John Seaman Taggart



(in a barbershop quartet with left to right: Denny Burdick, Dad, Jim Olsen, Hap Bunn)


(George Washington Taggart marker ceremony, Morgan, Utah)

(U.S. Army WWII)
(Ogden, UT)

(the last photo taken of Dad-- on Ben Lomond just a few days before his death)

From an informal interview of Jack Taggart and LeGrande and Russ Shupe:  "I tell Martha 'Someday we're going to take all the grandkids and go up to Mantua and hike up over Willard's Peak and Ben Lomond, to see what the Valley looks like from the top of the mountain.'  Because that is something to see.  It is pretty from up there.  You can go from the Hog's Back thing or up the face of it.  Remember the snow slides that used to come down the Canyon?  Pieces would break off, and one piece would go down that way and another this way.  That was probably the year your uncle Lewis was killed, when the roof caved in from the snow."


(To the right of the teacher)


(as a Forest Service worker in Wyoming)


(This photo was found in a time capsule that the city of Montpelier opened about eight years ago.  Mom and Dad are flipping burgers at the 3rd Ward fair stand--1972)

(Written as a writing assignment along with my junior composition students--1995)

When my father died, we staged a marvelous funeral and lowered him into the cemetery ground with military ceremony complete with "Taps".  Within hours (the traditional funeral potatoes had  barely begun to digest) my mother was in a frenzy to distribute his clothes--shoes to this grandson, a suit to that son-in-law.  Rather than register shock, we, the remaining family, opted to join in and be good sports--humor her--people act out grief in different ways.

In the midst of this in-family yard sale of sorts/Filene's Basement, I discovered, tucked away in my father's drawer, a pair of cotton work socks--the heel less  kind that grow so soft and slouch around your ankles because the elasticity is long gone. When I returned to my home in New Jersey, I pulled the socks on and crawled into my bed.  As the grief washed over me like water on a beach, I slowly pulled the covers up over my head.  The socks were soft, and I wiggled my toes.

My Address Given at My Father's Funeral
The human tendency of the living is to deify or over-exalt the dead.  Today I have no fear of that because we are here to memorialize someone whose secret quiet deeds will eternally exalt him far beyond our feeble capacity to speak well of our father.

This is for me a bittersweet day.  I have anticipated this day and even requested of my mother within the last year that I be allowed to eulogize my father when the time came because as I have grown older, he has become a focal point in my life, and I have mentally written memorials to him over and over in my mind.

Upon receiving the word of my father's death, once my thinking had cleared, my immediate thought was, "But now who will harvest the grapes?" That is about as mortal as a thought could get under the circumstances.  But that thought has sustained me in my grief.  My father grew grapes.  He did not grow them passively but would qualify as a bona fide vitarian--one who cultivates grapes.  Vita, according to my father, comes from the Latin for life.  Vitis is the Latin designation for grapes, and vitacaea is the botanical name for grapes.  My father studied and made an art as well as a science of growing grapes.  He read and practiced and grafted and, in fact, did all of the Biblical husbandry-type activities.  Next spring he had plans for producing the biggest grapes ever by sprinkling a magic powder on the immature fruit.

On any given day from mid-August through September, if Grandpa pulled up into your driveway, you were guaranteed a box of the most incredible sumptuous  almost carnal grapes with subtle colors and exotic names--food from the Gods that gave new meaning to the word 'grapes'.  On a cross-country flight to North Carolina he imported some of those grapes for John and Marilyn and their family, much to the amusement of security agents.  On that same trip on the plane he met another vitarian.  They started a correspondence and were even going to exchange "roots"!  Vitacaea pen pals.

Furthermore, these grapes were bottled into juice.  Rich purple liquid hoarded through the winter--yet generously appearing to grace a gathering or appearing as a Jewish Mother cure-all for a winter cold.  But for the grace of the Word of Wisdom we would all have become first class winoes, and the tenor of this funeral would have had an entirely different flavor!

Grapes-life-vita-vital.  Nancy, Taggart, Aunt Norma and I went to the vineyard on Thursday to pick grapes.  We picked some--probably not the ones that were ripe.  This knowledge isn't genetic, mind you.  But the bootprints of my father were still there.  And so is the evidence of his meticulous care and craftsmanship.

Vita-vital--life.  Last spring at the passing of Louise Adams, we grieved in a special way.  Our family far away in New Jersey passed around jelly beans to each other.  Paul always had them in his pocket.  He shared them too.  And we knew that now with Louise there in that new sphere there would be some kind of sharing passing between them.  Jelly beans linked mortality with immortality for my children and made it real and vital.

Vital--My father has been more than that.  He has been the silent keystone--the consistent dependable person at the end of the airline ramp who always welcomed with open arms.  He was the indomitable enthusiast when the family gathered.  He could fix, build, engineer anything and had an encyclopedic knowledge of almost everything.  His near genius mentality saved me from an algebra "grave".  And he is responsible for my lack of working botanical knowledge.  With a reference book like John Taggart, who needed to memorize facts like that?  My father also planted gypsy seeds in me from which I may never recover.  My father even cried with me.  Our mutually-loved dog, Schwartzy disappeared, and we were distraught.  But then I remember Dad found him wandering around out in the country, put him in the back of the pickup, and brought him triumphantly home.  We rejoiced together over our "prodigal" hound.

My father was the silent observer of all I did.  He trusted me with the Blurr--a brown semi-navigable panel truck, when I was still in braces and going to ninth grade in Paris.  Never did he question my safe handling--never did he doubt any story I told.  He silently allowed my maturation, and that is how he cultivated children.  Unconsciously.  I don't think he ever sat and consciously goaled himself to be a good father.  In fact he balked at the regiments prescribed for insuring good families. Life was too precious to be taught out of a manual or during a weekly meeting.  Genuine and real and vital as any creature God ever placed on earth, my father carried out his days--methodically based on an unseen principle he probably could not have even defined or identified.

When you found ashes in the car ashtrays, you knew Dad had been picking up hitchhikers again.  He, just three weeks ago, carried some Viet Nam veterans, one of them blind, to Ogden.  Their car had completely collapsed in Montpelier, and Dad had responded to the call for help.  My father shared with me the details of that trip.  He gave them a very concentrated rendition of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, and a living prophet.  With tears in their eyes, they thanked him.  This was a Mormonism they had never heard expressed, and they are different men now.  They had encountered a different man.

Vital--concerned with or manifesting life, necessary or essential to life, a source or support of life, indispensable, full of vigor and life.

On a May evening in 1974--I have it recorded in my journal--I walked home from the library and up our dirt road.  Perhaps the beautiful Bear Lake evening caught me just right or maybe due to something I had been reading--there was my father puttering around with the chickens that he and my mother and Paul and Louise were jointly raising like a 4-H project.  We stopped and talked, and I asked him off the top of my head, "Where would you like to be if you weren't here?"  Without missing a beat or even drawing a breath--just like a cue from a play--as if he thought about it twice a day before breakfast, he replied, "Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, with the Amish."  This statement typifies my father.  He was absurdly simple.  Innately satisfied to kick up the dust on a road or a trail.  Happy in solitude and comfortable in his aloneness.  He didn't amass a fortune--didn't seek to.  Nor did he seek greatness, but in not seeking, he achieved it.   Simple and vital and unencumbered by sophistication.

My father was not an adequate grandfather.  Not even just an exceptional grandpa.  He was the best...that is an uncontestable fact in our family.  He was the quintessential grandfather.  Perfect in every way.  And dearly dearly loved as THE favorite person in the whole family by the offspring of his children.  We, as adults, will heal and store our memories, but to these children he will be a legend.  They will feel Grandpa in them for a long long time.  He was Grandpa the Dancer, and Grandpa the stroking affectionate Healer, and Grandpa the eternal Source of graham crackers.

My children recorded their best memories of Grandpa Taggart on the day he died:  "I like to go in the shed and watch him work."  "He plays games with me."  "He reads to me."  "He tucks me in at night."  "I like to help him bring in the wood."  He has good ideas and is very very smart."  "We checked the water."  "Grandpa wore false teeth, and whenever he took them out, his lower lip could cover his nose!"  "Grandpa had a vineyard and made the best grape juice."

He is a legend.  Our children will be markedly different for having touched this man.  He will roam free in their memories for years to come.

Vita---vital.  So it is with family.  We carry the dead generations within us and pass them onto the future aboard our children.  This keeps the people of the past alive long after we have taken them to the churchyard.

Vita--vital--life--a continuum.  We have talked in our family about the untimeliness of this death.  When would it have been convenient.?

In his book, Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury contemplates the time of death:

Great Grandma opened on eye.  Ninety years gazed calmly out at her physicians like a dust-ghost from a high cupola window.  "Tom..."  The boy was sent alone to her whispering bed.
"Tom" she said faintly far away.  "In the Southern Seas there's a day in each man's life when he knows it's time to shake hands will all his friends and say good-bye and sail away, and he does, and it's natural--it's just his time.  That's how it is today.  I'm so like you sometimes sitting through Saturday matinees until nine at night when we send your dad to bring you home.  Tom, when the time comes that the same cowboys are shooting the same Indians on the same mountaintops, then it's best to fold back the seat and head for the door, with no regrets and no walking backwards up the aisle.  So I'm leaving while I'm still happy and still entertained."

Our father left, too, while he was still happy and still entertained.  Still brimming with the vitality that characterized him and as such will we always remember him.  In his own words which he used a zillion times, "It was reeeeeeeeal interesting!"

Ironically enough, Dad would have enjoyed this funeral so much with all of his family gathered and everyone he loved all around him.  He would have been jovial and busy and content.  And even as we in our grief ache at the Grand Canyon gorge that cuts through our hearts, we can feel the flutter of the veil and imagine the warm greetings and "jelly bean exchanges" on the other side.  These spiritual resonances that we feel witness to us that the grapes we shared--the vita--the life will come again in another season.  The vines are not dead.  The winter has not taken life but merely veiled it for a time.

John Taggart lives on vitally--he's the unpredictable ham in a Nick Taggart.  He's the booming baritone in a son, John Taggart.  He's the compassionate saint in a Meredith Taggart.  He's the trail wanderer in a Taggart Giles and the farmer in a Trevor Eberhard.  He's the gospel scholar in a Steve Williams and the lover of life in all his posterity.

May I close with the chorus from an old tavern song--one of my earliest mortal recollections.  My father sang this song habitually with a very simple piano accompaniment and much much gusto.  I share it today without the gusto but in full faith that it is heard across the realms this day.

Fare thee well for I must leave thee.
Do not let my parting grieve thee,
But remember that the best of friends must say "Adieu".
Adieu, adieu kind friend adieu.
I can no longer stay with you.
I'll hang my heart on a weeping willow tree
And may the world be well with me.

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