Memories of Dad's Funeral

Elliott Kimball Larsen
July 3, 2004

I was at my office at about 10:45 am MST on Wednesday, June 23, 2004.  I was on the phone with Christine when my pager went off...the number on it was 13144323 – not the right number of digits for a full phone number, but I could tell it was the beginning of mom and dad's number.  I remarked about it to Christine, and almost immediately I got another page – this time with the call back number to mom's cell phone.  I let Christine know what was going on, and immediately called mom.  The conversation went something like this:

“Hi mom – you paged me?”
“Yes, I did.. are you at your office?”
“Well, we have some bad news for you this morning.  Your dad passed away last night”
“You're kidding!”

I couldn't believe it.  My gut immediately got tight, and I became nauseous.  My first thoughts were about how to get to mom's side as soon as possible, and what I could do to help.  I asked her if she wanted to have me jump on a plane to Las Vegas (where she was), and what I could do to help her.  She told me not to worry about getting to Las Vegas, but to call her later that day.  At that point she had not yet informed Reed or Adrian (I think).  

I immediately informed my boss and coworkers (via a very short and terse email) that my father had just passed away and I would be out of the office for the next week or so.  I then called Christine (who was on her way out to meet the carpet cleaners at our old house) to tell her the news.  She was as shocked as I was.  I told her to go ahead and meet the carpet cleaners, and that I was going home.  I went straight home... that was an odd drive.  I don't remember actually driving anywhere, just that I got home, where I went straight to my bedroom and laid down on the bed.  I was so shocked by the news – I could not believe that dad was really gone.  My mind jumped so fast among all the questions that popped up that I barely had any chance to analyze what had happened and how to begin to answer the questions before the next would arrive:  What happened?  Did he have any health problems?  What will mom do?  Who will mow the lawn?  When will the funeral be?  Where will the funeral be?  How will they get his body from Vegas to St. Louis, etc., etc, etc.  I think I eventually drifted off to sleep and woke up when I heard Christine and Erica come home from meeting the carpet cleaners. 

She came and found me in the room and gave me a big hug.  I can't remember most of that day – there were many phone calls, worrying about how to get a hold of Reed, etc.  The next day we were going to be driving to St. George to attend Cameron's wedding anyway, so we decided not to have me hop a plane to Vegas.  Through various phone calls with mom it was decided that she would go to St. George that evening with CherryAnn and Phil where Christine and I would meet her the next morning.  We called Linda (Annette's maid of honor) to see if she could come an hour earlier the next morning as we were going to give her a ride to St. George.  She agreed.  I don't remember a whole lot of that day – just that I was stunned and could not think clearly about much of anything.  Christine stepped in and took over – arranging everything so we could leave town the next day (including packing) while I watched a movie with her little brother to keep my mind occupied.

The next day we got to St. George about 10:30 in the morning, and got to mom's hotel as fast as we could. We went to her room and I walked in and gave mom a big hug.  Everyone was surprisingly calm, though there was clearly lots of work to be done.  Christine and I got an update of what had happened since the night before, and got started trying to make calls to get the funeral arrangements made.  By now the decision had been made to bury dad in Salt Lake.  

Christine and I then changed clothes and went to the temple.  We found Cameron and Annette just as they were headed in.  We took a quick picture of them, then gave hugs all around and went in the temple with them.  I asked Cameron if he would like to have an escort in the temple to help with his stuff, and he said yes he would – so I became his escort in dad's place.  I followed him around wherever all the little old men told me to go.  Cameron asked me to be a witness for the sealing, and we decided to see if mom wanted a blessing.  Cameron mentioned that he would like one too.  We eventually got him dressed and back with Annette to meet with the sealer, and I went to the waiting room with everyone.  I milled about and greeted people who had come while waiting for mom to arrive.  While all the family and friends were waiting Cameron and Annette were meeting with the sealer as is typical in an LDS wedding.  I am not sure how it was decided, but after their meeting, the sealer came to the family waiting room and announced that all of Cameron's brothers and sisters and mother should come with him.  We went into a small sealing room where Cameron and Annette were waiting and we all took seats.  The sealer expressed is condolences over the passing of dad and then Annette asked my mom if she would like a blessing.  

Mom appeared quite taken aback by this offer, and immediately accepted.  Reed, Adrian, Cameron and I all participated in the blessing, with Adrian as voice.  The clearest message I think we all took away from that blessing was that dad was where he needed to be, and it was time for him to return home.  Next Cameron asked for a blessing.  Reed, Adrian, and I administered, with me acting as voice.  Looking back at Cameron's wedding is very bittersweet for me, as I wound up standing in for dad in many of the places he would have traditionally been.  It was hard to not feel like Cameron was cheated out of the experience of having dad there with him as his escort and to give him a father's blessing the day he was married, though I am sure that dad was there.

After the blessings, we were taken to the sealing room where Cameron and Annette were sealed for time and all eternity.  I was one of the witnesses, and Annette's father was the other.  After the sealing we went out on the temple lawn and took lots of pictures.  We have one in particular where mom requested we leave room for dad.  We of course also have one of Cameron just after jumping into my arms... family tradition.

After the wedding photography was completed, Cameron and Annette rode with us in the back of our car to the hotel where the reception was held.  The hotel had put “Congratulations Cameron and Annette” on their big sign out front.. it was pretty cool.

We had the reception lunch/dinner thing there in one of the hotel ballrooms, during which Adrian and I went out and decorated Cameron's car with Oreos (that slid right off of it because of how hot it was there), whipped cream, and toilet paper.  He washed it the next day.

After the reception there Christine and I (Erica was with Christine's parents in Salt Lake) went back to mom's hotel where we changed clothes and helped make a few final arrangements before leaving for Flagstaff.  We then drove straight to Flagstaff, arriving about 1 am.  The next morning we rolled out of bed around 10, cleaned the car out, straightened up the hotel room, wrapped Cameron's wedding gifts, then went to find some lunch.  Then we went to see the grand canyon (it's a big hole) and returned to Flagstaff by about 6:30 pm and  went to Cameron's reception.  (We were told it started at 7, so we wound up being an hour late.)  Their reception in Flagstaff was really nice, but we were the only ones from Cameron's immediate family in attendance.  

Uncles Dan and Kerry came (with their wives).  After the reception Christine and I went and got some dinner, then Cameron and Annette met us at our hotel room to pick up their wedding presents and finalize plans for driving back to Salt Lake the next day.

The next morning we met up with Cameron and Annette around 7 or 8 and headed for Salt Lake.  We arrived around 6:30 or so in the evening.  We went and picked up Erica and headed over to Reed and Lori's house to be with mom and the rest of the family.  

The next several days are a blur.  I spent a lot of time at Reed and Lori's house assisting with funeral preparations for the Salt Lake City funeral and spending time with mom. On Sunday evening Christine and I went with mom to the funeral home to assist the funeral director in dressing dad.  I remember I was afraid of seeing his body – I think mostly because I did not know how I would react.  I have not spent much time around deceased persons, and did not quite know what to expect.  I do recall that he did not really look much like himself, which the funeral director said was the result of how long the coroner in Las Vegas took to properly prepare the body.  His face was quite bloated and swollen, as were his hands.  

I took the entire week off of work, and we had the funeral in Salt Lake City on Monday.  Dad was interred immediately following the funeral.  There was a large crowd at the funeral in Salt Lake – many more people than we were expecting came to pay their respects and show support.  I understand they had to set up extra folding chairs at the back of the large chapel to accommodate the crowd.  The weather that day was relatively warm – I remember sweating a lot as I helped carry dad's casket to the mausoleum.  Interestingly, it began to rain shortly after he was entombed.  I like to think that heaven was trying to reach down and briefly share our grief.

The next day I went with mom to the funeral home to help her settle the bill for the funeral and finish off the final arrangements for dad.  She paid all but the charge from the coroner in Las Vegas, as well as the charge for the plaque that will go on dad's tomb.  The funeral director was going to send mom a catalog from the plaque company so she could choose a plaque that she really liked rather than the standard one that the funeral home uses.

We then took mom to return her rental car and pick up a part for the machine she uses at night to sleep, and returned to Reed's house.

On Wednesday Christine and I flew to St. Louis where Marjean picked us up from the airport.  We drove straight to Mom's house and dropped off our things.  We then headed to a flower shop to order some roses for mom, and dropped of my suit to be dry cleaned.  We then headed to the airport to pick up mom.  The next days in St. Louis (Wed, Thurs) were spent finalizing preparations for the funeral there and trying to figure out the current state of dad's affairs.  

During this time all our meals were provided by members of the ward, and many cards, flowers, and gifts were delivered to the home.  The outpouring of friendship and love for mom and dad has been simply amazing.  Mom says that to date she has received more than 100 cards from family and friends.  PrintToday made a huge collage of some photos of dad, and printed up large versions of 2 photos – one of him playing the piano and one of him walking in his City of Joseph costume with Cameron.

The morning of the funeral in St. Louis, Christine and I woke up early and left the house to help with the final arrangements.  We got to the chapel almost before anyone else did, and began to set up.  Christine set up the tables in both foyers, arranged all the flowers that were delivered, and made sure the chapel was perfect.  I got the sound system set up to record the funeral there (which I later discovered did not work as I hoped it computer quit recording about 73 minutes after it started.. unfortunately I started the recording about an hour before the funeral was to start.. which means I got halfway through the opening song before my computer quit recording.  Luckily, Clyde Livingston recorded the whole service on a hand held tape recorder.  I have been given the original tapes from his recorder and will be digitizing them and sending them to Lori for archival.

The St. Louis funeral was really nice.  3 of my friends from high school showed up: Daniel Kolta, Kate Dugan, and Lionel VanEerdeweigh.  This was a bit of a surprise, but it was very nice to see them all.  After the funeral we chatted with them for a few minutes before we started to clean up and head into the gym for lunch.  After lunch we all went back to mom's house for some decompression and relaxation.  Christine and I stayed in St. Louis until Sunday afternoon, when we flew back to Salt Lake.  I returned to work the next day.

As some time has now passed (I'm writing this now on the evening of July 25, 2004) the shock of losing dad so quickly has finally begun to wear off.  I have come to terms with the fact that he is gone, but I sure do miss him.  I was never really very close to dad.  In recent years I only spoke with him for a few brief minutes when he would have something to discuss, or when I would call and talk to mom.  However, in the last few months before his death I noticed a change in him.  

Sometimes when I would call looking for Mom or Cameron he would want to chat about our new house, my job, his work at the university, etc.  He came to Salt Lake a few weeks before he died for his annual DIPPR meetings, and he spent a few evenings with Christine and I.  One of those evenings he spent with me at our new house in Riverton working on some of the home repair projects we did before we moved in.  He was quite excited about the work we did together, and I was glad for his help.  He taught me a few things about how to use a hammer, and impressed me with his ability to pull out framing without using a saw.  I truly feel like in the last part of his life dad reached out to me in a way that was all his own.

I think the hardest thing for me has been that for my whole life, there has not been a whole lot that has been constant.  I have lived in many different cities.  I have had circles of friends come and go.  I have had many different jobs.  However, through all of my life I have always had mom, dad, and the gospel as an unchanging anchor.  That has now changed, and the idea that I can't just call up dad and ask for advice is hard to get used to.  

Dad, we love you and miss you, and look forward to the day we can be with you again.

-- Elliott Kimball Larsen

All Content Copyright © 2007-2008 - Elliott Kimball Larsen