Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Sweet Family Christmas

On December 28, I sent the following email to a long list of family members and friends....

Happy New Year from Cedarwood Hills in Lawrence!

Thank you for calling, sending cards and electronic messages and simply generating energy of love, light and prayers to beam our way. We have received all of the above during this holiday.

My dad rallied for a beautiful and fun family Christmas, with guests from Washington, Illinois and Texas. A highlight was gathering on the front lawn to fly drones. Dad gazed up in obvious delight, guiding his Christmas toy to hover, swoop and glide above the treetops. He laughed out loud with the rest of us when the drone snagged on tall branches 30-feet up. His great-nephew Forrest scrambled up the tree and, assisted by Calvin, the two super-hero grandsons brought the drone home to Jerome.

Other poignant moments happened around Dad's bedside, where he gathered groups and individuals to share family lore. Granddaughter Michelle Clark Kuykendall, who is expecting a son in late March, chose a few treasures from the trove of toys stored around the house to share with "Cole." Among them is a John Deere mini-tractor set from Rich's childhood. Dad asked her to hold the 1920s era "D" tractor while he told the story of using a life-sized version of that tractor during the summer he was 12 to pull boxcars at the rail yard. Earning $20 a day--a lot for the times!--he earned enough in two weeks to buy his town's first television set, with a gigantic antenna for tuning in the Oklahoma City station that was the only one in range. Michelle and her husband, Chauncy, listened with obvious pleasure, while we snapped photos of the storytelling with our iPhones. What glorious technologies my dad has tuned into over the years!

Dad opened his various treasure boxes to give away vintage coins, proof sets, heirloom jewelry and more that he has collected with care for many decades. He was generous too with his emotions and offered a lovely mix of heartfelt tears, laughter, love and gratitude with each of us. We couldn't be more grateful to him for showing us how to gracefully celebrate a life well lived.

As a "Take 2" to our 1970s rendition of "Away in a Manger,"  http://youtu.be/Gx9TH67-Yu8, our Niebaum family of four gathered round the piano to sing, with accompaniment from Mom. My dad stood tall, and his harmony rang clear. Matt videotaped this new version on his phone and posted it on Facebook and YouTube. What a big change from our little cassette-recorded original, painstakingly digitized decades later!

Check out the new video via this link: http://youtu.be/JxvceJL4-_I

Dad appreciates that he has some control over how he will finish his good-byes and plans to taper off from sustenance at his own discretion as the New Year commences. He says he is unafraid and grateful to have had this time to relish all of the love and life he has shared with us and all of you. He has enjoyed planning a service to celebrate his amazing life, and we all relish the roles that have been handed directly to us from him. I'm honored and grateful to be his daughter and to go through this process with him. It's a privilege to know each of you and to know the love and respect that you have shared with my amazing dad.

Peace and love to all,
Jerri Jeane

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