Monday, January 24, 2011

Tribute to Dad

To My Dad
Ray Pack Nielson
June 14, 1931 - January 14, 2011
Thank you for leaving me a legacy of hard work, integrity, humor, and faithfulness to God. You endured to the end and I know you are now experiencing the joy that comes from life well lived.

It was a wonderful and spiritual experience to be with my dad as he passed away. I couldn't see but I could definitely feel the presence of other people in the room with us. I didn't know who they were but it seemed that they were patiently waiting to help my dad transition to the other side.
My dad had a heart attack about a year before and his health declined steadily from there. He lost the ability to walk in the Fall. A week before his death he was put in a care center. Then it was decided that there was nothing that could be done to give him any quality of life. His IV's and oxygen were removed Friday. My mom and 4 of us 6 siblings were able to be with him for those final hours. We took turns holding his hand and sharing our favorite memories of him --like wrestling on the living room floor and shooting guns at the family ranch. Over the next few hours his heart beat slower and slower. His breaths became more labored and fewer. Then, he didn't take another and then he was gone.
I had the immediate sweet feeling of relief come over me. I embraced the thought of him flying up to heaven with angels, not as an old man, but as the handsome youthful athletic man that my mom married, and SMILING. I can count only a handful of times I saw my dad smiling, growing up. I think by the time I came a long he had endured a lot of hardships, especially financially, and his life didn't turn out the way he probably hoped. But, I picture him now smiling, and realizing that he stayed true and faithful despite the ups and downs of life. I feel like he's watching over me. In a way it neat to realize I have an ally on the other side, pulling for me. I know I had them before, but now I can put that smiling face with the idea. It makes me want to live a little better, be a little kinder, and live up to the example he set for me.My dad's viewing and funeral went really well. It was a happy friend and family reunion. Have you ever had refreshments at a viewing. Only my mom would make a bazillion batches of fudge and insist that everyone take a piece on their way out. During the funeral program we all learned a whole lot about the man that was our Dad. I think my siblings would agree that we were SHOCKED to hear stories from his childhood friend. How come Dad didn't tell us he was expelled from school 4 times? And that he led the cops on a car chase through the country roads of the Uintah Basin? We had to laugh at the description of my dad standing in the back of pick up truck, shooting out the insulators of the telephone poles, while the truck was moving, and hitting every one of his targets. Even though my dad rebelled against Man's Laws, he never rebelled against God's. His best friend testified to all of us kids that he never knew my father to ever take a drink or smoke, be immoral, or even swear. He served a mission to Texas/Louisiana, went to BYU, graduated in Finance, and married my mom in the Salt Lake Temple.
Brandon and I played a violin cello duet, "Jesus, Lover of My Soul." Looking back I'm glad that I was able to participate in the program in that way. A few days before, I had sliced my finger on an apple cutter and Brandon had re-dislocated his pinky. Luckily his pinky wasn't super necessary for his playing but my sliced first finger was. I almost bowed out but decided to put on lots of neosporin and hope for the best. It worked out and I'm so glad it did.

Being with my brothers and sisters made me realize how awesome each of them are. We don't get together very often because everyone is spread out from coast to coast. We know now where our rebellious streak comes from-- not just our mom!This is me, Auntie Laura, with my nephews and nieces. They're actually more like my brothers and sisters. I guess I lucked out that way, being the WAY youngest of the family.
Leave it to the little ones to show us how to cope with the death of a loved one--lots of hugs and life goes on.
I'll miss you Dad and think of you when I see all the flags waving in honor of your birthday on Flag Day.


stephanie said...

so sorry to hear about your dad. He sounds like a really neat guy. I hope you are doing well.

Lady Di said...

You're a good example to me about how to handle these events positively and faithfully. Your tribute was beautiful. It made me cry. In a good-warm-feeling sort of way.

Michelle said...

Oh, Laura. I can't imagine losing my Dad. You are so brave. The sweet peace that comes from the Comforter is sometimes the only way to make it from day to day. Let me know if I need to visit for a day or you need to visit me. You are always welcome. Shopping in St. George always makes me feel better. Thank you for your testimony.

cold cocoa said...

how fun to learn new things about your dad, to see him in a rebellious light!
I'm happy too you are feeling okay.

Juls Jems said...

Laura, so sorry to hear about your dad. Glad you & Brandon played cello & violin for the funeral. You have a wonderful family.
Your Dad is a great man.


Megz said...

I somehow didn't see this post until now.
I loved reading about your dad. It's fun to see a different perspective on people. Your dad sounds like those fun kind of rebels.
Glad everything went well and there were positives from this experience.

Sher said...

I somehow missed this post until now too. I appreciate the pictures and hearing how the experience was for you. I'm glad that you can think of your Dad being happy in heaven. I hope that comforting feeling will stay with you always.

T said...

yikes - did we ALL miss this post until days later???

this is a beautiful tribute - really - and I admire your strength and testimony in the face of difficulty :) Love ya!!!

Sheree said...

I thought I commented on this, but I don't see it so I'll post it again. I loved your dad! He was such a good guy. I loved your stories about when he was younger. What an amazing legacy he left behind.

I loved all the pictures of your siblings and nieces and nephews. Wow, I almost didn't recognize Greg.