On January 9th, my Uncle Jim passed away from a courageous battle with Alzheimer's. He was diagnosed about 7 years ago and had gotten progressively worse, but we knew that his time was coming to an end at the end of the year. He was one of the most fun uncles and a fabulous man. He grew up with a fabulous family and was a great brother. He fell in love and married his high school sweetheart. He was a lieutenant in Vietnam. He has 4 kids, 4 inlaws, and 17 grandkids. He was a fabulous outdoorsman, loved canoeing, and came up with the perfect stroke for canoeing called the J Stroke. He never met a stranger, his postman even came to the funeral because they were such good friends. He spent his whole life loving every minute and making people laugh. He was such an incredible man.
As his Alziehmer's took more of my Uncle Jim away from his family, my Aunt Barb did a fabulous job taking care of him. She made him a scrapbook about his life so on his bad days, he could read the book and remember how great his life was and how much he was loved. It was absolutely amazing. It had pictures and stories of how Jim and Barb met and fell in love, my grandparents and aunts and uncles, and his whole family. They love spending time with their grandkids and they all love each other a ton.
My Dad, Kristi, and the girls drove up Saturday and Kristen flew up Sunday. Eric and Dane plus Cody, Harper and I drove up Sunday evening and didn't get in until the early hours of Monday morning. Well, we got there at 1am, went straight to bed at Grandma and Grandpa's. Eric and Dane should have been there right after us, but they stopped at the casinos in Oklahoma, made some money, and didn't get into town until 9am. Typical, but they made it on time and were well dressed, so I guess they did good.
We missed the family visitation Sunday afternoon, but Kristen said it was a great time for the family to spend together celebrating Jim's life. It was a good chance for them to remember what an amazing man, husband, father, and grandfather he was, and a chance to say goodbye. They went to Barb's afterwards to hang out and just relax. My grandparents have held up really well and although they are going to miss their son everyday, they are surrounded by family and friends who love them tremendously.
Monday morning, we went to the visitation. Kristen and I sat by my grandparents and made sure that they were doing ok. My dad, Pat, Sharon, and Larry, as well as Barb and her kids, stood in line and greeted the masses of people who came to pay their respects. It took hours to get through the line. We had the funeral after the visitation and it was a great tribute to my Uncle Jim. My cousin's Jeff and Ryan spoke, as well as Julie's oldest, Cody. They told great stories about Jim and reminded us of how much Jim loved life and would be celebrating in Heaven.
After the funeral, they had a grave side service and a family lunch back at the church. It was a great chance to catch up and spend time with my family. I miss them and hate that we only see them once or twice a year. We left around late afternoon and went back to Grandma and Grandpa's to get our stuff and head home. Eric and Dane came too and we spent a little time going through memories at their house. The old yellow stool. The blue bike we used to ride of Sharon's. The spiragraph. The typewriter. The pancake bowl, lemonade pitcher, juice cups, and owl cookie jar. There are so many things that remind me of Carl and Gladys.
Even though it was a rough weekend, it was a great weekend. We mourn for our loss but we celebrate that Jim is no longer suffering and he is dancing in Heaven.