Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Daughter's Perspective of Her Father's Funeral

We all have preconceived ideas of what a funeral should look like. If you know me or have read any part of this blog you know our family has experienced an awful lot of grief. Just the word grief is hard to say without swallowing hard. Everyone handles it so differently and even then, we have expectations for how everyone else should behave. Usually, some parts of our expectations hold true while others don't. In my own experience I have found that I have reacted in different ways to different circumstances where death and grief are concerned. The murder of a brother and the illness and subsequent death of my son, mother, and father have all been processed emotionally and internally in different ways. There are no wrong ways to grieve. Having said all that, I thought I would share my own thoughts from my Dad's funeral almost a year ago. In my previous post, it was noted in his obituary that he died on February 12th, but his funeral was on March 5th. There is a rather complicated and sad story as to why the long interval between the two dates that I won't go into here. It was very trying on both my brother and I. I am sharing the thoughts I wrote down to record as family history, but perhaps, there may be some comfort for anyone else who is walking this difficult path.

My impressions of that day were varied. I felt calm and peace. I knew in my heart God was in control and all would be well even if things didn’t flow the way I had envisioned and that was actually how it happened. Details pale when you think of the enormity of the loss of a loved one.

The weather was a factor and if it had been warmer and windless I suspect we would have lingered longer, but even in that, there was something positive. The wind was literally howling so all the many flags the Patriot Guard stood by and displayed flew straight out and glowed with color. In the pavilion, it seemed as though we all huddled closer as a family and I enjoyed hugs from family that I haven’t received in years.I have always imagined Dad’s funeral as military and I am happy we honored Dad in this way.

The Airmen in the Honor Guard were so young. I noticed one of them had his uniform pants badly hemmed and too short and I had to laugh thinking what Dad would have said to that young man. Their hands shook from the cold as they folded the flag in front of us and I felt compassion and gratitude. I wasn’t sure if they would fire rounds, but they did fire three rounds. I am never prepared when I hear taps no matter how many times I hear it played. It was perfectly played and beautiful. The musician in my daughter came out as she pronounced the pitch perfect. The fact that the wind was blowing and we were in the countryside made the song even more haunting and it gripped my heart. It was the only time I thought I would lose it, but my daughter and cousin wrapped their arms around me and their love and warmth held me together. I have seen the presentation of the flag to grieving families on television and wondered how that must feel. It was such an honor to have the flag laid gently into my arms and to hear the words quietly spoken, “On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation….” What surprised me were the three shell casings that were presented too. Each represents something and I can only remember two; honor and service. Maybe you know what the third one is… I have tucked the shells into the flag and have lovingly placed in a case that sits proudly atop the armoire in my living room where I see it daily.

Cousins were there and ranged in age from 35 (my daughter) to 90 (Bill/Ben, still not sure). Good neighbors of Mom and Dad’s were there too. I was so glad to see them and felt as though I knew them well from all of Mom’s stories about their lives through the years. I learned that Mr. Garza started going with Daddy every time he went to the cemetery after his fall when he was hurt so badly at the cemetery. This was one of my biggest concerns for Dad and I never knew Mr. Garza was there. It meant so much to know and to be able to thank them both for their care and concern for Daddy.

I spent some time visiting with a few of the Patriot Guard and was very impressed with their military service history and dedication for doing what is right for all military. They “stand tall” next to their flags and do not move unless something is needed. Right after the flag presentation their leader approached me with a plaque and a sympathy card signed by all that were present. A few of us spent some time at the graveside after the service.

I had gone out the day before and tried to neaten up the graves. I also placed a solar powered lantern next to Mom and Dad’s headstone and a smaller version next to Kyle’s. At one point, when I was going to Tyler on the weekends, I took a solar powered lantern to Dad and we placed it in his backyard. He was so fascinated with the glow in the evenings. He would call me to tell me it was shining and he thanked me every time for giving it to him.

We promised Dad we would bury him next to the love of his life and we succeeded.

Monday, February 27, 2012

My Hero - My Dad

I've been very delinquent in posting to either one of my blogs. Lots has been happening in my life, not at all unlike most every other person in this world. Some of it was wonderful, but the greatest grief for me has been the loss of my sweet Dad. He has been gone for just over a year now and my heart still aches. I can still feel his hand in mine the last time I saw him.
This blog was originally setup in order to record family history so I feel the need to share my Dad's obituary. I believe the obituary is self explanatory and really, that is about all I think I have the energy to do this evening. I plan to write more frequently so I will add more in the days ahead about my Dad and my family that remains on earth.
Charles L. Larkin, a 30-year veteran of the Army Air Corp and United States Air Force, died February 12, 2011 at age 94. Larkin died within a month of being diagnosed with liver cancer at a Carmel, Indiana nursing home.

Larkin was married for 55 years to Pauline Faglie Larkin of Tyler, Texas, who preceded him in death in 2000. Upon retirement from the Air Force in 1973 the Larkin’s resided in Tyler until 2008. Their marriage produced three children: Alice Raye Larkin, Paul Charles Larkin who preceded his parents in death in 1998, and Steven Bryan Larkin who is married to Nancy.

Charles was born in Marble, Colorado on January 5, 1917. Raised during the Great Depression one of Charles favorite birthday gifts was received when he turned seven; a donkey and a single shot 1910 .22 Winchester rifle. “Mom gave me permission to roam freely throughout the countryside as long as I brought home something to eat.” said Charles while providing family history. Charles proved to be an avid fisherman, hunter, trapper and gold prospector. Known to enjoy long road trips, in 1938 Charles drove alone from Los Angeles, California to Buena Vista, Colorado in a Model T Ford. “I put more water in the radiator than I did gas in the fuel tank and spent most nights sleeping alongside the road.” said Larkin.

Charles entered military service in 1941 as a pilot in the Army Air Corp and served in WWII. After the war he worked for the Colorado Division of Wildlife in Buena Vista, Colorado. In 1947 he joined the newly formed branch of the United States Air Force from which he retired in 1973.
During his Army Air Corp/Air Force career his service deployments ranged from Europe to Vietnam including service at Biloxi, Mississippi, Wichita Falls, Texas, Amarillo, Texas, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Moses Lake, Washington, Denver, Colorado, Ft. Worth, Texas, Yakota, Japan, and Austin, Texas.

In addition to Alice and Steven Larkin, three grandchildren survive Charles: Kelly Pauline Brenner Simmon and her husband Michael, Shelby Ann Larkin, Leigh Catherine Larkin and he was preceded in death by grandson Kyle Ross Brenner. Charles also enjoyed the lively exuberance of three great grandsons: Andrew Ross Simmon, Jackson Lee Simmon and Zachary Paul Simmon.

A brother Arthur and a sister Laverne, both of Buena Vista, Colorado, preceded Charles in death.

In memory of Charles please perform a random act of kindness to a stranger. A private graveside service will be held at Pleasant Retreat Cemetery on March 6, 2011.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Bunny Tail Tale

I found some short stories and thoughts I recorded in a journal over the years and thought I would share them. This one I wrote specifically for my little boys. The oldest will now be able to read the story to his younger brothers. (Thank you Drew!)

May 18, 2007

Almost everyday I see bunnies, large and small, when I am entering or leaving my office building. They usually sit munching grass watching carefully to be sure where the "big feet" are going. Today I saw a young bunny when I arrived and this afternoon there was a very small bunny sitting in the grass by my car. I must have startled this little one as it turned tail and hopped away. The funny part about this story was how I was standing in my front yard this evening hoeing weeds and a big bunny hopped right in front of me. I don't think he even saw me. He hopped quickly to my neighbors yard and sat under their tree. I wondered where the squirrels were that live in that particular tree. What would happen if the squirrel saw the bunny? Do you think they talk to each other? What do they say to each other? Maybe something like, "Mimi sure is working in her flower bed. Do you think she saw me?" "I think she did because I saw her smile at you. She won't hurt you. She loves bunnies." "I'm sure glad that big brown dog isn't there anymore. He was scary looking, but he never even chased me when he could. He was a good dog." "You are right, he never chased me either although he growled at me once."

I love considering what animals are thinking. For the most part, you can usually look deep into their eyes and see something is happening. Wonder what they think of "the big feet" around them. Remember God loves all creatures big and small. It is up to us to always be kind.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Do you remember?

I was up late last night and I stumbled across the Pentagon network and watched a program about the 9/11 memorial that opened a year ago. How it came about, who designed it, how it was built, and why....

My heart was touched all over again. Remembering that day hurts. I remember watching peoples eyes and seeing such sadness and feeling overwhelmed. My memories included knowing that some day we might well be in the position of being attacked although I feel alot of that particular feeling is due to the way I was raised in the Air Force. We were ready for anything! There were alerts that our Dad responded to and I remember living in the basement in Denver base housing for a week during the Bay of Pigs incident. I was raised in the Cold and Vietnam wars. In 1966 I flew home to America in an Air Force KC135 loaded with flag draped caskets going home. I had to crawl on my hands and knees to get to my seat in the back of that plane. My life changed forever as a result.

A year and one week after 9/11 I was in New York City and then Washington DC for meetings and I saw the hurt and pain still in the eyes of the people on the subways and on the sidewalks. There was a frenetic feel about both cities that was tangible. We visited Ground Zero and the Manhattan and Tribeca firehouses. Such hallowed ground!

What has happened? Why aren't we remembering we are still at war fighting an enemy who would just as soon we all died and continues to search out ways to that end? Where have all our flags gone?

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I am sitting in my new home in Texas reveling in the quiet and beauty that is all around me. I know full well how blessed I am and I am so grateful.

This home is lush with peace and beauty. The half acre that is viewed from my living room windows is full of green trees and grass for now, but soon the leaves will be falling. I am looking forward to seeing how my "secret garden" will look dressed in new colors.

I recently invited my three grandsons to visit me in my new home for the first time and we had fun even though it rained hard the entire time they were here. We were able to walk through the woods and the creek in between showers when they first arrived and I wondered what adventure was racing through their minds as we walked. I wish I could have just let them go to roam freely and perhaps in the very near future I will be able to do that with the older two.

While they were here we had fun watching the squirrels race through the trees and one would sit on the ledge of one of the transom windows in my office. This one was smart enough to come in (so to speak) out of the rain as it sat under the eaves. The boys were so excited and ran from the office window to the bedroom windows to get a better look. Can you even begin to imagine what that squirrel was seeing as he/she looked down from that high perch at the beautiful, excited faces staring up?

My goal with my little boys is to make sure they have adventures they will remember always. Adventures are small, sometimes seemingly insignificant times that touch hearts and minds. They don't always require trips to far away places and loads of money. We have spent time sitting in the backyard watching the moon and talking about how when they lived in Arizona and I was still in Texas we were seeing the very same moon. It was at that point I told them they could always wave at the moon and they would be able to hear me say in their heart and mind that I love them to the moon and back! Ever since that conversation we have been telling each other that phrase everytime we speak on the phone and my sweet Dad and I say it too.

We are all children at heart. Some of us just wear larger clothes. Children are precious and that is how we should always treat each other. After all, that is how God sees us, isn't it?

Monday, December 11, 2006

As Time Marches On.....

Time...marches on relentlessly. Sometimes there seems to be so much of it and yet, as we watch minutes fly by we can see clearly the precious losses. Recently, I have had the honor and privilege of assisting my father in his day to day life. He lives 120 miles from me and I haven't been able to go every single weekend as I so wanted to do. You see, he will very soon be 90 years old. He defies all the odds and continues to care for himself ~ living independently. He is my example and hero of the highest order! If only I will be such as he when I am 90. In my mind and heart, every second away from my Daddy is a great loss. I know all too well what it means to lose those we love dearly so I unashamedly cry for those lost seconds away from my sweet father's presence. We must honor and protect what is most precious to us while we have the time to do so. Hoard the precious moments and bless while you can! Your effort will never be wasted.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Thoughts on Prayer

I love the way Max Lucado thinks! As a result, he makes me think and that is what happens on a regular basis as I use his devotional journal each morning.

Yesterday, he spoke of how God hears our prayers. He used the story of Lazarus' illness. We all know that Lazarus and Jesus were close friends who cared deeply for each other. We also know the story of how Jesus called Lazarus from the grave. Now that, my friends, should have made a believer out of anyone, but there were still doubters as there are today.

Lucado writes, "When a friend told Jesus of the illness of Lazarus he said, "Lord, the one you love is sick." He doesn't base his appeal on the imperfect love of the one in need, but on the perfect love of the Savior. He doesn't say, "The one who loves you is sick." He says, "The one you love is sick." The power of the prayer, in other words, does not depend on the one who makes the prayer, but on the one who hears the prayer. We can, and must repeat the phrase in manifold ways. "The one you love is tired, sad, hungry, lonely, fearful, depressed." The words of the prayer vary, but the response never changes. The Savior hears the prayer. He silences heaven, so he won't miss a word. He hears the prayer." Psalm 34:17

Wow! This means that I don't have to be so arrogant as to think that my prayer will be the one that will make that person well, or happy, or safe. All I have to do is recognize God's power, intercede for the person in need, and leave it in His hands. Now THAT should take the pressure off those of us who feel we have to perform to prove who we are in God's sight. We don't have to do anything to be loved by God other than accept His love. I've always loved the image of God holding us in His arms protecting us tenderly. He accepts us for who we are as vulnerable children.

Lord, please forgive my arrogance and pride.