The sun was setting with its golden light and the full moon was rising. Emma and her friend Hannah were sitting in the rocking chairs nearby and we could hear their tinkling laughter. We were playing Chris Botti (Jim Sr. loved jazz!), Jim and I were holding hands over him and bawling like babies. It was terrible and beautiful all at the same time. We watched him take his last breaths. I will miss him every day for the rest of my life.
For those of you who know us, he has always been a part of our lives. I always like to say that I got a ‘two-for-one’ deal when I got married. He was one of the best parts of my life. I am so thankful for his love for us and how everyday when I saw him the first words out of his mouth would be, “How can I help you Sweetheart?” And he said it to us all–he loved each one of my children and had a relationship with each of them. It was my son Isaac who he would call for when he wanted to get up out of his chair in the last few weeks. It was Emma who he would ask to make him cinnamon rolls. It was Elliot or Aidan who would take him little treats from the kitchen or dinner that we made at the Mill, making all his favorite things to tempt him to eat a little more. It was Ian who he missed since he got married.
My Jim got to spend part of every single day of our married life with his Pop–except when he travelled, then he would call him when he could. Watching a loved one grow old and lose life’s vitality is a very difficult thing to do. But it was also one of the most wonderful things I have ever been a part of.
Fast forward to Easter. Jim’s three sisters and Grandpas last living brother (he had 10 siblings) came for a small, intimate gathering to remember James Harold Reddekopp Sr. Each child planted a cherry tree. We decided on cherry because on the day he died, all the trees on the mountain were in full bloom. Every year we will enjoy the blossoms and cherish the memories we share with him. We ate, we laughed, we cried.
Four days later, my Jim, collapsed on our living room floor. His heart stopped. And then he snapped out of it asking what had happened. This happened six times. He was rushed to the hospital where they recorded everything including an 11 second flat line. He took many tests and passed every one. We have had many friends in the medical field who we are very thankful for spending hours going over his test results to come to the conclusion that most likely he suffered from extreme emotional trauma at the death of his father. I have never been more scared in my life to see my husband, always so strong and never sick, in a weakened state with so many unknowns. Following the ambulance to the hospital I lived two lifetimes. You may ask why I followed the ambulance–we had business as usual that day–and amazingly, my wonderful children swung into action without hesitation. A special group of chefs from the ACF (American Culinary Federation) came for lunch and Emma and Elizabeth, Isaac, Elliot and Aidan took care of our guests, explaining to them the situation. Aidan even did the cooking demonstration for them and they were impressed at his flambe-ing skills.
Jim spent one night in the hospital and has been fine with no more ‘episodes’ as we are calling them. He was training for the Triple Crown swim meets, but decided just to keep training for another year and compete next year. His only hobbies off the farm are surfing and swimming. He says he channels his inner native when he is in the water and always comes home refreshed and his spirit renewed. We are thankful for everyday we have together.
The very next week I took Isaac (our 17 year old) to the doctor. He had been our right hand while taking care of Grandpa in his last few months. Isaac would help to bathe him, change his diapers, apply medicine, feed him, sit with him, help him in any way he could. The reason I took him to the doctor was because in the midst of everything else going on, Isaac had mysteriously dropped 40 pounds in 3 months. He is 6 foot 1 1/2 inches and was skinny as a rail. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. This has been quite an adjustment for all of us as we see how insulin, sugar, carbohydrates and the body all work together. Isaac has passed through the ‘honeymoon’ phase and is settling in to a very healthy diet and we are all adopting some new food choices as we see the negative effects of too much sugar and processed food. He is now looking into becoming a fire fighter or EMT. He definitely has a gift for compassion and taking care of people, and we are helping him to pursue this.
I am going to start wrapping this letter up. I do have lots more to tell you, but I will portion it out. If you are the praying kind, we always appreciate your prayers for us. We have been truly blessed to have all of you wonderful people who have invested in our family over the years and we are so grateful for your kind words and thoughts. I have said it before, you bring us a lot of joy in doing what we do.
I would like to end this newsletter by describing how Grandpa spent his last few minutes with us. The winter sun was setting with its pale,golden light reaching in long rays through the forest that faced the west side of his house. The almost full moon was rising through the trees to the east. Emma and her friend Hannah were sitting in the rocking chairs outside nearby and we could hear their tinkling laughter, remembering something funny. We were playing Chris Botti (Jim Sr. loved jazz!), Jim and I were holding hands over him and bawling like babies. It was terrible and beautiful all at the same time. We watched him take his last breaths. We know he is with Jesus and is at peace after a long and fruitful life filled with love. I will miss him every day for the rest of my life.
Hawaiian Vanilla Company, a boutique farm, family owned and operated