Gary wished to be cremated and his ashes spread at his two favorite hunting spots, and even said, “You will honor this, won’t you?” The boys spread some of his ashes out by his hunting spot in Marne. There was also a place up in Newaygo he would hunt, so one of my sons took another urn and went there by himself to spread those ashes. As he was walking out to his dad’s hunting spot he happened to run into friends of his who owned the land who asked what he was doing. He told them he was going to spread his dad’s ashes, and they asked if they could go with him. So they did, and they prayed with him there too. It was really special.
The summer after Gary died we had a tree planted in our yard in Gary’s honor – Gary’s family wanted to do that. Our family gathered around the tree and we each sprinkled some ashes there, and some of the kids threw flowers in the hole that the tree was going into as well.
I bought a chest about a year after Gary died, after specifically doing some shopping for it, and I found it in an antique store. I keep some mementos and memories in it like the Carepages that contains Gary’s story. I used to take it out and read it and it was both hard and cathartic to me.
Gary gave each of us a limerick and I’ve those as keepsakes, and the kids have theirs too. I’ve kept some bulletins from church services that were special. I came across a letter that one of my boys gave to his dad, and I have my son’s eulogy from Gary’s funeral in there too. I found a Christmas card he wrote to me. I kept little things, notes the kids left me back then. A copy of what his brother Al spoke when he planted Gary’s tree in our yard. During Gary’s funeral my daughter and her husband were sitting behind me and I got handed a note, and I kept that. I kept pictures from the funeral and visitation. Keepsakes that were special.
Things that helped me with grieving and with remembering.
The fall after Gary died, his sisters, mom, and I made quilts out of pictures and some of Gary’s clothing. Together with his sisters, we cut and arranged stitched squares together and then Gary’s mom sewed the squares together. I selected pictures that were meaningful for each of my kids, and at Christmas each of them received a quilt. I made one for myself too. We laughed and we cried over those quilts, but making them and giving them to my kids was part of the healing process.
The first Fathers Day after Gary died all the kids were here, and they all got a hat of Gary’s.
On the first anniversary of his death I went out to the Christian Reformed Conference Grounds and sat on the deck by the water for 2 hours. I journaled while I was out there. That was special for us. We celebrated our last anniversary before he died there. It was a special place and I love the beach and water, so that’s where I went that day. Then I went out for supper with my kids that night. It was a bittersweet day. It was good to take time out and remember him, but hard to think of the time that had already passed without him.
I went a few places after Gary died that together we’d stayed and visited. I went back to the Grand Cayman Islands with my sisters and to Petoskey. I also went back to the chemo center because I was close to those people there. I visited our nurse and brought one of the quilts we’d made. It was good to walk those halls and see those people again – hard but good. All part of the healing.
As memories come up, we’re able to share them and have good laughs, remembering the man that he was and the dad that he was.
I’m remarried now, and so thankful that God brought Jim into my life and that he’s understanding of the place Gary holds in our lives.
My kids are very open and we share and laugh about memories of Gary and Jim is open to all of that. Jim's and my wedding pictures and family pictures and extended family pictures replaced the pictures I used to display of Gary, but I still have some family pictures with Gary and the kids.
Joy comes from remembering old memories, and also from this new life I’m blessed with.