Last Monday, as I was driving Julianne to pre-school, I explained to her that Uncle Don had gone to Heaven.
"He's in Heaven?" she asked.
"Yes, he's in Heaven."
"Can he see us?"
"I don't know," I admitted honestly.
"Can we see him?"
"No," I told her.
Jules paused a moment to think about this.
"Well, we can see him in our hearts. He'll always be there."
She might be four years old, but she's got it figured out.
Saturday we spent the day seeing Uncle Don in our hearts.
For me, the hardest part about the graveside service is walking away. It's not the words, it's not the flowers, or the dirt--although the dirt is difficult too, especially so at my grandma's burial. It's leaving.
My aunt and my uncle have been sweethearts since they were 14 years old. More than fifty years of togetherness, and now aunt Jane had to walk away. My aunt hugged me and cried and told me, "It's so comforting to know that God will watch over him even after we leave." It's hard to leave. Even though Uncle Don had already left us, we now had to leave him.
And yet we walked away, the rain pouring down on us, the puddles sloshing into our shoes.
Before the service at the church, family members gathered together for pictures. This was the first time in perhaps twenty years all of the Larson cousins were together at the same time. There have been many times we have been together minus one, but this time we were all there.
There is a long story about why we haven't all been together, but let me just say that this photo is nothing short of a miracle.
From Washington, Idaho, California, Pennsylvania and Scotland, the ten of us cousins were finally reunited to honor a man who had meant so much to us.
As it turned out, every single one of Uncle Don's nieces and nephews were there.
He loved us. We knew he loved us. And we loved him.
Hundreds of people were at the service, filling every seat in the church. People who had worked with Uncle Don, people who had gone to school with Uncle Don, people who knew him and his family. Not only those who knew Uncle Don, but also those who didn't know him but knew his family and his extended family.
My aunt's hairdresser.
My dad's family.
My cousin's coworkers.
The principal from school the grandkids attend.
All there to demonstrate love and support to the family; all there to honor a great man.
The service was beautiful. The choir was lovely, pastors spoke wonderful words, my mom and brother put together an amazing video tribute. Sydney spent the entire service drawing a picture of the creek as it is in the summer and wrote "I will miss Don. I am sad." When she finished she burst into tears and sobbed on my shoulder. Uncle Don was a constant presence at the creek in the summer, and Sydney knows we will miss him so very much.
Yes, Uncle Don will live on in our hearts, and Saturday showed us just a portion of the many hearts that he touched. Yes, we are comforted knowing that he was a man who served Jesus, and we will meet again in Heaven. As the pastor said at the service, "Don wins." He won the race set out before him.
That is, indeed, worth so very much.
We just want him here.
We want him at birthday parties and graduations. We want him down at the creek and out mowing the lawn. We didn't want him to leave, but he did.
And now we run without him.
(Photos taken by Sarah.)