“As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and winds and birds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens and get as near the heart of the world as I can.”
I think everyone has a special place in their memory that shaped their lives. Yosemite was mine. Every year from the time I was four years old until I was eleven, my family packed up our ‘56 red and white Chevy station wagon and went camping in Yosemite National Park. For two glorious weeks, we lived among the pines and I ran free scampering over granite rocks, playing in the creek and swimming in the Merced River. We slept under the stars and woke to the “shhhhh” of the Coleman stove where my mother was making hot cocoa and cooking Spam and eggs for breakfast. My older brother and I would walk to the Curry Village store to buy Charms suckers so huge, they would last for hours. To top off the day, every evening at 9:30 we watched the “Firefall” (no longer in existence). It began with a park ranger shouting from above “Let the fire fall!” followed by a cascade of bright red coals pushed over the top of Glacier Point 3000 feet up. We would “oooh” and “ahhh” never tiring of this spectacle.
My father took us on bike rides, hikes and mule rides. Then one year Dad hiked the Chilnualna Falls trail from Wawona with my older brother and me. I was maybe eight years old and my brother twelve. It was a challenging hike-4 ½ miles, pretty much up 2000 ft. Though the actual main waterfall cascaded unseen into a ravine below, the top rewarded us with a fabulous view and a wonderland of small cascades over granite in what I called “moon pools”. These were pools rounded from thousands of years of swirling water. I remember exploring these looking for bugs and tiny fish.
My father passed away on May 5, 2017. He requested that his ashes be scattered on top of Chilnualna Falls and so this last week we honored that request. I traveled from Oregon with my son and daughter-in-law and rendezvoused with my younger brother and my older brother and his wife in Yosemite. Over 50 years later we retraced our steps, climbing to the top of Chilnualna Falls where my father will have now have a forever view.
It was bittersweet to revisit Yosemite after so many years have passed. My childhood paradise is suffering from climate change and too many people, but there is still such beautiful magic among the granite cliffs and spires. I am forever grateful to my father for giving such happy family memories in this special place.
I never thought too much about Veteran’s Day until this year in the aftermath of my father’s passing. Dad was a proud WW ll veteran. He would usually leave the house wearing his Air Force commemorative cap with lots of shiny pins on it. How temporary life is.
Please do not apologize to me for your physical state as you leave this world. Yours is not an enviable path, your body rigid from Parkinson’s, your lungs compromised from the pneumonia that finally will be the demise of your 91 year life.
Yes, I am bearing witness to your diminished body, reliant on the hands of others. But my memories of you will be fonder ones. You were a man of great stature and heart, a man who took the time to read me my favorite Dr. Suess books over and over and over again when I was a little girl. Perhaps that’s where I got my quirky imagination? You were the one who tucked me in, put me on the handle bars of rented bicycles in Yosemite. All those family camping trips? Those led to my love of nature & the outdoors & for that I am so grateful . You helped move me from college and helped me pack for my new life in Alaska. I looked forward to those care packages from you. When I needed comfort in a far off place, yours was the voice I could count on.
Thank you for your generous spirit that manifested itself in many ways . Thank you for not criticising my numerous stupid decisions in life, preferring to be my cheerleader. Thank you for being a good grandpa to my son.
I am grateful that you found your true love, that you lived life large and got to travel to exotic places. You are leaving this life with more friends that I can count. There’s a bright mark you left on the world and we will feel a void when you depart. Leave it to you that in the end you can still crack a good joke.
I am grateful for morphine and hospice care.
It is me that wants to apologize to you. I am sorry that you have to end your long life in such an uncomfotable manner. But lets just skip all those apologies. May you leave this life knowing that you were loved and admired by many, including myself. Congratulations on a life well lived.