You may have caught it in one of the photo captions of my last posts that my grandma passed away. It was not unexpected. It started with breast cancer years ago that turned into bone cancer and eventually made it to her liver. She really altered her diet and was able to extend her life for quite a few years until she had fulfilled her mission here on earth. Her husband passed away 5 months ago and her cancer really escalated since then, but she was able to finish the book written for Native Americans she's been working on in her mind since she was 13.
This past weekend I flew to AZ for the second time this year with Edward for a funeral. The flight was not quite as easy as it had been with a 2 month old, but honestly, my 7 month old baby was a total champion, especially considering we took 2 red eye flights!
It was interesting how different the funeral was than my grandpa's. There was a slightly different crowd amongst the grandkids and last time it seemed so rushed that no one was able to visit afterward. This time we had time to prepare, time to share, and time to visit.
When we got to the church before the viewing, all of the grandkids and some of the great grandkids present practiced the song A Child's Prayer to sing at grandma's request. My aunt Jenny was in the audience recording it and crying and that started a bit of choked up water works. I reminded myself that when it came to "show time" that I needed to look at the rafters and not in the audience! The second time through, my dad tried to put on a silly face, leading the music to try and help people stop the tears to get through the song, but I could see his bravado start to fade once the second verse started and he moved to the back of the room to try and mask the emotion.
After the viewing we went into the funeral. It started out with her children and in-laws singing Love at Home with me playing the piano. My mom Lois, the oldest child, gave my grandma's life story. She had researched and written a thorough outline of the highlights of my grandma's 84 years. While I don't have my mom's full discourse yet, here is the obituary from the news paper:
wife, mother and grandmother passed away peacefully in her home in
Snowflake, Arizona on Friday September 14, 2012 at age 84. Zena was born
December 1, 1927 in Ocean Beach, California to William Beadle and
Winona Lisonbee. She was the oldest of five children and spent her
childhood in Vernal, Utah and Holbrook, Arizona. Zena married Bruce C.
Hunt of Joseph City, Arizona in 1947. They spent their married life in
Wickenburg, Flagstaff, Snowflake, and Mesa, Arizona. She is preceded in
death by her husband, her parents, her sisters Mona Dee and La Berle,
and her granddaughter Casey Nimmer. Zena is survived by her children
Lois Waterman (Dennis), Deborah Esquibel Hunt (Antonio), Jennifer
Menegas (Nick), Colleen Crane (Curtis), Sandra Harenberg (Randy),
Jefferson Hunt (Trish), and Douglas Hunt (Melinda), her brother Douglas
Beadle (Patricia), and her sister Sherry Beadle Connor. Zena and Bruce
were proud of their posterity: 36 grandchildren and 55
great-grandchildren. Zena loved LIFE and the gospel! She and her husband
Bruce served an LDS stake mission to the Cameron Branch on the Navajo
reservation and full time missions to Ireland and South Africa. Her
first calling was as a mother and grandmother, and she enjoyed "making
things pretty," feeding her family, singing, dancing, and genealogy. She
was an artist, a creative seamstress, designing and sewing dresses for
five daughters. Zena was passionate about education, and enjoyed her
experience at Brigham Young University. She encouraged all young people
to go to college. She learned something new every day. Zena loved people
of all races and cultures, and was proud of her Cherokee ancestry. This
year, at age 84, she published an inspirational book for Native
American LDS youth.
My aunt Colleen gave snippets of memories collected by kids and grandkids. I think she had 17 pages to pull from! I will give you some of mine: I remember Grandma showing me how to draw a face proportionally, clean up my bedding in the basement FIRST THING, painting with watercolors at her kitchen table, singing at her piano, playing the piano for her and her making me feel like I was a true concert pianist, chatting of life and friends and love, her massaging me when I had migraines, her big hug and smile and kiss on the cheek that smelled and felt like the make up she wore, insomnia that required 1 pm naps, interesting left over casseroles (very thrifty and didn't like waste!), PINK, flowers, beauty, aloe vera, homemade fried tacos, green beans with bacon grease, an enthusiastic love for life and her family as well as a constant raging battle against muck. I loved getting replies to my blog posts in recent years. I was lucky to have lived close, so I have a lot of memories, and mostly just a lot of feelings associated with my beautiful grandma. She always made me feel like someone special and I honestly felt like I was her favorite. But one thing that I learned was that she had a gift for making almost everyone feel special and think that they were her favorite.
My Aunt Jenny gave a few more memories, and my uncle Doug read some poems and gave some spiritual guidance in relation to the passing of our loved ones. There was a beautiful musical number that seemed to be written about my dear grandma by a friend (because the daughters knew they would not be able to make it through that one). The grandkids all got up and sang. It was beautiful. I looked to the rafters and made it through the song.
Her Bishop spoke at the end and encouraged the family to come together and stay unified as a group. My favorite line of his (he and grandma shared a lot of spirited gospel banter and often disagreed on points of doctrine) was, "When I heard that Zena passed away 5 months after Bruce, my first thought was, 'Just like Zena to go and ignore my advice!'" After my Grandpa's funeral he'd given her the advice to "Live, Zena, live." Anyway, it was pretty funny. He went on to say that she obviously lived and was able to accomplish much in those 5 months despite her increasingly frail condition.
After the funeral we headed to the cemetery. My car got there after the pallbearers had brought the casket to the graveside. My Aunt Deborah and her two daughters Julia and Liz sang Amazing Grace in Cherokee with a nice drum. It was very uniquely Zena and was quite beautiful. There were a few more words said. Antonio, Deborah's husband, got up impromptu and stated how precious it was to watch Zena pass with her daughters by her side and how he was impressed at how it really was childbirth in reverse. Rather than push, push, breathe, breathe, it was "Let go mama. Rest." It was very sweet to see how moved he was by the experience.
Her children all sang to her the lullaby she sang to each of them every night. That was very touching to hear them sing her "to sleep". My Uncle Jeff gave the dedicatory prayer and I think it's the first time I've ever heard laughing/laughed myself in a graveside prayer. He blessed the workers to keep her grave tidy because of how much she hates weeds and likes everything in its place. And oh how true and relevant that prayer was for my grandma who waged such a war against all things untidy.
As they were lowering Grandma's casket into the ground, Jenny led a favorite song of my grandma's, Aloha oe (which translates to "Farwell to you, farewell to you; the charming one who dwells in the shaded bowers one fond embrace, 'Ere I depart; Until we meet again.") as she hula-ed (another Grandma favorite) for grandma's final farewell.
After the graveside service we quickly headed to the church for lunch since it was wayyyy too hot to stay there and visit. The dinner was a lovely chance to visit with cousins I've not seen in years. I had a great visit with Bridgette there. There was an open mic and my uncle Curtis shared a funny story of him kissing Grandma on the lips thinking it would get her to stop hounding him to hug (he came from a non-hugging family of all boys), but it in fact did the opposite! haha. My Uncle Doug played a voice mail from her in the last month, and my Aunt Melinda shared a voice mail of her singing happy birthday to her as was her tradition to call and sing to each child and grandchild. I thought, it's not often that you get to speak at your own funeral!
After the dinner we went to her house in Las Palmas and a lot of the grandkids went swimming while the Hunt children tried to divide up some of the bigger pieces of their estate. It was a glorious time to visit. I felt so happy to have time to get to know and love my cousins that I have not had a chance to see in years. I felt like a lot of hurt had been mended and a lot of the barriers erased. We come from a diverse clan, and it was fun to celebrate and laugh at and enjoy our differences while relishing in our similarities. I especially loved my time visiting with my Dawson and Sartain cousins. It really filled my heart with love and peace. After a few hours the grandkids were given permission to come look through her things to find a few mementos to remember her and grandpa by. I found a few treasures from my childhood that I got to take with me, as well as an extremely cute pair of new pink dress shoes that fit me perfectly. I will definitely wear them and channel my inner Zena. I love that woman with all my heart.
I am grateful to her for always giving positive, encouraging, unconditional love and praise. I'm grateful to know what it means to be a strong and spirited woman. I'm grateful we had kindred spirits and that I inherited her "gift for gab". I am grateful she savored life and "licked the sugar off of her babies and grandbabies." I love her and will miss her. She is in my heart always.