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There’s No Upside...

Michael Leavitt shares his innermost thoughts as they relate to his personal and family life. He can be heard to say often to his kids... “There’s no upside!”


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Cheerful Charlie Departs Mortality With A Smile In A Whiteout!

Cheerful Charlie Departs Mortality With A Smile In A Whiteout!

Brrrrrrr! To say it was unexpectedly cold Saturday morning is an understatement. Leaving home in Orem with a light calm snowfall and entering the blizzard country of Northern Highland, Utah was an amazing experience. Just getting to the LDS chapel for my Great Uncle’s funeral by driving on the ice skating rolling hill roads was trechorous for some and was even white knuckling for those of us with 4-wheel-drives.

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The family of my Great Uncle Charles had made the arrangements earlier in the week for the funeral and graveside service. They created a nice table at the entry that invited attendees to share their thoughts and feelings about Charles Del Mar Spurrier.

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The meeting was already underway by the time I made it to Highland. It seems that having a home inspection walkthrough and refereeing a tournament young men's basketball championship game scheduled before a 10:30 AM funeral is not a realistic way to start the day. And don’t think the white stuff and wind of Mother Nature was helping my tight scheduling conflict. Looking back at the morning, even if it had gone like clockwork, I son’t see how I could have made the opening prayer. The comfort came in knowing that Uncle Charles and his children would just be glad for my arrival at any time.

I always enjoyed being around my Uncle Charles. You could always tell that his mind was occupied with a thousand different plans and dreams in his head, but he would always take a bit of personal time to see how I was doing. Uncle Charles is my Mom’s uncle, but he was so much younger than his brother, my Grandpa Ken, that he was almost like an older brother to her. I would only get to see Uncle Charles and his family every few years when I was growing up. The visits would always include a family event hosted at their home in Huntington Beach. It was always looked at with anticipation because their home had a built-in swimming pool, good food, and lots of happy faces that always seemed to know me, but to this day I still struggle remembering all their names. Uncle Charles’ side of the family believed in lots of kids, while 4 or 5 was the huge number on my Grandpa Ken’s lineage. When we would arrive at these events there would be 40 or more people I would have to try to figure out who they were to whom, while all of them just had to remember the 3 or 4 faces arriving from our side of the family. I always felt their love and concern, even though great periods of time would span between our visits. And even when my hair was half way down my back in my times of wandering, I never felt condemnation or judgment. Instead, Uncle Charles would always inquire as to how I was doing and how was I going to be making today better than yesterday and tomorrow better than today.

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This same theme was repeated over and over again during the funeral. Charles came into the world to poor circumstances. He lived a life with dreams and experienced many of them while also experiencing great lows. But no matter what the current trials and strife he would always say he was doing great and looking forward to even better times tomorrow. Nicknamed Cheerful Charlie, he was cheerful all the way to the end of mortality. Many people were overheard to say that he was smiling from the other side as he watched the insanity of pall bearers carrying out his casket after the funeral portion was over. They said it again as the pallbearers carried the casket from the herst to the graveside. In fact, it was said about almost everything throughout the day. Uncle Charles wouldn’t have had it any other way... It was a day to remember, and a day I will never forget!

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I was freezing and my camera was giving me fits in the frigid weather. The rest of the attendees patiently waited inside the foyer and visitied briefly before heading back to Orem, Utah for the interment. The roads were even slicker this time and the whiteout conditions were awful. The game plan was to drive all the way back to the Orem Cemetery through the white out, and then make the same return trip back to the chapel for a lunch. I know that Cheerful Uncle Charlie was smiling, and I found myself repeating over and over, out load in my car, “This is crazy! This is crazy!”

The Orem Cemetery was much calmer upon my arrival, but as I found my strategic position up on the hillside the wind picked up. The herst was there, but the slower two wheel driving family members were very delayed in their arrival. All the time my camera was freezing up, my fingers were Turing bright red and going numb, and the sports jacket was doing little to fight off the bone chilling cold. I held my position for at least 15 minutes when finally Al and Linda Andrews showed up.

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When Al made it to the graveside, he motioned to those looking onward from their running cars and on cue everybody made it up the snow covered hill. Huddled like penguins in Antarctica, the graveside service was much quicker than originally planned. Instead of long periods of mourning, jokes were shared about the weather and a general feeling of light hearted but deep love was felt. Only one person was seen to fall on the snow, but my camera was okay and my pride was kept intact. My dress shoes sure look nice, but they severely lack in traction in the snow.

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After the bitter chill at the Orem Cemetery, driving back to Highland seemed like the right thing to do. It couldn’t have been any harder than what we had already endured, and I really wanted to spend a little time seeing family that is now spread out throughout the country. Others took lots of pictures of the luncheon, within the safe and controlled environment of the cultural hall, so I will let them share those image. The Relief Society sisters from Al and Linda Andrews’ ward went way above and beyond the call of duty and they served up a great ham and potatoes lunch with lots of jello salads and desserts. The stories flowed and the family took time to catch up on our lives.

As I look back, I think the last time were were together was for the passing of Cheerful Uncle Charlie’s youngest son, Don Earle Spurrier. There has got to be a way to get together for something other than the passing through the veil of our loved ones. Seeing Vivian, Charlena, LaVerne, and Dennis was great. The host made me feel the most comfortable as Al and Linda have always been so welcoming to my family.

My thoughts are very introspective when my family friends die, and I always want to take more time to treasure the moments. I will miss Uncle Charles’ smile and I always was awed by his musical talents. BTW, this was the first funeral I have ever attended where the deceased played the prelude music, performed a special musical number by way of recordings. His skill at the organ was unique and always memorable. I will miss you Uncle Charles.

Born: October 3, 1920 in Provo, Utah

Died: February 20, 2013 in Highland, Utah

Buried: Orem Cemetery

NOTE: Aunt Lena was able to attend. She sat in the back in her wheelchair, having also arrived a bit late (due to the weather), and it was a total surprise to the majority of the family when they saw her after the funeral. Her advanced dimentia has made it difficult the past 6 years. I felt as though she has just been patiently waiting for Uncle Charles to pave the way so that he could be there to welcome her when she makes her way out of mortality. I miss seeing her big smile and the feeling her great hugs. The funeral slideshow helped bring back the images to my mind of those more vibrant times for her and I still see those feelings of love through the smiles and hugs of her kids and their kids.

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What are your memories of Cheerful Charlie?

Please share your thoughts below
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