Tonight we said good bye for now to one of the greatest men to ever live. My dad. The majority of this post was written by my beautiful wife and her recollections of dad, but I'll write the beginning of this post to talk about the last moments that we shared together. Interestingly enough it was conference weekend so we got to spend more time together than usual. It started on Saturday night when we went to priesthood session together. During the session dad was having a hard time breathing and getting something out of his lungs so we left about 40 minutes early. That night mom had made us a couple of nice steaks that we ate but you could see that dad was under duress. The next morning we all came over for our traditional Conference Sunday morning brunch. Dad seemed to be doing a lot better and was breathing better so we didn't think much of the night before. We watched and listened to the prophet and Cole slept on dads chest. I remember thinking that night as I went to bed that he looked and that maybe we'd have a few more months with him.
The next day I got a message that my siblings needed to have a family meeting at my folks house that night. I didn't think much of it since we've had a lot of meetings over the last few months. But when I walked into the house I knew that something was different. Mom was crying and my cousin Teresa was there. Mom informed us that dad had made the decision to move on. A crazy difficult decision that I can't even fathom. Apparently he'd had major complications that day and things had gone downhill fast. By the time I got there he could barely get a whisper out. He knew what was coming and you could tell he was nervous. Once everyone was there and we got Bobby on video chat we got to talk to him for a few minutes and tell him how much we loved him. The last thing dad said as he looked past us, right before he passed, were the words: "what's next?" I knew he wasn't talking to us. I knew that he was being escorted home. I'd like to believe that my little Jack was there to help him home. It wasn't very long after that when we know he was gone. We were all a mess. We cried, we prayed, and we hugged, but mostly we worried what would we do without him?
I'm so grateful for the knowledge that he was a faithful priesthood holder who kept his covenants. I know that we'll be able to be with him again, but it just hurts so bad to be without him, however temporary. I'll leave the rest of the post for Tiff, but I just wanted to share a few thoughts of his last so that I don't ever forget.
If you knew Jim, you know that he loved mountain and road biking. I love that he always took the time to carefully show his children the proper way to maintain their bikes. He spared no expense when it came to making sure everyone was using the best of the best.
He was a mechanical engineer and I will forever remember him carefully reading the instructions to make sure whatever he was working on was correctly assembled. Something I wish I had more patience doing!
But the thing I will remember most about him was the way he loved his family. Specifically, Corbin. They seemed to have a special bond from the beginning. When we first moved to Utah, we moved in with Jim and Joanne. Corbin was only 15 months old and at a pretty cute age. Poppy wasted NO time getting to know him. Corbin learned to jump and when Jim came home from work each night, he'd take off his shoes and start hopping through the house looking for Corbin. Together they would hop around the kitchen. It was very obvious that he was just as excited to see Corb as Corb was to see him. It warmed my heart and I'm glad I was able to see their relationship bloom.
One of the things they loved best was eating Bananas and milk together. It was their "thing". And even as the ALS began to take over, Jim made it a point to continue in their little tradition.
This picture was taken on Christmas Eve 2011. Jaden was about 18 months...and quite a little stinker. We were at the Reading's house and I just happened to see Jim and Jaden sitting so nicely together. Something inside whispered, "you should capture this moment...because you don't know how many you have left." I remember thinking that was odd...but acted quickly. Later that night as I layed down with Jaden, I said little prayer for Jim. I begged my Father in Heaven not to take Jim and that I was a little nervous by the picture prompting I had earlier that night. No sooner had said this then I heard Jack sweetly say, "Oh Mom...he's needed here." And I knew...it wouldn't be too long before things got worse. I didn't know what it could be...but I knew that the Lord had other intentions for him on the other side. ALS wasn't on the table then and he had just started noticing the twitching a couple months before. He would officially be diagnosed 2 months later and would be gone 14 months after that.
One thing I remember tenderly about Jim was the way he LOVED to hold our babies. He loved to feed them a bottle when he was around and it was available. Even when he no longer had any control in his muscles, his heart longed to hold each and every baby. He would just lay so still and soak in every second of these new bundles from Heaven. Here's Cole. It makes me so sad to know that this would be one of the last times Cole would be able to be near this amazing man. To feel his large heart beating strongly. He was too young and will never remember, but we will tell him all about Jim as to always keep him alive.
I loved that it wasn't just our kids that he adore...he loved each and every one so individually and always took the time to make them feel special...and one of a kind. There's Millie and Poppy sharing a fun moment.
One of Corbin's first words were "toes". Jim always used to play with Corbin's feet and say, "Hi TOES...!" I have no doubt that he's saying that to Luella in this picture.
Look at that smile...those strong shoulders and arms...and my did he have chiseled facial features. Joanne certainly got a handsome husband!!
Here he is loving the newest baby. I believe this was baby Tyson.
This picture was the last time I saw him. I am so glad that Cole got in one last snuggle with him before he left. Tender...tender mercies.
One thing that I remember was Poppy coming up with little nicknames. Here's Livvy....who he called "Tippy" - she liked to walk on her tip toes. Coby's nickname was "buddy", Marse's was Pip, and Pat's was "Pal". He liked to call Jaden "J.J." (Jaden James) (which I wasn't fond of...but now find really endearing.)
He LOVED the water and diving was one of his favorite. Coby said that some of his favorite memories of his dad was diving underwater through caves. He always enjoyed himself, but seemed to enjoy watching his family enjoy themselves more.
He was definitely a hands on kind of guy and with arms like that....he used them in all kinds of outdoor activities.
He had a goofy side and sometimes if you got him laughing...he couldn't stop. And that was the funniest part....laughing at him laughing...trying to figure out why we were all laughing in the first place! His laugh was contagious! I'd give anything to hear one of those laughing fits right now!
Look at those smiles....I think they all may be related! :)
Today was the funeral. And it was beautiful. It was hard and I look at Joanne and the rest of Coby's siblings and wonder how they are holding up. The day after Jim passed, we went over to their house. I instantly noticed Jim's wheelchair in the garage. I touched the arm of the chair and started to cry and thought to myself...."You should still be here." Almost instantly I heard...."NO I SHOULDN'T"!! I know Jim was close! I heard him today at the funeral tell me, "Don't cry sweetheart." That's what he always called me.
If anyone could be defined as being prepared...it was Jim Rich. He always had an endless supply of batteries. He was always with a clean windshield and clean sunglasses. And it drove him crazy that Joanne's windshield wasn't up to his "standards." He meticulously took care of everything that he had. Including his sweet wife Joanne. He always put her first and even though he didn't like to be wrong (I think mainly to see Joanne become more mad). Joanne tells of a time shortly after they were married where he enjoyed working on the cars on their weekends. This did NOT sit well with Joanne...and one Saturday she decided she'd had enough. She would show him...so she locked him out of the house and waited. Well, she waited and waited...and when he finally came to the door and noticed it was locked...he went right back to working on the car. This only made her MORE angry! :) Another time I remember fondly was when Jim and Jo got into a little tif on the way home from Bear Lake. Jim had placed a glass pan at the bottom of the stairs. Joanne tripped over it coming down and it landed right on her toes. It seemed pretty painful. The funny thing was...Jim couldn't find it in himself to say he was wrong. He addressed the situation with, "Well, you know...you just should have been watching where you were going and the pan wouldn't have fallen on your foot." Joanne was looking for some sort of genuine apology or even an admission of fault....but she would NOT find it! They went back and forth for a little while until Joanne had finally had enough and finally snapped back...."Well, DAMMIT....it's MY FAULT!" Maybe you had to be there...but I about fell out of my seatbelted chair it was so funny! Jim didn't get mad back...he just put his sunglasses on and got ready for the long drive back to Salt Lake.
Everyone that knew Jim talked of what an impact he made in their lives. Many mentioned how genuinely interested he was. How he rarely spoke of himself. He had a great memory and was always thinking about ways he could help others. My sister Amber particularly adored him. I remember living out of town and when we'd come for a visit and say our family prayers, he usually included Amber in their prayers. I always thought that was rather amazing!
Jim was amazing....He had so many tables set up in his honor to represent different times in his life. He was Mens Association President, catcher for the East High Baseball Team, Played offense and defense on the football team, wrestling team, Fairest Wheel ?, Salt Lake Young Single Adults president.....the list can literally go on and on....
But the thing he was best known for was how he loved his family. Truly, this man knew what it was to show us just how much we were loved.
Everyone on the Rich side of the family made Jim a sweetheart tree.
There were so many people there to show their support. My parents were there and even my Grandpa and his sister came to pay their respects.
So many flowers....
Today was hard. I don't know how Coby is able to do it. I don't know how Joanne is able to even stand. I'm sure that Jim is here and that there are countless numbers of angels holding them up today...because there really is no way they could be doing it on their own.
Breaks my heart to see them sad.
And when I think of Marianne. She was his princess...his one and only girl that they waited so long to join their family. I imagine how hard this must be for her and I almost lose my breath.
Pat played Jim's saw. He was pretty famous for playing it. People were ALWAYS in awe each time he played it. He made it look so easy and it was such a rare talent....always a treat! I remember being floored when he played it at our wedding.
But this picture right here tears my heart to pieces! My sweet Corb....to see him so sad over losing his brother so young and then his grandfather and one of his best friends....oh my heart! I can hardly ever even bring myself to see this picture because it truly shows the pain this little boy was feeling on this cold April day.
A few days after the funeral, 10 to be exact I had a dream about Jim. It was such a realistic dream. He was there and in his wheelchair...but able to move his body just as he always used to...but just seemed to be sitting. We were all at a party at Jim and Joanne's house. Joanne was wearing a black flow-y skirt and everyone was surrounding her congratulating her on Jim. She was truly happy...beaming! People were surrounding Jim and when I saw an opening to talk to him....I JUMPED in a took it. I ran up to him and told him how happy I was to see him. In my dream, I knew he was gone...but it felt like he had never left. He looked so strong. His strong shoulders and arms were just as they used to be. We began talking and I asked him what the first thing he did when he left his body, he said, "Well, the first thing I did was...(and even though he didn't physically get out of his chair...I was able to picture perfectly what he said as if he actually did) - he showed me that he squatted down in a catcher's stance (I never realized that he was a catcher until the funeral) and then twisted his body from side to side cracking his back! Then he said, "It felt GREAT"! He had that HUGE smile on his face...the one he'd get just before a laughing fit!" The next thing I asked him was, "Who came to get you when you left?" He said, "Well, there was 4 people. My mom and dad, Jane and Jack." Then he said something that sounded weird to me...he said, "my sister (some name I'd never heard of) wanted to be there, but she didn't have a body, so she couldn't come." Then he proceeded to tell me how great it felt to be free of that body and how light he felt. He told me how happy he felt and how beautiful it was there. I woke up shortly after that...but the feeling of giddy happiness I felt stayed with me all day. I don't know if that was real or not...but I am choosing to believe that Jim was making the rounds and I got to be the lucky receiver that night.
I know Jim will be close for a while at least. On Mother's Day, I had a little visit with Jack who informed me that Jim was working right along side of him and then said, "They didn't waste much time putting him to work."
On day I was having a rough day...I was yelling at my kids, neurotically cleaning the house so we could go to Bear Lake (it's a crazy OCD thing I have...leaving the house SUPER clean...baseboard clean before we can leave)...and just being an overall brat! I was vacuuming the floor in Cole's room when I heard Jim's voice LOUD and CLEAR...he said, "THIS...what you are doing right now....DOES NOT MATTER!!! YOU NEED TO GET DOWNSTAIRS AND BE WITH THE ONES THAT DO!!" It was matter-of-fact and I knew exactly who had scolded me! I stopped the vacuum and ran downstairs crying and telling my children how sorry I was. I needed that little reprimand...and the Lord KNEW Jim could get through! I often think about that when I'm giving into those silly little OCD times!
I miss him. I think about him daily and we try to talk about him in our home as often as we can so that the boys can always remember him. Like Jack...we figure if we talk enough about him...he's never really gone too far away. In this past year I have really come to love this man! Don't misunderstand...I've always loved him! I've always admired him and had the utmost respect for him. But I have really gotten to know this amazing man! I wish that it hadn't taken this disease for me to take such an interest in this amazing man. I think of the time I lost and it makes me sad. But I am grateful for the time I did have. I will miss kissing the temples of his head and seeing his out of control eyebrows. I miss his light brown eyes and they way he could look at you and you'd know he was really listening and interested in whatever it was you were saying. I miss his hands....his strong hands that could hold my babies. I miss his hugs and I miss watching him with Corbin. But most of all I miss the strong presence he had when he walked into a room. I miss seeing him sleeping on the couch or adding wood pellets to the stove at Bear Lake. I miss watching him with Joanne. They have a genuine love for one another and I'm sure that love will always be there until they are reunited again. I could go on and on about this man that has made such a difference in my life. But...I'll save it for another post. Love you Poppy! We miss you! Take care of my baby...tell him to visit more if you can! Send us a girl if you can swing it! And just know that we will be doing our part to ensure that we are all together again.