Monday, April 12, 2010

His Hands

So the last month has been really tough. On March 19, 2010 we lost Reed's dad due to complications from a massive stroke. He had suffered a smaller stroke on March 1st. Reed went out and I followed a few days later and stayed for about a week. It was a great time to be of service to him, Reed's brother's family and be the sounding board for everyone. You become the eyes and ears of those that cannot be there to keep them updated and coping with what is happening. I recognized that the first stroke took him a big step down from where he was. It affected mostly the cognitive function and so it was like his Alzheimer's had just become worse. Just a few days after I left, Jay suffered another stroke, this one massive. Reed and I immediately packed up and headed back to Utah that very day, arriving in the middle of the night to spell his brother. We are so thankful that everyone got there before his passing was a part of helping to implement Jay's wishes for how he wanted to die. Please, if you have not done so, do an Advanced Directive/Living Will and be specific. The doctors and nurses at the hospital praised his clarity and his defining what quality of life meant to him. We were all in agreement to move him to a beautiful hospice center in Salt Lake City that provided in residence care. Thirty-six hours after having him transferred there he passed away. He was 85 years old and he went the way he wanted. All of his children and his wife were with him. This is the second time in less than 6 months that I have lost a loved one and been able to be there with them as they return to their Heavenly Father. Jay has the most characteristic hands. Those hands were misshapened by arthritis but those hands came to mean so much. Those hands were famous with the grandkids for the "dreaded knee clamp"! It was nothing more than those hands grabbing the child's knees. Of course it was accompanied by a terrific roar and by screaming and sqeals of giggling as the kids ran away only to return and see if they could escape before those hands got them again. Those hands were boxer hands. He never lost a fight during his boxing career in the Navy. They were gentle hands that cradled kids, grandkids and great-grandkids as he sang sweetly to them. Those hands were wise hands that became a prominent tax lawyer in Washington DC. As we held 2 different memorial services in Utah and Maryland we learned so much about the man that belonged to those hands. Those hands loved tennis and would help you to learn only long enough to beat you with his wicked slices. Those hands played football with kids, adults, even the Kennedy brothers once upon a time. Yet those hands chose not to go into political life because his family was too important to him. Those hands expected you to be honest and true to yourself. He lived his life by that motto. He wasn't perfect, but he was gentle and full of love. He counseled with you, asked questions that became ever more probing as he wanted to be sure that you were truly being true to yourself. Those hands in later life carried a cane. That cane became his extension as moving became more difficult and was often used to snag a grandchild or great grandchild by the hook and upend them as he played with them. Those hands would weild a mighty plastic sword while he was dressed in his armour and he fought off knights, dragons and any bad guys that were thought up by the kids. Keegan, his oldest great-grandchild quickly learned that it was better to be grandpa's guard than to battle him, because somehow he always won!!
Those hands reached out and helped so many. When he gave a sizeable contribution to a university, they wanted to use it build a building and name it after him. He refused and said that he wasn't interested in bricks and mortar, but in helping people. Instead he began a literacy program that was aimed at underprivelaged parents and their kids and taught them to read to their children. Those hands reached out to families that he befriended and lifted them to a differnt station in life and changed the course of events for their children. Those hands would carry his friend who had been crippled by polio and refused to let him wallow in his pain and grief. He encouraged is friend to go out and live life to it's fullest and those 2 families became inseparable over the years. Those hands counseled and loved and made bets that always benefitted someone else if they would live up to their side of the wager.
Those hands loved dogs. And they always loved him back!!
Those hands have come to mean so much to me. They have changed me. They have changed my family.
Jay leaves behind a legacy of family first. He chose not to let his children become involved in extra curricular sports because he figured there was enough of them (6 kids) to form their own teams and that way they could all participate together. He chose to give most of his Saturday's to his children and to grand adventures hiking, and playing at things they all did together. He chose to analyze everything on his yellow legal pad and write it all out.
Those hands will be greatly missed, but he will always be remembered. It was put best by someone at the Memorial Service when he said: "Jay was not much for religon. He was a self proclaimed agnostic. But he was the most Christian man I ever knew." We love you Jay. We will miss you. We can't wait to see you again and be reunited with you! Your hands will live on through us as we try to emulate what those hands have done!