Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wow! That's just all I can say!

So. .the last time I posted. .I was on my way to Wichita to be with my dad in the hospital in Wichita. This has been the hardest week of my entire life. First, watching my big, tough dad in a hospital bed. .tied in. .barely awake enough to say one sentence. Next, listening to a doctor tell us that we had been lucky enough to get to talk to him at all in a head trauma such as he had incurred, and that he fully expected him to get worse before getting better. .and the liklihood of his recovery spanning months. .rather than days. But at that meeting, a recovery was expected! So the last thing that we were prepared for was a phone call at 11:15 Friday night to advise us that his heart monitor was a little odd and encouraging us to walk across the street to the hospital. As my sister, mom and I walked into that intensive care unit. .we were transformed onto the set of any ER show. It is still quite surreal, even a week later. The first man I ever loved finished his journey of nearly 63 years that night. .and the week that has followed has been a blur. I have NEEDED to write. .to get some thoughts out. .and maybe I will. .but tonight. .I wanted to post the last photo that we took with Grandma, Papa, and the 13 grandkids. .and I wanted to post the eulogy that my siblings and I put together to be read at his funeral Tuesday.
I wanted to be the one to read it at his rosary and at the funeral. .because I'm anal like that. .and I wanted it read how it should be read for people to get his humor. .and the Lord gave me the strength to do so. My dad was a great guy. .and we don't even realize at this point how profound his loss will be to us. I just ask that you keep our family in your prayers in our time of loss. .

It's a little lengthy. .but you will know him by the time you are finished. I am giving permission for any of my family and friends from home to copy off the eulogy for themselves if they would like it. My copy will go in my bible with his funeral paper!! And probably a copy for each of my kids to read in the future as his memory begins to dim for them!

The most heartbreaking things of all this week, has been to watch our little kids try to process the whole concept of death and heaven. Cami knew that Papa had died. .she knew his body was in the big wooden box, as we discussed at the church. .but she asked me THREE times as we sat at the graveside, waiting on the people to gather with us. .1. Where's papa?. .2. When is papa coming. .3. When IS papa going to get here!! She just couldn't fathom everyone being together without Papa!!

We were lucky. .we had a vibrant dad around for a long time to enjoy!! He never wanted to get old. .and he never wanted to be frail/sick enough to have to be confined to a nursing home. I'm so sad for his 13 precious grandkids that they will never remember him as we did!! Though his story that follows catches his life and personality QUITE well!!

Wishing everyone a blessed spring weekend!!
Thanks for your prayers and well wishes!!
And thanks for sharing in my life here on my little piece of space in blog land! You'll probably never realize just how much that means to me!!
God bless!

Psalm 103:15-17 tells us that “Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone-as though we had never been here. But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear Him.” Dad may be gone, but it will be a long time before he is forgotten.

If there was one thing Dad could do well, it was to weave together a good story. There probably isn’t a person here today that wasn’t. .at one time or another. .held captive by the telling and RE-telling of some colorful situation that he had found himself in the middle of. Those of us closest to him were lucky enough to hear most of these stories told over and over again to new audiences. .getting a little more grandiose and humorous each time. And though this story may not be told the way HE would have told it. .it is HIS story. .the story of who he was.

Don was born March 31, 1949 to Raymond and Rita. Ray and Rita moved to the farm in 1951 from the Wichita area. The 2nd of 6 children, Don was the oldest boy and the second in command of the farm he grew up on. He has an older sister Alice, and younger siblings Dennis, Paul, Leroy, and Lori. Life on the farm was certainly colorful, judging by the stories we have heard. .and no doubt helped shape the personality of the man whose life we have all come to honor today.

After graduating from high school in 1967, Don enlisted in the army and did his basic training at Fort Dix, NJ. He was never called to serve in Vietnam but served in the Army Reserves for 6 years. Donald A., as my mom called him, married Vickie Kay. .or Victoria Kay, as he often called her. .June 5, 1971. They moved a farmhouse onto his land about a mile from where he was raised, and began a family farm of their own. They had 4 children, Melanie, Kristi, Brendan, and Nick, and one by one added 4 more children. .Jeremy, Chris, Tina, and Steph.

Farm life in those early days were tough. .Difficult manual labor, long days, and usually more bills than paychecks. To be successful meant hard work, and work he did. Having his wife at home raising the kids was important to him. .and he took his role as the breadwinner seriously. He often came home after the sun went down to collapse on the floor or couch for a rest. .only to have his kids playing on him like a jungle gym. He never seemed too tired to give rides. .on his back or with the kids huddled together in a sheet slung over his back like Santa. .or to throw the kids up in the air. And that was great by him. .as long as the shrieks and giggles ceased the second the weather report for tomorrow came over the news!! No 7 day weather forecast available on the internet or cell phone in those days!!

Don was a stern father. .we kids had a reverent fear of him. . and he was an affectionate husband. Public displays of affection to his wife were common and he often told her “I don’t care what my friends say, you’re alright.” He taught his children the things he knew best; respect, discipline, and the value of hard work. And he NEVER let us forget that. .Listen here. .insert your name. .I brought you into this world..and I can take you out. He even told me that within the last few years!!

He loved his work. .but he also loved to play! There were countless farm pond fishing trips. . in which very few fish were actually caught and evenings in the yard spent practicing baseball, volleyball, and basketball. Basketball was never a sport that his kids could excel at. Dribbling was difficult to master when your court was full of gravel and learning to do a layup is virtually impossible when the goal is mounted to the side of grain bin. I had never thought about that before until Brendan wrote it the other night. .it really explained some things to me.

There were occasional family vacations in the summer. .although a long car ride with 4 young kids in the backseat was probably no vacation. As a result, there is a standing family joke about being forced to get up before the sun so we could stand at the locked front door of the restaurant waiting for them to open so we eat breakfast! We even took a couple of vacations over the last 10 years in which the ENTIRE family. .and their families went on a vacation. .but it was decided early on to eat breakfast in!

He and mom enjoyed riding to check the crops or cattle. If they weren’t working the farm together, they would be found together at every school activity. And after the kids were grown, they might hit the casinos and enjoyed playing pinochle with their card group. They also got to take their dream vacation last summer! They celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary by taking an Alaskan cruise with their good friends Chuck and Gloria. He loved EVERY minute of it. .especially when he found out that the ship had ALL YOU CAN EAT dessert!! He surely thought he was in heaven!

He loved God and worshiped 7 days a week by stewarding His land and sat in the pew every weekend. Although there were many washcloth showers while his family waited in the car, Mom would NEVER allow them to be late to church. And EVERY week, we would listen to her tell him to “hurry up” and then listen to him tell her that. . “It doesn’t matter WHEN you get to church. . everyone gets out at the same time!” That was dad!

Dad was most known around the community for his charismatic personality. He was a thinker, cultivated over years spent on farm machinery with only the thoughts in his head to keep him company. He had strong opinions on most any topic, and was never bashful about sharing them with you in conversation. He was a spirited debater, armed with a quick wit and a stubborn streak. He could talk to anyone. .at anytime. .about anything. .whether they wanted to or not. .he could even dial the wrong number and still have an hour long conversation. He sometimes seemed a mathematical wizard. .unleashing a barrage of calculations and number crunching into his arguments that would make your head spin. .accurate or otherwise. In all of his roles on boards and committees, he could be controversial. .but he always brought to the table a wisdom fueled by common sense. .unconcerned about what people would think. These qualities made him respected by some and disliked by others. .but he was ALWAYS listened to.

He also had an incredible memory, which seemed inherent in his family. A search of his cell phone contacts revealed nothing saved. He kept his entire personal and business directory in his head. His head was also where he kept much of his business records. .which could prove to be a little frustrating in the future. He could tell you exactly how many cattle where shipped to a given feedlot on a certain day and constantly mentally juggled dozens of these inventories.

Don was a mentor to many. He had a soft spot for young people that were just starting out. He employed many young men over the years and always made time to get to know them and to offer advice. .He was always good to offer advice, whether you needed it or not! He taught them the same lessons he taught his own kids, show up on time, work hard to the end, and be proud of doing a good job.

Don enjoyed his time away from work. He was a sportsmen and a conservationalist. Someone had to control the prairie dog population, and if had to be up to him and Chuck, then so be it. Seriously, how often does one really need to drive all the way to Eastern Colorado to “check the cattle.” Don also enjoyed bird hunting and playing cards. And let it be known that anytime you heard on the radios on a rainy day this phrase . .”we’re going to go over to the Jbar to sort cattle. .reds from the blacks” meant. .see ya for a 4 point pitch playing party. .and occasionally he would come home with 3 bucks. While he liked playing any kind of card game, he was PASSIONATE about Texas Hold ‘em. He enjoyed getting together with his male buddies and play. .and every once in a while he would win and we would hear about it for weeks. Over the years, our family gatherings went from playing pitch, to playing games. .and finally to HIM teaching the grandsons . .how to play Texas Hold ‘em. .even 3 year old Teegan sat with the guys the last time they played. .at least for a moment!! He also enjoyed reading and watching western movies. He is loved and adored by 13 grandchildren. .Tristan, Grant, Colton, Devin, Braedon, Haley, Taryn, Kadon, Camille, Teegan, Dylan, Ryder, and Trey. They loved wrestling on the floor with Papa or going on a ranger ride. The man who sternly dealt with his own kids. .tolerated a lot from those grandbabies. .and since he could no longer say. .”Listen, I brought you into this world”. .he just egged them on and sent them home!

My dad had a strong impact on us all. .and he would have been so proud of all the people that gave up their time to help us celebrate his life today!! He was a fighter to the end, and has taught something to most everyone who knew him. Our time with him was shorter than we had hoped. But Psalm 139:16 says “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” God has always known when Dad’s last breath would be. Psalm 56:8 reminds us that God has collected all our tears in His bottle, He has recorded each one in His Books. And I know our bottles have gotten fuller since Friday. He has left behind a strong family and too many friends to count. We will miss him terribly, but we have a lot of memories to get us by. And right now we are taking the advice of Psalm 50:15 “Trust me in your times of trouble and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.”

A little quote that my mom wanted read because it was SO my dad. .altered just a little. .

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather, skid in sideways, ice cream in one hand, beer in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, WOO HOO! What a Ride!

Heaven only knows the conversation that took place between he and St Peter at the gates that evening. Hope no one else was in a hurry to get in.

 Good night Papa. .We love you!!


  1. I have written and re-written this comment, trying to find just the perfect thing to say to you. But I don't really think there is one.
    I loved the eulogy and can't believe you were the one to give it, but then again, that is so my friend Melanie. ;) I didn't know your dad, but as able to see enough of a glimpse of him through this to know he was a wonderful man, and what a hoot he must have been to be around.
    You know the saying "if you cant get someone off your mind they are probably supposed to be there"? You have been on my mind for an entire week now and many MANY prayers went your way. My heart just breaks for you and your family.
    That being said, I sure was happy to see that sassy little girl of yours walk up the sidewalk. I've missed her!

  2. Melanie, you & your siblings did a fantastic job of putting together a portrait of your dad that I'm sure has him shoving his elbow into fellow angels & saying, "Hey, did you hear what my girl said? I brought her into the world, & she's done me proud!"
    I didn't know your dad, but I've shed tears this morning as I read about him. I'm kind of like Becky, in that I don't know how to write this comment...but I want you to know that you have been on my prayer list all week, too. You will have rough spots in the future that will add to that bottle of tears, but just cherish all those great memories! A big hug, and thank you for sharing the story of your dad. You've made a lasting honoraium for your kids to cherish in their future.

  3. Wow, Mel, our hearts & prayers have gone out to you. I'm thankful for the love you & your family have shared along with the many wonderful memories. Still prayin for ya! lots of love to you & the family, DJ

  4. Wow...reading your blog and crying, no...sobbing is more like it. You guys nailed that tribute to your Dad! I for sure will be copying it and putting it in my Bible where I can go and be reminded of "Uncle" Don frequently. I am honored to have known and grown up around him! I loved him, love your Mom and each one of you kids so much and want you to know that you are in my thoughts all the time and in my prayers too.
    Traci Helmer Waner

  5. What an honor to him that you were able to read this beautiful tribute, Mel. He must have been one heck of a man. But it's obivious that his legecy will live on.

    Hugs to you and all of your family.


  6. I just read your blog and it is hard to come up with the right words. Just like with mine father it is wonderful to have such a great father with such a strong impact in your life and so hard.

  7. Mel -

    Uncle Don is so proud of you guys. Like I told you, he was just bragging about it the Wednesday before his accident. I still can't wrap my head around this. It still seems so unreal. Today has been really hard. The world just seems so very quiet without Uncle Don talking. My heart aches for you guys. I loved Uncle Don like a real uncle and I love you guys too. My father-in-law asked that I get a copy of the eulogy that you read. He couldn't hear real well and was having a hard time himself. Uncle Don was a friend to many. If you get a chance, will you shoot me an email of it at You did such a good job reading it - I knew from our conversation in your Mom's bedroom that you would do a great job, and you did. You know that I am here for you, so if you need anything....just hollar.


  8. put your love to pen and paper...what a great tribute. Grief is weird knocks you off your A-game when you least expect it...please know you are loved by all of us that you share your little world with...HIS legacy will live on through you and how/what you do with your kids....I still MISS my mom has been over 10 still impacts my decisions, thoughts, prayers, wishes, hopes, dreams.....she is just farther than a phone call away...yet..I FEEL her presence in my life...HOLD tight to your memories and remember breathe in...breathe out....left....right...left...right....We mourn because we were loved and WE LOVED in return....blessings and hugs to you!!!!

  9. Oh my, I am so sorry for your loss! After reading your post I can feel all the love and pain you are going through now. I can't come close to express my sympathy. I am praying for you and your family that God carry you through this most painful time.
    God bless you and your family.
    Good speed to your Papa.

  10. Oh Melanie, I am so very sorry to hear of your father passing. I can only imagine the sense of loss, and it must be so hard. Reading the eulogy, I can see that your father was definitely full of life and that is awesome. That is so great that God gave you an awesome man to be your blessed are you! The time is never long enough...never...but as you mentioned, God already knew when this day would be, as He knows for all of us. That is one of the verses that helps me to understand sometimes. You are in my thoughts and prayers!

  11. WOW Mel. Your words did such a great job describing your dad's character! The weather dad still does that. And I remember him being stern - but smiling. That's a great quote at the end, and picture! My heart hurts over you losing your dad. Honestly, you have been in my thoughts and prayers every day. Your family too. I know you know you'll see him again someday but I also realize things will never be the same. (hug)

  12. Melanie, I haven't visited your blog for over a month, and I was so very sad to hear about your dad's passing. What a beautiful tribute you guys wrote for him. He sounds like an amazing man-–reminds me a lot of my dad.

    It's a wonderful thing to have such great memories of him, and more wonderful still to know that you'll see him again "in the twinkling of an eye."

    Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.