Sunday, June 13, 2021

I was wrong; you CAN beat those views!

A week ago today I received news that my 89-year-old uncle, my mom's only, beloved brother, had died. By the next day I had secured a ticket to Juneau, Alaska to join my parents, my sister and her family, and my aunt, cousins, and cousins' kids for a graveside service. I left Tuesday afternoon and returned, reluctantly, Friday morning. It was a whirlwind trip, but oh, so special! And yes, the views far surpassed the beauty we enjoyed on our Memorial Day weekend trip, hard as that may be to believe. Don't worry; I have proof. 😉

It starting Tuesday night, flying into Juneau. I glanced over from my aisle seat to see sunset, sea, and rugged terrain. Oh, it was hard not to have an unobstructed view!

I finally gave up and handed my iPhone to the woman in the seat next to the window so she could get a better shot:

The next day the family congregated at Lena Beach, where my uncle's family used to go for campfires and good times when my cousins were growing up. I'll spare you the many photos of people you don't know and share mostly the stunning beauty of the setting and the weather we enjoyed. It was a perfect jewel of a day in all ways. My cousin who lives nearby brought his stand-up paddle board for those who wanted to enjoy the placid water of Lena Cove; if I'd had a change of clothes I might have given it a try. Going out with my oldest cousin (who lives in Hawaii and paddle-boards a lot) was a highlight of the trip for my nine-year-old nephew!

The dandelions were HUGE!

My mom, right, with my aunt and one of my cousins

See the whale spout?

And at this point I had to leave to catch a ride to our hotel; sniff.
Thursday morning my dad, BIL, nephew, and I paid a quick visit to the state museum.

I love to read all the placards to learn what I can. But the older I get, the sadder history makes me, illuminating as it does mankind's greed, particularly that of my European ancestors, who move in, displace and 'de-culture' the natives who are far from the primitive savages they are made out to be, and plunder all available natural resources. We really don't deserve this beautiful planet!

Thursday afternoon the 20 of us had a very simple service as specified by my uncle himself a decade ago. Hundreds if not thousands would probably have shown up at a public memorial for this man who had been a family doctor, surgeon, and commercial fisherman in the area for 50 years, but that's not what he wanted. He asked for family only, sharing a few happy memories, reading the 23rd and 91st Psalms, singing his favorite hymn, saying a prayer, and reciting the Lord's Prayer together. His wooden casket was decorated with fresh forest greenery and dandelions picked that morning, and afterwards colorful fishing lures were tossed on top.

We all retired to the paddle-board-owning cousin's house afterwards to eat and visit and make more memories. After living within 30 miles of another cousin for decades but only seeing her at family reunions, we made plans to meet up in Salem soon. More memories to be made.

My sister, her family, and I headed to the airport at 4:00 Friday morning to catch the same 5:10 flight to Seattle. This time I had a window seat. That's the Mendenhall Glacier behind the wing of our airplane in the second photo.

So that was my unplanned, family-reuniting, memory-banking Alaskan adventure. A big part of me didn't want to leave. But back home I am at . . .


Retired Knitter said...

"We really don't deserve this beautiful planet!" Truer words were never said - about the whole earth - but specifically about Alaska.

My husband and I went on an 11 day tour of Alaska (land and ship) and the whole time I felt like I was in another country. I had never seen such beautiful nature - close up and at a distance. I kept saying - this sure doesn't feel like America!! We promised ourselves when we retired we would take another trip to Alaska - this time not on a scheduled tour. Of course, life got in the way of fulfilling that promise, first 8 years caring for my mom and now my husband's loss of vision which prevents him of going anywhere "new." (His own limitations sadly.) And so I say to anyone wishing to do ANYTHING .... don't put it off. Do it! Especially if it is travel. Your "plans" can become wisps of smoke in the air by the unexpected of life! Thank you for the beautiful pictures. Although the memories of that beautiful place make me sad now - I am so glad the beauty remains for others to partake.

Tim B. Inman said...

Gorgeous and awesome. For me, it is quite easy to be put off by the man-made dogma which attaches to many (most) religions. It is impossible not to be humbled and worshipful seeing the creator's work in its own glory. Sorry to be 'heavy' but that is what inspired me with your pics. Thanks.

wyomingheart said...

There really aren’t words to describe the beauty captured in your photos! Breathtaking so say the least! God has truly blessed us with his gifts aplenty! Glad your trip was safe, and hope you have a terrific week!

Michelle said...

I'm so sorry that you didn't get to take that retirement trip, Elaine; makes the tour you did take that much more memorable! (The cruise ships aren't back yet, but I imagine will be soon.)

Not heavy at all, Tim; humans are great at mucking up everything – even worship of the Creator. 😉

Glad to have captured a fragment of the majesty to share with you and others, wyomingheart!

Florida Farm Girl said...

What a wonderful way to remember a remarkable man. We should all be so blessed. Alaska is truly a wonderful place.

Helen said...

That is the way to celebrate a life.

Debbie said...

Thank you for sharing some amazing photos.

Connecting with family is priceless. So glad that you had this time with them.

The service for your uncle was beautiful.

Mokihana said...

Oh my gosh, your photos are amazing! Everything's so beautiful! Thank you so much for taking us along. I also loved reading about your uncle's service.

Jeanne said...

Michelle, your photos really are fantastic! I'm glad you were able to go and be with your family for that special time, to honor your very special uncle. You have my sympathy in your loss. I know it can be difficult. Your uncle must have been a really wonderful man.

All of my aunts and uncles are gone, as well as my parents. It is so difficult, even when you know that they were believers in the Lord.

Who is the gal dressed in black, who went out on the paddle-board? It's too bad you weren't able to try it!

What was the hymn your uncle asked for? Psalms 23 and 91 are two of my favorites, too.

Michelle said...

Thanks, Sue; my uncle really was remarkable and I will miss him. He blessed many!

It really was wonderful, Helen.

Debbie, you know I love sharing photos. :-) The family time WAS priceless!

You're most welcome, Mokihana.

Jeanne, my mom's siblings are now all gone (she's the youngest), and my step-dad only has one sister remaining (he's the youngest). It makes me keenly aware that pretty soon I will be the oldest generation in my family! The boarder in black is my uncle's oldest daughter; she's an ER physician in Honolulu. The 'hymn' was actually a short chorus: "For God so loved the world."

Kim said...

What glorious scenery! Yes, Alaska is spectacular, but somehow for living, I feel like these calm, gentle old mountains are home, and I wouldn’t change it for the world! I’m sorry your trip was one of loss, but I’m glad you could be there for your mom. He sounds a wonderful man.

A :-) said...

I am very very sorry for your loss - but what a beautiful trip you took. It's hard as our elders leave us . . . I'm now the matriarch of my clan and it's a mantle that is ill-fitting for me. Thankfully there are others of my extended family who are more "in charge."

Sharon said...

Beautiful photos, sweet story. What a nice way to remember a life well lived :-)