As they lay you in the ground, though I am not with you in person, I am with you in spirit. It’s as if my entire being decided to continue living for a day without my heart, as it is on loan in Wyoming with you and the family. Exactly where it should be; where I should be. I go throughout my day giving the appearance that nothing is different but in reality nothing is the same. I put one foot in front of the other but only because I know it’s what you’d want me to do. It’s what you would do. I know that if I dare frown or cry in front of anyone you would be the first to sternly inform me that I need a check up from the neck up. But I need you to know that despite being thousands of miles away as they lay you in the ground, I’m remembering you.
As they lay you in the ground I remember your keen sense of hearing. When I was kid I distinctly recall whispering in the basement of your house with one of the cousins and being utterly shocked that you could hear us from upstairs. To be fair, I’m sure we weren’t as quiet as we thought. However, that memory sticks with me to this day and I believed for many years that you could hear anything. It is my hope, that as they lay you in the ground, you’ll still be able to hear us.
As they lay you in the ground I think of the long lost pocket knife you gave me for my 8th birthday. I can still hear the talk you gave at my baptism as you compared the knife to the Holy Ghost. “You’re never fully dressed until you have a knife in your back pocket. You should never be without one, and so it is with the Holy Ghost. We must keep it with us always.” That knife was a beautiful symbol, but it was also a true representation of your love for me. I can still picture the first time I opened the blade and saw that you had engraved your special nickname for me on it, “Snicolefritz.” It took only minutes for me to slice my finger wide open in careless excitement. You could have been angry but instead you took advantage of the moment, teaching me how to use a knife. As they lay you in the ground I’m grateful for the memory held in the scar on my finger.
As they lay you in the ground I’m taken back 15 years to another lesson you preached. I cried and told you of my struggles to attend church activities that were often accompanied with awkward socializing to make my introverted skin crawl. I knew you, of all people, would understand, and you did. But you still didn’t let me get away with it. You taught me that attending such activities wasn’t just about me. Maybe I didn’t need those activities, but maybe somebody there needed me. As they lay you in the ground I remember the selfishness you wouldn’t allow.
As they lay you in the ground I can still see you on the back pew of the church on any given Sunday morning. Always the first to arrive you could have your pick of seats, but the back was your favorite; though not because you were avoiding people (as one might suspect) but rather to observe and search for those who may need your friendship. I can see you walking from that same back row bench to the pulpit to bear your testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which you loved so dearly. The last time I saw you make that walk, you had no business walking and most in your condition wouldn’t have tried. But as they lay you in the ground, I’m grateful that you were never like most.
As they lay you in the ground I run my fingers across the leather-bound atlas you gave to me a few years prior. That atlas sat on your living room coffee table for years and was my go-to every time we visited. I pored over that book with tireless fascination of the world we live in, never realizing that you were watching me until the day you made it mine. That old atlas now sits on my own coffee table as a symbol of your love but also as a symbol of the guidance you gave me. As they lay you in the ground I can feel the prayers and direction you offered on my behalf as I traveled the world.
As they lay you in the ground I take the most recent knife you gave me, out of its sheath to reveal a sheer, black blade of about 10 inches. It was only this summer that you gave it to me to keep with me on my next trek across the country. Jokingly I mentioned that it would come in handy if I came across anyone wanting to make trouble. To which you naturally responded with vigorous confirmation. You could barely lift your arm but that didn’t stop you from giving me a detailed demonstration of how and where to stab someone who dared threaten a Gwynn. As they lay you in the ground I vow to always stick up for myself as you taught.
As they lay you in the ground I think of my dad, another gift you gave to me, and wish deeply that I could be with him as he says goodbye to you until the next life. But I’m reminded that you are finally seeing your own mother for the first time since you were four years old. Imagining this reunion gives me comfort and peace because I know that dad will see you again, and so will I. Your faith in choosing to follow Christ over 50 years ago has provided our family with the knowledge that families can be eternal through the atonement of Christ. As they lay you in the ground I remember the greatest gift of all.