Letter to Walter George Last from his son George Last
Five days ago as I stood by your bedside and looked at your wasted fever-wracked body, I wondered if you could comprehend my ambivalent feelings. I was desirous of seeing you rid yourself of the dilapidated house of your spirit that had become such a terrible burden to you and yet wanting to hang on to something that has been precious in my life. I listened to your rasping, labored breathing and could perceive something-of the undignified circum stances of your impending death. I am overcome and the tears flow.
It is selfish on my part to want you to stay. How grateful you must be to -soon be rid of the body that has become a detriment to your happiness and progression. As my eye caught your open closet door I see how very little in worldly goods you have to show for your 79 years on this Earth and as you leave you will not even need that. None of us will need more or less than this.
But what of the much larger closet that I see. The closet of your life. From this closet you have taken much but it is still full to overflowing. I see myself as a portion of the contents of that closet as I see Ron and Gwen and Janene and our children and all those whose Jives you have touched over the years. The tears of gratitude well up for just being part of this closet and I choke back a precious sob.
I did not always understand you dad, as I am sure you did not always understand me, but over all the years of our life together did I ever doubt that you loved me and there must have been times I was difficult to love. Home was not always a pleasant place when we were growing up and we had a time of serious resentment. It was only after I left home and became a father in my own right that I could see things in a broader and clearer context. Then my appreciation and acceptance of you took on new vigor and I began to see and remember you more for what you had given me.
I see you now huddled under a tarpaulin as we made our way off Mt. Baldy in a two wheel horse drawn cart. It was raining and the thunderbolts seemed frightenly close. You put your arm around my shoulders and comforted me. Instead of a bad experience it became an adventure. And there were the nights with the sheep herders on the mountain. We usually had to push the car part of the way and did combat with the flies for a bit of mutton and sour dough bread, but it was great just because I was with you.
There was always something of a little boy in you. How grateful I am that you never outgrew it. At any outing you were usually the instigator of a water fight or a footrace or an ear flipping contest. You never missed an opportunity to hit a dip fast enough to see if you could raise us off the back seat. I loved to be with you then. Your nieces and nephews always loved to come to Uncle George's.
As a little boy there were always ball games. You would let us sit on the bench. When we shouted, "Hit a home run, daddy", you tried to comply and often did.
When you no longer played you gave your efforts to coaching. You were some kind of hero and heros are significant.
You insisted we learn to work but you made it possible that we did not have to work as hard as cause it meant the difference between eating and not. You saw to it that I worked because there were lessons to be learned. I remember coming home from a long day thinning beets vowing never to go back again and your stern advice, "You don't have to go back unless you want to, but you damn well better want to." I went and I grew.
You sacrificed to see that we obtained the education you were not fortunate enough to have. You made us understand it's importance and although we were mostly self sustaining, we always knew that you were there as a resource when needed. How proud you were when any of us achieved anything of worth. It was a rejection of you and your desire for us to be somebody.
You impressed me as being an impatient man but on rejection, when it came to your children you were patient indeed. Those years when Gwen was learning to play the piano were a good example. The furnace of her talent produced an awful lot of clinkers those first few years. The boys complained, but not you. Never a derogatory word and now she is an accomplished pianist. Ron and I went through the stage of wanting to fly. Dad, you suffered through the financial woes of our endeavor, not always silently, mind you, until that ran it's course and we went on to other things. You struggled to make us be more responsible -with our lives and resources and after 30 years it is beginning to catch on.
Janene was down in bed for most of a year with rheumatic fever and you were so gentle and concerned for her. You may have even spoiled her a big but for this we are grateful because she learned from your generosity to give and she has become a beautiful woman.
How I remember your jogging to the store in the morning and home at noon and that was before jogging was popular. Or the many times you would call home and we would have to go down and help you find the money bag you had hidden under a stack of clothes and couldn't remember which one. We laughed about your poor memory but I think it was a ploy to get the store straightened out on occasion.
You were a man who enjoyed people, children or grown-ups. It didn't matter. -You had a delightful English sense of humor wavered and it just naturally drew people to you. You would tease the kids and they loved It or you would argue with their parents and they loved it also. You were never one to avoid controversy and you were usually in the middle of anything worthwhile that went on in the community. You had no patience for those who desired nothing progressive and you defended your position with the conviction of purpose.
Uncle Erwin said at one time, "You can always tell an Englishman, but you can't tell him much." I remember you said one time that the only way you could tell if you were doing a good job in public office was if you were catching hell from someone and you usually were. No matter where we went you found someone with whom you could strike up a conversation. Do you remember one of your son-in-laws telling you that you would talk to a rolling horse biscuit if it would stop rolling long enough.
After we children had all left home and had families of our own, we came home as often as you could stand us- to hunt, to visit, to eat the great steaks you used to fry and the vegetables you loved to grow in the garden. You were proud of it. We certainly never left being hungry. You had an old Scout around. It didn't get used much later on except by the grandkids as they drove up and down the back roads.
Never did you miss anything that was important in our families lives. The blessings, baptisms, graduations- until the time came when you cmilies lives. The blessings, baptisms, graduations- until the time came when you could not make it anymore. One time when the Parkinsons disease had established itself well, Ron and I came down to help put in a sprinkling system and to dig a new water line into the house. I was down in the trench digging, not making much headway but sweating a lot and you said, "I never wanted to see the day when my sons would have to do things for me I couldn't do myself." I told him, "Dad, that's what love and family is all about. He knew.
Then I realized how full your closet really was, dad. Full of choice memories. You have left each of us with a desire to lighten someone's burden. When we had come to the realization that Santa Claus was something in our hearts, you and mother would take us down to the store on Christmas Eve and we would make up several boxes of gifts for needy families. It wasn't merchandise that would not sell but the best in the store. Then we had a chance to deliver them. They were the best of all the Christmas' I ever spent.
How many people you have helped in your life, dad, I cannot comprehend but I know your life was rich and full because of it. Your family, brothers and Aunt Dorothy were close to your heart. You wanted to be close to them and have inspired us to do the same.
It is time now to close that closet door, dad. We have started to fill our own closets. You have left us such a great heritage and we have tried earnestly not to tarnish the name we bear. Our lives will never be quite the same without you. When my children stand by my bed to offer that last farewell, I pray that they may see my closet as full as I see yours.
Goodbye, dad. I love you.