Sunday, January 31, 2016

To write the wrong

I never thought I would write my dad's obituary. I don't know who I thought wrote them, but I never imagined it would be me.

Yet, when the time came, it was just one small thing I could do, so my mom could focus on... the million other things you have to do to hold a funeral. The short one for the paper wasn't a problem. There's not much room for stories in 250 words that must also contain the details of the services compete with church address.

The longer one, that went into the program for the funeral... that was harder. So everyone in the house helped: my mom, my brother, my aunt. I probably even asked the cat for spelling help. We tweaked language and details, tried to cram 7 decades of life into two pages in a folder church bulletin.

I love writing. I like to hear myself talk, even in pixels. I did not love writing this. Trying to put every single story and facet of my dad into words. His stubbornness and temper that were the flip side of his hardworking and passionate nature. How he loved to laugh, loved good puns and a "clean" dirty joke. Those things didn't make it in. There just wasn't room for every story. There wasn't time to retell his whole life and capture how much he meant to so many people. 

Then I tried to write some remarks for J to read at the services. A eulogy? Glenn helped me edit that too, refining words until we had something close to what we were feeling. It was hard work, writing something joyful and hopeful in the midst of such somber reflection. 

My dad was diagnosed with endocrine pancreatic cancer in June of 2008. He lived an amazingly full and vibrant life these past seven and a half years. In some ways, my prayers were very eloquently answered. We had a multitude of good days together even after cancer. His bad days were few and his decline swift, which was a blessing, even though it feels, on this side of it after the fact, like being crushed. It's not quite right to say that his death was a surprise, but it's also not wrong.  

My dad had seven and a half years of wonderful life after cancer, and much of that is due to the fantastic care he received at the MD Anderson Gastrointestinal Cancer Center. I will continue to donate to their ongoing fight. I think it's what Dad would have wanted. 

Garry Wayne Boswell

November 6, 1946 - January 21, 2016

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged for The Lord, your God, is with you wherever you may go" Joshua 1:9

Garry Wayne Boswell, a man of faith, a man of science and a man of action, died January 21, 2016 after a brave battle with pancreatic cancer.
Garry was born to Glenn Leroy and Velma Mae Boswell on November 6th, 1946 in Woodlake, California. After graduating high school in Stockton, California he continued his education at the University of the Pacific where he met his wife, Barbara Jonte . They were married in June of 1969, following their graduation.
In March of 1970, Garry enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam. Upon returning in 1971, he completed Advanced Officers Training, achieving the rank of First Lieutenant and was promoted to Captain within the year.  While he was stationed at the Presidio in San Francisco, Garry and Barbara welcomed their son Glenn Haworth into the world on June 26th, 1973, just two days before their fourth wedding anniversary.
During his time in Vietnam, he served as a hospital pharmacist, and he saw the value of continuing his education. After returning from the war, he taught as an adjunct professor at the University of the Pacific, then became a student again, attending the University of Southern California, where he achieved his Ph.D. He remained a faithful and devoted alumnus of both his alma maters, giving annually to both and a proud supporter of  USC Trojans football team.
Garry was drawn to pharmacy because it was his way to combine a deep love of learning and the sciences with the ability to serve people. He often said that the beauty of being a pharmacist was that every town in the world would always need a pharmacist, so he’d never be lacking opportunities to work.
In 1980, Garry returned to service in the Army, stationed at the Presidio in San Francisco. On October 11th, 1980 he welcomed his daughter, Linnea Ellen to the family. As he matured in his career, he was captivated by research, and found himself on a path that led to specialized work in the field of pharmacokinetics. Garry continued to serve, remaining on active duty in the Army until 1992, then continuing in the U.S. Army Reserves,  until retirement  as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1997.
Throughout his career, both professionally and in the military, Garry and his family moved around the country in pursuit of the challenges and opportunities his skill set offered. From the Bay Area of California, to Southern California, back to the Bay Area, and then on to Texas, Illinois, Nebraska, back again to the Bay Area once more, then near Houston, Texas and finally settling in Weatherford, Texas to a custom-built house that he and Barbara designed.
Garry loved to travel and he brought his family along for the ride. Humble camping trips just a few miles from home were made extraordinary with exploration and discovery. On one memorable trip to Inks Lake in Texas, Garry, Barb and the kids found more than ten different kinds of wildlife in the space of about twenty minutes. Garry was a fan of adventure, exploration, good food, good friends and good fun. In retirement, he and Barbara were hardly idle. Between 2010 and 2015 they took 23 trips, totaling 257 days of exotic escapes around the globe.
In everything Garry pursued, he pursued it with his whole heart and mind. He never stopped asking questions and learned throughout his life. Whether it was running, tennis or golf, he approached even the most physical tasks with his mind, learning how to be better and more effective with each attempt. He loved to hunt, fish and hike and shared these activities with his family. He loved to solve puzzles, and even found this curiosity extended to playing first-person-shooter computer games with his son Glenn and son-in-law Jeremy. He was always learning how to beat the next level and solve the next puzzle, in life and in his games. His love of learning was applied in his woodshop, where he hand-crafted bowls, picture frames, and candle holders for family and friends.
Family was everything to Garry. He was dependable and he loved caring for his family. He was proud to be a Boswell, proud of his Cherokee heritage and proud that he was a descendant of Chief John Ross. He was available to teach, guide and advise. He adopted friends and made them family. To many people he was “just like a brother” or “a second father.”
He loved animals, never passing up an opportunity to scratch a furry ear or chin. He enjoyed his saltwater fish tank, keeping it stocked with familiar fish, much to the delight of his grandchildren. He was baptized into the Methodist church along with his granddaughter Eleanor in 2013. He served in his Sunday school class and with the Meals-on-Wheels program and the Center of Hope. He believed strongly in working hard and helping those who couldn’t.  

There aren’t enough words to sum up the entirety of Garry. May he always be remembered with love in the stories we tell.

J has my eternal gratitude for reading these words for me at the services. 

My dad analyzed everything. It was just his nature, to look at things and try to figure out the building blocks, the pieces that made it tick. I don’t know if he ever disassembled a toaster as a child, but it seems like something he would do. I always think of him as a scientist, a researcher, a thinker.

It’s a bit shocking when you realize that your parents are fully formed human beings with lives of their own, outside of being just your parents. In 1999, I was living in my parents’ basement while attending college in Lincoln, Nebraska. It’s a cliche, but it was wonderful. I had decorated the side of their refrigerator with magnetic poetry. Four full boxes of it, including the Shakespeare and Genius editions, so it was full of fabulous and fancy words.

One day, probably a Saturday afternoon but I honestly don’t remember, I noticed a short poem on the front of the fridge. The exact words have been lost to the transient nature of fridge poetry, but what I do remember is that it was a tender love poem, just four lines long, but full of adoration and a sense of life-long commitment. It touched me, and I thought it was amazing. So I told my mother, “Hey, that’s a lovely little poem there on the fridge.”

I’ll never forget the look on her face. She scrunched her eyebrows at me and shook her head. “I didn’t write it!”

It took my brain much longer than seems reasonable now to put the pieces together. My dad had written it? My DAD? My scientist dad? My fixing things with his bare hands and a wide variety of power tools dad?

I never thought he was un-romantic. Not at all. He knew my mother so well, picking out gifts of clothing and jewelry with ease, knowing what styles she liked and what colors suited her best. He wasn’t against flowers for Valentine’s Day, or Tuesday. One of my favorite facts was that he arranged all the flowers for his own wedding, and that of my Aunt Cher, and later, I convinced him to do it for my own wedding too.

But there, in 1999, standing in that kitchen, I realized that there was more to my dad than I ever understood. I am grateful for all the years I had to learn just what an amazing man he was, and it is with a profound sense of loss that I learn: no amount of time would ever have been enough to know him completely.

Jeremy then ended with this quote

"And there's nothing I should fear
For you'll go no further than God
And God is very near" --Leahy, Borrowed Time 

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