Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Henry McAfee Howe - "Bull"

I haven't blogged in a while because I am pretty sure I have just been putting off writing this post.
  But, I use this blog as a way to remember our lives as a family and I can't go without mentioning the life and death of my grandfather, Bull.
 On Wednesday, November 12, Bull passed away from complications after undergoing a procedure in the hospital. During the procedure he quit breathing and his heart stopped. He was on a ventilator and had his pacemaker in tact for a little less than two days. After understanding fully his prognosis and with no sure sign of recovery, my grandma, my dad and his sisters did exactly what Bull would have wanted and took him off all life prolonging medical treatments and let him go be with the Lord.
  We all had hoped he would fall asleep in his chair on the ranch one day and just never wake up. He came close to that....working until his last possible day but, the way it actually happened was unexpected. However, after all was said and done, it was relatively quick which it is how he would have wanted it.
  Bull was 90 years old. He was born on August 7th, 1924. As a family, you know that death is coming. For everyone. You hope and pray and wish for a life as long and as full as the 90 years that Bull had but, in the end, it is still a loss.
 It still hurts.
  There are a couple things I really want to remember about that week.
One, is that we have an amazing family. As soon as we knew the prognosis was grave, every person made the effort to be by Bull's side. He had one wife of 70 amazing years, 4 kids and 10 grandkids and every one of them was there with him to say goodbye the day he died. Not one was missing. Despite distance, work, kids, busy lives, everyone made the time and effort to stop and just be there, with him, and together. Within 24 hours, every blood relative was there.  We all felt a part of letting him go. Everyone was fully informed and felt a part of every decision and conversation that was made.
  The second one, was that my dad is a rock.
 He is an apple that did not fall far from the tree. I know as soon as he got in the room with Inie after hearing the results of the procedure that she said "we've been needing you here." She would just melt in the arms of her youngest child when he held her. He did not do it alone, each of his three sisters were amazing and made every decision and clearly explained in detail answers to any questions we had but, he was the spokesperson for many, many conversations and group meetings about medical care and decisions that needed to be made. He was always clear, concise and determined. Bull was my dad's best friend and he selflessly took each moment to think about what he would want and forced meetings with doctors and committees to get what he felt should be accomplished done, and quickly. He held us when we cried and had such perspective even during such a dark time for him.
He held strong.
  He did the Eulogy at the funeral and was amazing. He so clearly depicted Bull in all the stages of his life and honored his legacy so much and held it together all the while doting on his dad. I know my husband and brothers feel the same way about my dad as he did about his. Specifically Matt asked me "What do you do when your hero's hero is gone?"
  He is a rock.
I also just want to remember my grandmother. A dedicated and loving caretaker and wife even in the darkest time. She doted on him as he lay in the bed for those few hours. She would look at his unshaven face and comment how he would have wanted to shave. Make comments that only someone who you spent every day of the last 70 years with would know to say. She would hold his hand and never, ever leave his side. In fact, I am told that after they removed the ventilator he opened his eyes for a few minutes and seemed to be staring straight at her. She just looked in his eyes and told him it was ok and she loved him so much. He started shallowly breathing on his own for a little while and we did not know if he would last hours or minutes or a day or so. After a little while, everyone went to eat lunch and my aunt Lois stayed with Inie in the room while we went to eat.
 She wouldn't leave his side.
At one point Lois got up to go down the hall and when she came back he was gone. He had stopped breathing, alone in the room with his bride and no one else.
 Despite the massive reunion of people we had taking up an entire wing of the hospital minutes before, he let go with only her in the room.
 I will never forget the call from my aunt to my dad while we were all waiting on our food at Applebees. Our corner of the restaurant was an emotional mess. I felt sorry for those patrons and wait staff.
  There is so, so much I could say about Bull and every grandparent I have. This is my first real experience with the death of a family member. God's word assures us that we will face trials and tribulations and that there is a time for every season under heaven, even death so this is definitely just the first taste.
 I could go on and on but, I think for this blog, I am just going to write down what I wrote to him. All the kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids were allowed the opportunity, if we wanted, to write or draw a picture or something for Bull to put in a special pocket in his casket to be buried with him.
 I want to remember what I wrote:
My sweet Bull,
What a difficult letter to write to you. I don't know why we wait until death to tell the people we love the most how much we love them. But, oh I love you so. I mainly want to reflect on memories and my favorite things about you. I love that we shared a birthday (pretty much). It was my favorite time of each birthday when I could talk to you and wish you a Happy Birthday too. You always made me feel so special about it because Jack David died on that day and you said you never liked it again until I came along and then it gave you something to celebrate again. I loved that we were both Aggies. After you, I was the first to go to A&M and I am insanely proud to have followed in those footsteps. I loved hearing your stories about that time in your life and the class of '45 which no one graduated because everyone went to war. There are so many memories I have of you but one of my favorites is the time you found an old wallet of your mom's with ten $1 bills in it and you walked around crying to each one of your grandkids to hand us each a dollar. I still have that dollar framed. I love how sentimental you were. Such a strong-willed, tough, salt of the earth man that seemed fearless and impenetrable but you were the first to cry in gratitude at any event. I love how incredibly proud you were of all your grandkids. I love how you always asked and loved to hear me sing. How you always told me I was beautiful and smart. You taught me what to look for and respect in a man and leader of a family. You always told it straight and led with quiet confidence. I loved your stories, your wisdom, just to hear you talk (when I could understand you :) I love how consistent you were. We could almost predict every moment of the day where you would be. At the ranch, eating oatmeal for breakfast, in your chair having an evening cocktail, at church on Sunday. I loved that consistency. It brought a peacefulness that we will now learn to live without. The only peace I know now is that I am sure you are with Jesus. I am certain you are walking with him in a paradise that we long for. Thank you for starting a legacy of faith for our family. You and Inie together have steered us toward Jesus and for that I am, literally, eternally grateful. You were generous with your time, resources, and love toward those in need. You were a walking example of love, grace and overcoming adversity with a full heart. Life isn't easy but it is beautiful and worth living fully each day and working hard during this one life we have. Thank you for loving Inie, wholly and unconditionally, for 70 years. What a legacy and example. Thank you for loving, teaching and protecting each grandchild, especially those boys. You taught them to be men out on that ranch, day after day, summer after summer. They grew up there with you their teacher, their life teacher. What an honor. We will miss you so much, our grandfather, our patriarch, our hero, our friend. I love you.
A hospital and a funeral are not really places you take a lot of pictures...in fact, I took zero.
But, I was given a few pictures that I think are pretty cool to remember.
 One is the picture of Bull's casket.
 First, it is made of pecan wood, which is very special because he is a pecan farmer and they grow native to his ranch. And, his brand is the flying H and my cousins custom carved them for the side of his casket.
Bull's casket Bull's casket 2 Also, my dad took these pictures of Bull's grandsons as his pallbearers.
 All nine of them.
 He wouldn't have picked anyone else.
  bull pallbearers Untitled
They walked that casket to the burial plot and then they threw two buckets of dirt from his ranch and we all threw some pecans from the ranch on top. Untitled
If you made it through this post, (whew!) you are a trooper.
It is highly too personal and emotional and for that, I say, I get it from Bull.
As much as I wanted to document and remember that week and celebrating the end of an amazing life...this picture pretty much sums up how we will all choose to remember Bull. Sitting down during a hard days work, admiring his ranch and patting his ranch dog, Trey.
We love you Bull. 
  Bull & Trey


Carrie said...

Thank you for sharing this. So beautiful.

kristen said...

That was just so beautiful. I just cried through the whole thing. love you so much and love your whole family. What a tribute this post and everything y'all said and did for him. Love you.