Friday, January 14, 2011

One Thing, Maybe Two


Thing number 2- Isn't there a scripture in Proverbs about training up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it?
We take that seriously around here.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tip your waitresses and try the veal

We buried a friend this weekend. Trouble is, they buried him at the graveyard that I hate the very most. It is seriously one of my least favorite places in this valley. Granted cemeteries are not pleasant places to being with, but they have charm and link us to history. Once the immediate sting wears off, they are really beautiful, sweet places. In fact,  every set of pictures that I have from my travels around the world have at least 50 pics devoted strictly to cemeteries.

The problem that I have with this cemetery is that in the past few years, I have buried about 4 or 5 students at this same location. There hasn't been time for the sting to wear off and the feelings of history, peace and charm to break through.
Pretty sure he was at the poppy fields with his wife and twins. 

However, I did gain a sense that this may have been the perfect place to bury Todd. Knowing that he was the constant joker....and adamant about having a good time, I parked the car and got out, only to see a head stone that read this,

"Happy to be here"

In my head, I am going to think that the deceased actually wanted it to say, "I'm happy to be here. I'll be here for eternity. Tip your waitresses.....and try the veal." But for the sake of space, his family settled with just, "Happy to be here"

When I die, I hope to have the people I left behind still realize that regardless of where my body resides, my spirit remains exactly the way it always has been. And my spirit is freaking I want something clever on my headstone, dammit.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Church alert, church alert.......divert your gaze if you can't read without picking fights.

I was thinking back to when my first grandpa died, then uncle Kelly, grandma Young, finally my last remaining grandparents within months of one another. Most recently, one of my best high school friends Todd died, followed up with the passing of our sweet Stake Relief Society Presidents father in this same week.This holiday season has been quite a ride. It's so strange to see how things like this take their toll differently on each individual person.

I remember when Uncle Kelly passed away I was broken. I'm not sure why, but it hit me like a ton of bricks. Even though it was completely expected, after a long hard fought battle with cancer.  I couldn't stop crying. I was a mess. Irreparably broken, or so it seemed. Maybe because he was the first family loss I had experienced  as an 'adult' and not a child. Grandpa Young died when I was about 12.  Maybe it was that I was stuck in Utah, alone, with my sister and her husband, while the rest of my family had each another to lean on in California. I felt  isolated from everything that I wanted to be near. Jamie was back in California, of course (it was her dad), and Jenn and Steve had each other. What really started to get my attention and kind of freaked me out  was that I started questioning the strength of my testimony, "I must not have a true testimony of the Gospel, namely, the resurrection and the atonement. If I did, I would not let death have such an impact on me. If I believe that we will live again and truly be reunited with our eternal families.....I shouldn't be this upset." 

Anyhow- shortly after learning of Todd's death,  I started flipping through old journals and notes that I taken at BYU from a class called, Teachings of the Latter Day Prophets. We studied a talk that Ezra Taft Benson gave shortly after Spencer W Kimball died. The thing that I wrote down was that Pres Benson said, (loosely quoted) "Mourning and feeling sorrow when a loved one dies is not a reflection of your testimony (or lack thereof). It does not reflect a lack a testimony of the resurrection. It simply shows how much we loved and cared for another person. We mourn him because we love him. The deeper the love, the deeper their loss will be felt and stronger the longing will be to one day be reunited with them. But  the problem is, that dwelling does not allow the comfort of the Spirit to penetrate and heal the hearts of those who mourn." (like I said, those were my notes, not a direct quote from the Prophet.)

Granted those are thoughts from the journal of the knuckle-head college version of me who was experiencing the first death of a close family member since my grandpa when I was a kid. Not like the grown up version is more eloquent or wise, but nevertheless. It just was too timely to be coincidence. To me it was a clear sign that Heavenly Father knows exactly how I feel, what I have gone through and what I need to hear in order to press forward in faith. That talk (I have been looking for a hard copy of it, but I can't find it) helped me to allow myself to be sad and to mourn a loss without adding guilt to the mix for not just putting on a happy face and acting like Little Suzie Sunshine. The problem comes from dwelling, not from feeling.
It's the sweet tender mercies that help sustain us in difficult times.  God hears, he listens and he is involved. Maybe not involved in a way that would like him to be, but that's just as well. He's the one who knows the end game.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

There's a Little Black Spot on the Sun Today, and a Big Black Spot on my Heart.

So far 2011 hasn't really made many friends with me. I thought that I broke my toe. After weeks of pain killers and walking around with two of them tied together, I'm noticing that it is not my toe that hurts. Actually, it's the spot where I originally broke my foot in college. So that's awesome. Tricky thing about pain killers, they may mask pain and help you feel better, but they may also mask the actual problem, which must eventually be dealt with. 

With that in mind, I wish someone could come up with an emotional or heart based pain killer. Those are the pains that dig the deepest and linger the longest. But as experience and wisdom will always show, some pain shouldn't be masked, but rather should be felt,  experienced and worked through. 

The pain of my broken toe pales in comparison to news that one of my good friends from high school passed away in his sleep Sunday night. He was 32 and has twin boys that are just barely a year old.  I have known and loved Todd since we were kids. Unfortunately, most of our contact of late has come simply by bumping into each other at church every now and then, or passing stories back and forth between friends that see him more frequently than I. We obviously lost touch once he got married and started having kids.  I was single, traveling and doing other things. We were at different points in our lives. I guess that sort of thing just happens. But this totally has come as a slap in the face. Huge reminder not to let friendships and relationships slip thru the cracks just because we get tied up in the minutiae of our own lives. 

 For some reason, I can't shake this off, or even begin to wrap my mind around it. At this point, I'm not really sure I want to just yet. As the mormon grapevine swoops into full swing, there are all sorts of "What if's" and "How's" and "Why's" being whispered in hushed tones, like there is supposed to be some intriguing and tabliod-esque answer to feed peoples desire for salacious details. But those details, in my opinion, are none of our business. Better left as questions. That is between Todd, his wife and the Lord.

At then end of the day, I go to bed thinking that Todd was a good man, who sometimes stumbled, but tried his best. Heck, sometimes he tried so hard to help those on his mission hat he wound up getting him and his companion blown off of a rooftop in Mexico by what they thought was a dead power line! (One of their contacts or friends got a pair of shoes stuck on the power line, if I remember correctly) He even had the hand print burn and the hole in the bottom of his foot to prove it. He loved his family and left everyone feeling better than they did before they met him. I can picture the 14 year old Todd, who would put hand lotion in his hair instead of gel, "Because it even makes your hair softer, see?" just as well as I can the 30 year old Todd, looking exactly the way you would expect the parent of newborn twins to look. Though time had taken it's toll, there was a part of him that would never, could never change. He would know I was upset about something, cock his head to the side and put that smirk on his face, stick his arms out and wave me into some of the best hugs I can remember. Sometimes to remind me that the guy I was dating (or getting dumped by) was a loser, sometimes just because I looked frantic and upset (which is sadly, more often than you would think). Sometimes he would hug me because I hadn't seen him in a while, and the hug smeared out all of the space that had passed since last we talked, and sometimes..... he'd hug me just because. No reason. And it was fool proof. I don't know if I ever told him that, but I always felt happier, more loved, and more cared about after a Todd hug.

I moved into his parents ward last month. I saw ma and pa Houser sitting up toward the front of the chapel, and thought, "I should call Todd and see how he is holding up with the twins." Leave it to me to ignore promptings of the spirit.....and now I'll never get the chance to tell him what a great influence he was in my life. And what a great friend he was. Pretty sure I will kick myself for a while for that move. 

I just hope that one of Todd's buddies  or brothers will take up the mantle and make sure the boys know all of the schenanigans their dad got himself tied up in. Like taking a group date to an abandoned mine where they staged his death by falling down a shaft, impaling a metal bar through his shirt, complete with fake blood and everything....just to freak the girls out. (which, by all accounts worked like gang busters.) The camping trips that we went on where his ONLY job was to bring chili and can opener, only to show up with about 15, one gallon cans of chili (for 5 people) but not a single can opener. "Relax, we'll just find a sharp stick or rock." I'm actually shocked that we all didn't get tetanus right there and then. If I had a nickel every time I heard that phrase, "Relax, we'll just..." I'd have a crap load of nickels. To this day, that phrase speaks fear and trepidation to my soul. Even more so if it is said whilst in the wilderness during the time period just before cell phones that could be used to call for rescue. And, someone's definitely going to have to  teach his children the art of pulling off a perfect toilet papering....which of course includes MUCH more than toilet paper, a-la street signs, flashing cones, for sale signs, crime scene tape and liquid soap.  

But above all, I hope that those little boys have in them that special part of Todd that makes everyone they encounter feel a little more loved, a little more cared for and just plain happier than they were before they met. Because if there is any silver lining to be found in such a sad situation, that's got to be it.