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Pop

1928-2015

Story by Trevor Will March 21st, 2016

PLUMAS NATIONAL FOREST

A lesser known part of California’s landscape (often overshadowed by tourism to Tahoe and Yosemite) has been the backdrop of some of my favorite childhood memories with my dad, uncle, my grandfather. The Lakes Basin of this area is home to scattered lakes, hiking trails, and the beautiful scenery characteristic of the Sierra Mountain Range.

My grandfather would take his sons up here regularly for fishing and camping trips in their youth, something that my dad wanted to share with me. Visiting this area has become a tradition for my family, and remains one of my favorite places on Earth.

We decided that this place which we all held so dear in our hearts would be a fitting place to lay my grandfather to rest.

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Towing an Airstream camper, we arrived in Graeagle- a small city nestled off of Highway 89. Graeagle is home to a quiet population of small shops, golf courses, and scattered farmland. We sat down for breakfast at the Graeagle Restaurant (go figure) before exploring some of the shops.

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Per tradition, we visited our favorite shop, Gold Rush Gallery. Every trip my dad and I take to Graeagle includes a stop (and usually a purchase) here.

My dad found some small wooden boxes with various things embossed or engraved into the lid. We each chose one with a word that reminded us of Pop to take home with us.

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From Graeagle, we headed towards Lake Davis. You couldn’t have asked for nicer conditions- the sky and water were crystal clear and a slight breeze kissed the surface of the lake.


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The campgrounds scattered through Lakes Basin feature beautiful views of lakes, mountains, and rivers. We were fortunate enough to find a spot nestled in the pines with a clear view of the water. One of my favorite parts of staying in the forest is the supreme air quality. The mountain air is crisp and cool, and allows for such clear conditions. This was the type of day Pop would have spent fishing and relaxing by the lake.

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Then came the hard part.


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Losing a loved one can be surreal. It was tough for me to get my head around the idea that someone who been there my entire life until now, suddenly was not. It always seemed so easy to drive down to my grandparents’ house and say “hi”, or to give them a call and have him answer the phone in his same old way. The presence someone has in your life often consists of the small things- the calls, the cards, the smells, the laughs, the smiles. Such small things are often left as fleeting moments, and we never realize the true impact they have on our life until they’re gone.
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My dad filled each of our boxes with a piece of the remains, and sealed them shut. We wanted something to take home, to keep some part of Pop with us. The rest of him went into a fishing basket, which we would use to spread his ashes. I remember a sense of quiet, even as Uncle Mike played his harmonica during our humble ceremony. I don’t think Pop would have had it any other way.
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We set off to Honker Cove, a short walk from our campsite. I wondered how many times Pop had made the same walk along the shore.


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We each took turns spreading some of the ashes and saying our goodbyes. It did not seem that the white dust sprinkling the sand was the remains of a person. All of his thoughts, experiences and memories, hopes and fears, somehow reduced to dust.


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I realized that this was not Pop, only what was left of his physical self. Our bodies grow old and eventually we depart, but we are more than our physical presence in the world. We are the thoughts and memories we created with those around us, the hopes and dreams we worked to realize, the kindness and compassion we shared with others. Life is a series of fleeting moments that form our reality, and those moments transcend the physical body.

Pop lives on in our memories, in all we have learned from him, in all the times he made us laugh or made us smile.

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waldon f will 1928-2015

Rest in Peace Papa.


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Footnote: Pop's Hat