My mom hosted a memorial service on a warm Sunday summer afternoon in the front yard of their home on June 30th, 2012.
My Dad became fond Reverand Donna Steckline, the hospice chaplain, and someone who grew up on a farm herself, and even showed cows along side my brothers and cousins. Here she is with Matt's dog Daisy. Matt had a very hard time before and during the service.
By the time the service began, we'd fetched 40+ more chairs as people kept pulling in and filling up the field next to the house.
While most of us go daily out into the world, my Dad lived a kind of life in which the world, including all of you, came daily here to him. This driveway has always been a busy place, and over the years you came here to gather in friendship and family, to hunt, to buy milk, to chat during chores, following him and his brother down the center of the barn as they moved from cow to cow, or just to have a cup of coffee at the kitchen table.
Each of you has a different sense of my Dad than I do. I don't know what it was to be a brother to him, a high-school teammate and fellow carouser, an in-law, a niece or a nephew, a wife, a son, or a grandchild. I don't know what it was to be a 16-year-old girl getting a ride with her brother's girlfriend down McCall Road to see where this Jimmy Hodge lived.
And this is because Jim Hodge welcomed each of us into his life as distinct individuals, meeting our eyes, seeing us for who we were, and relating to each of us personally. I can talk about him as I know him -- as a daughter.
For so many years I tried to figure my dad out. I like knowing "why" and when it came to my Dad, I wanted to understand why he lived in a way that was so hard on him physically, in a way that I saw as limiting to my family: he wouldn't just hop in the car and go over to Amblerville for a Sunday afternoon with my Mom's family. He didn't look forward to vacations --and we often took them a few miles away at Bowman Lake with Dad driving back and forth, still doing chores.
It was only as I grew older, as I became obsessed with my own particular endeavors that others couldn't understand, and as I was able to share the gift of this home and land and family with my own children that I understood -- What was it I understood? Did I finally understand why he'd lived this way? No. What I finally understood was that it really wasn't my place to try and figure him out. It was my place to love and accept my dad as he'd always loved and accepted me.
Because, love and accept me he surely did -- I am a strong, opinionated woman who has always felt a great confidence. From the time I was a young girl I took it for granted that I would live any kind of life I wanted to --- and that had to come from someplace, from the place in which I was raised by a dad and mom who believed the same.
How lucky I count myself to have had a father in my life for 50 years, while my Dad, himself, only had a father for the first 19 years of his life. I cannot imagine how he dealt with the loss of his dad, Grant Hodge, a man spoken of with great affection and respect by those here who knew him.
At 19, my dad and my Uncle Donny took on new and huge responsibilities as the farm became their business.
My dad was newly married. His first child was on the way. He was a farmer responsible for a business affected by so many things out his own control: weather, regulations, the health of an animal. For 45 more years, he actively farmed, often under stress, and yet never in despair. Tried by worries but never frustrated. Jim Hodge had a faith that this was the work he was meant to do -- a faith I hope my own children and my nieces and nephew can find in their own work.
I look forward to talking with you all today and hearing your stories about Jim Hodge. I know I will hear about the twinkle in his eye, about how stubborn he could be, of the fun he liked to have, of how he loved to dance, pull a practical joke, spend time with his family, and, always, return to work. And, surely, there will be stories you tell that are new to me -- because I do now my Dad had a life rich in relationships.
Jim Hodge's legacy is large and far reaching including a well-loved family, an attitude of kindness and confidence, a commitment to hard work, and, always, the land.
I miss him. There are so many times I do something and wonder what his reaction will be when he finds out--and then I remember. I know there many of you here today who miss him to the point of pain, and so I share this by Kahlil Gibran
When you are sorrowful
look into your heart
and you shall see that
you are weeping
for that which has been your delight
And then my 10-year-old niece Hannah, came to the front of the group and invited her Great Aunts Pat and Jean (Mom's sisters) to come sing with her. They made us smile and remember Dad's fun and playful nature. They sang "Hey, Hey, Good Lookin'." My Dad loved to dance and this was a great song for it -- there's a layout below about this.
Looking through photos yesterday, I saw in this one of the crowd afterward that my mom and the chaplain were walking off with their arms around each other.
This is the only scrapbook page I've made from the day so far, but I have so many beautiful photos of friends and family, I will make more. The day was definitely a celebration.
Grandpa's Girl by Debbie Hodge | Supplies: Rhinestone Buttons & Bows, Classic Border Shapes, Mercantile Mix 2 Papers, Butterfly Rub-ons by Jenni Bowlin; Glitter Stitches 2, In Distress Textured by Lynn Grieveson; PageKraft by One Little Bird; Reminisce by Leora Sanford (gems); Artplay Palette Concerto by Anna Aspnes (frame); A Simple Mixup Alpha by Lisa Sisneros; Typenoksidi, Pacifico, and Trajan Pro fonts
The journaling on "Grandpa's Girl"
“Look,” said Hannah. She pointed at photos in the album I’d made for Dad‘s memorial service.
“I was Grandpas’ girl. There I am next to him. And there I am, too.”
It was true. It had become quickly apparent to me as I gathered photos from Dad’s life for this album. Hannah was indeed next to him in photos from the last ten years. I’d known she was solicitous of him. calling, though she lived next door, checking on him whenever she came in, and ALWAYS insisting on sitting next to him at meals.
“Yep. You were his girl,” I said and showed her the 2-page spread of just her and Grandpa.
At the memorial service, the chaplain spoke--and I think she brought comfort to some. I spoke, and I believe I helped some recall personal times with my Dad. Uncle Donny, who knew him longest spoke and shared a joke.
And then Grandpa’s Girl, ten-year-old Hannah, stood and came come confidently to the front of a crowd of over one hundred friends and relatives. She invited her great-aunts Jean and Pat, my Dad’s sister-in-laws to join her. The three of them sang a song: “Hey, Hey, Good Lookin’” We joined them on the chorus.
I remembered a night when I was in my twenties, going dancing with my parents and aunts and uncles and a brawl breaking out during just this song and we all kept dancing, avoiding the fray. We all loved dancing with my Dad.
There was no brawl today. There was music and remembrance and a great appreciation for how Grandpa’s girl reminded us of his playful and loving spirit on this day.