It’s always something, isn’t it?
Sometimes what makes it hard to lose someone is that you lose them slowly over time. Their health and their memory are taken long before they are. Lyn Shrader was a man with such a strong and vibrant soul that even as his mind faded in his last years, the memory of the man he was persists loudly today.
Lyn was a man of shrewd knowledge and warm passion. He spoke up and fought for those he loved. He encouraged, he entertained, he corrected, he listened, and he imparted wisdom. I knew him as an uncle and as a father to my two cousins, Josh and Dee. Though Lyn and his wife Annie had adopted them, it was so easy to forget this, because Lyn treated them in every way as a father should. They were his. And as challenging as they were to raise (knowing this as one who was myself very challenging), he brought them up with great patience and care.
My uncle was a deacon and Bible class teacher in our church. I looked forward to him teaching us because of the way he looked us in the eye, pointed to each of us, and told us what spark he saw in us. He made me feel like a future leader and a creative spirit, and I never forgot it because of him.
While Lyn worked for a telephone company for decades, I could not tell you what he did there. While he worked hard, work wasn’t what he lived for, and all you heard about from him was his family and God’s creation. His treasures were mountains, family, and food. He was a storyteller who had a story about every place he’d been and every person he’d met. He was always looking for more, not out of greed, but out of wonderment.
Life was one big meal, one dish after another. When he finished a meal he would often say, “pretty good for a snack.”
Even in his retirement, Lyn was young at heart. He applied himself to caring for sweet Annie, his wife who passed away just a few years prior. He was there through all her battles with cancer, loyal and devoted. Lyn was full of energy from the hour he got up, and even as his health declined his spirit could not keep still. He would have someone over to talk with, and you were guaranteed to learn something about the world and about yourself. You’d be sitting in the same chair and think you’d gone around the world.
Lyn had very strong opinions about everything from fast food to where the best hiking places are. He believed in relishing in life’s good things, and in sharing with others where to find them. The man was a vast, living resource of knowledge, from where to find the best deals to how to most efficiently pack a U-haul for one trip. When he wasn’t walking forest trails he was tending an abundant garden. I’ve never seen a man stare at a garden with such enjoyment.
Though Lyn hadn’t travelled much or worked in many places, he had always paid attention, enough that his insight made me pay attention. Even into his seventies he was a man in wonder at everything and everyone.
There was that phrase of his. “It’s always somethin’.”
He wasn’t wrong. In our family, there always was something. A birthday, a graduation, a retirement, something to celebrate to the fullest. I have an endless tapestry of family memories, all of us eating and laughing around the table on Thanksgiving, or at the biggest table in the back of some local restaurant like Mac N Bob’s and The Homeplace. Uncle Lyn was always a loud presence, and his famous laugh carried across the valley. He terrified other diners with his signature knee slapper laugh. The staff probably shook their heads at us and said, “it’s always something’ with them.”
In the last years of his life, Lyn Shrader’s boisterous personality slowly dwindled under the tyranny of Alzheimer’s, but that didn’t stop him from entertaining the doctors and nurses who tended to him. The memory was poor but the soul was sturdy and forthright.
My uncle taught me how to relish in the simple and practical, to find whimsy and joy in the everyday. He taught me to believe in myself because I mattered and I had gifts worth sharing. I celebrate his life, a life of compassion, sagacity, and devotion.
There will always be something to remember.