Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Written for Uncle Max's Funeral
What we mourn, when someone leaves us, is the times we will not spend together in the future. We know we will miss Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in Uncle Max's presence, and we are sad. But Brigham Young taught us that life does not end with death and that the spirit world is near at hand. Our loved ones, on the other side of the veil, know us still and love us. They are concerned about us as we have been, and continue to be about them. Time, to us seems long. Our mortal time, viewed from the perspective of eternity, may be as a moment to them.
"The knowledge of our former state has fled from us...and the veil is drawn between us and our former habitation. This is for our trial. If we could see the things of eternity, and comprehend ourselves as we are: if we could penetrate the mists and clouds that shut out eternal realities from our gaze, the fleeting things of time would be not trial to us, and one of the great objects of our earthly probation or testing would be lost. But the past has gone from our memory, the future is shut our from our vision and we are living her in time, to learn little by little, line upon line, precept upon precept" (Elder Charles W. Penrose).
Uncle Max has left his body but he is probably here with us still today. Duane S. Crowther, in compiling his book, Life Eternal, gathered the information that we watch over our bodies until they are interred. He understands our sorrow and loves us but he is happy. The body he lived in, now an empty shell, had performed all it could. His spirit has been greeted by the throngs of loved ones who waited for him on the other side.
Today, we are taking time to let him know how much we loved him and how his memory and the life he lived has enriched ours. Neal A. Maxwell said: "If we are moving in the direction of becoming more loving, meek, humble, patient, long-suffering, kind, and gentle, then all those we lead will be safe with us...Would that we'd not do anything save it be for the benefit of our family, friends, and flocks....We understand, therefore, that sometimes the less heralded but highly developed individuals are no less serviceable...than those who may be much more in the spotlight."
Max was such a man. He was loving, meek, humble, patient, long suffering, kind and gentle and he loved his family and friends. By Neal A. Maxwell's definition, he was successful and serviceable.
My memories of him go back to my earliest childhood. For a number of years, during the war, my Grandmother Smith and I lived in an apartment in Price with Uncle Max and Aunt Renee. I remember the lunches he saved for me. I would anxiously await his return from work during the late afternoon. When he walked in the house, I would ask if he had anything for me in his lunch bucket. He always did. It might be a cupcake, a half sandwich, but it was always there.
My own father was off fighting a war in the Pacific. But Uncle Max, though he wanted to go, was not allowed to participate. Instead, he helped father me. I rode his back while he crawled around the floor on hands and knees being my horse. I went for rides with him and I knew he cared for me.
He always did have a sense of humor. One of my early birthdays, spent at the apartment, I had red jello for a treat. Somehow in my mind, perhaps since my birthday is at Christmas, the jello became confused with the phrase.."his belly shook like a bowl-full of jello." Uncle Max teased me about that for quite a while before I realized it was funny.
He and Uncle Rex liked to tease me when I was small. They would come in the door together and each would say: "Come to Uncle," to see if I could tell which was which. Sometimes I would go to the wrong one first and they would laugh. I always got a hug from both of them, so it didn't really matter. But we all had a lot of fun out of the whole process. I confess, they all had a bit more fun than I thought they should.
In those days, we didn't have television. We would listen to radio programs and music and would spend time together in the evenings. I have pleasant memories of all those days. I will never forget one July 4. Uncle Max had managed, I'm certain it was no mean feat in war days, to get some fireworks. He thought I would be delighted. After the first one, I disappeared. There I was at the bottom of the steps leading downstairs, hiding with the dog.
After Garth was born, Uncle Max was so happy. It was a happiness he repeated each time one of the boys was born. He would look at them and enjoy their baby prattle. He was always a loving father. As the boys grew, he tried to make certain the had a good life. He moved them to Huntington from Price and they raised animals and had pets, things he thought were important.
Uncle Max was a quiet person. But he enjoyed people and, especially, his family. He was good to both his widowed mother and my grandmother. He was glad to be a handyman and help out with clogged plumbing and blown fuses. There were many happy days spent at Grandma Child's home. He liked being with his large family and with her. There were summer evenings spent playing outside and there were cold winter days spent largely inside. We took turns turning the ice cream churn and there were always cookies in the cookie jar. I'm grateful I was part of all of that. I remember deciding I wanted a big family so we could be close like the Child's family.
While they still lived in Price, my cousin/brothers and I would spend hours together. Uncle Max was often a part of those happy memories. Holidays were always special. Sometimes, though, I think I must have been a disappointment. I didn't like Santa at all and the family had waited in line for quite some time to see him. As I recall, Garth liked him just fine.
Some of my eating habits, I learned from him. He didn't like dairy products very much but he loved sliced tomatoes with cottage cheese on top. He would sprinkle the whole business with pepper. I still like that. I like fresh corn on the cob, also.
I'll always remember Uncle Max with my children. One time, after my first child was born, we went to visit him. He was gently lifting Shawn into the air over his head and accidentally hit his head against the wall. Shawn, of course, cried and Uncle Max almost did.
After all the children had grown up and left home, he took on the happy responsibility of being an ideal grandparent. He included my family in his loving. He enjoyed my husband and liked to have him visit. I don't think we ever left without taking something we us--fresh produce in the summer, potatoes in the fall, fish all year round, even soda pop and candy. There was always something tucked in to make the trip home.
Uncle Max was a good neighbor and liked visiting and having visits. He was always talking about some of the good things his neighbors did and the joy he took from them.
These last years, since Aunt Renee died, he has learned new lessons in long-suffering and patience. When we visited him at the rest home a while ago, he wanted to leave with us. He wanted us to put him in the wheel chair and take him to the car. Of course, there was no way this could be accomplished. We both cried when I left. It has hurt me sense. I know he is happy to finally be free to come and go, to move and to enjoy the fruits of his labors.