I took Cara and Johnny with me to my parents on the Friday night that dad died. My whole family was in a state of shock. I was warm but slightly shivering for 2 days. That first night was one of many tears and much talking. Most of the family saw dad’s body earlier in the day, but I waited for Christie and went in to the mortuary at about 9:00 pm and saw him. He looked really good, but dead. Even seeing him I couldn’t believe it was real.
We wrote his obituary that first night. I mostly dictated and mom typed. We wanted to meet the deadline of getting it in the Sunday paper. We added a little humor in honor of dad. He always read the obituary’s at work and I think he would have approved of his. It read as follows:
“Neil Gregory Owen at age 58, took his last ride Friday morning, September 14, 2012 while on the cattle drive up Worm Creek Canyon. He died from injuries due to a horse that is now for sale. His dog never left his side until he was taken off the mountain.
“Neil loved life. He was always “shootin' the bull” with everyone. As a dry farmer and dairy farmer he watched the weather very closely. He worked at USU Central Energy Plant for the past 15 years and loves his many friends there. He also loved his associations' as a counselor in the Legacy Branch. Many will miss him; Santa now has an opening for a new helper.
“As a Preston High School graduate he spent most of his life in Preston with the exception of two years as a missionary in Tennessee and ten years in Soda Springs Idaho.
“Neil is survived by his wife, Iva, of 36 years, as well as 5 children whom he was so proud of. Carrie (Josh) Kirk of Providence; Christie Owen of Centerville; Cathie (Keith) Coombs of Chugiak AK; Cody (Stephanie) Owen in Limbo; Connie (Colby) Law of Smithfield and12 grandchildren. He is also survived by his siblings Robert (Judy) Owen, Preston; Anna (Gordon) Barlow, Lewiston; William (Marta) Owen, Texas; and Scott (Kelli) Owen, Weston. He was preceded in death by his parents Clarence and Odessa.
“Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. in the Preston North Stake Center, 310 N. State, Preston, Idaho with Bishop Tom Madsen conducting. Friends may call Tuesday from 6-8 p.m. at Webb Funeral Home, 1005 South 800 East, Preston, Idaho and Wednesday from 9:30-10:30 a.m. at the stake center. Interment will be in the Franklin Idaho Cemetery.”
Cara was so cute while we spent the weekend at Grandmas. She took care of Danny, her 3 year old cousin, and herself. She was thoughtful and compassionate. She went to bed with mom that first night at about midnight. They visited and she tried to give mom hope that Grandpa “might come back.” She told Grandma that she was really worried about Aunt Chris because her face was really red and really white and that she didn’t look like herself. When my mom couldn’t stop crying Cara kept telling her to breath. Eventually mom got up and we didn’t even try to sleep until 4 AM. I couldn’t stop crying at 6:30 so with two hours of sleep I started another exhausting day.
Planning the funeral was enjoyable for me. Since my dad was different we wanted his funeral to be different. The opening song was his favorite hymn, Because I Have Been Given Much. He would often cry when it was sung. We asked one of his best friends, Marty Mickelson, who is also a cowboy poet to share a poem. He ended up sharing a few parts of poems that were favorites of dads or about dad. Then dad’s older brother Bill shared a few memories about dad’s childhood. The rest song was a country song, One More Day, sung by one of my dear friends, Sabrina Woodland.
The bulk of the program was myself and each of my siblings sharing some memories. We all wanted to say a tribute to our dad. Following was the script to my talk:
“I know my dad was a “good guy,” but I had no idea the number of lives he has touched. Our house has been a constant flow of people who loved him and stories of service he had provided with no thought of personal gratification. We have been overwhelmed and uplifted by all who come with swollen eyes because their time on earth has been made better because they knew my dad. I love him and I will miss him.
“I know he is frustrated right now that he doesn’t have a body. He would want to talk to every person in this room. He would give them a hard time about something and then he would cheer their day in some way. He would tell you a story about one of his grandkids or about his dog and update you on the weather.
“I will miss his silly little calls to tell me how much water they got at the house from the last rainstorm and wondering if we got about the same. (I had no idea.) I will miss his comments on my blog and I face book just expressing his love. It took a lot of years for him to learn to say “I love you,” but he had become so good at it over the last little while. His comment before hanging up the phone had become “I love you more.”
“The mornings are so quiet at my parents house without dad there. I just keep waiting for the door to close, and for him to start yelling for everyone to get up and have some eggs and then force us to eat them even if we didn’t want any. He would maybe try to be quiet for a few hours, which would be impossible for him with his cowboy boots on the squeaky floor and his stuffy nose from allergies. He would be out and in and back out again before the rest of us were even going.
“He loved life, and he loved people. He NEVER complained. He not only did what needed to be done, but he did it with a willing heart. He thought he was the richest man in the world even though he didn’t have two dimes to rub together. He always had a dream truck. This summer it was a dooly truck sitting in the ford lot, when we would drive by he would tell me that his truck hadn’t sold yet. Even though he didn’t have his truck he was rich because he had the mountains, and the cattle, and his horses and his family. Most of all he was rich because he had the perfect attitude and a life full of friends.
“One of his friends from high school, Helen Crockett Jensen, commented on facebook, “When I recently saw Neil at our 40 year class reunion, my first thought was, "Here is a guy who is very content with his life." Still had the same smile. So pleasant and genuinely kind to everyone. The world needs more Neils.” Another one of his classmates, DeAnne Hess commented, “Neil never met anyone he didn't look for the best in. I Never heard him engage in idle or destructive gossip. I don't think he had an enemy, and his circle of friends included everyone he knew. Honest, Sincere, dependable and kind. The world is a better place because he was here....and that big "silly crooked smile" will be missed as much as those big ol' "Bear Paw" hand shakes.”
“Another friend from his mission commented, Just days ago, I was talking with Neil and he was his fun self. Neil has been an inspiration to me since he was an ELDER, here in Nashville, Tennessee, during the 70's. Neil was not just a wonderful conveyer of what he believed in, he was an amazing man. He became a member of our family. My sons adored him and Neil loved them. Many ELDERS came to our home, however, Neil has always remained in our life. I CANNOT BELIEVE I HAVE LOST MY FAVORITE BROTHER.....MY MENTOR........The ONE that helped my understanding of GOD.....
“Elder Maxwell taught, “We grieve, sometimes terribly, but we grieve with hope and faith in Jesus Christ and in the reality of the resurrection.
“When I went to the spot where he died and learned of the details I thought that his death was a reward to him for the wonderful life he has lived. He died on a beautiful mountain with his boots on. Even though he was in the canyon miles from home it was the perfect spot where he could see the house and the valley. He lay on his back between a couple of small bushes. He had his dog by his side. He was doing what he loved, riding horses and chasing cattle. He would round up anyone’s cattle because it gave him the excuse to get on his horse and go for a ride.
“My aunt Anna has told us that he was living on borrowed time. He had survived so many near death experiences and accidents that I guess we can count our blessings that we were privileged to know him for the 58 years that he was alive. I feel privileged that I will always call Neil Owen my dad. I have a testimony that the details of this life are all part of a bigger plan, and that someday I will see my dad again.”
The closing song was also a country song, “Angels Among Us”. It was very touching and was song by another friend of mine and my parents, Debbie Griffeth. Everything about the program was perfect to me. The prayers were given by his son-in-law Colby and special nephew, Lampee. There was a wonderful mixture of laughter and tears in his program. The program cover was special because it is a picture Josh took of a sunset from the spot Dad died.
One difficult part of planning was choosing Paul Bears. My dad had so many family members who he loved. We decided to have one person from each of his siblings families as well as his son, son-in-laws, and one nephew on my mom’s side of the family. Rather than have him ride in the traditional hearse we put him in the back of one of the trucks he had been recently admiring. He always wanted a nice truck! My mom drove and the five of us kids rode with her. I think he would have appreciated going in a truck.
We decided to burry him in Franklin, Idaho. My parents own two plots in Tremonton by my moms parents, and I didn’t think burying him anywhere else would be discussed. When mom opened it up for discussion we children all wanted him closer so we could stop by a little easier. His Grandpa owned a bunch of plots near his parents in Franklin and we were able to use two of them. It also made it a little easier to transport him.
We took him from the church in Preston to the church in Franklin in the truck and then moved him over to a horse drawn hearse. It was a beautiful team of horses driven by Brody the boy who found dad. Everything came together so perfectly. After the dedication of the grave by Cody we invited all in attendance to write a farewell message on dad’s casket using markers. We went back to the church for lunch where they had planned for 150 people and every chair was full and there wasn’t a bit of leftovers. Everything went beautifully.
Friends and family flew in and drove from all over the west to be with us to honor my dad. It was an amazing tribute. The viewing was scheduled to begin at 6:00 on Tuesday night, but people began arriving at 5:00. By 5:30 there was a line out the door. I was so honored and touched to have the support of my friends who made sacrifices to be there. We used every tip the morticians gave us to keep the line moving quickly and after 4 hours of greeting people we estimate based on the sign-in that there were over 500 people that came through.
There was a similar showing on Wednesday for the funeral. It is overwhelming and touching to me that so many people came to give their last respects and in so doing showed love and support to my family and me. I think this has been one of the most physically and emotionally exhausting weeks of my entire life. I am so grateful for a testimony of the plan of salvation, for temple covenants, and to know that families can be together forever. I am sure it is harder without that knowledge although it is hard to imagine how it could be harder. I do feel the love and support of my friends and family and the piece and comfort of prayers being offered on my behalf and I am so thankful for that.