved Mary. I heard a story of one of Ralph's recent stays in the hospital, where upon waking up from the surgery, he looked around the room desperately, his eyes passing over all the familiar faced until they landed on the face of his Beloved, and he reached out a hand for her to grasp onto, as if to say "I'm back! I haven't left you yet!" He felt a strong duty to take care of his wife...but it was more than duty. He loved his Mary and didn't think anyone could take care of her better than he could, and he was probably right! I hope to be married that long and have a love that deep when we are in our 80's...

Some of the boys were reminiscing about the things that Grandpa taught them, like how to fold a painting drop-cloth, not unlike how the soldiers folded the flag, with ceremonious exactness. He would get so frustrated with them not doing it right, and then they'd just start to mess with him until he understood... but today they won't stand for a tarp or dropcloth to be folded any other way! More than once I heard my cousins say that Grandpa taught them how to drive, and then we would talk about what a crazy speed-demon he was in the end... but there's no way anyone could have ever convinced him to give up his right to drive! I rode with him and Mary once recently, and while I have to admit I was a little nervous, I was struck with how Mary was totally unfazed by the speed and the quick turns. She was totally at peace letting her husband be in control. I just chose to believe that she has learned a beautiful respect for her husband.

I love the fact that Ralph invested so much in his grandchildren's lives. Not having had grandparents close to me, a cross-generational relationship is hard for me to fathom. Yet I can see the humongous legacy that Ralph left through his relationship with his grandchildren. It is certainly enviable. He set a foundation that this family is so obviously rooted in, one of mutual and unconditional respect and love. His family is most certainly not perfect, and has most definitely had it's share of trials and hardships, but they stick by each other and walk through things together, so that here we are at the end of a road, in the wake of a death, and there is probably more love and acceptance in this congregation than at any church you will ever find. From their marriage, to the birth of Kathy to the newest little Layla, this family has journeyed together to this place, and I am thankful to be a part of it, even if just on the fringes. Enviable indeed.

Rest in peace and praises to Jesus, Uncle Ralph....
(...say hi to grandma for me!)

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