Riding Off Into The Sunset

Surprise visitors 1

It isn’t every day that a renegade trio shows up in your front yard, but I’ve come to expect that from Oklahoma.  After grazing undisturbed for a moment or two, this wayward threesome trotted up the hill, satisfied with their adventure.

When I wrote home about it, my Dad was tickled by the tale of their unfettered freedom — he loved anything that hinted of “Westerns” — and on June 8th he followed suit, peacefully riding off into the sunset.

I mean no disrespect by announcing his departure this way; in fact, when it’s my turn to saddle up, I hope to hit the trail with half as much grace and good humor as he did.  Plus, “cowpoke dialogue” frequently meandered into our conversations.

On the heels of my last trip — not knowing whether I’d see him again — I said goodbye ala The Duke:  “Well, I guess this is the part where I ride off alone.”

Dad responded with a nod and an “Adiós.”

His fascination with the Old West rubbed off on me.  He shared my delight in moving to Oklahoma, even if it meant not coming to visit very often (we both accepted the ramifications of being apart), but the prospect of wandering at will or being “willing to wander” held mutual appeal.  In my lifetime, I accomplished it in the cab of a semi; in his, via the pages of his favorite books.

While it’s difficult to sum up eighty-four years of life in a few sentences, here’s an excerpt from the eulogy I gave in his honor:

“Dad loved the land and the stories associated with it.  He once told me that he’d read “Centennial” so many times he lost count!  Not only did he love the geological descriptions, he admired the settlers and cowboys who expanded this country — a country which he proudly served.

Taking Dad’s respect for the land into account, God blessed him with a small piece of earth he called “home” (which he loved dearly) and a wife and family he loved even more.  It was there that his own story was written.

Dad’s story includes a trail of sawdust… being a good neighbor… working up a sweat and cooling down in the shade… the satisfaction of unloading the last bale of hay in the barn… cows mooing contentedly… hitting a nail square on the head… sunrises and sunsets… finding the first pussy willows in the ditch… the tug of a fish at the end of his line… his infamous “grin”… Sunday drives on the back roads he knew so well… going to the A & W… mowing lawn… family picnics…. watching his kids, grandkids, and great-granddaughter frolic on the front lawn… a refreshing sip of cold water gushing from a garden hose… snow flurries on the way to midnight Mass… reading the newspaper with a good cup of coffee… the merits of homemade pie, sit-down suppers, and Westerns on TV… serving God, country, and family… and surprising Mom with a vase of red roses on the kitchen counter…

Dad recently compared his time on earth to his favorite book, “Lonesome Dove.”  In a conversation between two age-old friends — one of them near death — the character comments that it’s been “quite a party.”  Dad grinned at me and said, “I’m glad you came to my party.”  That’s how he felt about all of you.

Today we give Dad back to the land he loved, but his story continues… written on our hearts.”

Surprise visitors

Adiós, Dad — and Happy Trails.

Enjoying memories of you,

~ Kim

18 thoughts on “Riding Off Into The Sunset

  1. Oh Kim, this was just heart-wrenching and so sweet to read. I bet that eulogy was quite difficult to read yourself. I’m so sorry for your loss. What a man your father was…I love that his life was a “party.” He sounds like my kinda guy and I hope to meet him one day. :)

    • Veronica, I actually made it through the eulogy without breaking into tears — partly because I “rehearsed” several times and bawled my eyes out the day before, and partly because there was such JOY in sharing Dad’s life. Thanks for your sweet sympathy. xo

  2. Kim…I’m feeling so much sadness now b/c I know how much you loved, connected w/and admired your daddy…I just hope at this point, my mom, Katie, welcomed him w/a stiff drink and a straw…I’ll talk to you privately more, my love…thinking about you real hard…xo love you

    • Ally, I loved the idea of Katie’s welcome… Dad would get a kick out of that! Will connect w/u soon, too — seems like life has been in “catch up” mode a lot this year. Thank you for your loving thoughts. xo

  3. my sweet Kim as sad as I am to hear about your dad I must say that I absolutely love how you are telling us. Thank you for sharing yourself and his way of life, which is so perfectly wonderful. You are such an eloquent writer I can say with absolute certainty that he would have loved the way you shared his passing with us. Take care my gorgeous friend. Love and Happy Trails.

    • Isabelle, sweet lovely Isabelle, thank you for your heartfelt sympathy. I’m glad you got to “meet” my Dad (even under these circumstances) — he would’ve loved you!

    • Thank you for your beautiful comment, Purabi! You’re right — life goes on — and I’m slowly but surely getting back into it now that I’m home. Much appreciated to “see” you here.

  4. I feel the pain too, Kimby. So sorry for your loss but I’m sure he’s in a better place now. I’ve lost my dad many yrs back, & now I’m left with my 84-yr-old mom. I’m can’t imagine when the time comes…..

  5. Kim, I am just now reading this and I am so very sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute to your father. I think it’s wonderful that you shared a love of the west with him…and that you honored him in this way. You’re in my thoughts and prayers.

    • Elizabeth, I appreciate your responding, even at a later date — I didn’t get home until the 22nd, so it was perfect timing to me. :) Thanks for keeping me in your thoughts & prayers.

  6. I am so glad you got to have some nice visits with your dad before he passed. What a beautiful post about him… I hope you and your family are celebrating his life and are at peace knowing he’s in a better place…

    • Nolita, I’ll always treasure those last visits with Dad. Also, we couldn’t have asked for a more peaceful passing and I picture him reveling now at all heaven holds in store. Thank you. xo

  7. Dear Kim, I realize it’s been a while you’ve posted this, I am so sorry for your loss. This was beyond beautiful tribute to your father, heart warming and wrenching at the same time. I hope you and your family are doing well!

    • Gourmantine, thank you so much for your sympathy. We are doing okay — it’s a gentle process of dealing with lil’ reminders and rejoicing in them instead of getting teary-eyed. I’m grateful that my post touched your heart.

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