For Max

If—

BY RUDYARD KIPLING
(‘Brother Square-Toes’—Rewards and Fairies)

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Advertisements

Dear Mom [Week 56]

Hey Mom,

Week fifty six!!! I don’t want it to be true. 23 weeks since my last letter. Shame on me. But, a whole year and month without dad. Shame on God. Yes, I just said that. People can get over it. God can handle it. I’m angry. I want my dad back. I’m stuck in the anger part of the cycle. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I feel like I am trying to stay in denial, but I’m really just stuck in anger. What is there to bargain for? It’s not like God is going to bring him back to me. And I want my dad. I need my dad. I especially need my dad this year. It’s been a hell of a year.

I love getting stuck in anger. I’m like The Incredible Hulk. Anger is where I am comfortable. My kids have started to refer to me as The Hulk when they want me to tone it down. I find this practice a little relieving. It simultaneously gives my weakness permission while calling it to order in a humorous way.

hulk

Dad was a hulk, too. I always wanted to be just like him. He’s my hero. Dad’s anger actually scared me many times in my life, but I came to accept it as a necessary flaw to an otherwise perfect man. I guess that’s why I justify my own anger.

Man, I am angry. I hate everyone right now. I am especially angry at God. I’ve tried to give Him my whole life, and look how it has all turned out for me!

Last week, LG and I had the honor of attending a family sculpture therapy session for a friend of LG’s. She was molested by her brother as a kid. Her family swept it under the rug. The secret needed to be kept at all costs. This brother of her molested many of her 10 siblings, and she has never talked to her family about her turn at his hand. She was near the bottom of the pack and violated starting at such a young age that she doesn’t remember a time when she was actually safe. Anyhow, the therapist is trying to work with her to get her anger out. She is suppressing it like the good little Mormon girl that she is. They used me to act as her sister. I was letting my anger fly around like a cornered raccoon, calling the acting pedophile a monster and yelling at LG and the other dramatic mom for being the worst neglectful parents of all time. Our hurting friend couldn’t get anything out but a polite, “I don’t understand.” Our other friend at the session told her that she needed to get to the stage of anger with her past. She needed to go through the stages of grief for her past. I never thought of the stages of grief being applicable to anything but death. It opened up all kinds of emotional possibilities.

I’m good at anger. I will never need any help with that…unless it is to escape it. I need a full-time life staff doctor to cure me. Please, doctor! Do you have a magic pill for my green skin, bulging muscles, and raging scowl?

I guess I like anger because it’s a productive emotion. Unlike shame or sorrow, which feel totally wimpy. I’m all about productivity and being capable. Just like my dad. Get out of my way. I will get it done. Even if I have to plow over your reluctance.

I think that someday on my tombstone, someone might write, “Forever angry.” I’m serious. I’m so close to the dark side that I can feel its embrace. I don’t even want to turn to the light. I just want to disappear into the dark, and talk like Darth Vader for the rest of eternity. I’m going to go kicking and screaming and raging that life was not fair.

Then maybe dad will know how much I need him, and he’ll brave the divide to come and give me a comforting soft therapeutic healing hug. If his black hole and mine combine, maybe we’ll figure out light, instead of running from it with our fists outstretched. Two negatives make a positive, right?

I couldn’t make breakfast last Saturday. I laid in my bed and trembled. My body convulsed as I explained to LG that breakfast was all wrong without my dad. LG told me I never had to make breakfast again. That’s true love right there. That man loves his breakfast.

And when we were prepping the pavilion for Abigail’s wedding, Darolyn showed up. She marched over and declared that Rick would be right there in the middle of all that chaos. And he was. I just couldn’t see him. And I was stuck doing the work of two mighty humans. Mine and his. No wonder I am angry.

Dear Mom [Week 33]

Hey mom,

I’ve taken two trips to your house since the last time I wrote, so that has to count for something, right? It’s been ten weeks since my last letter. So much for every week. In my defense, it seems like it’s only been one week. My life is so crazy, time beats me to the finish line every day. I sure love you. I love how I feel at your house. I feel like I matter. Like I mean everything. I don’t feel like that at my house. I never feel like that at home. I mostly just feel like everything would fall apart without me, but I never feel like anyone really cares about me. I know it’s not true. I know LG loves me and I know my kids love me, but LG is modest in his communication and sentiment and the kids are…well, kids.

Thanks for making me matter, mom. I need to come to your house every day about dinner time when I am in dire need of a nap. HA! I have been thinking a lot about home lately. Not your home or even my home, but HOME, home. I use my keenest imagination to picture my Heavenly Mother and Father’s family room couch. How far is my room from theirs? What does the kitchen smell like? How do I get one-on-one attention when there are so many others? Is it boisterous like yours and mine? Is it the peaceful perfect quiet that I wish I could command? All I am left with is clouds and gold. That’s it. And light. I don’t know anything else. I can’t even conjure it up from any storybook.

I was thinking about how I love Chocolate Malted Crunch from Thrifty’s. When I eat it, I feel the joy of a long day well-spent with family and friends at the beach. I feel sand in my hair and sun on my nose and shoulders. I want to walk straight to the car and be the first to dib shower number three. My kids think I am so silly with my sentimentality. LG thinks our whole family is a little weird about our attachments, but I think that they are the ones who don’t really get it.

I know without a doubt (well, maybe with just a tiny doubt) that someday I will sit at God’s table and eat something that I can only get in His realm. I will close my eyes and feel all the feels that I love. I will remember all the other times that I sat there eating the same thing and feeling so wonderful. I will wonder how I could ever let it go again. I will want to stay right there forever. And, then God will send me away on another mission, and I will have to wait years to get that taste again. The taste will always be my favorite, and the view from Her window will always feel like clouds and gold. Someday, you and me and dad and everyone else will laugh about how I thought chocolate malted crunch was as good as it would get. We will laugh because we will be glad that we can remember now. Remember it all, including the malted crunch, but laughing at it’s inferiority to whatever it is we get at God’s house. We’ll be glad that the veil is gone. And, then I will take a walk to dad’s dairy and you will consult with the Barsons and make up a batch for Family Home Evening.

I cannot wait for that reunion.  I will ponder it the rest of my life. How I miss my daddy. It hurts at every skin cell. I feel like I will never be whole again. I will never be totally happy again. I used to think you were overly emotional when you talked about missing your dad. I get it now. There is a hole. Not just in my heart, but everywhere. There is a hole in my peanut butter jar. There is a hole in my jumper cables. There is a hole in the green frog tape on my garage table. There is a hole in my cedar jewelry box on my dresser. It says Valdez. Dad mailed it from Alaska. There is a hole on my porch where he jimmy-rigged some wood slats to keep my screen door from opening too wide. There is a hole in my dog because dad loved her. There is a hole in the house down the street because I used to walk past while they were building it and smell the sweet scents of construction and think about dad. That hole happened after he was even around. There is a hole in the Pacific Ocean the size of the Pacific Ocean. Because it is dad’s ocean. There’s a hole at Disneyland because he took me there. There is a hole in Abigail’s car because one time dad bought me a new tire when it was flat. There is a hole EVERYWHERE. A hole only he fills, and I need him here to fill it. Not there. Here. So my tears roll down my face as fast as they can trying to make their way to the Pacific. They feel gravity pulling them to fill up the hole.  They will never succeed. The hole will remain until I am gone to a place that I no longer have to feel it. A place where he will be.

Oh mom. I hate this. I hate living without him. I know you feel the emptiness thousands more than I do. Thanks for letting me write to you about it. It helps. A little bit. I hope it helps you, too.

This array at your house helped me a lot. Thanks for your lovely storytelling, mom. You always know the most important things to say. Sometimes without saying a word.

IMG_20170407_182035372

The Home I Can’t Remember

The home I can’t remember
seems too far away.
Especially since you beat me back
You always win – touche.
Someday instinct will find me there
You’ll be the first I’ll find.
We’ll deserve our rightful place
on our favorite restful couch.
Yet, we will know it won’t last long.
No one there dares slouch.
Mom is always up there cooking.
Dad is usually off at work.
You and me are now like them.
Never will we shirk.
Yet, before we run off to help,
we eat our favorite treats.
We breathe, we sigh, we reminisce
from our favorite seats.
We won’t miss home down there on earth,
there’s no need to even visit.
This best home of gold and clouds
is the most affectionate.

Thee World

“Thee world” is a term I just accidentally formed while writing a post over on facebook. I typoed an extra “e” on “the,” and then when I went back to delete it, I realized how much that extra “e” actually worked with what I was saying. You see, “thee” is a scriptural word reserved for when we want to reverently address deity in our prayers. I thought it a fun little play on words when describing the church-world problem of self-preservation that ofttimes shows its ugly face as self-righteousness. Here, you be the judge if it works:

I really wanted to include this in a blog post I am working on this morning, but it’s stuck in the FB interface, so here it is. I will direct my blog post this way. I believe strongly in this message. We all have stuff, and the people who talk about it, make “thee world” a better place by offering hope. The problem is that a lot of people won’t be brave because they are afraid of the backlash. If there is anyone out there who really needs to talk about any hard stuff in a safe place, I am here with judgement-free open arms. I believe that to be the pure gospel of Jesus Christ.

Here is Dan Workman’s original post (as my facebook is private), in case you’d like to watch the video I reference. If you don’t want to take the time right now, your loss. The essentials are that Dan Workman is a recovered heroine addict. He talks about this “perfection syndrome” that we’ve let grow out-of-control within the LDS church. He pleads with Utah to open up and be real because the “white picket fence syndrome” is “killing our kids.”

I would argue that “white picket fence syndrome” is not just happening with us in the LDS church, but that it’s a problem in every social construction out there. Anyhow, Dan’s a little brash (which I personally love about him), but I can see that he might turn off a lot of my “church friends.” I may get backlash from sharing his message here, but I must share it because I think it is so vitally important for everyone to hear. The change has to come from the inside and the only way we can make change happen is to first create awareness. I applaud you, Dan Workman. I hope you know that there are many of us, still inside the church, who are trying to fight the good fight with you. We don’t judge you for leaving, but we do wish you would come back and fight along side of us.

Many times, I fight the fight knowing the result will be my personal social ostracization, yet I still fight because I believe so strongly in the truth of what I speak. I love this meme below by Dwight. It explains me to the core. It takes special people to get past my brashness, but I keep at it because I know that the one person I have to answer to is not any mortal being but my Savior Jesus Christ. He loves people, and if we want to truly love people like he did, we need to first offer a safe space. A safe space cannot exist in a world where everyone can’t allow one weed to grow in their yard! And I can hear the argument now, it’s not like I am out to grow weeds on purpose, people, but weeds happen. People are not perfect. They will never be perfect, so how about we talk about that?

hard to handle

Right now, there is a culture within the church that is “killing our kids,” and “our kids” are really all of us. As Dan made mention to, Utah is #4 in the nation in drug overdoses. I think we need to honestly ask ourselves why so many people are falling into that terrible trap. What are they trying to escape? And why can’t they get help to escape once they realize they are in big trouble?  On the uptake, why do so many people love Jeffrey R. Holland? I personally believe the reason that Jeffrey R. Holland is so powerful is because he “gets it.” He talks about his own struggles. He sets an example for the rest of us. However, we need to recognize that it’s a lot easier for Holland to talk about his struggle with depression (which is now generally socially acceptable) than it is for others to talk about their addictions, their marital issues, their apostate children, suicide, eating disorders, etc.

Whenever I am given the chance to speak in church, I always try to include a personal story of triumph over my own issues. It’s so funny because inevitably I get a handful of people that thank me profusely for my honesty, but in general most people seem awkward after I reveal something personal. They don’t know what to do with it. Why? Because it NEVER happens. When I was in the MTC, I was taught to “never reveal past transgressions.” I understand the reasoning behind this, but I wholeheartedly and adamantly disagree with what we’ve created using this harmful socially-constructed rule for decades. The Book of Mormon is replete with PROPHET after PROPHET who have repented. They are the true victors. They are the ones who applied the atonement and moved forward. When we don’t tell our own stories of triumph, we are creating a church for saints, not a church for sinners. Then we wonder why so many people leave the church. Why are so many sinners leaving the church? Because they feel like the only ones who belong there are the saints. How pathetically true this has become.

nielson.jpg

If only all of us could really be more like Jesus!

John 8:2-11

2  And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

3  And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

4  They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

5  Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

6  This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

7  So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

8  And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

9  And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

10  When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

11  She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

It’s all about your heart.

Hey you,

I love your heart.
It’s good.
It’s pure.
It’s tender.
It’s lovely.
It’s bigger than the moon.
It’s grander than Time Square.
It’s wider than a drive through Kansas.
It’s one of the most beautiful things on earth.
It’s powerful.
It’s strong.
It’s limitless.
It was made to love you first,
but sometimes you give it away to other people,
thinking you’ll take care of you later.
That’s a bad idea.
Apply the magic of your heart
to your own scars first.
Then, you’ll have your own heart longer
and you’ll be able to love others greater.
Be selfish with your heart
as long as you need to
because
my heart will always be here waiting
for yours to come and play.

The End

I started writing this for my husband. He teases that he is going through emotional adolescence right now. He is. It’s not always fun being a teenager, and his emotional phase doesn’t come with Friday night parties and summers at the beach. Dangit. However, I can’t wait to see the guy who emerges. I guess I’ve been married to an emotional child for almost 20 years without even knowing it.

I’m so proud of my man and the hard work that he has done to get in touch with a buried heart. It’s scary to stare at yourself in a mirror. It’s horrifying at times. It’s the hardest work any of us will ever do, and he does that hard work for me, and me alone. He makes me feel important with his journeying. He’s wandering through the Sahara only to reach the Artic…just looking for his heart, so he can give it to me. Sometimes, I hate the journey and wonder why it has to be so hard. Other times, I see peeks at gloriousness. I feel lucky. Even though we have had so much to learn, we’ve been privileged to learn it together.

I changed the way I wrote the poem to not be just for my husband. It’s for everyone because we all should have the high honor of someone loving us just for our heart.

Thank you Mindy Gledhill for a beautiful song.

Dear Mom [Week 23]

Dear Mom,

I have so much studying to do. It’s my second night at the library this week. I have to read the entire novel Sense and Sensibility before Tuesday. I am just getting set up in a study room for another four consecutive hours of reading. I talked to you on the phone yesterday and told you how on Tuesday night after an 18 hour day I was completely shaky and nauseous and had to quit my studies early at 11:30. I hope to quit tonight by 10, so I can go home and see LG before he falls asleep. That is the the hardest thing about being in school and working. I feel like I never get to see my family, and when I do, I am taking care of so many needs at once it doesn’t feel like quality time. I’m damned if I do, I’m damned if a don’t. I know Abigail gets mad at me for pushing and pushing her to make sure she gets her college done early in life, but I need to stop. She has her own journey, and if it isn’t a priority for her right now, maybe she too will have to do it the hard way at 43, like me.

Enough about me. I just wanted to explain quickly (mostly to LG if he ever reads this & for my future self) that right now I needed to not study for a minute. I was drinking my smoothie and hunkering in, but as I was checking some e-mails, I was drawn to my blog URL in my signature line. I wanted to check how long it has been since my last letter. Remember my original goal of writing every week? Well, I guess that is a monthly goal now. Ha. Welcome to my current life. I am barely surviving. I definitely don’t feel  like I can thrive in any area. Home, work, or school. But, I keep plugging along. Nothing is going to stop me. And, tonight my hours of homework are also not going to stop me from writing to my mom.

Every time I sit down to write you a letter, mom, I have to calculate what week it is. How long has it been since dad actually died? What a horrible exercise. I hate it. At the same time, for me, it seems necessary. I don’t want to not keep track of every single day that I have lived without my dad here with me. On August 25th 2016, my life changed forever. I have my days before that. Not enough. And, my days after. Every day is a strange mixture between being too long (as he isn’t here and that is excruciating to rediscover over and over again) and too short (because every day I live is one day closer to my children experiencing the same loss).

So, we are at 23 weeks. If I got pregnant around the time dad died, I would now know the sex of the baby. I would have gone straight to the store to buy  something baby blue or pink by now. I would be thinking about names. Instead, all I have is an amputated womb (thank you, hysterectomy) and an only son not named Richard (after dad), like I wanted, but Maximus because it sounded better with Gold, meant the greatest, and wouldn’t be shortened to Rich. Rich Gold. Ha. 23 weeks! Too long. I love my little Max, but every time I look at him I think I should have tried harder to convince LG to name him Richard. It would have been the perfect way to honor dad. Maybe someday, one of my girls will give us a Richard because if/when they get married their last name will be something other than Gold – a horribly comical match for Rich. The thought of having a grandson named Richard is making me all kind of weepy right now. Life really does keep moving forward. And, so many people right now are obsessed with politics. It’s not about Trump. It’s about family. My grandkids will hardly know the name Donald Trump, but they will Richard, and LeGrand, and Maximus.

Butterfinger bites were my hard moment last week. Bella had no idea that they were the treat dad wanted more than anything while lying in his hospital bed when she suggested them to me at The Dollar Tree. Also, Krispy Kreme donuts. I went to get some for my kids as a special treat. I was initially bummed that the “hot” light  wasn’t on, but immediately relieved when I thought how sad I would be to not share with dad his favorite.Also, whistling. Someone was whistling. I told LG how I wanted to hear him whistle more. LG has a great whistle. Dad’s was better. I just want to hear dad whistle, right now. Avocados are in danger because  of Trump’s tariff. That would not make dad happy. Dad wanted to vote for Trump, but dad would never want his cherished avocados to be messed with. How that man loved avocados! It is like he was half Mexican. Full Mexican if we consider how hard he always worked. If I had two minutes more with dad I would give him an avocado and let him eat it while I hugged him the entire two minutes. Why didn’t I hug him longer before I left that hospital room? I hate that regret. I hugged him good, but no hug is ever good enough to be the last.

I was thinking about our avocado tree in CA. I wonder if it is still there. It was a good little tree. So, was our peach tree and our apricot tree. I was wishing I could go back in time and watch the day(s) that you and dad planted all those trees after buying that house. How I would love to observe that happy time. I can imagine in perfect detail, dad in his twenties with a shovel. He was so strong and capable even in his seventies, but he was a handsome devil in his twenties. No wonder why you guys had so many babies. One of my favorite things were apricots off our very own tree. I used to feel like that tree was just mine, as it was on the north side of the house, and I convinced myself that everyone else forgot it was there. Then, thinking about our fruit trees makes me think also about geraniums and gardenias. You see, you and dad, are inseparable. Just like fruit trees and flowers. You planted them together. You enjoyed them together. Now, your kids reminisce about them without being able to separate the two of you in them. Maybe 100 years down the road your great-grand-kids will be reading about them, straight from this page. I hope they will know what wonderful people you and dad are. I hope they will be convinced of a little house in heaven surrounded by the same exact trees and flowers. I can’t wait to smell the gardenias dad is planting right now. It will be one of the last things I think about before stepping through the veil.

Right now, I will be starting Sense and  Sensibility imagining dad after a hard Saturday of yard work. He’s dirty. The entire broad back of his thin cotton button-up is drenched with sweat. He comes into our tiny kitchen with a proud smile from ear to ear. He looks satisfied and content. You are cooking dinner. He comes up behind you and waits for you to turn. He holds out the flaps of his  shirt and reveals the source of his pride. 8 or 9 perfectly ripe avocados. As big as softballs. He says, “Sharon, I don’t know what you’re cooking, but whatever it is, can we have avocado with it?” You shorten the distance, ignore the dirt from his shoes on your recently mopped floor, admire the avocados, then you meet his smile. Your smile is as proud as his. You say, “Maybe I should quit cooking and we can just eat those. There is just enough for the whole family. Oh Rick, look what you’ve done. These are the most beautiful avocados I’ve ever seen.” His smile gets bigger. The look on his face reveals the way he feels: all powerful like nothing in the entire universe could grow without his intervention. You reach for the salt and pepper. Mom, I didn’t know it until right this second, but that’s the kind of wife I want to be. I want my husband to beam with pride, just because I state his name and follow it with, “Look what you’ve done.” That’s grace. You gave dad a gift like that every single day. I will try to do better.

Just Like Their Dad

At the center of the universe.
There is family on the left that
equals the family on the right.
They go before.
They come behind.

Together, they get the job done.
And make their father proud.
Telling His story is their task.

It’s not the attendees,
but their father,
who was listening,
still very much alive,
that should give pause
at the enormity of task.

Be honest.
Be kind.
Be faithful.
Be brave.
Be super-human.
We should all want to be
just like him.
No pressure.
Whatsoever.

The nights might be slumber-less.
What story to tell?
The scaling of buildings?
The flying through skies?
The magic better than duct tape?
The smile of his eyes?

Our Father,
is a man full
of great power
and even greater love.

He will tell us what to say.
Brother one is a leader: faithful and wise.
Brother two: generous and kind.
Sister one: loyal and capable.
Sister two: organized and creative.
Brother three: handy and humble.
Sister three: enduring and strong.

All of them are
JUST LIKE MY DAD.
All, flawed by earth,
yet still,
perfect inside
seeking the right,
and
a remarkable force for good.
Our favorite people are
family.

Jolting our hearts
and paralyzing our tongues
is often one pathetic truth
that we dare not say.
No matter how remarkable we are,
It takes all of us
to make one of him.

Dad is a superhero.
A mortal and a God.

When people question Him.
Why doesn’t he alleviate
all the war?
all the suffering?
all the pain?

I think of Superman.
Who always did.
But, sometimes,
just like Dad,
maybe Superman is busy,
not dead.
He’s waiting.
On us.
To do His job.

Perhaps
it’s up to
His formative children,
to fill his shoes.

When one child suffers,
maybe
his brothers and sisters bury their heads
instead of praying for the strength necessary.
To be just like their dad.

img_20170106_131502

*Dedicated to my dad and my Father: the best Superman who ever lived. And, to the God of the Universe who also calls me His daughter.

Dear Mom [Week 14]

Hi mom,

Wow, I’m fired from my weekly writing duties. I don’t even want to apologize because it seems so trite. I know you don’t expect an apology anyhow. You, of anyone, have an understating of my time constraints.

I know I already told you this on the phone, but I just think it means something  more to read a sentiment in words. I hope you know how much you are the highlight of my life. My conversations with you have become one of my Top 5 life joys. I’m so glad we battled our wills and differences out to get to this point. It is such a powerful place to be in a relationship where there is full honesty, yet no enmity.  I hope and pray I can reach this same place of pure acceptance and love in all my relationships. I wish it didn’t have to be such a struggle.

Joy is the word of the month. I already posted on instagram and told you over the phone about my Christmas decorating epiphany, but I want to write it here as well. Please humor me again. For the record. I know you, like me, are a fan of the record. It’s probably ingrained in us to write things because of our lack of memory.

joy
As I was decorating for Christmas, the word joy kept repeating. Over and over again. I started to suspect the universe was trying to send me a message. I then chuckled thinking of dad controlling the universe in his new elevated state.  Immediately, I was dumbfounded. If dad was controlling the universe and its messages to me, why in the world was he exaggerating the idea of joy? That seemed so awful. Surely, he couldn’t expect me to be joyful this Christmas. Not when he isn’t around. He couldn’t be joyful either, could he ? Yet, it kept coming. In tree ornaments and on the new wall vinyl. Joy. Joy. Joy. It was shouting at me. I shouted back from the grieving recesses of my heart. NO JOY. NO JOY. Go away. I have no need for you this Christmas. I just want my dad back.

I had already decided that I wasn’t going to unpack my precious Willow Tree Nativity because I was sure Max would destroy it one crushed figurine at a time. But, something kept biting at me. Mom and dad wouldn’t care if it was broke. They don’t care about materialistic things. They wanted that unpacked. They wanted it to be enjoyed. So, I started unpacking. One box at a time. Abigail helped. We marveled again and again at each and every piece, and there was a palpable feeling of reverence as we placed each piece on my beautiful turquoise buffet. The buffet that is also a gift from you and dad. (It’s hard  to remember that we all worked on it together just six months ago. Dad wrestled with the shoddy hardware and told  me what to do in the future in case he wasn’t around. I thought he would always be around.) I especially love how Mary is cradling Jesus in this set. I pondered in my heart about the baby Jesus and how grateful I was for him and what he grew to do.

I got to the last box and immediately noticed one significant difference from the rest. Each box had my name written on it in black sharpie. With your signature angled cursive, you had labeled my boxes to be differentiated from the 6 identical ones meant for my siblings. But, the last box had my name, yet it wasn’t in your deliberate and feminine scroll, it was written in dad’s boxy and rushed block letters. It was as if he was in the room with me. My eyes welled with tears. “Oh dad, I wish you  were here. I don’t want this box with the last remnants of your handwriting. I want your hands. I want your voice. I want you!” I hugged the box to my chest, and the name of the contents on the top of the box slowly focused upward through my tears. One tear dropped on the spacing of the letters. S-O-N-G  O-F  J-O-Y  A-N-G- E-L. The universe whispered. “Hey it’s your dad here. I’m right here. I’m an angel now. And angels only declare one thing. JOY. Glad tidings of great joy.”
img_20161123_102731 img_20161123_101130

 

 

 

 

 

 

I placed the angel among the other figures in her place of honor. Looking down on mortality.  I quietly thought about her singing with dad – the glad tidings of great joy. What exactly were those tidings? Why should I be joyful when my dad and I were separated? The answer came powerfully. The joy is that because of Jesus, you will see your dad again. Jesus paved the way. Jesus opened the way. Jesus made it all possible. I alarmed Abigail as a loud weeping escaped my mouth. I sat on the couch. She stared, not knowing what to do. I told her I was okay. I was just thinking about my dad. She’s gotten used to the sudden outbursts. I showed her his handwriting on the box. I told her how he used to write me letters from Alaska and how he always included a smiley face and an X and an O. Max climbed  up on the couch beside me. He pointed to our family picture. He was listening to the message from the universe. His chubby finger announced, “Families are forever. Because of Jesus.”

Thank you for teaching me, mom. Thank you, dad, for indulging mom’s wishes to get all of her kids a nice nativity. It was your last Christmas gift to us. And it is everything. Literally everything. You are both so wise. You always had your priorities straight. You weren’t perfect. No one is, but you had perfect perspective. You still do.

I love you, mom. Merry Christmas. I hope you will feel the joy that dad is shouting from the heavens. It rings crystal clear.

I know you can’t watch the video I am including here. It shows dad as he talks to all of us at Erick’s house in 2014. (I’ll show it to you next time I see you.) It was the very last time we were all together. You and dad had just handed out all of our  Christmas nativities.

I quote dad: “Most of all, I want to thank you all for staying close to the gospel, and  bringing it to a setting like this today. You cannot imagine what  it means to grandparents to know that all of our children are close to the gospel. And are being taken care of by Him. I don’t have anything else to say except I love you.” I love you too, dad.

Dear Mom [Week 10 + 11]

 Hi Mom,

A 14 page research paper is calling out to me from the recesses of this here laptop. I’m ignoring it, like I do Max on his first blood-curdling scream every morning. I have no idea why he screams like that. Maybe it’s a boy thing? He screams like it is the end of the world. Every. Single. Morning. He doesn’t say, “Mom” or “I’m awake” or anything. He just screams like he is the about-to-be-murdered star in a horror film. And, yes, I ignore him the first time. Because, one, I have to wake my body up to actually get out of the bed. And, two, I  try to muzzle my ears from the world before the second scream so that the second time I can pretend that it’s a nice lovely bird chirping that is actually waking me up. Ha. Well, I’m ignoring my paper. I’ll get to it on the second scream. Right now, I am here with you and the bird chirping.

I love you, mom. I hope you have a tiny glimpse of how grateful I am to you for everything you’ve given me. You gave me everything when I was small, but you give me even more now. I do not know how I would be getting through my days without you. I look forward to our conversations every Monday and Wednesday as I am driving to school. I am always so weary, and you never fail to buoy me up by giving me some perspective and a chuckle or four. It’s so peculiar how the words “I am so proud of you” make a person proud of themselves. Thank you for always saying them. Thank you for meaning them. What would I ever do without you?

Our phone call last night left me speechless. I am sorry it ended with my stunned silence and sobbing tears. I had the worst day yesterday, mom. I was so tired after a week from LG being out of town, Caroline being sick, work, school, YW in excellence, volleyball coaching, and long nights of make-up housework because kids had been home babysitting the sick one – and when kids are left alone, the house is always a disaster. Then to top it off LG got home and our marriage is so painful right now. So much work. It leaves me totally depleted and hopeless.

All day yesterday I kept thinking about dad, and how I wished I could call him. I just wanted to hear his voice tell me everything was going to be okay. I took LG to Del Taco on his way to work. We only have two cars, so I often get the carpool duty to make up the difference. I sat in the parking lot with Max as LG ran in. The drive-thru was ridiculous. As LG disappeared into the building, Max started crying for him. He hadn’t seen LG all week, and he worships the ground he walks on. LG and I had had words right as LG shut the car door, and crying Max put me over the edge. I cried with him.  Just cried and cried, until I laid my head on the steering wheel. I was parked next to a white sedan, just like dads. It was Veterans Day.

I turned my head to the right and out of the corner of my tear-filled eye I noticed an elderly gentleman trying to squeeze between my van and his car to get into the driver’s door. He was using two walking sticks and couldn’t quite navigate the narrow gap between the cars. I immediately wiped my tears and backed my van into the space across the parking lot. He smiled and waved. His Veteran’s cap belonged on dad’s head. I bawled even harder. More than anything I wanted him to be dad. More than anything I’ve ever wanted. I wanted dad to come and hug me and tell me everything was going to be okay. I was mad that this guy was alive, and dad wasn’t. I then got a strong feeling that said, “Your dad is free. It would have been too hard for him to be stuck using walking sticks.” Then I cried some more because of my selfishness.

Then, last night on one of the darkest I’ve had in awhile. You call. You tell me that when you were praying you had an impression for me. You wanted to help me. You wanted me to know that by next year things will be better. I swear you’ve been saying that to me for 10 years straight. It was your voice, but all I could hear was dad. Dad saying to me, “Alice, I see you. Don’t give up. I heard your cries for me. I see how hard everything is. Even more than I did when I was alive. I will help you however I can. I will never stop helping you. Stop crying because you need me. I am here. I am always here. I am watching over you. I love you, my beautiful daughter. You make me proud. Stop worrying. Stop crying so much. Stop missing me. I am here.”

So many things make me think of him. This week, perhaps the man at church in Sunday school, who fidgeted with the paper on the table, was the most profound for me. He barely touched the paper with the tips of his fingers and gently bent the paper to his will, one clock-wise 30 degree twist at a time. Exactly like dad. I can’t tell you how many times I saw this exact movement from dad’s hand. His huge rough hard-working hand could move mountains with a touch as gentle as a feather. The image is nothing short of God. How can a man possess a strong hand full of callouses and muscle, yet also have mastery of delicacy? The juxtaposition is exactly what we all must master to be like our maker.  I closed my eyes. I pretended I was sitting next to dad. I breathed deeply. Meditating to make it all true. This stranger-to-me’s scent made it true. He smelled just like Old Spice.  I swallowed my emotion as I let my tears trickle down my throat. I was in a room of just six people and didn’t want to embarrass anyone. For just a second, I was sitting in a church classroom with dad again. How many times I took that for granted!

Well, I want to keep writing mom, but the paper is on its 15th scream now. Just like Max, it cannot be ignored any longer. I love spending this time with you, mom. It is one of the highlights of my life to have time with you like this. To tell you I love you. To remember dad. And to do it in a way that I love. Where would I be without writing? Without you and dad?

I want to leave you with two songs, mom. The first, I just heard on my drive to the library. It immediately made me think of dad and you and our conversations of your loneliness. I heard dad’s voice again. On the chorus. This time it was for you. “Carry on
Give me all the strength I need. To carry on.” Yet the voice didn’t say “give me all the strength I need” it said, “Sharon, I have all the strength I need, and enough for you too…”I’ll give you all the strength you need.” Mom, you may not see dad, and you may not even have the experiences you want or the assurance that you want about seeing him again, but this morning while listening to this song, I knew without a doubt that the reason you are functioning and moving forward is because Dad is giving you more strength than you’ve ever had before.

He is transferring his strength to you now. When you feel down, just know that you have dad’s strength now. You must feel like you can lift your entire garage 100 times over. Dad did it more than that. ha ha. Dad’s strength is bigger than I can even try to measure. I can’t imagine how strong you should be feeling. His strength is the best gift that he can give you. I don’t know exactly how that works, but if dad had to learn to time-travel and run at the speed of light and lift the sun straight from the sky, and then transfer DNA from one cell to another, I am sure he did it all in an hour just to get you what you need. How lucky you have always been to have a man’s love like that.

See You Again

It’s been a long day without you, my friend
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
We’ve come a long way from where we began
Oh, I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you again

Why’d you have to leave soon, yeah?
Why’d you have to go?
Why’d you have to leave me when I needed you the most?
Cause I don’t know really how to tell you without feeling much worse
I know you’re in a better place but it’s always gonna hurt

Carry on
Give me all the strength I need
To carry on

It’s been a long day without you, my friend
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
We’ve come a long way from where we began
Oh, I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you again

How do I breathe without you? I’m feeling so cold
I’ll be right here for you ’till the day you’re home

Carry on
Give me all the strength I need
To carry on

So let the light guide your way, yeah
Hold every memory as you go
And every road you take
Will always lead you home, home

It’s been a long day without you, my friend
And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
We’ve come a long way from where we began
Oh, I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
When I see you again

When I see you again
When I see you again
See you again
When I see you again

And as I was typing after listening to the last song, the next one came on. It was like Dad wanted me to know that he not only can give you strength and send an angel to me, but he can control the internet, too. I can just see him laughing. He’s in humble awe of his new abilities wondering what he ever did right to earn privilege and trust and abilities like that. He whispered, “Watch this, Alice. Tell mom what I’ve got now. Tell her she doesn’t need to pray for me anymore. I’m just fine. My anniversary present to her is all of my love and strength.”

I hear you, dad. I hear you. I will tell mom. You’re only one call away. And yes, Superman has nothing on you.

img_20161031_202937

My mother-in-law just sent this to me. It’s from our wedding BBQ. Yeah, the night you should have been packing for the move the day after my wedding. Sorry about that shotgun wedding mom, but you and dad always had the right priorities.

One Call Away

I’m only one call away
I’ll be there to save the day
Superman got nothing on me
I’m only one call away

Call me, baby, if you need a friend
I just wanna give you love
Come on, come on, come on
Reaching out to you, so take a chance

No matter where you go
You know you’re not alone

I’m only one call away
I’ll be there to save the day
Superman got nothing on me
I’m only one call away

Come along with me and don’t be scared
I just wanna set you free
Come on, come on, come one
You and me can make it anywhere
For now, we can stay here for a while, ay
‘Cause you know, I just wanna see you smile

No matter where you go
You know you’re not alone

I’m only one call away
I’ll be there to save the day
Superman got nothing on me
I’m only one call away

And when you’re weak I’ll be strong
I’m gonna keep holding on
Now don’t you worry, it won’t be long, Darling
And when you feel like hope is gone
Just run into my arms

I’m only one call away
I’ll be there to save the day
Superman got nothing on me
I’m only one, I’m only one call away
I’ll be there to save the day
Superman got nothing on me
I’m only one call away

I’m only one call away

Dear Mom [Week 8]

Hi mom,

I can’t believe it has been a whole week again already. Time flies whether or not you  are having any fun. I haven’t been having much fun lately, as you know from both of our conversations that ended in my tears. I really need to get it all together. Ha. I guess it’s a good thing that I am still young and can look forward to a lifetime of perfecting. I need so much!

The 25th marked 2 months that we have all somehow managed to  keep  living in a world without dad. I meant to do something in memory of dad on that day, but really the only thing I seemed to have time for was thinking of him both times we went over the date in my ESL classes. It was Tuesday and when my classes repeated with me, “Today is Tuesday, October 25th,” I silently reflected on my love for dad. How I wish he was here! Every dad seems like an eternity without him. I weep now just thinking about living without him. Without his quirky sense of humor that sometimes made him seem like a creepy old flirt. LOL I miss knowing that when I get really down with life’s hurdles, I can call and hear him tell me to just keep on keeping on. I miss his expertise when I need any kind of homeowners or automobile owner advice. I miss his laugh and his twinkle in his eye. I miss his big old rough strong hands. I miss him giving me a hard time because I would never give him a kiss. I miss him reassuring me that if all goes to hell at any given time I could come home and he would take care of me and my kids. I miss him telling me what it’s like for LG and how I can be a better wife. I miss his whistle. I miss his special potatoes. I miss his homemade tacos. I miss him telling me how lucky my kids are to have me. Every day there is always something that I miss. I cry knowing that I will never know those things again in this life. I will never experience them unless in memory. I don’t like that. Not at all.

I found some pictures tonight. I was so glad when they resurfaced as I had looked for them without any luck. I was so worried I didn’t have any picture of the kids with both you and dad. Even though we got a separate one with Abigail I am overwhelmingly relieved that I found these. And look at dad. He looked sick. I always noticed him declining for so many years now, but his health looks even more alarming to me now that I know what would be about a year later.

mom and dad and kids.jpgabigail-with-mom-and-dad

I want my dad back so bad!!! I think I am in the angry stage right now. Unfortunately, that anger is kind of not helping me function at home. I wish people could see into my mind and heart and just know that I’m grateful to just function, no matter how limited I am compared to normal. I wish that we had some kind of ancient weeping rite that allowed mourners to check out of life for a bit. It’s as if we are supposed to be full-throttle upon return from the funeral and burial. I know, for me, LG and the girls were pretty tender with me for the first couple of weeks, but now it’s back to the usual grind. I don’t want to be in the usual grind. I want to be in the mountains listening to birds whistle like dad. I want to be at the beach digging for sand-crabs. I want to be in the Eucalyptus Forest with some zip-ties and some wheat to feed the ducks. I want dad snapping his fingers at us while we misbehave and drive you crazy on the front row of church. I want to be at your house watching dad fall asleep in his chair. I want to be telling dad to stop working so hard. I want to be back in my basement with its ugly bright blue carpet with just you and dad. I would  gladly take the horrendous carpet back if dad came with it. I was so content for that 30 minutes just laughing about the past and reflecting on the work of the present. I bragged that it may have been the first time in my entire life that I had you two to myself. I want to be eating gourmet hamburgers that cost you a fortune and neither of you liked. I had recommended the place, and both of you would have been happier with Burger King. Ha!

maclarenquote_landscape

This quote is often attributed to Plato, but researchers believe it’s origin is actually 1897 Maclaren in The British Weekly.

Oh mom, I don’t even know if this letter will be anything for you to look forward to. My intention of writing once a week was to give you something to look forward to and to keep dad’s memory alive. Right now, it all just feels to painful. I want to go to the temple and sit in the Celestial Room until dad comes and gives me a hug. I need to hear him tell me everything is going to be okay. I’m supposed to be writing a paper right now, and now I am exhausted from crying. How I wish I was a better daughter. It’s funny because last April’s Conference I was  reflecting on the question, “How can I be a better daughter?” And I didn’t take enough time to listen or do. I hope you know how much I love you. I need to come visit soon. I’d like to get away, but I have so much writing to do for school in the next month it may not happen ’til Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Well, I have to go, mom. It’s 11:30 pm and we have early church tomorrow. Wish me luck on getting to church on time. Ha.

I wanted to tell you one more quick thing. I called you on the way to our cabin and explained how dad was with us on our trip. We had traded our four days of campsite fees that we weren’t able to use when dad got sick for one night in a cabin. Then I was sad to not go camping with my family, and now how I would have loved to go back to the hospital with you and dad instead! It’s funny how perspective changes everything. Anyhow, we had a good time, but I wanted to tell you how dad was with us.

Look at this. Right as I took out my camera to capture LG with the kids at the reservoir, I had a series of flashbacks of dad. In Alaska. Then dad at the Carlsbad lagoon. Dad at the beach. Dad at the lake we went to on Abigail’s first birthday. Dad at Sandy Hallow. Dad always loved to be near the water, and in this moment I had pure joy. I shared it with dad.

resevoir

Look at these three-tall bunkbeds in our cabin. I told all the kids how this was just like Alaska, except our bunks were tighter fit and a lot smaller. In Alaska, there was just enough space under the bottom bunk for our suitcases that held our clothes and suitcase full of barbie dolls and clothes. I still have that DAV pink satin-lined suitcase. It now holds all of my childhood journals. I wondered if Dad intentionally designed our bunks with space for our luggage or if it was just a provident coincidence in our tiny living quarters. I thought how dad made a tiny house thirty years before anyone else. I wanted to call and tell him how cool he was and ask him about the bunkbed design, but I had to settle for eating cereal from a box. Tradition!  Tradition! These little boxes of cereal are a tradition on LG’s side, too. I tried to read a story out loud to my family because I needed to get some homework done. No one was interested in listening, and they all told me to stop ruining their vacation. I laughed and told them how dad did the exact same thing to me in the hospital. When I tried to read, he turned the TV up really loud. Ha ha.

cabin cereal

How I miss dad. While driving home from the cabin I remembered my drive to and from dad’s hospital room. On the way down it was storming pretty good. There was a lot of lightening shooting across the sky. The stars got swallowed by the storm clouds, but as they swept away with the storm the bright moon peered from behind. I can’t explain what really happened, but somehow I kept correlating all the different kinds of light to dad. His influence had been felt as small stars, and a large moon, and at times like a powerful and shocking electrical impulse. I was so worried that dad wasn’t going to make it ’til I got there, and I kept feeling him say goodbye in the form of light. This may not make any sense. When I got to the hospital he was still there, and I thought I must have just been overthinking things. But, then again on my way home four days later, just as soon as I hit the highway the sky was once again engulfed in storm clouds. There was a large group of clouds way to the west and I could see the electrical lightening pulses contained within the cloud. Once in a while one bolt would shoot down to the earth, but they mostly just stayed in the clouds. I thought of dad weak in bed and how he felt trapped..as if he was stuck inside a storm cloud. Then, on this camping trip, when we got out of the minivan at the very rural spot of Palisade State Park, we all exited the car and stood in place gazing upward. The unending stars were brilliant, but the most majestic and breathtaking was The Milky Way. It shot from horizon to horizon. I thought again of dad’s light, and how it was no longer limited. It was now going farther than we could see and longer than we could know. I can’t wait to see that up close and personal someday.

Love you mom! We’ve survived eight weeks. I’m so proud of us. I know dad is really proud of you. I’m sure he’s watching you like a hawk.