My dad passed away kind of unexpectedly a few weeks ago. He was diagnosed with liver cancer (although he never drank a drop of alcohol) about two years ago. At that time he was given a year or two to live. For the past year or so, he was in and out of the hospital for treatments and other health issues. We thought his last trip to the hospital was just another one of those in and out visits. He got cellulitisin July, and that severely dehidrated his body, which
started to shut down his kidneys. By the beginning of August he was in the hospital again, and there was nothing they could do for him. All of his seven children and their families came back to Mesa, Arizona as quickly as we could. Unfortunately, my dad passed away the night before I got there. When I learned that he died, it was the first time I had really cried since I was a kid.
The funeral and everything went very well. The friends from my parents Ward were awesome and supplied us with ample and very yummy food, so that we didn’t have to worry about feeding the 28 or so people that were always at my parents house. I was asked to give the life sketch of my dad at the funeral. It was not all inclusive, or even all that detailed, but it expresses what my dad was: a simple, humble, loving father and husband, who tried to do what was right.
Here’s the life sketch:
Life Sketch of Carl Edwin Shepherd
Dad was born April 30, 1949 in Mesa, Arizona, to Max and Lois Shepherd.
He received his Eagle Scout award, graduated from Mesa High School, and served a mission to Southern Germany. His life “took a major change” after meeting a girl at a Church dance. After the first date he was “hooked for life”. Ed and Cathy were married on February 16th, 1973.
He died August 8, 2011, in Mesa, Arizona. His father and a younger brother preceded him in death, and he left behind his mother, his wife, seven children and fourteen grandchildren.
In between those dates and events the world was forever changed by the life and love of the great man we honor and remember today.
My Dad’s life was protected, even from his earliest days. When he was still a baby, he was in his crib for a nap. His mother was visiting with a neighbor, when she felt the distinct impression to go check on him. She followed the impression and when she went to the crib, my dad’s head was wedged between the crib and mattress, and was already nearly strangled.
When two years old, he was putting on his sandals, and was bit by a scorpion. He was in convulsions by the time he got to the hospital, but was able to get treated and was only sick for several days.
Dad was protected in other ways as well. He had many experiences that helped him learn the truth and power of God, and the plan He had for my Dad. Once as boy, he was tempted to drink alcohol when he found a bottle of liquor on his way home from school. He purchased a Slurpee from the store, poured the liquor in and was about to take a drink when the cup flew from his hand. He felt impressed that if he ever took a drink he would never be able to put it down. This experience helped him live the Word of Wisdom through out his life.
As it says in D&C 89: 21, “And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.” On Dec 17, 1988, Dad’s arm got stuck in a lathe at work, and broke in four places above the elbow. “The Lord was watching over me that day,” he wrote in his journal, “because it would have been so easy for the lathe to have ripped my arm clear off or done far more damage than it did.” Dad’s brother Paul, who worked at the same shop, remarked on how much of a miracle it was. The only way the machine would stop was for someone to push the off button. With Dad stuck in the lathe there was no time and he was in no position to have done it, but the machine stopped before any more damage could be done. The Lord was definitely there to help out. Charity recalled that it was a blessing in disguise for Dad to be home so much to help take care of Charity and get to know her better. Shortly after the accident, his father Max Shepherd, blessed him that he would “heal quicker than normal and that this would be a testament to his family because he had never used drugs, alcohol, tobacco and had kept his body clean.” Indeed, this was a testimony to his family. The destroying angel had passed him by on this and many other occasions. Even though Dad died of ill health, it was not the destroying angel that came to take him away but it was an angel of compassion and love.
Worthy Priesthood Holder
Dad emulated scriptures in many ways. My Dad was a humble servant and worthy priesthood holder, and surely one of the chosen of God. One of the great scriptures detailing the rights and responsibilities of the priesthood is found in D&C 121: 40-44. “Hence many are called, but few are chosen. No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.” Of course I never needed reproving, but my siblings tell me this was my Dad’s way. J Rarely would he yell, and then usually at the situation and not the individual. Ben remembers many times where Dad exemplified this eternal priesthood pattern, especially after Ben learned that our suburban was not only good for carrying people but for mud bogging, jumping out of retention basins, and all manner of shenanigans. After one such occasion the car would not start. My Dad found the problem, then asked Ben to come out to the car. Instead of yelling or getting mad, my Dad showed Ben how to clean the mud from the starter and get the car working again. He ended with his expression of love for Ben. Such was the pattern over and over again. Dad was quick with reprove, by story or explanation, and followed up with a show of love.
When Aaron was pre-school aged, he found a drill in the back yard that Dad had borrowed from our Grandpa. He started drilling holes in the dirt. After a few minutes Dad came out, asked him to stop, then went back inside. After he left, Aaron promptly forgot, and started drilling again. Dad came out and again asked him to stop. As soon as Dad went back inside, Aaron started drilling again. For the third time Dad came out. Aaron knew he was in trouble and expected it. Dad patiently picked up Aaron, brought him into the living room and sat him on the couch. He told Aaron he loved him, and then went back to what he was doing.
Dad reproved with sharpness at times, but always let us know that he loved us, and we know undeniably that his faithfulness is stronger than death.
Dad loved serving in the Church. He had many callings, but the ones he wrote most of were the ones where he got to serve others the most, such as being a Stake Missionary, a Teachers Quorum Advisor while my brother Aaron and I were Teachers, and the Stake calling to be in charge of our building. I have many fond memories of helping him get the Stake Center satellite and recording equipment ready for General Conference. Two special times were right before my mission and right after. I could tell my Dad honored and sustained the Prophet and Apostles by his dedicated service in the Church. He taught all of us boys the “right way” to help with chairs at any Church function. 10 in a row, all facing the same way, evenly stacked on each side of the cultural hall.
Dad showed us love in so many ways. In a letter he wrote to Ben after his mission, he expressed the need for people to be shown love in different ways. “Consider the needs of each child separately, for just as adults are different, each child is different also. Each must be treated different. There are huggers and tell me but touch me nots. Some will learn from a lecture or a story, others need a more physical approach. Each needs to know that you truly love them for who they are, children of God on loan to two other children who have a few more minutes of experience.”
Even after getting up really early, and doing demanding physical work during the day, Dad would sing us to bed, or read us stories like the Hobbit and the Lord of the Ring trilogy.
Dad was so excited when Charity made the Cheerleading team. “Great!” he said, “I get to go to all the football games… to see you of course.”
Dad was always building stuff for us: a big fort in the back yard (he kept it a surprise by telling us it was a show case for his prize elk rack). He built a loft bed for our room (this was especially memorable for me, I even cried the day the family took it out). He built a couch to store our year supply, and an entertainment center out of a piano crate. He built rocking horses, and wooden guns.
Dad would make dinner everyday while Mom was giving piano lessons, and he would open the car door for Mom. On the occasions when he was home for breakfast, he would make pancakes or waffles with strawberries and whipped cream. These examples have become natural for his own sons, as they emulate his good example of service and love to his family.
More recently, when we would visit for Christmas, if ever we mentioned we needed something (like baby food), the next day there would be a month supply.
We’ll always remember you Dad. Your collection of suspenders. Your garden and other yard projects. Your collecting quarters. Trips to the desert for picnics and shooting guns, and your amazing knowledge of plant life, wildlife and geology. The vast amounts of seemingly trivial trivia. If only we could have convinced you to be on Jeopardy, Ken Jennings would have met his match. We’ll miss your wonderful tenor singing. We’ll miss your cooking. Most of all we’ll miss your love and companionship.
This is but a sad temporary parting, for our hope in eternal life and the beautiful plan of salvation made possible by our loving and merciful Savoir, allows us to hope for a better day, when we will all be reunited and have eternal life with God our Father and His Son Jesus Christ, whom we can all seek to emulate.