Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dean V. Thompson: Celebrating a Life Well Lived

Dean V. Thompson, circa 1950s.
Dean V. Thompson, every single one of your progeny gathered in Seattle last weekend to celebrate your life. On Friday, we came together for a memorial in Discovery Park's Visitor Center and then on Saturday, we continued our celebration with the seventh annual Thompson/Hansen/Maher family picnic at the top of the park's big hill overlooking Puget Sound. Your progeny brought spouses and partners, friends and caretakers to this plethora of happenings that spanned four days of Pacific Northwest blue sky weather.
Dad, your memorial celebration and the annual picnic were embedded in the midst of family suppers and multitudinous sleeping arrangements, hours of conversations among cousins and lots of small children in strange new places, all of this mixed up with continuous food preparation and logistics planning. It was definitely a full four days that Mary B finally characterized as 'really like a wedding weekend.'
Seattle Gothic, circa 2005?
The 1941 Thompson-Bain marriage generated this lively tribe and now we can say that every single one of us was together in one place for the very first time ever. Dad, we did it for you because we knew you wanted to see all nine of your great grandchildren on that hill in Discovery Park, running around and then perhaps, falling in a big clump, like a litter of kittens.
BTW, did any one of us even take a photo of all nine great grandchildren together in one big clump? Nope. In the moment, my expectations for taking this particular photo vanished. Heather did capture the picture below with five of the nine. That's as many as we got in one frame.
Dad, we know you really wanted to be at this seventh family picnic. After all, my siblings and I started this annual event for you and Mom. It was a way to draw all of our family together in a place you loved and where little ones were free to run safely and unimpeded. We know you tried to hold on until the picnic date, because every time we called, you spoke about the picnic and your great grandkids. We knew your days were getting ever more difficult, when you began to say, "I wonder if I'll make it." And then, the first week of May, Kate said, "Dad, it's OK to short out," and you said, "I heard you."
You died days later, on May 6.  We'd already made travel plans and we kept them because now there was more than a picnic on the hill. There was your memorial service too.
Your physical presence was sorely missed during these four days of family celebration. But I'll tell you something, Dad. I think you and Mom were right there with us this weekend, moment by moment. Two crows swooped into the pine trees just above us at the picnic and they made a lot of racket, which I assumed was their way of saying they were perched on those branches as your messengers.
You and Mom would have loved this family time from beginning to end. Well, truth be known, I'm fairly sure Mom would have enjoyed these four days much more 'in retrospect.' Still wondering what words best describe this three generation experience without cliche? I am not young enough to use the catchword 'awesome.' However, I'd wager that the first word many of us might use would be 'overwhelming', followed by intense, heart tugging, poignant, crazed and wonder-filled. Was it all more than any of us anticipated? Did even one of us fully foresee soooooo many goings-on? Maybe Mary B did because she's good at stuff like that.  How many of us were filled with raw emotions, quiet tears? And great bursts of laughter? Flickers of irritation and plenty of stimulus overload? We had it all, Dad, because we're a family.
Queta, Caroline and Mary B preparing for the slide show.
No, the long green cord was not in sight during the memorial celebration.
You got a great send off, Dad. We came together at the visitor center in Discovery Park in a room with tall windows and tables set with green and aubergine linens and bouquets of sunflowers and wild grasses. The Hansen women began their set up work at 9:00 a.m.
Thanks to Caroline for planning our buffet luncheon, working with caterer, florist, rental agency. Thanks to Jeanne for engaging the photographer who worked hard to pull all 29 of us toward one still moment of smiling family facing the direction of his camera.
Thanks to Mary B who created 'Dean V. Thompson: A Life Well Lived', a video (here's the link) with dozens of old photos from your earliest days as a child on the Canadian prairie to years in Aruba as Lago's supervising principal and then on to images with grandchildren and then great grandchildren. And Mom was always at your side. The photos were set to music which Mom conducted and in which we heard your tenor voice. And as we all know, because Mom told us, "Dean's voice colors the whole tenor section." So, hearing your tenor like chocolate icing on a cake pushed many of us to tears. Just as it always does.
Thanks to Chris for giving a family blessing, made all the better because he held Ben in his arms.
Dad, at last we got to meet the very newest cousins, a few of them for the first time. In fact, some of your grandchildren may only have met at family weddings. Can this be true? Thanks to Heather Maher for photographing and shooting videos of both the memorial and the picnic. Here she is, camera in hand, meeting Rosemary for the first time.
Dad, we shared our favorite stories about you over a lunch that included two of your favorite foods, salmon patties and plenty of blackberries. You would have enjoyed the telling of every single story and you might have joined in with a mighty laugh or two.
Your eldest great grandson started the round of stories, saying that you always hollered, "Charlie Bean," when he came to visit you. He loves that you called him Charlie Bean, and as he spoke, we could see that this oldest great grandchild suddenly knew that he'd not hear 'Charlie Bean' with quite your intonation ever again. There were many more stories and we'll hear them again because Heather was there with her camera.
Dad, on Saturday afternoon, we held the seventh annual Thompson/Hansen/Maher family picnic where kites were flown with much tangling of lines, footballs were thrown and slow cooked brisket, salads and cobbler filled plate after plate. And we watched as that new tent Caroline made was barricaded by your granddaughters with Chinese paper parasols. Heather Maher just posted a video of the picnic on Facebook and all appears idyllic. I'll have the link soon.
Cousins Peyton and Lucy.  Photo, Tanner Page.
Trish and Rosemary, the littlest one. This photo and next five, Heather Maher.

Brothers-in-law, Dan and Greg. This photo and the next three, Heather Maher.
In the midst of bocce matches and sprints down the big hill, Caroline brought out Dad's homemade blackberry liqueur and a bottle of sparkling wine. Mixed the two together and passed out glasses of the stuff. She made an eloquent toast to you Dad, to which we added cheers. Heather captured our 'cheers' on her video. At that moment, we marked the day as Dean V. Thompson's.
And then, as the sun fell lower in that blue sky, we packed up the remains of salads and briskets, folded tables and chairs, hauled coolers, took down the new picnic tent and reached for those San Antonio fiesta decorations that hung from the trees. Another year, another picnic and Dean V. Thompson's very special day. The Thompson/Hansen/Maher families will meet on this hill again next year.

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