Ronald D Christensen
I have 8 aunts/uncles, 4 on my dad's side and 4 on my mom's. Uncle Ron is my mother's youngest brother. As would be expected, I had/have varying degrees of relationships with my parents' siblings. I always felt close to Ron, partly due to the fact that he lived in Spokane with his two sons, Derek and Robbie (both just younger than I) and they were often present at family events and other gatherings. But the real bond came from our shared love for guitars. Ron always had a new guitar to show off. He would let me borrow one every once and a while. We didn't jam together as much as we should have; however, he reinforced my love for the instrument by showing me a new lick here and there, introducing me to some new music (not usually new, but always new to me) and letting me use equipment that I could never afford as a junior high/high school student. But, being the young and self absorbed teenager that I was, I really never realized or was aware of Ron's personal struggles. Behind the cheerful demeanor and general enthusiasm Ron was constantly fighting a battle with addiction and its peripheral issues.
Because of the way his illness played out, Ron had time to plan his own funeral. He requested that my mother do the life sketch and that she specifically not shy away from his lifelong battle with alcoholism and to share how he came to know God through the AA program, which eventually led to him returning to the church of his youth (LDS). I gained so much respect for him because of that. We all have our vices/additions. For many of us, we can keep our imperfections private and they are not broadcast to the world. Ron didn't shy away from it; conversely, he wanted everybody to learn from his past mistakes and be better people because of it. At the end of his life, he was fully active in the church, giving service wherever and however he could and attending the temple daily.
His life came to an end on January 26, 2012 in his own home on his own terms, shortly after being sung to by his sister.
So, it used to not be a big deal for me to jump in the car on short notice, drive several hours in the middle of the night, sometimes over mountain passes in less-than-ideal driving conditions. However, things are a bit different now. It's not just me any more and the sporty sedans have been replaced with a minivan. Getting to Boise for the funeral was going to require some sacrifice and inconvenience. I needed to be in Missoula for work that week. One of Ron's sons, Derek, who lives in Coeur D'Alene, needed a ride as he didn't have the means to get down to Boise on his own. The plan was for Amanda to pack up the car and the kids on Wednesday afternoon, pick up Derek on the way out of town and meet me in Missoula around quiting time. From there, we planned to drive down to Boise in time to get a night's sleep and make it to the funeral at noon on Thursday. The decision we needed to make was which route to take from Missoula to Boise. There were three choices:
- The long, but straight and all Interstate route (I-90, I-15, I-84)
- The shortest, but through the mountains, route (hwy12, hwy 95)
- The second shortest, but also heavily mountainous route (hwy 93, and various others)
Amanda's trip to Missoula was event free and our first 90 minutes or so of journey from Missoula was fine too. As the road went literally uphill, the journey went downhill, figuratively. I missed a necessary turn, so by default we ended up taking route #3. Three hours later, after having zig-zagged only 100 miles through snowy mountain passes, I began to wonder if we would be spending the night on the side of the road. It was a true test of endurance. The words "reckless" and "irresponsible" kept rolling around in my head, especially each time we stopped on the side of the road to let one of the kids pee in the undisturbed snow. I am not a single college student with the ability to stay up all night anymore and I am no longer only responsible for myself. In this case there were three little boys, a wife and cousin in that car with me. The closer we got to Boise the easier the drive became. We rolled into to Boise at 4am, dropped Derek off at his mother's place and checked the family into a hotel for a brief rest. I felt a bit sorry for Derek. I'm sure he would have preferred a short flight from Spokane to Boise, but instead he got 14 hours in a minivan with three kids, watching Pixar movies and Veggie Tales DVDs.
We were blessed with a decent night's sleep and made it to the funeral at noon the next day. The funeral was very nice, a little long, but the local bishop arranged to have someone watch our kids in the nursery so we were able to focus on the talks and presentations. My brother George played his own arrangement of How Great Thou Art and my mother gave the life sketch. We drove over to Pocatello that night so that we could be there for the burial in Idaho Falls in the morning. The burial included a military honors, which was powerful and left quite an impression. We drove back to Spokane on Saturday. All in all we spent about as much time in the car as we did not in the car.
We have been home for a week now, back to real life. We have a few things of Ron's to remember him, including Sam and Charlie. Sam took a bracelet and Charlie took a camouflage pillow. For the kids, I hope that attending the funeral and burial will help them internalize some of the facts about life, death and the Plan of Salvation. I know that for me I am grateful that I had the opportunity to celebrate his life, get to know him better and be strengthened by his experiences and his faithfulness in truly enduring to the very end. I am happy to have known him and am proud to call myself his nephew.