Farewell, Ireland

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May love and laughter light your days, and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours, wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons bring the best to you and yours!
-Irish Blessing

Today marks the end of a passing season in my life–a season that, short as it was, has affected me profoundly. Today is our last day in Ireland. I have known that this day would come, yet it doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier. I get teary-eyed every time I think about leaving this place–this home–so you’re going to have to bear with me here. This year in Ireland has been one of the most incredible years of my life, and I am sad to see it come to an end. I am excited for our future, don’t get me wrong, but this past year has touched me in so many ways. Today is the last page of an incredible chapter in our lives, and I am going to miss it–all of it–deeply.

I will miss this place–the endless rolling green countryside and the cliff-rimmed beaches. The timeworn stone walls, thick and overgrown, that line every street and farm and field. The maze of sheep paddocks that wind through the hills. The wide rivers that carve paths through the land. The unique landscape and rugged beauty that is Ireland.

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I will miss the culture. The people who don’t even know you but will still greet you with a smile and invite you in for a cuppa tea. The peoples’ fierce pride in place–that their city, their rugby team, their way of doing things is the best–no, the only–way to do things. The rich history and traditions. The ancient tombs and cathedrals and medieval cities and castles. I will really miss the castles.

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I will miss the pace of life. The lazy afternoons driving through the countryside and stopping in the middle of the road for sheep or cows or tractors to cross. The people who actually encourage us to take time off work so we can take more vacations. The laid back attitude toward everything and everyone (although, I am definitely looking forward to reuniting with my long-lost friend, punctuality). IMG_4688 I will miss the food. And by food, I mean scones. And milk straight from the cow. And beef and Guinness stew on a rainy afternoon. And a Full Irish that’s so full you can’t even think about eating again for another week.

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I will even miss the manic weather. The storms that sneak up on you, pour out their fury, then move on again before you can even open an umbrella. The light-as-a-feather mist that rolls in off the ocean in the morning. The days of endless rainbows. The sun that surprises you with its sweet presence.

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But most of all, I am going to miss our friends.

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Our friends who welcomed us with open arms and made us feel at home in a place we had never even been to before. I am going to miss these friends, who have really been more like family. Living so far away from the people and the places and the way of life that you know is difficult. But having our new friends by our side to walk through life with us has made all the difference. They have helped us, taught us, loved us. They have shared in our joys and our sorrows this year–both of which we’ve had many. They have been the physical presence of people we love when all of the people we love live so far away. To all of our friends in Ireland who have been a part of our family this year, thank you! Your friendship really has meant the world to us, and we will miss you so, so much.

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When we leave Ireland tonight we will be leaving more than a place. We will be leaving a home and a family, and that’s a lot to leave behind. A piece of my heart will always remain in Ireland, so I know that I will be back again some day to find it. This is not goodbye, then. No, goodbye is too final, too permanent. So, instead I will just say farewell.

Farewell, Ireland.

Until we meet again, may love and laughter light all of your days.

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In Loving Memory

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Clockwise from top left: Grandpa’s military photo; Grandpa holding me as a baby; Grandpa reading me a story; Grandma and Grandpa holding baby David

Several months ago when we planned our trip back to Washington for Christmas we knew that it would be a special time for us to spend with our family. I had no idea then, however, how perfect God’s timing was going to be.

When I got off the plane on Saturday afternoon after a very full day of travel my mom gave me the unfortunate news that  my grandpa (my dad’s dad) had taken a turn for the worse. He has been ill for quite some time now so the news was not shocking, but the urgency in her voice told me that this was serious. We decided that the very next morning I would drive down to see him one last time.

So, after a fitful few hours of jet-lagged sleep, my mom, sister Jessica, and myself drove 2 hours south to Grandpa’s home in Longview. When we got to the care facility where he has been living for the past few months, my dad, Grandma and Aunt Rose were already there at Grandpa’s bedside.

It was a difficult but wonderful day visiting Grandpa. He was mostly unconscious, but there was a good bit of time that he woke up and was able to make eye contact with us and even whisper a few words. I got to tell him about Ireland and how big his great- grandsons are getting and reminisce about some of my favorite memories with him. I got to hold his hands, pray over him, and tell him that I loved him. I got to give him a hug and a kiss and say goodbye. It was God’s grace to me that I had that rare day with Grandpa, and I will forever be grateful for those last moments we had together.

Then, just two days later, early in the morning of Wednesday, December 18th, Grandpa passed from this world. My dad was with him at that moment, and he said that Grandpa went out the same way he lived his life: courageously and lovingly. He had truly lived every minute of his 90 years to the fullest. The phrase that Grandpa kept repeating on that last day I spent with him was “Wow”. I can only imagine that at this moment Grandpa is sitting at Jesus’ feet whispering that same word: Wow. Forever and ever, Wow. And, while I’m mourning his loss, I know that I am lucky to have had 30 years with my grandpa.

Grandpa was my real-life hero. When Grandpa was a small boy he was put into foster care because of his unsafe home with alcoholic parents. He grew up on a farm in Ohio during the Great Depression and was about as poor as they come.  He should have had a terrible life and left a terrible legacy for our family. But he didn’t. Grandpa rose above his situation because he wanted better for his future family than he ever had for himself. When he was still a teenager he enlisted in the Marine Corps and courageously served our country throughout World War II. He returned from war, fell in love with my grandma, and they married in 1947. They had 3 children and were happily married for 66 years.

Grandpa went on to study education at the University of Washington. The poor farm boy who literally had to share a pair of shoes with his brother so they could take turns going to school earned a Master’s Degree and was a science teacher to hundreds of students throughout his career. He literally built his family a home with his own two hands–the home that my dad was born in and that my grandma still lives in to this day. He cared for his family, loved his wife, and served his community. He was a man who others respected and admired and loved.

Some of my favorite memories of Grandpa are just the time we spent together: holidays, birthdays, graduations, my wedding, the births of my babies. Growing up, we would spend the night at Grandma and Grandpa’s house fairly often. In the morning, he’d always ask me how I’d slept. The correct answer was always, “With my eyes closed!”–I guess I get my unique sense of humor from him!

IMG_0015Grandpa was also a dependable pen-pal and we exchanged letters throughout my life. All growing up, Grandpa would send each of us handwritten letters and clippings from the newspaper. I always looked forward to receiving Grandpa’s letters, even if his handwriting was nearly impossible to interpret! I have to credit a lot of who I am–my love for writing, my sense of humor, the fact that I became a teacher–to who Grandpa was and how he helped to shape me.

As we were looking through some old papers this week we came across several of Grandpa’s letters. In one of his letters addressed to me, he wrote about his dreams when he was younger. He wrote, “I wanted to have a loving helpmate and our own home. Also, I wanted a family so I would enjoy watching the kids grow up in a family situation…and YES! My dreams have come true!”.

Yes, Grandpa, your dreams came true. You lived a remarkable life, and you will live on in our hearts and our memories forever. Thank you for who you were, for your influence on our family, for your beautiful legacy.

I love you.