So. I'm back from the thingy. The trip over went really smoothly, all things considered. Mom met me at the airport, and Alex picked us up, and we all drove over to Pauoa Valley. In true Gill Family Style, we arrive and the back patio is crowded with uncles, aunties, and cousins. Darian's grown like a weed, although he says "it's all hair". Jon York was there as well, which was nice... I hadn't seen him in a while. I ate a little Thai food and had a beer and some ice cream and hung out with the family. They all took off and I took a few minutes to watch the DVD of Grandpa's TV news spots before passing the hell out.
I slept a good ten hours, took a shower, then enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. I read the front page spread on Grandpa in the Honolulu Advertiser that I'd missed. That morning's paper had a nice letter that an old colleague of his submitted, which was very nice. A couple friends of Gary & Co. stopped by with a card, a plate of cookies, and their condolences, and we chatted for a while. Kink showed up as I was getting ready, and Gary and I sat and chatted with him until there wasn't really any reason not to leave. So we got in Kink's car and drove to Punchbowl.
I'd never been before. It really is quite pretty. I wish I'd had time to catch more of the view of the city, but the cemetery itself is quite picturesque. As we drove in the American flag stood at half-mast for Grandpa, and beyond it at the far end of the bowl the impressive Memorial with its statue of Columbia and its ten Courts of the Missing (Jon's dad is memorialized there). Everything else was lazily spreading shower trees casting shadows over a lush carpet of green grass dotted with grave markers. It was gloriously sunny, all blue sky and fluffy white clouds, and the trade winds kept things from getting too hot. The Family trickled in slowly, then followed as a soldier escorted Granny to the pavilion. We gathered in a semi-circle, the lofty and numerous Clan Gill: Thomas Gill's wife, brother, hanai son, daughter, five sons, four daughters-in-law, nine grandchildren (plus two boyfriends), and three great-grandchildren, for a total party of 27. And that's with three grandchildren missing.
We stood in silent attention as two soldiers carried Grandpa's ashes and a folded American flag up the hill and into the pavilion. They placed Grandpa on the pedestal, saluted him, and retreated. We placed several lei around Grandpa's gorgeous koa urn, then listened as each of Grandpa's children, in order of birth (starting with his hanai son, Cousin Jon) stepped forward to speak, and then his brother, and then his wife. A lot of tears were shed, but there was just as much laughter. The soldiers returned; they unfolded and presented the flag while a third soldier played Taps. That brought tears to my eyes again; the notes were breathtakingly clear and bittersweet, and a fitting tribute to my grandfather. The soldiers refolded the flag, folding a bullet into it; then one of the soldiers went down on one knee and presented the flag to Granny Lo on behalf of the United States Army, expressing appreciation for Grandpa's service to his country. Then he stood and saluted her. It was all rote ceremony, yet somehow heartbreaking in its sincerity.
The ceremony complete, we walked past the walls of urns of other veterans to the place where Grandpa's ashes would rest. We passed the urn around and spoke our last words, then watched as the urn was sealed behind its marble slab. And that was that; we left our lei, flowers, and photos, took a few family pictures, and departed for our lunch at the Waioli Tea Room.
We did our Gill Food-Related Gathering Thing: we filled a room all by ourselves, and collected in shifting groups to chat and catch up. I became acquainted with the youngest of my first-cousins-once-removed, four month old Lehiwa. He's adorable. Huge, for his age, and all chubby baby fat and dimples. I watched Uncle Ivan do stupid baby tricks with him, touching the parts of his feet that made him spread and curl his toes on command. Kawehi's other two kids, Ka'anohi and Na'oi, have gotten HUGE. Na'oi's a little person now. Darian and Ka'anohi got reacquainted, and were immediately up to their old tricks, partners in crime, with Na'oi tagging along. Darian and Ka'anohi went outside and caught geckos, and even a poison-dart frog and an interesting beetle, which Darian took home in a styrofoam container.
I headed back to Pauoa with Gary, Susan, and Darian; Darian put his frog in a terrarium, and drowned his beetle in alcohol and pinned it. He's into herpetology and entomology, and has expert friends to mentor him. He's also into robotics. I approve heartily of his sciencey ways. We hung out and played ping pong a bunch until slowly, much later in the day, a few other relatives gathered. Mom gave me a couple of Grandpa's ties. We ate, and schmoozed, and then it was time to go.
Conveniently, Alex and I were on the same flight as May and Tim, so we all went to the airport together. Inconveniently, our flight ran waaaaay late, so on top of getting no sleep I had to rush at the San Francisco airport to make my connecting flight. But I made it back okay, so all's well that ends well. I'm so freaking exhausted I can hardly think, though, so I'm going to pass out now. ARGH WORK TOMORROW. ARGH.