My Dad Cal

Calvin Aaron Richards Obituary

A humble farm boy, veterinarian, husband, father, and grandfather. Calvin’s loss is felt by the many people he touched throughout his life. But like the morning rays he appreciated so much, his legacy lives on.

Calvin grew up on one of the original dairy farms in Farmington, Utah. His fourth-grade teacher instilled in him a love of reading and learning that served him his whole life. From a young age, Cal had a compassion for animals and a closeness to the spirit. His sister remembers finding Calvin kneeling down in the grain room praying for a sick cow to recover. Choosing to pursue a career as a veterinarian allowed him to combine his passion for science, animals, and service. Cal attended Davis High school where he enjoyed being part of FFA and was known by his classmates as a quiet leader and friend.

After serving an LDS mission in Paris, France, Calvin went to Utah State to obtain double degrees in Veterinary Science and Dairy Science. It was there that he met his Gospel Doctrine co-teacher Cheryl Jacobson, a ranch girl and Home Ec. student from Randolph, Utah. She soon became his sweetheart and wife. Days after they both graduated and blessed their first son, Jake, they moved to Corvallis, Oregon for vet school. Once residency was complete and he gained experience working at several clinics, his father Aaron financed the family farm to help them build Fairfield Veterinary Hospital in Layton, Utah.

As a veterinarian, he was more than a doctor but a gentle caretaker. His clients quickly became dear friends and particularly appreciated the kind way he took care and comforted their pets during the end of their lives. This service came full circle to Cal as he suffered in the final stages of mortality himself. A quote he often repeated was that “The good ones never last long enough.”

Calvin was a supportive and tender husband to his wife and love of his life, Cheryl. He was a proud father to Jake and Kori, Aubrey and Drew, Michelle and Luke, Dallin, and Austin. But his favorite role was being a Papa to his eleven grandchildren. They were his light and reason to press on. Each grandchild had a special and bond with their grandpa and each prayed for him daily. His youngest two grandchildren were announced just as he received his second liver transplant. Those babies served as treasured markers to him of the bonus time he was donated.

Cal had a quick wit and an always positive perspective. During his years of sickness, when asked how he was doing, his consistent answer was “Doing great, and getting better!” As the man who never quit, he insisted on being dropped off on his way home from the hospital for Friday afternoon basketball, volunteering to babysit between doctors appointments, and washing the Sunday dishes even when he just didn’t feel good.

Service wasn’t something Cal did, it was who he was. He followed the example of his parents in getting to sincerely know people and connect with them on their level. His service as Bishop of the Crestwood Ward was an opportunity he enjoyed as he got to know his neighbors and youth. Calvin had a gift for teaching the gospel both in front of a group and in how he lived his life. When he bore his testimony of Jesus Christ his deep conviction resonated with those who listened. We find comfort knowing he has now returned to live with Him.

Calvin was a scholar and was constantly learning. He loved science and history and had an incredible knack for picking out a good novel in a bookstore. He was intrigued by the life of Abraham Lincoln and those who served in World War II. Any spare minute he had allowed him to turn a few pages and immerse himself in another world.

Always climbing to be better, Calvin was a pillar of strength to many. He is affectionately known by his family as a “Mountain of a Man”. Hiking his beloved Adam’s Canyon and trails around the world provided solace and relief for him. Some of his favorite experiences were leading scouts, family and friends on adventures to appreciate God’s creations. Dad always taught us to look up, making it easy for us to know where to find him.

After 15 years with liver disease and two liver transplants, his body reluctantly gave up the fight, allowing him to be reunited with his father Aaron Richards, mother Jetta Richards, and younger sister Gloria Ann.

As a family, we celebrate his life. In his memory, we hope you will get outdoors, immerse yourself in a good book and share a warm hug and conversation with those you love.

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An opportunity to visit the family will be Wednesday, September 20th from 6-8 pm at the Lindquist Mortuary at 400 S Main St, Kaysville. The funeral will be Thursday, September 21st at 11:00 am with an opportunity to visit the family from 9:30-10:30 am at the Crestwood Chapel, 1059 E Crestwood Rd, Kaysville. Calvin will be laid to rest in the Farmington, Utah cemetery.

Special thanks are given to the Liver Transplant Team at the University of Utah Hospital for their excellent care and his two donors’ families for the gift of life. We encourage you to become an organ donor yourself at yesutah.org or your state’s registry.

 

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To Give Without Constraint

I think the ability to give without constraint or expectation is one of the greatest qualities we can attain in life. 

And that explains both of my parents. My mom and dad are two of the hardest working people and the best examples I could ever ask for. Together they put themselves through vet school and built a successful veterinary practice in Layton. In addition to the financial support it provided our family, it was a place that served so many in our community and their loved animals.

My dad wasn’t very happy when I threw him a big retirement party and made this plaque for the clinic (he’s more of a “fade off into the sunset” kind of guy) but I’m glad we did.

Two months after his second liver transplant in 2015 we were in downtown Kaysville taking family pictures (celebrating him being HOME and looking great!) and I thought it was odd when my dad’s vet partner Alan came to sign some papers on the hood of his truck. We came back to their house to a beautiful lunch and he and my mom told us the news that he’d just signed on the sale of his clinic. It was such a blessing he was able to do that and focus on recovering and savoring time with his family. 

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As part of the sale, they told us, they’d set aside a chunk of money for each child. With the cutest smile on his face he told us “I want to give you this money so I can watch you enjoy it!” Nothing they have ever given has come with constraints or expectations attached. They viewed gifts as what they truly are, ways to express their love. 

That extra money was just the boost Luke and I needed to finish our basement after saving for years. We talked to our kids about how grateful we are and how we wanted to remember Papa and his work and sacrifice together. 

Together we built the “Papa Cal Library” under our basement stairs. A place we can always have, no matter where we go, to remember Papa’s example of always learning, always giving, and always being thankful. 

Two great years we were given since that transplant. Even though his health has deteriorated and the incurable side affects are taking over his body, we are thankful. 

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Madam Librarian Jetta got right to the checkout system.

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On August 11, he was having a particularly good day. We made sure he came down again in our beautiful basement he’s loved enjoying with us. We watched Dallin’s play Little Mermaid, he stayed alert through the whole thing enjoying seeing his son so happy preforming on the big screen. Then we showed him the hand carved sign by Uniquely Jane we finally had made and installed in his library. We read stories to him, talked to our kids about how Papa always had a book in his pocket and his library checkout maxed. That brilliant mind may not be on this earth for long but I know that knowledge will go on to serve us on this earth and I believe in the next. 

No matter where we go this sign and stacks of books will always come with us to remind us all that this man provided. 

But for now, I’m mad.

Looking through posts from just a year ago and finding candid, typically beautiful moments with my dad scattered throughout has me grieving.

From one storyteller to another. #ourpapacal #rossluke #mybarber2016

From one storyteller to another. #ourpapacal #rossluke #mybarber2016


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The Calvin Richards Scholars Club. Today’s field trip taught this long line of kids about Davis County history, outdoor safety, avoiding rattlesnakes (including a real live demonstration! ??????), how to identify plants and insects, and mostly how to keep going when you really want go quit. #ourpapacal #themanwhoneverquits #mybarber2016


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My favorite picture I’ve been sent from the trip. It takes a lot to wear those girls out (especially the dramatic fake sleeper on the ground) but it doesn’t take much for my dad to break out a good book anytime. #laurelandava #spentlittleminnie #mybarber2016

Facing his liver failure head on is hard. Watching his body degress and his brilliant mind being taken from him is torturous. We knew it would be. We’re prepared, you could say. We’re tough, you know. We’re faithful, you better believe. But why?

I’ve written and shared how thankful we are for his life. For his organ donations allowing him 11 extra, priceless years. We are so grateful we got to celebrate his 60th birthday with him recently. I have shared about the many blessings we’ve received and the unity and love our family has gained from this trial. And that is all still true. But it does not make it easy.

A thought shared by many with the best of intentions about the heartbreak of a life ending prematurely is the notion that “They’re called to a higher purpose on the other side.” “Heavenly Father is sure filling callings with the very best right now.” I’m thankful this brings comfort to some. We all deal with trials and grief and pain differently.

To me, I see pain and sickness and death as a consequence of mortality. It’s what we signed up for. One thing you can count on in life is that it will be unfair and at times cruel. I do believe in a beautiful afterlife. I have a strong testimony of eternal families. I believe that my ancestors, my friends that have passed on, and my dad will all be doing important work in heaven. I believe they are still very involved in blessing our lives. I have some very personal experiences and faith in the resolution that will come after our time on this earth. And maybe when my heart softens past this stage I can open up about them.

But not right now.

I can’t think of a higher calling than being with your family on this earth. I see young parents taken early and wouldn’t dare devalue their work here by assuming there’s something better they need to get on to. Or when children die and babies are not allowed to join their family that desperately wants them. It’s heartbreaking and feels wrong. And I think my dad getting to stay with us longer and in good health to share his wisdom and knowledge, his genuine love, to teach and serve and read stories to his grandchildren yet to come would be a pretty important calling! The list of injustices goes on.

And somehow, in light of all that, the explanation I do resonate with is that we don’t get to choose. No one is exempt from the trials of this life. Ultimately and logically we all face the same destiny. It sucks and somehow the unfairness is comforting.

And maybe someday, years or eons from now, I’ll look back and realize the timing and the rightness in these things we don’t understand.

But for now, I’m mad.

 

 

Mountain of a Man

Happy 60th birthday to my dad!

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We’ve been anticipating this day for a long time. 60 isn’t very old, but it is a remarkable milestone in his life. Words can’t describe the gratitude we have for the miracle of having him here with us. We adjusted the celebration plans for his birthday this past Sunday, and it was exactly what we all needed. Because his health didn’t allow us to invite everyone for a big party, I’ve felt like I needed share in the wonderful feeling and tribute that day with our friends and family.

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To start with, it wouldn’t be one of our family’s celebrations without fantastic food and great company. My mom flew Austin in from working in New York for the weekend and he and his darling girlfriend Becca made the evening complete. We upped even our usual Sunday Dinner with all of us contributing, prepping and plating a fantastic meal on my mom’s 14′ table Jake custom made and surprised her with for Mother’s Day last year. With a catered lemonade stand in front, steak grilled to perfection, and a grandbaby on each side I think my dad was pretty well served.

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Thank you to all who shared memories, letters and birthday wishes for my dad. One of my gifts to him is compiling those thoughts into a book he and my mom can read as they’re home or as they wait at appointments and that we’ll treasure forever. It will never be too late to send an addition (to my email: barberbell @ gmail.com) to the ongoing collection. After we finished eating and the kids retreated outside I read a few of them, starting with one of my favorite funny stories.

We were living in Hess Farms and our house was two doors from the Church and I was was late as I walked down to the Church one Sunday and I met your Dad in the parking lot and I said to him…..”I live too far away to get here on time..what is your excuse?”…and he said to me without missing a beat…”I just washed my hair and I can’t do a thing with it!” -Dave Smith

Another fun one to share and to learn from was from my dad’s sister Eileen. She has always been one of my heroes, and I recognize my aspirations for serving my family and preserving our history more in her each day. She wrote a beautiful poem for my dad, with attributions to each memory. (See what I’m saying!)

 

The next part of the evening was my favorite. Aubrey had stayed at my house the entire week before to help and be with my dad. I really can’t say enough about how great she is (or about how nice it was to have another mom, friend, carpool driver and cook around the house!). She asked me to help her write a song for my dad. One night she couldn’t sleep and while she was awake she was inspired to write a beautiful framework for his song; “A Mountain of a Man”. She and I tweaked the words together and she worked her musical magic. It was a really neat experience for both of us seeing our talents and thoughts about our dad that we love and admire so much come together.

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Aubrey sat next to my dad and played the song for him. You can see from the video that he is very weak right now, but his gratitude and sweet disposition are unchanged. I could listen to her sing all day long and I know we have all replayed that song over and over this week.

Dallin helped Aubrey record the song later with just the audio that is easier to hear. It can be played and downloaded here.

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I put the words together to gave them to each of our family. A PDF that can be download here.

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I had completed a triathlon in Morgan, UT the day before and as I biked down East Canyon in those beautiful mountains I replayed and finalized the words in my mind, thinking about my dad and how he taught me to appreciate such beauty.

These two lines have been on my mind for a long time about my dad and I’m so glad to have them in his song.

Our dad is in the mountains, he’s in the breeze that blows

And when we are standing still, we always feel him close

We finished with eating his favorite carrot cake (with raisins! much to Dallin’s dismay) and a chocolate cake to celebrate Grant’s 12th birthday. Grant had been ordained a Deacon just before the party and I can’t think of a better gift to give his grandpa.

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I am so thankful for my dad’s 60 years. Looking forward to each day more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cal is Turning 60!

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Hi Friends and Family,
As a family, we thought we would update you on our dad. Cal is turning 60 this Sunday, June 11!!! What an impressive 60 years he’s led and what a gift to have him here with us.

As all of you know, my dad’s health challenges have really increased over the past few months. You can keep up on what I’ve written and will keep writing about him on my blog here. All of you also know our family loves to celebrate and to party. The past few months we’ve bounced ideas and plans back and forth about how to throw an event worthy of his 60 years milestone and for our gratitude that he is in our lives. But plans change.
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We are so thankful that dad is home right now. We’re appreciative of all the prayers offered on his and our behalf. While he’s been able to stay out of the hospital he is very weak and every day his body and mind are more impacted by the incurable side effects of his transplants and liver disease. He’s not up to a big party, and that is ok. We celebrated his birthday early at a Richards family reunion last weekend and we’ll have a small immediate family celebration on Sunday with him. And we will pass on your love to him.
If you could send an email to me at barberbell@gmail.com with a memory with my dad or letter about your experiences with him or just a birthday wish I’d really appreciate it. I am assembling them in a book I’ll give him soon. Or you can text me at 8015400510. I’d also love to come pick up a handwritten note if that works better.
I hope we have many more days with my dad and I hope he gets to enjoy them all. We appreciate your prayers and support of him and my dear mom as she is taking such excellent care of the guy we so love and admire.
Thank you for your friendship!

On Looks

“Your dad looks great!”

I’ve heard that several times the past few days since my dad has been out of his most recent stay in the hospital and I’ve thought a lot about appearance and what does make people look good.

I had a similar experience with a friend I deeply admired before she passed away last spring from cancer. I saw her for just a moment at a wedding. I knew she was not doing well and was surprised to see her. But of course she was there and she was radiant. With a smile and quick hug that I hope to always keep with me, she taught me about what we are all striving for in this life. To be graceful with the lot we’re given and our burdens to bear. And to live a life that will ultimately close with refinement.

My dad’s most recent hospital stay was an especially hard one. To put it simply, he went in for complications we’re familiar with but came home without the familiar feeling of a new plan and new hope.

Here’s what I posted while he was in the hospital, on probably the hardest day.

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While he was in the hospital we invited friends and family to join together in unified prayer for the team of doctors at the moment they were reviewing his case. It was an experience and feeling I hope to never forget. Knowing how many were sharing their support and love for my dad and faith for his future was humbling as I knelt on the floor at work at 11:00 that day. I’ll admit I hoped that the volume of prayers would somehow influence and sway the outcome of the doctor’s meeting. It had to. But soon I remembered that is not how faith or prayer works.

We didn’t receive a definitive plan from the doctors. Mostly a confirmation that most doors for intervention were shutting, that “He’s been through too much.” and that he should go home and be comfortable and enjoy life as he could. It’s taken me a while to realize that though our prayers were not answered in the way we wanted them to be that day, they are answered in his boost of strength and peace to our family. And we are so grateful.

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And like he always does, dad got up and rose to the challenge. My mom sent us this picture the next day as they took advantage of some time off to explore and adventure, as they always do.

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He does look great, doesn’t he?

As I think about what looks great on him it’s certainly not his frail figure, his discoloring skin, the bulging hernias, distended abdomen, or the arthritic joints. It’s in his countenance. It’s in his good life. It’s the fact that he’s been given another day. He’s with his wife and probably on their way to see the grandkids and that is worth looking great for.

On My Dad

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On Optimism

I got to talk to my dad today. It was a simple phone call, just our daily check in. It’s always so good to hear his “Hello my daughter!” answer. But as I hung up I was overcome with gratitude and literal awe that we have him here with us.

Many ask how he is doing. To know my dad is to love him so we are all curious and concerned for him and his health. It’s a tough question to answer. As a family, we are filled with immense gratitude for the second liver transplant he received in August 2015. The donated liver and incredible care he’s been given the past year and a half are miracles and literally the gift of life. But it’s also been a challenging path. I think all his doctors agree that there are so many factors working against him right now, and really only one factor working for him and keeping him here: GRIT. Strength, fortitude, faith, stubbornness, dedication, whatever you want to call it. And I’m so thankful he’s got it. Because that means so many of us continue to be blessed by his presence and example.

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My dad has lead a genuine, kind, faithful and devoted life. These past months are no exception, even amidst incredible pain. If you’d followed him around you would have seen him with a smile on his face, washing dishes after family dinner, reading to his grandkids, planning trips with his family, writing stories, always reading and learning, serving others and even playing basketball on a few Friday afternoons. All with a gratitude and optimism unmatched. This past weekend he had to give me a call and tell me that he wouldn’t be able to watch my little baby in the afternoon because he had to ‘run into the emergency room’ but hoped to be home soon so he could help me out. What a guy. Turns out he was admitted to the ICU for not just one, but several very critical risks.

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On Treasuring

The advice to “enjoy every moment” and “treasure your time” are often given to everyone and especially those families with great health challenges. I’m confident and so thankful as a family we will be able to look back and see that we have. Our family has been blessed with a gift of unity and priorities over the past years. We’re not perfect but nearly each day we connect with each other and find ways to support one another. Most Sundays are filled with family dinners, games and enjoying time together, even if it’s over FaceTime. This past year we dropped everything and went to the Redwoods so Papa Cal could see his grandkids in one of our favorite places. Austin spent his Spring Break in Moab letting my dad relish in his favorite activity hiking. All us adults cruised the Caribbean in January against doctors’ advice and crazy logistics of leaving young families to dine and relax together. Dallin has spent many mornings driving dad to appointments and ‘ball’. The twin baby cousins, whose pregnancies were announced just as he received his second transplant, have been sources of incredible joy and growing measures of this borrowed time we’ve been given. One source of comfort for me has been journaling the small moments my children and I get to spend with him. The list keeps growing, and I pray it will continue to. 



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On Suffering 

I can speak for myself when I say my perspective on this trial has changed. For the most part, I no longer question “why us?” or “why him?”. You don’t have to look far to realize life distributes challenges, heartache and sorrow of all kinds and magnitudes freely. No one can escape it. And in fact, this challenge has brought so many blessings and such perspective to our family that I don’t know if I would wish it away even if I could. But the part that is the hardest, that I wish I could make go away or take on myself, and that is especially trying especially for my dear mom, is the suffering. Watching this strong, incredible man in so much pain and sickness and weakness is overwhelming. I believe in the promise of our Savior Jesus Christ’s ability to take on our pain because I have watched it through my dad. If there is a focus I would ask for prayers and positive energy from those who love him, it is here. That he can find some comfort and relief. And that we can help and support him in the ways he needs most.



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On Celebration

My siblings and I have been looking forward to celebrating my dad’s 60th birthday this June for a long time. Sixty isn’t very old (seeming younger to me all the time!) but it’s amazing what he’s done in those years. When his birthday comes and we have him here with us, it will be a true celebration of life. And what a party it will be! If you know my dad and have any memories or thoughts about him and his part of your life, I hope you’ll share them. I’m collecting letters for a book that we’ll give him that evening. Please email your thoughts to me: barberbell @ gmail.com. What a treasure to be able to share these memories while he’s with us. In the end, I think we all realize this is what life’s about.

On Gratitude

One thing I remember most about my grandma and grandpa Richards is their consistent gratitude. I know my dad carries on the tradition and I hope each of us will too. We are so thankful. Thank you for the friends and family who have cared and supported us. My dad is a private guy and I think we all prefer to press on and take care of ourselves. But we know prayers and faith work and we thank you for keeping them coming.