After our weekend in Waterton, we came home to the news that Father Hans had passed away. Father Hans was a Catholic Priest who Doug served and taught on his mission in The San Fernando Valley of California. Father Hans had a huge impact on Doug and Doug was greatly affected by the news of his passing. Of course we wanted to go to the funeral, but the news came Monday morning and the viewing was on Friday. How could we make it work? Both Doug and I are painfully meticulous planners, so a last minute trip just didn't make sense. However, the more we thought about it, the more we felt it was the right thing. We got online, looked at flights and hotels. Rob & Pat and my parents were on board to take the kiddos so just Doug and I could go, so we decided to go for it! We realized Doug didn't have a passport, so we made multiple trips up to Calgary to get an urgent passport made up for him. At one point, when we realized how much this trip was going to cost, we started to have some real reservations about going. We decided to say a prayer and it was such a beautiful and powerful experience. Both Doug and I felt and knew that we needed to go. With that confirmation, we went forward with peace. Doug's mission companion Brady and his wife Jodi decided to come too, so we booked the same hotel in Granada Hills.
WE drove down to Billings and flew from there. Even though we went to Calgary and back that same morning, the 6 1/2 hour drive to Billings was wonderful. When you are busy parent to a bunch of young kiddos, you take any 'couple time' you can get, and the drive was perfect for that. We flew out the next morning, Friday the 14th at 10:30am. The flight was good and the gal sitting next to me was quite chatty, so we visited most of the way while Doug read.
Once we landed, we took a shuttle to Alamo to get our rental car and then headed straight over to In-N-Put Burger. There is a funny story about the last time we went to In-N-Out Burger, however I wont share that here, so I was excited to go again for some redemption. It was SO busy and pretty darn yummy!
After we ate, we drove to Granada Hills to check in to our hotel. It was so fun to drive through the valley again. Doug and I went to LA for our honeymoon and got to see his old mission :) Our hotel room wasn't ready when we got there, so we went for a walk. It sure was hot, however the heat wave we had had earlier in July prepared us for the heat and it wasn't too bad to handle (even though I kept thinking I had bugs crawling down my back, but it was just sweat!) Once back to our hotel, Brady and Jodi were there. I had never met them before and Doug hadnt seen Brady since the mission. Of course, we were a little nervous if we would hit it off, however it was like seeing long lost best friends. We all had an instant connection and being with them was a major highlight of our trip.
That night was Father Hans viewing, so we drove down to Van Nuys to the funeral home. I personally find viewings a little uncomfortable, but i could see that it was so good for Doug to go see Father Hans one last time and pay his respects. After the viewing, we went out for Mexican. Man, the Mexican food is so good down there!! Ah, I am drooling! After dinner the boys dropped Jodi and I off of the hotel and they went to go pick up another mission companion from the airport, Todd. (His name is Ryan Todd, however we all just called him Todd) Jodi and i sat by the pool and chatted for hours. Oh, what a beautiful soul! I need more of her in my life, that is for certain. This was another major highlight of the trip for me.
The next morning was Father Hans funeral. Being a Catholic Priest, I figured it would be a big Mass funeral, however it was far from it. It was a small, quiet and absolutely beautiful burial service. There were only about 20 of us there, is was a beautiful sunny morning and the service itself was so lovely. There was so much peace there - Father Hans lived a good, long life of service. There is no doubt that he is still serving on the other side. After the Catholic Bishop said his prayers, he turned around and memorialized Father Hans so beautifully. We all then tossed flowers and dirt into the grave and stood back and watched while the casket was lowered and he was completely buried. There was such a powerful feeling of peace, love, gratitude and joy at the service. Oh, I am so glad we went! I was, and still am, proud to have been a part of that day. Father Hans truly was a special man. When Doug and I went down to SoCal for our honeymoon, we spent quite a bit of time with Father Hans. LOTS of funny stories to share :)
After the service, we went back to the hotel, changed and then went for lunch. There was a BBQ down the street and Todd had eaten there many times while on his mission, so we decided to give it a try. It was my first ever BBQ experience and honest, it was SO good! Smoked turkey and mac'n'cheese? Mmmm yum!
After lunch, we decided to just drive around the mission. Even though we went to Disney and Universal (which will be in California part 2) this was the best part of the trip. Just listening to those boys reminisce about the mission will be something i cherish for a very long time. We went up to Leo's, by Father Hans old place, to the place where Doug got flashed, where they rode their bikes down an insane hill, to some lake they were never allowed to swim in, to visit someone Todd taught and of course, to a grocery store to buy ridiculously sugary American cereal. Hello Sprinkle Donut Capt'n Crunch! It was the BEST!! 5 people, driving SoCal, reminiscing and making new memories along the way. SO. GOOD!
We then went back to the hotel and said Good-bye. Brady and Jodi said they wanted to come to Canada next year and do some hiking. We so hope that will happen! We love them!
After they left, we headed out to Universal Studios to go see THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER!!!!!!!! More of that in Part 2 :)