Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Wes Gunther, part 2

 My father's memorial service was yesterday. Being the end of the line of 11 siblings, making me one of the youngest of all the cousins, and the fact that many of my parents' friends had already passed away, we were not sure what attendance would be like. 

The service was held at the funeral home and I believe my father would have been very happy with it all.

He had left very specific instructions: No slide show. Limit service to 45 minutes to one hour. Do not print eulogy in program bulletin. 

He had requests for passages from both the Old Testament and New Testament, as well as the songs he wanted. He always liked being in control, and sometimes it really got on my nerves, but in this case I was glad he had made his wishes so clear. 

Our good friend, Dennis Fast, led the service. A former pastor himself, he had conducted a few services alongside my father so he had a good understanding of him. At the present time, he is the chaplain at the retirement home so he had also spent a good amount of time with my father in these latter difficult years. My father had requested he speak on the verse from Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Mark read a passage from the Old Testament, Psalm 91. (My father had a left a little note in the instructions to say that his father read this to the children in the family each time before they left home for a long trip or went off to college). Aaron read from the New Testament, Ephesians 1:15-23 and 3:14-19. 

My brother, Jeff, gave the eulogy, and did such a good job of sharing the caring side of my father, whose real strength was ministering to people especially when they were going through difficult situations. He also shared the more "human" side. My brother has always had pets, cats and dogs, but also lots of birds. When we lived in Seattle, he had several different kinds of birds in an aviary in the back yard, including a golden pheasant that made lots of noise, particularly in the early morning hours. My brother also had a polished rock collection. Sometimes when my father couldn't handle the squawking any more, he would come into my brother's room early in the morning (which was on the second story of our home), open the window and start throwing his rock collection at the bird in an attempt to get it to be quiet. It's always been one of my favorite stories. It was then my brother's task to retrieve all his rocks, knowing that my dad would undoubtedly throw them at the pheasant all over again another night.

Christa's brother, Aaron (yes sometimes it's confusing that her brother and her husband have the same name...), sang His Eye is On the Sparrow, an old familiar hymn, and as a group we sang a song that has been sung at every Gunther event in my memory, from weddings to family reunions and every family funeral, It is Well With My Soul

It was good to see several of my cousins and many of my parents' friends who were still around. Yes, he would have enjoyed this service and I'm happy that we could easily follow his instructions. 

Cousins: Laura, Mary, Mel, Colleen, Eugene, Cathy, Jim, Carol, Stacy
I met the daughter of one of my first cousins, Colleen. She is an avid quilter and I'm so happy that she was able to attend the service. We will definitely stay in touch. 
Colleen, Cathy, and me

Since we were not able to have a reception at the funeral home, the immediate family met later for dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory, another family tradition when it comes to celebrating any worthy event in our family, and sometimes just for fun. Mark and I have been going to OSF since before we were married (and have been ordering the same thing over and over for nearly 50 years). It was a good way to end the day and I'm sure both of my parents would have been happy knowing that we spent the time sharing stories and memories. 

Saturday, February 25, 2023

John "Wes" Gunther, November 2, 1927 - February 14, 2023

 My father died shortly before 2 a.m. on Valentine's Day. When we saw our 9-year-old granddaughter the evening before, she was aware that he would likely pass away soon. When Christa was tucking her in bed that night, she said she hoped that Papa (as his great-grandchildren called him) would fall asleep and wake up in heaven with Nana so they could spend Valentine's Day together. That is exactly what happened.

I actually lost my father over six years ago, to that insidious disease known as Alzheimer's, so his passing has affected me much differently than when my mother died 4 1/2 years ago. It was hard for my mother to  make the decision to put him in a memory care facility here in Fresno in August 2016 but she could not care for him. A few months later, she decided she no longer wanted to live alone and they moved to a room in a retirement center in Reedley, about 45 minutes from Fresno. That was hard on her, as they downsized from a lovely three-bedroom home to a single room. Added to the difficulty for my mother--she did not have memory issues but she was now living in the memory care unit. She never complained but I know it was harder than I could even imagine. Yet she wanted to spend whatever time she could living with my dad. Shortly after she passed away in August 2018, he required care beyond just memory issues and he was transferred to the skilled nursing section. He always recognized Mark and me when we visited, but if you asked him later that day when he last saw his daughter, he would tell you that I had not come by to visit him in years. 

He was well taken care of, but he was so lonely and missed my mother so much. The pandemic only served to make him even lonelier. He never understood what was happening, why we could not come see him in person, and when we finally could, why we always had to wear masks. 

On Monday, February 13, he was taken to the hospital. He was still somewhat responsive when Mark and I arrived. We were able to Facetime my brother in Washington, DC, so he could say goodbye. Then he lapsed into unawareness. I'm so glad we were able to spend time with him before he passed away peacefully. 

He reached the age of 95, although if you asked him how old he was, he would tell you that he was born in 1927--he never forgot what year he was born--and that he was 101. "YOU do the math." We never argued with him, but he would not have liked this photo (taken in 2020), because when I took it, he would never have believed that he was only 93! I'm sure he thought he was at least 96 by this time.

My father was one of 14 siblings, although by the time I was born, three had passed away (one at age 2, one under a year, and a sister at age 18), so all of my life he was next to the youngest of 11.

9 of 11 siblings: Dad, Marie, Pete, Eva, Ray, Grandpa, Jack, Grandma, Ernie, Caroline, Alma (missing: Lydia and Rubena)

He grew up on a farm, with little money but a lot of love in his family. He went to seminary and pastored his first church in City Terrace, an Hispanic area of Los Angeles. He went on to pastor churches in Enid, Oklahoma, Phoenix, and Seattle, before retiring from the ministry and moving back to Fresno. 

My father loved music, and I know my love of classical music comes from him. One of my fondest memories is when he built his own amplifier from a kit. I remember him sitting at a card table for hours at our home in Oklahoma, with all the small pieces in little sections of egg cartons. He was also a master woodworker and built many pieces of furniture in our home. His wood of choice was always maple and he and my mother loved the "early American" style of furniture, so he became an expert at using a lathe. I remember later that the amplifier he put together was installed in a beautiful console he built that also housed a turntable and speakers. 

He went through many creative phases. I still have a few pieces of decopage. One of my prized possessions is an absolutely exquisite needlepoint picture. He earned extra money during retirement by doing upholstery. I like to think that one of the best things I inherited from him was the love of creating. 

He was a writer, and spent several years writing a book called The Waters Run Deep: A Family Story of Triumph Over Adversity, a book that went back six generations and traced his family's migration from western Europe to Prussia (modern-day Poland) and from there to Russia and then to America. It told the story of his parents and how they moved from Oklahoma to Kansas, Michigan and California, and finally the story of his personal boyhood years, growing up on a farm near Dinuba, California. 

He loved his family, and I'm grateful that the youngest, Ella and Gabe, have memories of him, as he spent hours playing games and doing puzzles with them while Levi and Charlotte took piano lessons from my mother. 

I don't think he would ever have anticipated being the last of his siblings. He lived a long life and I'm glad that he passed away so peacefully. 

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Really Random Thursday, 2/9/23

 Several people, after seeing the snow sculpture from last week, wondered if the dragon won third place, what did first and second place look like? So here you go. I'm not sure which is first and which is second--they are both really good. However, I still think the dragon should have come in first. 

A few weeks ago, Mark saw that the St. Olaf College Band was performing in town. St. Olaf College, as in St. Olaf, MN. (When you are married to a native of Minnesota, you embrace all things from that state.) We had heard them here before and, knowing what a stellar music department St. Olaf has, we bought tickets. And then Mark realized he had to run the clock at a college basketball game. Hmmm. What to do with that extra ticket...
Gabe started playing the trumpet last fall. I thought he might enjoy hearing a college band and asked if he wanted to be my date. The concert was at the Paul Shaghoian Concert Hall, a world-class venue on a local high school campus. 
We took our seats and right before the concert began, Gabe thought he heard a familiar voice behind us. We turned around and it was his band teacher! Both of them were surprised to see each other. His teacher, Mr. Gunn, was interested in knowing how he heard about the concert, and Gabe kept saying, "What are the chances you would sit right behind me?!" I think his teacher was impressed that he was there. 

My favorite was a song that featured a bass clarinet, an instrument that I had never seen before.
We only stayed for the first half (school night...) but it was a good concert and we both enjoyed it.
Haha. We all know it will be much more than 6 more weeks of quilt making...

On Saturday night, we attended a fundraising dinner for Central Valley Justice Coalition, a nonprofit committed to preventing human trafficking through education. Christa is executive director. It's a big responsibility and a lot of work. We sponsored a table and invited our friends to join us.
The meal was excellent. Christa did a great job (as always) of opening the evening.
The two speakers were open and engaging--one with a daughter living on the streets of Portland and the other a former victim of trafficking herself, who now runs a nonprofit providing trauma-informed services to survivors of trafficking.

Ella wandered around taking photos, Charlotte worked at the table selling t-shirts, and the boys did everything from welcoming guests in the parking lot to serving the food to cleaning up. Aaron ran the sound.
Christa's sister-in-law, Tracy, did all the centerpieces. There was a good turnout and I hope everyone left with more awareness of the very real problem of trafficking here in the central valley.
So many questions surrounding that Chinese balloon. I'm not sure what to think, but this was pretty funny. If only this was all there was to it...

And that's about it for another week...

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Really Random Thursday, 2/2/23

Welcome to the second month of the year, as impossible as that seems.

 I've been doing practically nonstop sewing lately, as there are two quilts I want to donate to the MCC quilt auction in April and they need to be completed and turned in by March 3. Because of that, I've been burning through audible books, as well as non audible books. 

I've always been reluctant to read Stephen King as I don't like horror. However, my friend, Janice, recommended Billy Summers and I'm so glad she did. I had also heard good things about 11/22/63, which really raises the question--IF you could go back in time and make a different choice that would change the course of history, would you? SHOULD you? I've read nearly all of Emily Giffin and Alice Feeney, and this month's selections were good, although I would not rate them as my favorites. Lock Every Door by Riley Sager was a good one, so I immediately started another one--The House Across the Lake. It started out well, then turned a corner into a really weird and unbelievable plot twist. The three books by Kiersten Modglin, well, I hated the basic premise of the first book, which was: can you save a marriage by dating other people? But then at the end it took such an astounding plot twist that I had to finish the other two books. I'll say this: the plot twist was even worse than the original premise but I just had to see how it all ended. I'm currently listening to my first book by Jodi Picoult, Mad Honey, another author I have resisted reading for some unknown reason, and am very much enjoying her writing style.


Enough about that. Let's look at snow sculptures! I grabbed these photos from my sister-in-law's Facebook account. She and Pete are enjoying some well-deserved sunny weather in Puerto Rico right now. 
They always make a clay model beforehand. I think they told me once that it is a scale of 1 inch to 1 foot. 

Jane posted a video so I took some screen shots. Their artistry is just mind boggling to me. They came in Third Place (what?? ).Definitely worthy of First Place, which is what they usually get. But they also got the coveted Kids Choice Award.

A final artsy photo:

I have long wanted to make a trip to the UK, and Aaron and I have been talking about going together. The other night, this was in my fortune cookie:)
Ruby and Amelia both are heavily involved in dance classes, and the other night we attended their Dance Showcase. They did such a great job--you can really tell that they have been taking classes for awhile. 
And that's it for the end of January 2023.