Happy 5th Birthday, Declan!

How old is Declan? I have to really think about it because I could see him being ten, but I also feel like he was just born. I guess we should average that out and go with five. He plays an endless game of Keep Up with his brothers and the gap between them seems to be narrowing. I cannot deny it; Declan is growing up. We have had five years with this amazing kid. He is such a punk and brings so much joy to our lives. He is going to be an awesome five-year-old. He is cute, strong, happy, and scrappy (in the best sense of the word: determined). He is so loved.


Happy 7th Birthday, Edison!

Today is Edison's birthday! He is seven years old, which is totally believable to me. This kid acted older than six. Let's see how seven suits him. He is still such a cool kid. I am amazed by him regularly. He says things and I double-blink and think, "Where did he learn that?! He is a genius!" I described him as "a perpetual motion machine" on his first birthday and that is still completely true. I do not know where he finds his energy but he can also fall asleep within a couple of minutes. He is so easy-going and takes whatever is given to him. He solves his own problems. He is happy and sweet. We love him so much.



Alexander McLean Paton Neil
05 December 1939 — 28 December 2017

Papa – my Dad's dad, my grandfather – died. This has been heartbreaking even though I knew it would be coming soon. Papa lived so fully that it did not seem possible for him to last much longer once his health declined.

I love this man so much, I named my son after him.

Alexander Paton Merkley and Alexander McLean Paton Neil

Alex and Alex

Papa and Gramma at Matthew and Laura's wedding reception, 2009

Meeting Mei, October 2016

Papa and Alex, November 2017

Papa's last golf, November 2017

Eight days before his death, my siblings and I received an email from Dad saying,
"Just wanted to let you know that I've seen a big fall in Papa's health and strength the past three weeks. Currently, he is hardly eating, is not able to keep food down, and has been in so much pain that he couldn't get out of bed. He started the hospice treatment six days ago, and they are really drugging him up now so the pain is not so debilitating but maybe it's the strong painkillers that are stopping him from eating.
His hearing has greatly diminished too, and he doesn't feel much like talking. For the first time in these 18 months of terminal illness, he has twice said he didn't feel good enough to talk. So you may not get an opportunity to talk to him again, but you can try and Grandma would love to talk to you.
Four weeks ago was the golf tournament that we thankfully had him minimally participate in, and we could all tell the cancer was taking its toll. Three weeks ago, I took him to the cancer doctor and he did very well on that little jaunt. Two weeks ago was his 85th birthday and it was a wonderful evening and he was as charming as could be. Then about 10 days ago, he got a lung infection and that is when things really went downhill. He is mostly over it now, but it really took a lot out of him. A week ago, because he was so weak and sick, he went on hospice hoping he could get somewhat better. He said to me for the first time last Friday, 'I'm dying.'"

I was devastated to receive that email and even more so when he died shortly after. We were able to travel to Arizona for his funeral and I am so grateful that we were financially able to do that and that our schedule was able to be reorganized. When I saw Papa in November, I knew it was the last time I would be seeing him alive. It was time to leave his house so we could get back to Mesa for Jared and Kylie's wedding reception. I soaked Papa's shirt with my tears as he hugged me like he knew I was saying goodbye but he was letting me do it anyway, even if he didn't want it to be true. He was the best Papa in all the land. He always made me feel beautiful, talented, and important. I am so proud to be a part of his family.

I have so many memories of Papa. Memories made at his home in Phoenix and also from the trip he took me on to Scotland. These pictures are from that trip in 2005.

Papa, thank you for taking me to Scotland. Thank you for introducing me to morning rolls. Thank you for those early morning walks in Scotland as I adjusted to the jet lag. No thank you for telling me my dad was "Made in Scotland"; I'm still scarred. Thanks for having an awesome water bed and cable TV. I watched so many movies on the Disney Channel in that room. Thank you for kissing me on the cheek, and sometimes the lips if I wasn't quick enough. I think you were inadvertently my first kiss and I loved that simple gesture of grandfatherly love. Thank you for teaching me how to make scrambled eggs in a microwave. Who needs to get a pan dirty?! Thank you for taking such amazing care of your pool so I could spend hours pretending to be a mermaid and frantically racing away from that creepy vacuum. Thank you for the delicious barbecue every family party. I still haven't had chicken as good as you made it! Thank you for measuring me against your brick wall; I always stand a little taller for you. Thank you for helping me exercise my vocal chords by yelling "just a little louder" so you can hear me. Thanks for singing Christmas songs and making everything else into a song. Thanks for being Papa. I will love you forever and miss you until we meet again.


Happy 1st Birthday, Mei!

It has been an emotional week. Hurricane Harvey made landfall here in Houston six days ago and we have been cooped up while dear friends' houses flood. I feel like it is unreal that today is Mei's birthday; it must just be in my imagination. But like it or not, it is really real. Mei is one. I usually have a hard time coming up with a list of a person's attributes but not for Mei. I have no complaints about her. She is easy to talk about and I am full of praise for what is contained in her tiny, little body. She is moving constantly, getting into everything she can, and smiling the whole while. She is a bundle of joy and curiosity. She is the happiest baby and radiates that glee to everyone around her. She likes to be up to mischief of one kind or anything and when she sees me coming she only moves faster in the crime. I am looking forward to hearing more words from her so I can know what is going on in her mind; it probably has something to do with eating blueberries, smooshing things between her fingers, and climbing stairs. Mei is living up to her name and is everything beautiful.



Today marks 12 years since the day Rachael died. It was a peaceful day thinking of her. This picture used to make me so angry; we all look fabulous and then BAM! Bunny ears. But I saw the picture again today and it warmed my heart. My family is so kooky but I love them all entirely. My memory is imperfect and my brain wears rose-colored glasses but I am convinced my family is the best. While we were in Utah last month, six of the eight siblings were there (missing Flannel and Rachael). It was healing to hear stories of Rachael come up in regular conversation. We all know and love her and it was happy. I am grateful for pens and pictures that are stronger than my memory. I curled up on the couch tonight and cry-watched the video montage of her life and remembered: Rachael was goodness. What an incredible blessing it is to have a family.

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