My hero, my Dad, Gilbert Owen Savage passed away on a beautiful Sunday morning, August 26, 2012 at 7:00 a.m. in Drummond, Montana. Dad was 94 1/2 years and had lived a great life!
My younger sister, Margaret, took Dad into her home the day after my mother's funeral and her and her husband took loving care of Dad for the last 2 1/2 years. I can never thank her enough for the love and care she provided him. He loved Montana. Montana was his roots, although he was born in Nevada. He came from a large family. There were 12 siblings, six girls and six boys. One of the boys died as an infant.
Dad was a REAL cowboy ... no dime store cowboy as he used to call the men in Billings dressed in western wear and trying to look like a cowboy. REAL cowboys only bathed once a week, whether they needed it or not. It was common for him to come in off the range from a long day's ride, change out of his grubby, stiff as a board, dirty 'overalls', as we called them, change into clean pants and shirt, and wash his face, neck, arms, and hands in the kitchen sink, slick down his hair, and sit down at the dinner table for a bite to eat.
My growing up years were on a large ranch in Eastern, Montana. The ranch consisted of over 200,000 acres. That's a lot of ground. He and his brothers worked the cattle and horse ranch and were known as some of the best cattle and horse ranchers in the State of Montana. We owned over 300 registered quarter horses. Some were show horses and some were race horses, but mostly they were working horses. I learned to ride at an early age but after having a 'horse accident' when I was five, I never felt comfortable riding. I did it, however, to please my Dad and pretended that I loved horses. All the while I was terrified of them!
Dad was good at everything his hands touched. He could fix anything once he made up his mind. Dad only had a high school education but he was at the top of his graduating class. He was very good in Mathematics and could figure sums in his head quickly. Dad loved all sports, especially basketball and boxing. We got our first television set when I was nine. It was a black and white T. V. Color televisions hadn't been invented yet. We were 150 miles from the nearest big city so television reception was almost nil. I remember Dad rigging some wire from the T.V. to the outside of the house and many times he would make one of us little ones hold onto the wire with our hand and pose just 'so' until we could make out the faces on the picture show we were trying to watch. And heavens forbid if there were any sporting events on ... that was ALL he wanted to watch while the rest of us suffered in silence! When Dad got older and spent a few weeks out of the year with me I could entertain him easily by finding Golf, Bowling, Tennis, and especially Basketball on a sports channel. In between watching and snoozing he would be content all day.
Dad was a humble man with such kind, gentleman manners. Once when being interviewed by an Apostle for a church calling he was asked if he had any other sweethearts in his life besides his wife. He answered, "Yes. I have 5 daughters who are also my sweethearts!" Dad served in many church callings, which included several bishoprics, young men's leader, Stake callings, Boy Scout leader, teacher, and served for many years as an ordinance worker in the Salt Lake temple. He served six missions which included a proselyting mission with Mom to the Sao Paulo Brazil North Mission for 18 months. It was harder to let my Mom and Dad go on a mission than it was sending my two sons. How we yearned for their return. It was one of the happiest days of my life when we met them upon their return from Brazil. It amazes me to think that they were around my age when they served their mission together. Lynn and I won't be able to serve for a few more years until Lynn's old enough to retire! Dad said that his favorite calling in the church was working with the young men. He was happy to report that every one of his young men that he worked with, served full-time missions for the Church.
In 1999 Dad sold us a plot of land next door to him and Mom. This land has been in the White family since General Grant. We built a home next door to them and shared acreage which included the White Irrigation Ditch, which meant helping take water turns in the middle of the night when Dad could no longer drive. He was still irrigating, cleaning ditch, fixing his roof, and all of the outside chores until his 90's. One of the saddest days of his life was when I went to take him to the DMV to get his license renewed and it was denied because of his eye site. I took him to the eye doctor but the doc wouldn't sign the release paper for him to drive. From that day on, Dad's enthusiasm for life began to decline. I remember one morning I could see that someone had taken a water turn in the middle of the night. I asked Dad about it and he said he had taken the turn. I asked him how he got up to 2300 East to turn the head gate and he replied that he rode his riding lawnmower to take his irrigation turn! We had to step up to the plate and help out more because we didn't want him riding his lawnmower on the city streets, especially at night when he couldn't see well.
Dad was thankful for everything and was the first to always express his thanks to anyone who had given service. He always thanked the teachers in church and always complimented someone on their testimony or church talk. And Dad always complimented me on what I was wearing or how he loved my hair or how pretty I looked. I always felt special when I was around my Dad because he made me feel special. Even up until the morning of his passing he was thanking us each time we gave him a sip of water.
The light went out of Dad's eyes when Mom was first diagnosed with cancer. Although she hung onto mortality for four more years Dad was sad to see the quality of life she had to endure. I felt like I had lost both of my parents the day after we buried my Mom because my Dad left with my sister for Montana and never came back to live in his home. His home sat for 2.5 years with everything in it, just the way Mom had left it. A few months ago my sister started cleaning out the house and little by little their meager belongings soon disappeared to the D.I. and to family members. The saddest part was they had very little. I often wondered why we bothered locking their home. They didn't have anything worth stealing! But they were frugal and went without the finer things in life and were good savers for a 'rainy day'.
Dad instilled in me a love for music and espcially a love for singing. He had a beautiful voice and sang solos at many funerals, church meetings and even in the chapel at the Idaho Falls Temple. We often sang duets together. One of the funniest times together, while singing, happened in a Sacrament meeting. We were asked to sing a patriotic number for July the 4th. Mom was accompanying us on the piano. The chorus part said something like, "And when we start, we'll fight, fight, fight." While we were rehearsing the song I mixed my words up and sang with gusto, "And when we fart ..." We roared with laughter until we couldn't sing anymore. We were afraid that I was going to sing the word 'fart' in church so decided that when we were doing the live performance he would nudge me with his elbow to remind me not to sing "fart". I didn't sing "fart" during the performance but sure had a big grin on my face when he nudged me during that part.
We've enjoyed living next door to my parents and they have been our very best friends. Now that they're on the 'other side', I have no 'best friends' and it's been a little lonely. Well, it's been a LOT lonely.
Dad was very active up until a couple of months ago. This picture was taken just a few months ago, on the ranch in Montana where he was branding a calf. Shortly thereafter his back started hurting and he was having aches and pains and then decided that he didn't want to eat anymore. Life started declining. He started losing weight, sleeping more, and having more difficulty getting up and down. My poor little sis was having a hard time trying to take care of him 24/7, getting the haying done, taking care of grand-children, and doing her church calling in the Stake Relief Society.
This photo was taken the last time he came to our home in May of this year.
Just a couple of days before his death I was sitting at work and had the impression that I needed to drive to Drummond to help out my sister. I called my oldest daughter Angie to ask if she could get off of work on Friday to drive up to Drummond. She said sure and we left Friday morning at 6:30 a.m. The drive there was bizarre. We felt we were on an errand, sent by angels. The time flew by and so did the trip. It only seemed like we were in the car for an hour. It's a 7 hour drive and we were there by 1:30 p.m. As we walked into the home my sister met me at the door and said that Hospice had just left and they didn't think Dad would make it through the weekend. We went into his bedroom and he opened his eyes and recognized us but seemed confused as to where he was. We assured him that he was still in Drummond and that we had come to visit. He seemed happy to see us. He rested while we cuddled up next to him on the bed, my sister and my oldest daughter, laughing, talking, and telling stories. We took care of Dad's needs because he was too weak to even sit up in bed. He really hadn't eaten for close to a month ... just a few sips of water and a few bites of food here and there. He had lost a LOT of weight in the two months prior and I was really shocked at how old he looked. He was finally looking his age, although his skin was still beautiful and no wrinkles!
Angie, my oldest daughter kissing grandpa hello!
That evening my sister and I got up in the middle of the night to take care of Dad. He went back to sleep peacefully. Saturday he was sick to his stomach and complained that he needed to throw up. There was nothing to throw up. He continued to have dry heaves throughout the day. I administered some of his pain medication which Hospice told me to give. He continued to sleep throughout the day but was responsive. Hospice visited early that evening and checked his vitals and said that everything looked great and that he could possibly hang on for quite a while in his condition. I asked him if he was ready to go to the other side and he said that he was. The day before when asked the same question he responded, "Not particularly!" But by Saturday he was ready to go. I told him that he needed to say it loud and clear for the angels to hear on the other side so they could come and escort him home. He said in a very loud and clear voice, "I'm ready to go. Just let me go." He then told all of us that he loved us very much. Of course we were all in tears but told him that we wanted him to go. As I tucked him in bed that night I told him that I loved him and he told me, "I love you more!" He always said that to Margaret, my little sister. They had such a beautiful relationship. It was so sweet watching her care for him.
Early Sunday morning I woke around 5:00 a.m. and laid in bed wondering if I should go downstairs to check on him. I decided I didn't want to bother William and Marg so took a shower and put on my makeup and got my bags packed to home. Marg came upstairs to visit with me while I was getting ready. She begged me to stay another day but we had to get back for Angie's work. She had been visiting with Dad at 5:30 and had given him a sip of water and he was resting. He'd had a rough night, coughing a lot. Marg grabbed my two bags to take downstairs and I turned to pick up my purse and hear my mother's voice in my head say, "Gil, you've got to go now! Linda's leaving!!" I was wondering about what I had just experienced when I heard my sister call for me to come quick. My sister had just heard Dad say, "I don't know how. Tell me what to do!" As I got into Dad's bedroom I could see that he was going. I supported his back with one hand and had my other hand on his chest while feeling for a heart beat. I told Marg that he was gone. Then he physically relaxed, his head went back and he closed his eyes. I was talking very excitedly in a loud voice, "Dad, I'm so happy for you! You've finally made it. See I told you, all you had to do was step into the next room."
This is a very spiritual experience that I'm sharing with you. But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the spirit world is very near and our departed ones are very close and are very much aware of waht we are doing. They are our cheering section and want us to choose and live our lives righteously so we can live with our Heavenly Father and eldest brother Jesus Christ in the eternities ahead. I KNOW my mother wanted me to be there when she helped escort my father beyond the veil. I know she was there. I felt her presence. I can't be sad because every time I think about Dad and try to be sad a smile spreads across my face because I see Dad and his sweetheart together and I see the smile on his face that he once had prior to Mom's diagnosis.
We had a beautiful service for him in Salt Lake. My sister and her husband were able to escort his body back to Salt Lake in the back of their pickup truck. How fitting for our 'cowboy' totake his last ride in the back of their truck. We still laugh about the image. Marg said that a few times they hit some rough bumps and were sure 'grandpa' was lying on his side in his casket or possibly on his stomach!
It was a beautiful day. Everyone that took part in the service did an exceptional job. And my ward Relief Sociey provided the most scrumptious lunch after the services for 152 family members! And NO, we didn't have funeral potatoes or green jello salad. We had a good ole fashioned barbecue with plenty of beef!
This is my Dad's older sister, Mona. She just turned 98 this month and she's still running on her own 'steam'. Incredible!
After the luncheon some of our family went back to the grave site to pay our final respects. It was ironic that as we were visiting his site, a flock of geese flew overheard, just prior to a torrential downpore of rain. The flock of geese visited me the first time I visited my mother's grave after her funeral. She always said she'd leave a feather to let us know she had been to visit, after her death. I think they sent a flock of geese (feathers) to let us know they are finally together.
So am I sad ... NO ... I rejoice in the knowledge that I know my Redeemer lives and loves me. I'm thankful for the inspiration I received to visit my Dad prior to his death. I'm thankful that the Lord heard our prayers and was able to take Dad home while I was still there. And I'm especially thankful for a wonderful family who loves and supports me. Yes, I know that my Redeemer lives! And I know that I will see Him again and be able to live with my Mom and Dad once again if I live righteously and keep my covenants.