We had a very busy Memorial Day weekend, travelling to Montana to see the immediate family we know well, to introduce Douglas to cousins, aunts, and great-grandmothers he hadn’t yet met, and to remember my beloved grandpa and uncle.
The main reason for the trip was to say goodbye to my Uncle Randy. Randy passed away last September way too young due to alcoholism. Before his descent, he was very active in Christikon, a Lutheran Bible camp in the mountains of southern Montana. Randy’s wish was to have his ashes scattered at the camp, where he had some of his happiest moments with his family. Unfortunately because of the remoteness of the camp, we had to wait nine months until the snow cleared and the road was open again.
After a nice family picnic at a local campsite, we returned to the Bible camp for the ash-spreading ceremony. It was touching and emotional (and probably a bit confusing for my young nieces and nephew) as we all talked about our memories of my uncle and took time to ourselves to spread ashes in the mountain pasture on a gorgeous day.
Before heading up into the mountains to say goodbye to my uncle, we also visited my maternal grandmother, Douglas’s sole surviving great-grandparent. Although Douglas is still far to young to remember meeting her, it was very good for us to reconnect with her. We will definitely cherish the Four-Generations pictures we took, and it was good for Jenny to have a chance to get to know grandma better.
We also made an impromptu day trip to Red Lodge and the foothills of the Beartooth Mountains that was surprisingly meaningful for me. In addition to being a nice ride through lovely country, it was also a chance for both Jenny and me to learn more about my mother’s history (she lived in Red Lodge when she was a kid, and that’s where both my maternal grandparents grew up).
Most important on that day was seeing my grandfather’s grave. My mom’s dad passed away when I was in college, but I had never seen his gravesite. I attended the funeral but had to return to St. Louis before he was buried. On Saturday, though, as we drove through the ranchlands where my mom grew up, and we realized that we were driving near the cemetery where Grandpa was buried. So we stopped for a visit.
Because we hadn’t planned the visit, we sadly didn’t bring flowers, but we thank the local 4-H (Luther, MT’s Beartooth Bums) for taking care of the cemetery and for placing flags at the tombs of the veterans. My grandfather and his brother were both veterans (WWII and Korea), and it was especially touching to visit them on Memorial Day weekend. With the beautiful day, the snow-capped mountains not so far away, just a few miles from the cattle ranch that my grandfather used to own, and with my parents and my wife and beautiful child, I felt the opportunity and responsibility of family (past and future) more than I had in a long, long time.
The weekend wasn’t all that heavy. Douglas played with his 10-month-old second cousin, Andrew Young (a very cute pair of babies). We also enjoyed the fantastic hospitality of my mom’s cousins and got to meet many other extended family at a family picnic right before we flew out. And, of course, we played with my sister’s kids, Douglas’s cousins. Those three are always great to be with, and they love their little cousin.