Wednesday, December 05, 2007

My Grandfather passed away last Thursday (November 29th). My wife had stayed home to help with a sick child when I heard the news. We went from quiet morning to trying to pull off a last minute trip to Salt Lake City.

I am not a really stoic person. I am not uncomfortable about crying but, if there is stuff to be done, I will do it, even if I have tears in my eyes. I will mow the lawn and sob instead of sit on the couch and sob. So, there I was on Thursday making plans to travel, taking care of kids, wife, house, cats, chickens and trying to manage a flood of emotions, and memories of my Grandfather.

One of the thoughts I had, that I became fixated on, was something that I am sure other exmormons might be able to relate to; how to go to an L.D.S. funeral and pay tribute to a beloved relative without getting all hung up on how you disagree with all the dogma.

It was a real concern, I pictured myself sitting there in the chapel listening to one of my relatives talk about the afterlife while I cringe. Over the next couple of days I convinced myself that I could sit there in that pew without cringing.

This was my Grandfather after all. If he were in my position how would he have dealt with it? He would put aside his prejudices and just do it, and he would do it while being kind to everyone around him. I always felt valued by him, regardless of how freaky I looked when I was a teenager. Sure, he made comments about my ripped black jeans and my spiky hair, but he betrayed his true feelings by the hug he always gave me and the way he would smile when I would show up at family gatherings; gatherings I often did not want to be at because of the awkwardness.

Naturally, this awkwardness increased for me when I left the Mormon church. I know that it was disappointing for him to not see his first Grandson go a mission, even then, he did not let on how disappointing it was. If I could give him that satisfaction in return for the respect and love he that he has shown me and my wife and kids over the years I would put aside my disbelief and go just for him.

What I did for him, instead, was bring my family to Salt Lake for his memorial. And at the funeral, when prayers were offered I bowed my head and listened, when hymns were sung, I sang; when my mom and two uncles talked about seeing him in the heaven, I did not engage in an imaginary debate, with them about whether heaven is a pretend place or a real place.

Not only did this exercise make it easier to be at the funeral but it made it easier for me to talk to my relatives no matter how brief the exchange was.

It feels like a small token; somehow too me just being civil with my aunt, uncle's and cousins does not seem like enough. We all have lives of course, for more than one of us, those lives are vastly different and only intersect when someone passes away. Frankly, I do wish it were not like that, I would not mind having relationships with them that are as easy as they were when we were all kids playing in the woods on a camping trip.

And wouldn't it be a fitting memorial to a grandfather who cared about his grand kids to have them all talking to each other?

Goodbye Grandpa, I miss you.

Alfred Carl Nielsen

Alfred Carl Nielsen 1917 ~ 2007 Alfred Carl Nielsen passed away on November 29, 2007 in Salt Lake City, Utah at the age of 90.He was born on November 9, 1917 in Castle Dale, Utah to Alfred C. Nielsen and Mabel Ruth Steele. He married Lucy M. Springer on March 13, 1945 and was later sealed in the Salt Lake Temple on November 15, 1945. He served in the Pacific in the Navy during World War II. He then joined the Army Air Corps later the Air Force and served in the Korean War. He retired from the Air Force on June 1, 1965. Alfred was active in the LDS church. He served a mission in California and later with his wife in England. He served in numerous callings including branch presidencies and bishoprics, Temple Square Host, the Church History Museum, and as an ordinance worker in the Salt Lake Temple. He was always willing to help those in need. Alfred is survived by his wife of 62 years, Lucy M. Springer, children: A. Carl (Elizabeth), Marion Wilson, Larry (Marsha), Sheryl (Marc) Atkinson, Bryon (Julie), Robert (Lisa); sister, Ella Hoskins, 27 grandchildren and 35 great grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his parents and two brothers, Grant and Ross. Services will be held on Monday, Dec. 3, 2007 at 12 noon at the Brickyard Ward, 1111 E. Charlton (2800 So.), Salt Lake City, Utah. The family will receive friends on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2007 from 6-8 p.m. at Wasatch Lawn Mortuary, 3401 S. Highland Drive, Salt Lake City, Utah and before the services from 10:30-11:45 a.m. Interment will be held at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park.

5 comments:

wendy said...

I'm sorry for your, and your family's, loss.
I still cry about my dead grandmother. We are truly blessed to have shared the earth with such compassionate...
...
...
I had to go wash the tears away.

we're lucky. that's all.

Beat Dad said...

Thanks Wendy!!

I was just thinking about you and your Grandma.

Randy said...

My condolences on your loss. Clearly you love your family; hopefully they can see that.

I've been very fortunate with my wife's family, who treat me no differently than they did when I still carried a temple recommend in my wallet. I have severed all ties to my own family of origin, but that has nothing to do with the LDS Church.

mcoe said...

Looks like we are third cousins. Your great grandmother Ruth Mable Steele was my great grandmother's (Esther Elizabeth Steele) little sister and your great grandfather Alfred Carl Nielsen was my great grandfather's (Anthon James Neilsen)little brother. Not terribly odd to have 2 brothers marry 2 sisters back in the day. I am very LDS but appreciate your journey. Would love to catch up with you at a Peter Anthon Nielson our great great grandfather) family renuion sometime.

marlan coe said...

oh yeah, i forgot what i was doing when i foung your blog. i am looking to find contact information about the family reunion. i used to have a contact for ella hoskins, your grandfather's sister, but have lost it. can you put me in contact with someone who might be able to help me find the reunion information? mcoe@juno.com

thanks