Seven years ago today my world changed. January 26, 2003 George Dean Ellsworth passed away in a room full of angels both earthly and otherwise. It was one of the most difficult yet poignant moments of my life to see my father leave us. It felt all wrong but somehow so natural to let him go. I knew where he was going. They were all there to usher him home.
When spring came that year I was angry at the leaves and blossoms for daring to come out without George, the lover of the earth, the tiller of the soil there to tend them. How could the seasons change and the sun come out? For all of my life he was there. Working daily to feed and care for his family. He knew, with intimate experience, the workings of the soil, and the needs of the animals. He could grow the most beautiful flowers, the most delicious vegetables, the sweetest fruit.
Family was everything to him. He made his grandchildren believe (because it was true!) that they were the most important people in the world to him. He and Mom taught us all this most important truth, "friends will come and go, but in the end it is your family that you will have forever." When he passed away, the doctors and nurses wept openly. They held each other in their grief. They told my brother later that they had never seen a family so full of love. There had been no dissent or anger in our final decision for our father. There was only love. They were deeply moved. He simply told them that was the way our parents raised us. They lived it and we never doubted it was the most important thing!
The path we took the day we laid him to rest in his home soil was emotional for me. We left the chapel in Gilbert and drove north toward Brown Road. We traveled slowly, the motorcycle officers stopping traffic for us clear across town. I found it fitting. Hundreds of people were stopped in their tracks that day for someone they didn't even know. I thought as we drove, "Do you even know who this man is...was?" I consider my Dad a Mesa Pioneer. His parents certainly were! He was born at home on July 12, 1921...in Mesa, Arizona. There was no air conditioning, no electricity, only a brave mother with a powerful faith that all was well. It was. Did these people, some who were undoubtedly annoyed at the delay in their busy day, know that this man had seen the city they drove through everyday as desert, and then as farm land before the urban sprawl took over? Did they know he had farmed much of it himself with his father? If he hadn't farmed it he knew who had. Did they know he had watched that beautiful temple they took for granted rise from the desert nearly in his own back yard? He knew a simpler time when everyone in Mesa knew each other. He was a Mesa High Jackrabbit when they were the only school in town! He knew the story of the school motto "Carry On" because he lived it.
When we arrived at the cemetery we drove past the Ellsworths up front, the ones who rested there for many decades, two of his babies laid there with their ancestors. My heart bid them hello, as it had five days earlier in the hospital room. Dad would be laid to rest in the newer section near the back. An Air Force honor guard greeted him with solemn salutes fitting for a native son who had honorably served his home and family as the world was coming apart. A flag was folded, a prayer was offered. He was laid to rest in the soil he loved.
I am sorry if this seems sad or solemn. I am not sad. I simply have this feeling of reverence today for my father and the life he lived. I will be forever grateful to him for the legacy of love and faith he left deep in my heart. Yes, the sun rises and sets, the seasons change without him; but he lives on in the lives of his family. Our gift to him, the greatest gift we could possibly give, would be to live as the Savior lived and continue our family legacy of love!
*Love One Another was Dad's favorite Church song!