Last-Minute Trips and a Lifetime of Memories

I was planning on staying home until the second weekend in July. I was planning on golfing and relaxing and getting work and homework done and not much else.

But guess what happens when you plan? Life throws you curveballs.

So this morning I’m headed to the airport to catch a flight to South Dakota. Then I’m headed to Wyoming for a couple days with My Parents, Uncle H, and Auntie R. At the end of the weekend, it’s back to South Dakota to gather with an incredibly large Collins family, some of whom I haven’t seen in years.

The reason? To celebrate the life of my Grandpa Collins, who passed away Tuesday afternoon. (This is him, with my grandma. Don't they make a lovely couple?)

Ten of my grandfather’s eleven children and his beloved wife were at his side when he took his last breath. The one son who hadn’t quite made it yet was able to speak to my grandfather by phone before he passed away to assure my grandfather—lucid to the end, I imagine—that he would be there soon.

I couldn’t imagine Grandpa going in any other way. He wasn’t in a hospital. He was at Uncle J’s home, surrounded by the people he loved most in this life.

Still, it’s incredibly difficult to fathom when somebody who has been a constant for your entire life, whose story stretches on long before even your parents’ lives began, is gone. It’s a hole that’s never filled, only taken over by memories almost as sweet as reality.

A failing mind took my mother’s father away. A failing body has taken my dad’s dad. But one thing is certain: the memory of this man—devoted husband, caring father and grandfather, proud American—will not fail. A piece of him is present in every one of his eleven children and all of their children and their countless children too. And, undoubtedly, it will continue on from there.

From now until long after my grandfather is laid to rest on Tuesday, in a national cemetery befitting the war hero he was, the Collins family will celebrate his life. Sure, there will be plenty of tears. But if I know one thing about this family, it is that there will be a lot of laughter too. And fond memories. And maybe even a bit of dancing. Because that is what the Collins family does. We cry and laugh and remember and dance. And rejoice that we were blessed to know and love and be loved by such a terrific man.


rachel. said...

i'm so sorry julie. i'm glad you're going to be with your family -- you need them and they need you. thinking about you. xoxo.

Cara Hall said...

I'm sorry for your loss, Jules. Grandpas are the best.

Jason said...

Sorry to read this Julie; you know I have a soft spot for Grandpas. At least you have a big family to to come together and support one another. For me I think that is part of the appeal of a big family. Sure they make holidays, weddings, and birthdays more fun, but they also help immeasurably in the bad times.

Julie said...

Thanks for all your kind comments! Grandpas are wonderful. As are big families. I'm looking forward to seeing so much of mine, even if it is for a sad occasion.

Anonymous said...


Sorry to hear this, late as I am in saying/writing it. I hope your time with the family in lovely Wyoming goes as well as it possibly can.

Shannon (the Tharp one)