Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Aunt Bonnie's funeral
As many of you know my Aunt was very ill with heart failure and was not expected to live when they sent her home from the hospital at the first of January. Therefore my dad decided to drive himself to Southern Utah a day early so that he could visit with her one last time.
We met dad on our way to Quartzsite on Saturday morning at Bonnie’s house in Littlefield AZ. She was very ill. She has had emphysema for years and finally her heart started wearing out. Hospice nurses were there when we arrived. They had her in a hospital bed in the living room and she did NOT look like my Aunt Bonnie. She was very swollen from the medications she was on. She gave me a soft smile and a sweet hug laying there in her bed and then drifted back to sleep.
Here is a picture of Peggy’s daughter and son, and their grandpa Tyke. Bonnie and Tyke got married in 1969. Tyke has been a good and loving husband to Bonnie. He has a fun sense of humor and we all enjoy being around him. He has taken such good care of Bonnie this last few years. He was a truck driver by trade until he retired. He grew up in the Mesquite area and has some sweet daughters - we got to meet Connie and Barbara at the viewing and funeral. His third daughter, Nancy, wasn’t able to make it. Tyke looks at life and the world around him in an honest and unhypocritical way. What you see with Tyke is what you get!
My cousins Joanna, Dennis and his wife Kate, and Connie were all there. Peggy was still in Cottonwood Arizona. Eddie had been there but had left for a couple of days to drive up to utah to see his newest grand-daughter. He lives in Pennsylvania. Dennis the oldest of eight children, five of whom are still living.
While we were there they asked dad to give the eulogy and a short talk at her grave side services. Then they asked ME to help them write the obituary (like I am so experienced at that!!) Anyway, I got out my computer and sat down with Connie and Joanna and with a little bit of help from Bonnie’s husband Tyke, we got it written. Bonnie had a difficult life - she had an abusive husband (her first husband and father of her children) and she lost one daughter at age three to drowning and a 15 year old son to a car accident and she had a downs syndrome baby that lived for two years but stayed an infant that full time. In spite of all this she was a sweet and very loving woman and it was so heartwarming to see the love and support between the brothers and sisters and grand and great grand kids. Although most of the family were baptized into the LDS church at age 8 I don’t think many of them have ever been real active. It is times like this that people reach out to a belief in God with such a desire to know that there is an after life and that they will be able to love and hold and hug their sweet mom and grandma again someday. I am so thankful for the knowledge I have of the hereafter and the testimony I have that our life here on earth is just a tiny part of the whole plan of Salvation. I am grateful for the love and sacrifice of Jesus who made it possible to return to our Father in Heaven after this life - and to our families and the love we share.
Ed left with the truck and trailer while I was helping write the obituary. About an hour later Grandpa Merritt and I headed South in dad’s car. I had hoped to catch up to Ed by Needles or at least by Parker but I got myself good and lost in Las Vegas in the construction and Ed beat us to Quartzsite!! Which actually was quite nice because he had the bikes out and the floor swept and the carpet laid out and the couches down. Our house was ready for us.
While we were out riding on Wednesday afternoon with Jana and Jimmie, on the way back from Dripping Springs my cell phone rang. At first I was just amazed that I could actually get cell service in the middle of the Mtns!! Then I thought, I can’t answer this - I will lose Jana and Jimmie who were ahead of us. Then I thought, it might be Edward who was behind me, and he may have had problems and is calling for help. So I stopped on the trail and answered the phone. It was Connie, calling me to let me know that her mom had died. She said that she went very peacefully which was a relief to them. Dad had pulled up behind me (and Ed behind him) and I am sitting there thinking “do I tell dad now that his sister has died or do I wait until we get back to the trailer”. The first thing out of dad’s mouth when I hung up and put the phone away was “who in the world were you calling?” I told him that it was Connie and she had called me and that Bonnie was gone. We had a few solemn moments and then headed on down the trail. When we caught up with Jana and Jimmie later down the trail I quietly explained what the delay had been. I noticed later on that Jana made it a point to go over to dad and express her condolences.
The viewing was set for Sunday evening at the Mesquite Mortuary and the graveside services were Monday at 11 at the Bunkerville Cemetery. So Sunday morning Ed got up early and headed to Phoenix to fly to Dayton, Ohio. Dad and I got in the car and headed to Mesquite, Nevada. I took a sweater with me thinking I probably wouldn’t need it but wanted to be prepared. We got to Bunkerville and stopped at my aunt Eleanor’s house about 3 pm. We visited with her for about and hour and then headed over to the Eureka! Hotel where my cousin Brenda had made reservations for a room for Dad and I. It was getting colder and colder outside. Oh!! And For those of you who remember my deaf cousin, Aubree (Darnae and Eleanor’s granddaughter, Brenda’s daughter) had a baby boy on that Sunday, January 25 - the baby and mother are doing well! She and her husband Jacob have purchased a new home in Tremonton and so as soon as Aubree went into labor, Brenda flew to Salt Lake and then rented a car to make it to the hospital to see her first grandson who had been born that morning
The viewing was very well attended with family, friends and neighbors. The weather turned really cold while we were in the mortuary...the wind was blowing from the North and it went right through my sweater. My Aunt Lorraine works at a Florist shop in Fillmore and Dad, Evan, Lorraine and Annette (the only four siblings left living) all went in on a beautiful wreath of pink carnations and white and lavender daisies. Dad told Tyke that he was glad that they had only put pictures of the puppy in the casket with Bonnie instead of the dog himself. Tyke laughed and said he couldn’t bear to lose BOTH of them.
As we left the viewing at 7 pm I decided to drop dad off at the motel and run over to Wal Mart and see if I could find a warmer jacket and some warmer shoes (I had brought sandals to wear without nylons). I found a jacket to wear under my sweater for just $7 (I figured it would cut stop the wind) and some cute heels that looked good with my skirt and blouse and some warm nylons. Thank Heavens for Wal Mart. It was almost snowing as we left the mortuary. Kind of a sleet. Something that Mesquite sees very rarely!!. It rained most of the night I think but by ten am Monday morning, it was clearing out although it was still very cool air (for Mesquite). We all met at the mortuary at 10 am where we visited quietly until about 10:30 when they held a family prayer and allowed time for a final goodbye and then they closed the casket. At that time they rolled the casket out to the hearse and we all followed to the Bunkerville cemetery. It did seem strange that we traveled the back roads of Mesquite at 35-40 miles an hour instead of the normal twenty when you are in a funeral procession.
By the time we got to the Bunkerville cemetery the sun and air had finally warmed up and it was a beautiful sunny morning - much better than the one a year ago when we buried Colleen and Randy.
They had some beautiful music playing at the gravesite and then they had a prayer and then dad gave the eulogy and then talked for a few minutes about Bonnie and the family she grew up in and the difficult living conditions of the depression and then he talked about families and the love we have for one another and the knowledge that we have that we can be together forever.
He kept the religion very low key and spoke lovingly of Bonnie’s kids and grandkids. He did a good job. I was proud of him. He had worried so about what he was going to say. Bonnie was only ten years old when he left for the War and he came back home she was a young lady dating and gone a lot with friends. She got married when she was 16 and so dad didn’t really know her well. After dad talked they played Randy Travis’s song about Angels - something to the effect that the guys were sitting around talking and got to talking about angels and one guy said there are not any angels and the other guy spoke up and said “yeah there are - have you ever seen a mother with her children - we see angels among us every day. “ I don’t think there was a dry eye in the whole cemetery by the time that song was finished. It was beautiful.
This is a picture of my cousins Mark, Joanna and Harlan Kay, plus me and my dad. Lets see - let me list the cousins of mine that were there at the funeral. Four of Bonnie’s five children were at the funeral. Eddie had been at his mom’s and left just the day before she died and was halfway back to Pennsylvania and decided he couldn’t come back for the funeral. Dennis was there with his wife and three of his four children. After looking closely at this picture I decided we ALL have the Nielson nose!!! Joanna was there with two of her children and six of her grandchildren (she has adopted four of them).
Joanna’s ex-husband Francis (the father of her three kids) was there. We met him and his present wife and he seemed to be a very nice gentleman. Evidently Dennis’s wife’s mom was Francis’s sister Mary!! This picture shows Francis Sheperd., the dad, Joanna and Francis’s son Scott standing behind him; Joanna and Francis’s daughter Billy Jo (she goes by BJ), BJ’s daughter and son, Megan and Garrett; and Francis’s mom Mary.
Connie was there - she lives in Florida and has made lots of flights out to Utah so none of her family were able to make it.
Peggy was there with her daughter and son. Peggy seemed very alone - she was very quiet and withdrawn - I talked to her for a bit but she seemed so distant which was sad. She is divorced.
This is a picture of a bunch of my cousins just before the funeral. The fellow on the left is Wally and Kevin’s uncle Russell but the other four are my cousins. Wally, son of Jeannine and Dave, Mark and Harlan Kay, sons of Harlan and Beryl, and Kevin son of Darnae and Eleanor. Interestingly enough, Wally and Kevin are double cousins - Eleanor and Dave are brother and sister!
No one made it down from Sterling and Marie’s family. From Uncle Harlan’s family both Mark and Harlan Kay were there. Dad and I were there from our family. Eleanor and two of her kids Kevin daughter Lafaye were there. Wally was there from Jeannine’s family. No one made it from Texas and uncle Evan’s family. Annette was at the viewing but didn’t come back the next morning for the graveside services because uncle Jerry was having surgery - his diabetes has caused some real serious problems. (We found out later that they removed his right leg just below the knee but they think the left leg can be saved). Their daughter Cindy (and her husband Mike) were at both the viewing and the graveside services. They stayed for the luncheon served at the Littlefield Ward after the services then they headed back to see her dad.
Lorraine was there and both of her daughters Sherri and Melody plus her son Bryce and his wife and little boy were there. Also Ben and his wife. So I got to see lots of cousins and we visited Sunday evening and Monday morning and then at the luncheon too. We also got to meet a lot of their kids and their grandkids too.
It was a nice day. Dad and I got back on the road about 3:30 and got back to the trailer about 9 pm that night. I am so glad that we were able to go. Bonnie’s family was one that I didn’t know well and I regret it now - she stayed away from a lot of family gatherings when her kids were young - Joanna was six years younger than I was and Connie was eight years younger and Peggy was twenty years younger!. So I ignored them as little girls when I was growing up. After Aunt Bonnie divorced Vance she moved to Kanosh for a while then to Bunkerville for a while and then to Eureka again for a while and she did this for several years - I think she was hiding from Vance! Anyway, she finally settled in Cottonwood AZ where she lived for years. She and Tyke moved to Littlefield about ten years ago - Connie and her husband moved to Florida and JoAnna and her husband stayed in Cottonwood, along with Peggy and her family. I don’t know that I would even recognize Eddie as an adult, although his daughter remembered attending one of the reunions about ten years ago. Dennis and his wife Kate and their family live in the Santaquin area. It has been through the Nielson family reunions this last decade that I have finally gotten to know Bonnie’s children, as adults.
One last mention of Joanna and her grandkids that she has adopted. They are the children of her youngest daughter (Beverly) who has had some major problems and is serving time in Arizona. They are darling kids. Destiny is the youngest of the four and just an adorable little girl. This picture was taken after the graveside services as people were leaving and Joanna who had been holding her almost the whole time had set her down to run and play. She looked so cute sitting on the bench I had to snap a picture of it for Joanna.
Well - I have written this whole thing out for my memories!! I hope I haven’t bored you to tears. I am hoping that some of Bonnie’s kids will visit my blog to see the pictures that I took although I am also going to post them on the willden.org/ gallery.