dear mom

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.

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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.

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.

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.”
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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 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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

 

Dear Mom [Week 7]

Hi mom,

It seems every time we have talked on the phone lately , I’ve put you in the position of giving me a pep talk, and I should be the one giving you the pep talks! I guess that means we are both mothers. Ha. Oh, how I love you, mom. Thanks for keeping me going, even when you may not want to keep going. You are such a strength to me at this time in my life. Thank you. Now, the tears are forming again. It’s a good thing we aren’t on the phone.

I’ve been an emotional wreck lately. It’s not just that I am tired. And, oh, how I am tired. It’s because I’ve got so many emotionally draining issues going on simultaneously. I know I don’t have to rehash that here because you already know all of them. It’s amazing how much it helps to hear, “Oh Alice, try to stop worrying, I promise it will all work out. I wasted too much of my life worrying.” Because even when I am reminded that everything has a way of working itself out at every turn, I still have a hard time believing it. Plus, I want it to work out the way I want it to. And it never does. Even when it works out better than I thought it would, it’s like I am still mad that I didn’t get my way.

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I went to the internet to look for the “It will all work out” picture above, and when I saved it noticed it was titled, “yielding our hearts.” Yeah, I really need to get better at that.

You know, it’s funny how life gives you perspective that can lead to greater faith, if you let it. For so many years, we all worried about Adam and Renee, and they are doing so good now. It really did work out for them. If you ask them, they would probably say it hasn’t worked out completely, but a lot has worked out. I have to remind myself that a lot of my own life has worked out, too. I hate being a perfectionist and an idealist. I just need everything to be worked out. And NOW. I have to learn to be happy in the moment and in the storm. There is always so much that still needs to be worked out, and I let it drag me down. Maybe by the time I am your age, I will have it figured out.

So, I want to write briefly about our conversation of your hopes that dad will visit. I loved your story about your friend’s deceased husband who didn’t visit for five years. Then the moment she started lamenting, he disappeared. It didn’t surprise me one bit when you said your newest goal is to not be in mourning because you want dad to be able to visit. I chuckled because the thought of you not mourning is comical. Not only because it’s an impossibility, but because you’re totally convinced that it’s the only way to see dad again and you want it ASAP. So, you are determined to make it happen. I’m sure you will succeed.

I haven’t lost a lot of loved ones, but from the people I have lost, I have learned through experience that we will do just about ANYTHING to see them or feel them close. In a dream. In a coincidence. In a voice. We just need to know they are still living. The thought of just being dead is horrible. I don’t know how anyone survives life with that kind of outlook for their finality.

So, really quick, I want to tell you about three cool experiences I’ve had in the past few weeks that are my own little tender mercies in knowing dad is alive and well.

First, this construction site right down the street. One day I was stopped in front of this house-build waiting at the stop sign. I looked ever and was watching the workers and my mind took me straight back to dad’s hospital room when we all looked out the window. You may not be able to see it, but they had those framing boards that dad explained were super expensive. Remember, they were slathering them with oil, and dad told us that they use them over and over again? Anyhow, I started talking to dad and telling him how much I wish he was still here. And, I am not kidding, mom, just then, a white dove flew straight toward my driver-side window, and just 1/100th of a second before hitting my window, it shot straight up. I’m pretty sure dad wanted me to know he is still close, and watching over me. It was a really hard day and that dove did more for me than 12 hours of sleep ever could.

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The next story is just silly, but it still meant a lot to me. Another day, another hard day. I checked my e-mail, and the only e-mail waiting to be opened was this random invite from dad to connect on his Linkedin. I know it is just a glitch from the website, but even if dad appeared himself at that stoplight, where I was trying to find the energy to keep moving forward, it wouldn’t have been more helpful.

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You will love this last story. I won’t mention any names here publicly, although I don’t think she would mind, but this happened with an old Carlsbad friend. She has left the church and lives in Hawaii. Two days ago she shared an article on Facebook and suggested that if members of the church would read it, it would help them have more empathy for those that have left the church. Well, that baited me in. Because, of course, I try to have true compassion, understanding, and empathy for other people.

Anyhow, I only read a few paragraphs of the article because when it started talking really disrespectfully about Joseph Smith, I couldn’t swallow anymore. I told the friend so, and told her I tried to read it, but couldn’t do it. “I still love, you, and respect your right to feel how you feel,” I said. She was nice about it. Some of her friends got onto me a bit, but I didn’t let it bother me, as they know nothing about me, and were just acting like a bunch of trolls. Anyhow, the friends didn’t bother me, but the little content that I did read kept pestering me. I questioned, “Am I wrong to believe in a latter-day prophet?” “Do I really belong to a cult?” “According to the articles standards, don’t all Christians belong to a cult for worshiping Jesus Christ?” You know my mind. It was just tumbling and turning with all kinds of facts, figures, and questions. I just wanted them to go away as I already had a million others things running around up there, and my brainwaves were feeling like Toys-R-Us on Black Friday. I was seeking the quickest checkout line and fastest route back home to my comfortable bed.

No one had any way of knowing my torment. But, dad did. And just like he always used to do when he was here, he eliminated it with one swift punch. Oh, mom, he has always been my hero. How lucky I have been to have a man that has always understood me in my pride, stubborn, obsessive, foolish ways. In a lot of ways LG is different than dad, but in the way of loving me, I married probably the only person capable of loving me like dad did. And LG is all the better because he doesn’t even think like Dad and I do, and he’s so patient in trying to understand.

Sorry, I got sidetracked from my story. Anyhow, in less than 24 hours after the initial reading of this article that had me shaken up, the same friend, who lives in Hawaii now, shared this photo on Erick’s Facebook wall. Of all the people for her to see, she ran into Connor at Costco. Yes, our Connor. Elder Wills. Serving a mission, in Hawaii, to teach people about Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith.

Dad knew. I don’t know the circumstances of Connor being at Costco or my friend being there at the very same time, but I do know it was a really dynamic way for dad to stop my brain from running me off a cliff. Or maybe it wasn’t dad. Maybe it was actually my other dad. My Heavenly one. Either way, I like to think that the two of them work together for my benefit now.

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So, there you have it. Maybe dad hasn’t come to visit us personally yet, but he is repeatedly showing me that he isn’t far away. He’s still my hero. Probably always will be.

Hey, mom, for some reason, this just popped into my mind. Remember how you guys used to always play the movie “I’ll Build You A Rainbow” at our baptisms? It seemed so morbid to me to watch a movie at a baptism about a mom that died. I remember feeling really traumatized from that show. I was also always really confused what in the world it had to do with baptism. Well, I just felt a little nudge from my eight-year-old self saying, “Hey Alice, this is the moment your mom and dad were preparing you for all those years ago.” Baptism has everything to do with your eternal family.

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He’s building us a rainbow, mom.

“If I can’t see you, how will I know you are there?”

Families are forever. And there is only one place on earth I know that doctrine to even be claimed. That’s why Connor is in Hawaii. And that’s why dad didn’t let my harmful obsessive thinking last longer than 24 hours. He’s visiting us every day, mom. We may just not be able to see him. But, we will see him. Yes, we will.

 

Dear Mom [Week 6]

Hi mom,

Wow, it amazes me at how much your voice has become a healing balm for my soul. I wish I would have recognized that more for dad before he was gone. Thanks for my pep talk on Wednesday night. Oh, how validating it is to just talk with someone over the phone who can see straight through the cellular airwaves. “Alice, you sound so tired. I hope you can get to bed  early tonight.” Even if I didn’t, just hearing that you wished it for me gave me greater strength to endure. Thank you, mom. For Wednesday and all the thousands of other times just like it. How fortunate I am to have you in my corner.

I was out walking Olive last night at 10:30 PM and a truck hauling a trailer full of stuff drove by. I had to sit down on the curb for a bit because my heart and mind felt like dad had just passed by showing me that he is still hard at work and happy. Then, I had a dream last night. It is my first I’ve had of dad since he passed away. I was showing a friend a video of my dad of how healthy he was on the day he died. He reached out from the cell phone screen jumping and hopping, waving and smiling. He was laughing. I never recognized the  full value of his smile until he was gone. While I dreamt, his smile filled my whole soul with light. It illuminated from his eyes and mouth to his face and everything beyond.  I woke up so happy. I felt like dad was telling me not to worry because he is right back to his old healthy happy ways. How much fun we always had with you and dad! Compared to our neighbors’ possessions, we had next to nothing, but we sure did have everything. I felt like we really got the best of both worlds. A third-world country carefree closeness combined with so many first-world conveniences.

I’m sorry these letters are getting harder to decipher.  I am so tired all of the time, and it is hard to write. I can’t even seem to think straight. When you called last Friday from the DI crying, it truly broke my heart. I wish I could take away your pain, mom. I hated (and still hate) that you were (and still are) lonely, but then when you said, “I feel better, just hearing your voice,” it made me so humbled and grateful that even though I can’t take it away, I could provide a little comfort in the moment. I am so glad Adam could come visit. I am partially jealous that he has the kind of freedom to do that, but I am more grateful than anything. I need to make it a priority to come visit very soon, no matter how crazy busy I am. Adam is just as busy, if not more so.

It’s Friday, therefore I should be getting homework done. It’s 1:13 PM, and I have yet to even start. I’ve had a great day. I woke up and listened to President Uchtdorf’s talk from Women’s Conference, and consequently I just wanted more. I then listened to Elder Holland’s talk from the Priesthood Session. In between my new visiting teacher came over. God has been with me today. He answered my prayers. He never answers in the way that I want Him to, but He does answer. I’ve been really preoccupied with LG and Abigail lately. One of my questions going into conference was how I could help both LG and Abigail with their individual struggles. I get so impatient, and I know a majority of the time I just exacerbate stuff. When I asked the question, I hoped God would tell me exactly how I could MAKE them do what I know is best. Ha. God has never answered me one time, in all my almost 43 years, to tell me anything about anyone else. Today, has been true to God’s pattern.

Between Sunny (my visiting teacher), Holland, and Ucthdorf I got three witnesses all telling me that same thing. I need to have more faith, I need to love better and deeper, and I need to be patient and kind. They all sounded just like you, mom. Maybe someday Abigail will actually write me a letter that says, “Hey, mom, thanks for telling me what I didn’t want to hear. I know you love me. And, you were right. My entire life.” Well, there you go, mom. There is everything you ever wanted to hear. You know me well. I know that you love me. And, I hope I can learn to love like you do, more devoutly and patiently. Why does it have to be so hard? I wish I could just make everyone else change to my liking, instead of having to work on making myself more like-able.

As I sat pondering how I could make the changes I needed to make, I saw a video a friend of mine posted on facebook. It was a song by Andrea Bocelli and Katherine McFee called “The Prayer”. As I watched and listened to the beautiful lyrics, I started praying along.

I pray you’ll be our eyes
And watch us where we go
And help us to be wise
In times when we don’t know

Let this be our prayer
As we go our way
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe

I pray we’ll find your light
And hold it in our hearts
When stars go out each night
Remind us where you are

Let this be our prayer
When shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe

We ask that life be kind
And watch us from above
We hope each soul will find
Another soul to love

Let this be our prayer
Just like every child
Needs to find a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe

Need to find a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe

I almost felt like I was praying to both God and dad. I hope that doesn’t come across sacrilegious. When I got to the part where it says, “Let this be our prayer, just like every child, needs to find a place” I got a fourth witness. It was an answer from God, about me, about you, and about dad. It was jetted straight through my skin and brain and arrived straightway to my heart. “Create a place for every child, just like your mom and dad. Be their place. Be their safe place.” That means, I have to do that for everyone. Not just my kids, but my husband, too. It’s a daunting message. How can I ever do that when I am still such a child needing such a place? But, I will try, mom. I will try. How I love you and dad. You both have issues, but you both keep trying. You are children who need a safe place, but despite your own needs being met or not, you always created that place for others. You know how to love. Thank you for showing me what that looks like. I will try to be like you, mom. And like dad. Because ultimately I know I will end up looking like God.
Two more songs followed as I typed to you just now while listening to “The Prayer” again trying to muster my strength to get up from my laptop. I don’t want to. I just want to stay here where it is safe, and I won’t mess anything up with my controlling, impatience, criticism, or aggressiveness. The songs were “Time to say Goodbye” and then “Hero.” I could hear dad’s voice singing. He told me we will go together again in a ship, and that even though he knows he’s my hero, he was just an ordinary dude who kept trying and loving. I could hear him say, “Alice, you can keep trying. You can keep loving.”
It’s not Wednesday night. You aren’t on the phone. It’s Friday morning, and for the second time this week I got a pep-talk from my parents. My dad called all the way from heaven. How about that? I didn’t even have to ask you to talk to him. He just knew I needed him.
I love you, mom. Until next week… here are the lyrics. I hope you get to hear dad telling you about the ship you will sail again, too.

 

Excerpted from “Time to say Goodbye”
When I’m alone
I dream on the horizon
and words fail;
yes, I know there is no light
in a room where the sun is absent,
if you are not with me, with me.
At the windows
show everyone my heart
which you set alight;
enclose within me
the light you
encountered on the street.
Time to say goodbye
To countries I never
Saw and shared with you,
now, yes, I shall experience them.
I’ll go with you
On ships across seas
which, I know,
no, no, exist no longer,
with you I shall experience them again.
I’ll go with you
On ships across seas
Which, I know,
No, no, exist no longer;
with you I shall experience them again.
I’ll go with you,
I with you.

“Hero”

There’s a hero
If you look inside your heart
You don’t have to be afraid
Of what you are
There’s an answer
If you reach into your soul
And the sorrow that you know
Will melt away

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you

It’s a long road
When you face the world alone
No one reaches out a hand
For you to hold
You can find love
If you search within yourself
And the emptiness you felt
Will disappear

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you

Lord knows
Dreams are hard to follow
But don’t let anyone
Tear them away
Hold on
There will be tomorrow
In time
You’ll find the way

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you
That a hero lies in you
That a hero lies in you

Dear Mom [Week 3]

Hi Mom,

I am beginning to dread writing these letters more and more because I know it will just make me cry. Somewhere inside of me there is still a five-year-old little girl who just wants to be at home safe with her mom and dad. I never really realized that I have some form of anxiety until very recently. As a girl, I thought it was normal to obsess over bad people coming into our house at night to rob us or hurt us. I used to lay in my bed and repeatedly remind myself of your words that dad would never let anything happen to any of his babies. I logically and emotionally knew perfectly that what you said was true, but when the anxiety overtook me and I got really desperate, I would think about dad’s gun up in his closet. I knew dad could “take” almost anyone alive, but just in case a mob were to come, there was always the gun. It seems so silly now, but not really. I often talk to LG about whether or not he would actually fight for me or the kids. He’s such a gentle giant, I’m always worried I would have to do the fighting. Dad was a gentle giant too, and I know that he would fight, so I guess I should rest assured.

This photo came up on my facebook feed today. There is a way that facebook reminds you of your past posts. I took this exactly one year ago. Don’t you worry, the fact that dad is holding mine and Renee’s babies together is not lost on me.  I can’t remember where we were when I took this. I want to say it was someone’s baptism.  Eli’s? Isn’t it just so perfect?! Dad always had time for the children! What a wonderful dad. What a lucky bunch of kids. I can’t  believe he looked this good just one year ago. He withered fast, didn’t he? It really is as if as soon as he knew Renee was taken care of, a part of him just moved on. Dangit. I wish we had him for just one more year. Heck, I’d take one more day, one more hour, one more minute. I wonder if I could spit out the words, “I love you,” in just a second? If I could add anything, it would be, “thank you.” He would know all of the thank you’s in my heart.

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Thank you, dad, for giving me life. For loving my mother. For feeding me. For carrying me to the car when I cut off my toe, and for not being mad when I cut it off from being disobedient to your orders. For carrying me into the house every time when you knew I was just faking sleep. Thank you for the buckets at the beach.  Thank you for baptizing me. Thank you for teaching me to love hard work. Thank you for disciplining me.  Thank you for loving animals. Thank you for not beating me, even though you were beat. Thank you for working all of the time, so I could have clothes and a car to drive. Thank you for teaching me to drive stick shift, and for laughing at me when I stalled on the hills. Thank you for the many many adventures. Thank you for killing all the rattlesnakes. Thank you for the pep talk when Matt Jewell broke up with me and I cried for days on end. You told me it was his loss, and I believed you. Thank you for remodeling  my bathroom in Tennessee while you were on vacation. Thank you for giving me a priesthood blessing before my mission that helped me realize much much later that LG was the man I was meant to marry. Thank you for loving my husband. Thank you for all the ways you’ve watched over my little family. Thank you for the KFC months ago and the TV that arrived at my house days after you died. Thank you for LG’s drill. Thank you for my electrical outlet in my garage. Thank you for another remodeled bathroom. Thank you for giving me the gumption to duct-tape stuff and keep driving, and the assurance that it would be okay. “What’s the worst that can happen?”  I heard you say, as I pulled tentatively onto the freeway for a four-hour drive home.  I wanted to call you to be certain, but I just left you sick in your hospital bed. The only way you could make me go back home to my family was to lie to me and tell me everything would be okay. Thank you for the last little talk we had in the hospital when I got uncomfortable. You made sure I listened. It was less than a month ago and I can’t even remember  your exact words. You always understood how hard it was for me to listen, but whatever you said, because of its intensity, I knew you loved me and I knew you were proud of me, and I knew you believed in me and wanted me to be happy. I made sure you knew that I felt the same. How much you must have known I would need that for the rest of my life.

Mom, I’ll never forget that nurse’s baby boy that came to visit us at the hospital. It didn’t matter that dad was tired or in pain, he took that baby right up in his bed with him and loved on him.  I was almost kind of jealous that it wasn’t Max, and as if dad read my mind, he proceeded to tell that nurse all about Max and how amazing he thought he was, how he could make a basket from any part of the room.  I can’t even begin to describe how much it hurts to think that Max will never know his grandpa. I don’t think a second would be long enough, but I would give it to you anyway, mom. I would give it all to you. How you must be so lost without him.

I usually try to write these letters on Sundays when everyone is napping or occupied, so that I can cry and have time to myself. However, yesterday got away from me and I am writing in between subjects while I study in a little private study room at UVU. My eyes and brain were tired, so I decided I coul write as a break from reading and kill two birds with one stone. Bad idea. The study room has glass walls, and I am so glad I am up on the fifth floor where no one is around this late at night. It’s 9 pm. No one but crazy mothers study this late at night on campus. It’s a good thing because the tears are rolling freely down my face. I had to move my laptop farther from my eyes so that the puddle on the table wouldn’t ruin it.

I must get back to studying now, mom, but I don’t ever want to stop once I get started. It’s like you are right here with me. Like dad is right here, too. I wanted to tell you one thing right quick. I’m struggling with the working mom guilt. It’s so hard to let Max be cared for by someone else. He’s my baby!!! But, like dad taught me, I do what I have to do. So, to help with my guilt, I made homemade rolls this morning. It’s my first batch of rolls in the new Bosch mixer my mother-in-law got me for Christmas. Nine months without rolls  tells you how insane my life has been. Anyhow, as I was taking the dough from the mixer to knead and cut, I had a flashback. It was after school. I was 7 or 8. Your mixer looked a lot like mine, but your dough was wheat. It smelled of yeast. My mouth was watering. I knew you loved me. I hope my kids knew of my love when they ate those rolls tonight. I wasn’t even home for dinner because I was here at school. I have learned that pursuing my own dreams is also something important to teach my children, but it sure is hard to spread myself so thin.

One last sidenote: LG gave everyone back-to-school blessings last night. We were late this year with all the craziness of the funeral and Abigail’s pep-talks taking a lot of our time, and my new job and stuff.  So last night it was. I wish you could have been there, mom. In my blessing, LG talked a lot about my new job and how I should pray for my students because they are my fields. The scriptures say we should pray over our fields. And then, he got emotional. He stopped for a long time. Then whimpered. The spirit testified to me that whatever he would say next was something vital and true. He said, “Alice, your father is watching over you.” His voiced cracked as he cried. “Your earthly father.” “He will do everything in his power to help you, and he will always be there when you need him.” I think my immediate sobs kind of scared my kids, but maybe it will help them to have a greater appreciation for their dad who is alive, and for the priesthood. Such a beautiful moment, and I hate to write it here because I always publish these letters on my blog. That was truly sacred.

Well, I must go. It’s 9:03, and I have 150 more pages to read before class on Wednesday. Between work and other stuff I won’t have time to do it tomorrow. I love you, mom. Thank you for so many things. So, so, many things. I sit in my living room and smile. I look ever every thing that you carefully chose, just because you wanted me to have a nice room that was presentable. You didn’t want me to have to be embarrassed ever again. You gave me nicer things then you have ever given yourself. And when I get overwhelmed, I just sit on one of my two leather sofas and I look at my buffet table, and my rug, my pillows, my coffee table, and my colorful artwork above my mantle. I smile, not because it is all so lovely, but because I can feel you there loving me and cheering me on. I smiled yesterday thinking about how one of dad’s last gifts to you was bringing you up two weekends in a row, and letting you go crazy. He never said a word of reprimand. Then I got up, and keep at my life. Just like right now.

I’ll write you again next week. I wonder if I will ever be able to write one of these letters without crying. I hope so. I hope not. Our crying is what connects us. Big boob babies.

Dear Mom [Week 2]

Hi mom,

You probably haven’t even read my first letter yet, as you’ve been on the road. I’ll send this one to you up the street, and then you’ll get the first one when you get back home. I smiled so big when you told me how sad you would be to miss my letter on mail day because my only goal in writing is to give you something to look forward to.

And how many things you’ve given me to look forward to throughout my life. Christmas was always such a joy. I’ll never forget the early years when dad would always pull out his loud video camera and his ultra-bright light. I’m trying to remember the exact sound of the camera, but memory fails. Darnit. I will have to ask Adam the next time I see him. Mom, one of the things I really loved doing with you was going to get the special treatment for school dances. You really knew how to make a girl feel special. You never made me worry about money and you always told me that a girl had to splurge once in awhile. Getting my hair done was always traumatic, but oh how I loved going to the make-up counter. I remember my senior year when we bought a read MAC lipstick. I can still taste the color on my lips. That was a fancy lipstick and even though I may have looked like a prostitute sporting that color, I felt like a princess. Thanks mom for those dances, Christmases, and so many other things.

My intention in writing these letters is to keep dad’s memory alive. I know when Kristen Dillon died it helped me a lot just to get together with other friends and talk about the  crazy stuff we did. You and I just saw each other last night where we all talked about dad and his temper.  Renee got uncomfortable and said she only wanted to remember the good stuff about dad. Annette commented that it is good to remember the whole person.  I especially agree. Dad had very little wrong with him. In fact, his temper might be the only thing I can even think of, and as I mentioned in my last letter, dad kicked all of his anger and aggression to the curb years ago. I hope I can learn to do the same, but earlier in life.

When we went to lunch on Saturday, you just kept on with the tradition of giving me something to look forward to. I LOVED shopping with you, even though you wouldn’t let me pay! I  will get you back for that. You must learn to accept love instead of giving it all of the time. God will not let you go and be with dad until you do, so you better learn it quick. I know you don’t want to burden your kids with taking care of you. We will do whatever you need, just as you have done for us, but we would rather that you let us pay for some stuff than God giving you really bad health until you HAVE to take from us. Anyhow, it was so much fun just to be with you. You made shopping for the kids much more tolerable,  especially when you insisted that I buy some shoes for myself. I love you mom. I loved just sitting with you at Carls Jr. and looking out the window and talking about how we both thought dad would be coming back somehow. One thing I love about you is that I know you  enjoyed our silly fast-food lunch as much as you did your Melting Pot dinner with Adam and Renee. I wish I was one of your rich kids, so I could spoil you rotten, but I take peace of mind in knowing that you find the joy in every little thing. You’ve taught me well that way. I love to just stop and look at the mountains with you, or smile over the fact that Caroline came running up to make sure you didn’t need help up the walkway at the park. Life really is beautiful.

Well, I already told you about my dinner date with LG on Friday night. I got so upset that we had to skip the concert we’ve been looking forward to all summer. LG asked, “Why are you crying?” I am sure I embarrassed him by crying at our table like I did, probably more so than if he was just wearing underwear. I bet everyone at the restaurant thought we were fighting. I had stepped outside for like ten minutes because I had a really bad pain in my shoulder. Well, I think that they can all just kiss their nosy selves all the way to the kitchen, but LG struggles more with delivering on those expected appropriate and formal behaviors. I answered LG, “I just want my dad back.” And, oh how I do. My chimichunga was so lonely too, and must have  been terribly discouraged when it was put into a to-go box and stuck in our  fridge later. Only two bites were missing.  It sure didn’t taste half as good as it did fresh when it came out of the Styrofoam box for “after church, we aren’t cooking anything” left-overs.

I think four things brought on my emotional outburst. First, my pain. I think it was just gas. I get the pains in the same place on the front of my shoulder from time to time. But, after dad’s death, I was so scared the pain was my heart. I was also really hurting. I tried to stretch it out, but it wouldn’t go  away. It made me feel sad for all the severe pain dad tried to champion through for the last years of his life. Second, while I was stretching my shoulder outside the restaurant, our waiter came out and sat next to me. I believe he was done with work for the night. He is a cute 18-year-old kid from the Ukraine. He recognized us from Wendy’s where he used to work. Yes, we do love feeding our whole family for $8 now and again. Anyhow, he’s moved up to work at the Mexican joint. He got off his bike and asked if he could sit with me. We talked about him and his sister being adopted three years ago from an orphanage in the Ukraine. He is such a positive kid. He talked about how he loved the orphanage because his caretaker was such a sweet caring lady. We discussed his pending career choices and his educational aspirations. I sat thinking about you and dad: how you conditioned me to make friends in the most unlikely of places. Guess what? His name was John! Anyhow, ten minutes later LG came out and asked if I wanted to go home. OOPS. When I got back inside, he had eaten his whole meal. As I apologized, and continued rubbing out my pain in my arm, I looked at the avocado on my plate and started tearing up.  Reason #3 Then I got sad because my shoulder hurt so bad, I had only drank 1/8th of my $4 soda. Then I looked at the drink menu, and tried to pick out dad’s favorite. I knew he used to love rootbeer, but I couldn’t think of what he would drink now if he were still alive. I think he would ask for coke in the hospital. Well, if they didn’t have v-8. My tears turned into a burst dam at reason #4. That’s when it got real awkward. Poor LG. He is such a saint.  How I love him, just like you love dad.

Remember how dad used to always ask waitresses to bring him a pitcher of water. They always thought he was joking, but he never was. I laughed when we were down at Brennon’s wedding. We had been outside the temple for about an hour in the heat of the sun, and when we got to the restaurant, we were all parched.  I asked for a pitcher of water, and the waiter thought I was joking. I wasn’t joking. He brought us all  two glasses instead of a pitcher. He still had to refill mine twice.

Oh mom, I wish you lived closer, and I wish I had more time on my hands. I just love you. I want to spend every waking moment with you before you are gone too. How I wish I would have spent more time with dad in the last five years since we moved back to Utah.

So, I must go to do homework now. I still have a whole book to read and two papers to write. I’ve been trying to get to it all day. It’s a holiday, and after cooking breakfast,  cleaning house,  calendaring out the upcoming crazy week (with three people working and two cars), paying school fees ($500!!), doing some laundry, and making  final preparations for my first ESL class tomorrow (I’m a teacher!!! Can you believe it?), I am just now sitting down to do homework. Of course, I just used the last half hour warming up my writing-skills with this letter. Oh, and that sentence before the last was such a run-on. The best thing about English is that you can break the rules. I think that is why I love it so much. I’m a rule-breaker, just like my dad. WHY CAN’T THEY JUST BRING A PITCHER OF WATER?!?! I’m breaking a true cardinal rule by publishing this without even checking for errors.

Anyhow, I’ll leave you for the week with the memory I don’t want to forget at the DI on Saturday. I’m looking through the shoes, and the piano music hits my ear from the other side of the store. It’s an old-timey piano version of a hymn. I can’t remember which. My body walks toward it. The piano player was a beautiful elderly Polynesian woman. I watched her in awe. How grateful I was for the moment of serenity. She reminded my of Sister Cabacungan. Her dress was a white polynesian style with large-print blue orchid flowers. I thought that dad must be getting a very similar concert on the other side. And as I peeled myself away, she ended her first song. You’ll never guess what the second one that she played was. HOW GREAT THOU ART. It was like a sign from dad telling me that my idea was true. I thought of the lyrics, and one tear ran down my cheek. I will never hear that song again without thinking of dad, especially at the part: “and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.”  How I wish we recorded dad whistling like the birds!

A few minutes later, that teenage kid took over. You went to thank him for playing such uplifting songs. Then you and I went back to the shoe racks. And, then he played one of my most favorite songs. I looked it up on my phone so you  could hear the words. We both had a good bawl right there in the aisle. It felt really good to cry with you.

I’ll include the words here for you to read. They are just so perfect! I wish you could get on your computer and hit the link that I am including in my blog post, so you could listen again any time you need to cry. I’m watching it now, having myself a good cleanse before getting back to homework. The celtic sound is so heavenly. I love you mom. I love you so much.

In the quiet misty morning
When the moon has gone to bed,
When the sparrows stop their singing
And the sky is clear and red,
When the summer’s ceased its gleaming
When the corn is past its prime,
When adventure’s lost its meaning –
I’ll be homeward bound in time

Bind me not to the pasture
Chain me not to the plow
Set me free to find my calling
And I’ll return to you somehow

If you find it’s me you’re missing
If you’re hoping I’ll return,
To your thoughts I’ll soon be listening,
And in the road I’ll stop and turn

Then the wind will set me racing
As my journey nears its end
And the path I’ll be retracing
When I’m homeward bound again

Bind me not to the pasture
Chain me not to the plow
Set me free to find my calling
And I’ll return to you somehow
(softly)
In the quiet misty morning
When the moon has gone to bed,
When the sparrows stop their singing
I’ll be homeward bound again.

Dear Mom

Because we are friends on different social media platforms, a lot of you already know that my dad passed away unexpectedly last week. He had been sick, but none of us saw his death as happening so soon. He had an illness that they could never figure out, a broken back, and eventually went septic, and died of cardiac arrest.

Those of you who know me, know how much I loved and adored my dad. I try to be just like him because he is truly a superhero to me. Even better than Superman because Superman can’t jimmy-rig stuff or listen to you and give you sound advice.

Here, you can find the obituary I wrote for my dad. I’m pasting it in here, in case the link at Pine View Mortuary ever fails.

Richard Carroll Wills of St. George, Utah, was born on August 10, 1943 in Oakland, California to Nellie Irene Moody and Ray Orlin Munkers. His adoptive father was Wesley Nelson Wills. He was the second of three children to Nellie. Although every facet of his childhood was difficult, the resilience it required created a man with highest character and near superhuman strength.

While growing up on a dairy farm in Elk Grove, California, Rick’s oldest brother, Bill, was always praised for his intellect, so Rick decided he would be the hardest working. His momentum never stopped until his heart finally had nothing left to give. He died of cardiac arrest at 2:50 a.m. on August 25, 2016. Rick’s broken back was the last shred of physical evidence that he truly gave everything he could in service of his fellowman. God has called him home to get some rest, but one of Rick’s first questions upon arrival will most likely be, “Where can I start building a home?” He’ll work on it piece by piece, in between whatever else is needed, just as he did while serving as a Mormon Bishop in Carlsbad, California, where he and his wife raised their children.

Rick met his wife of 52 years, Sharon Elaine Hutcheson, in grade school and she became his high-school sweetheart and greatest love. No man ever possessed greater respect and honor for the mother of his children. They were wed in St. John’s Lutheran church in Sacramento, California, on November 18, 1963 and were later sealed for time and all eternity in the Oakland, California LDS temple.

Rick and Sharon knew from their start together that there were only two secrets of a happy life. First: love. They both have a tremendous knowledge of the love of God. Second: family. Their greatest newlywed desire was to have a large family, and it grew into their fullness of joy. They were never happier together than when they were surrounded by their 7 children, 38 grandchildren, and thousands of adopted children, for they loved all children like their own.

Rick started his adult life as a football player at Sacramento City College, but duty-bound, he joined the Marine Corps to serve in Vietnam as a crypto-typist. Later Rick worked as a California Highway Patrolman, a carpenter/foreman/general contractor, and ended his career in facilities management.  Rick normally held two or three jobs to provide for his large family.

There wasn’t anything he couldn’t fix with a stick of bubble gum and some duct tape. Known affectionately to his children as “McGyver,” Rick was a jack-of-all-trades, and master of most.

Rick is survived by his wife Sharon and their children: Erick Wills (Cami), Adam Wills (Annette), Shannon Nelson (Brett), Alice Gold (LeGrand), Sarah Bartlett (Josh), David Wills (Brooke), and Renee Sorenson (Erik), 38 grandchildren, as well as his brother Bill Wills (Jonnie), his sister Marilyn Kirkelie, Sharon’s brother Danny Hutcheson, sister Shirley Clukey (Dale) and many nieces and nephews.  We expect he will be greeted on the other side by his grandson Braxton Wills, his parents, and his in-laws, John and Dorothy Hutcheson.

Services will be held Monday, August 29, 2016 at 11 a.m. at the Cotton Acres LDS chapel 2583 East 350 North, St. George, Utah 84790. Viewing at 9:30 a.m. prior to services.

In lieu of flowers, please consider passing on Dad’s legacy. Hug your neighbor. Love on some gang-members. Stop and help someone with their broken-down car. Look past people’s flaws. Listen and validate someone who is angry or sad. Give a stranger the shirt off your back. Compliment a co-worker on a job well done. Serve in your church. Mentor a child. Save a life. Always keep gum in your briefcase for your kids, and keep a camera handy to capture treasured moments. Adore your wife. Giving money is good, but more noble is giving of oneself.

Honoring his Creator by the way he lived was Rick’s greatest legacy.

Well, I want to say more about my dad here, and I’ve been searching for the right picture to share, but I can’t take much more time right now. Here is the last picture I took of my parents together when I helped out with hospital duty a few weeks ago. Even though dad was really sick, he still had that twinkle in his eye. It’s like a cross between Santa Claus and what I imagine is the light in the eyes of Jesus Christ.

IMG_20160801_234521563

I was really inconvenienced with this hospital stay as I had to cancel our only planned family vacation this summer. It turned out to be the  BEST blessing of my entire life. And, I believe my dad is happy with the way it turned out, as his whole life was one inconvenient service  after another resulting in wonderful relationships and a lot of joy.

Anyhow, I could talk a lot more about my dad, but I will save that for later. Right now, I am mostly worried for my mom. My parents were married for 52 years, and my mom will be lost without my dad. My mom isn’t so good at technology.  In fact, my dad used to print off my blog posts and take them home for her to read. So, in the last 12 hours I decided that it’s my turn to take over that torch. My plan is to try and write my mom letters and mail them as often as possible. Here is my first letter.

Dear Mom,

Oh how I HATED to leave you yesterday. I cried the whole way home. My whole body was shaking with longing for you and dad. I had to pull it together for the last 40 minutes of the drive because LG just could not drive one more second.

As I cried and convulsed in the front seat of the van clutching a pillow, LG would reach over and rub my shoulder or hold my hand. I found myself squeezing his fingers like they were the only lifeline out of the drowning going on in my heart.  And then I would cry harder thinking about you not having dad’s hand to hold anymore. I had to stop the thought from repeating over and over.

I forced my mind into a happier region. You on Sunday night, telling me and Shannon, Sarah, Renee, and Adam that it wouldn’t be the sex you would ever miss. It would be the touch of dad’s hand on your knee when he knew you were scared. The kiss on your forehead just to tell you he loved you. Him holding your hand. And I thought about how right you were. How much just a touch of a hand means. I closed my eyes and tried to calm my breaths. I thought of all the times dad held your hand and all the times he will do it again. I thought about him holding my hand and helping me through the mud in Alaska.

At one point, my hand felt small like I was eight years old again, and LG’s hand felt like the exact same size as dad’s, except LG’s was soft compared to dad’s, always rough. I reminisced that our family was sitting on the front pew  at church.  Dad always played a game to calm my boredom. He would let me bite down on his hand as hard as I could muster. No matter how much muscle I could amass from my jaw, he would never even flinch. His skin always tasted like a mixture of engine oil and Old Spice.

Oh, mom. How lucky we were to have dad! He was the best man who ever lived. He just was. I know you were what created him into the gentle kind soul he was. His work ethic was always his own, but as we all know, dad had to learn to temper his aggression. Just like he taught me to do with biting his hand. The last time I ever saw dad get upset was at Brett in 2008. I’d say that argument may have been one of dad’s greatest regrets. I know he loved Brett, but of course he loved Shannon more. I never saw dad ever get angry after that. I think it is safe to say that he conquered his last flaw way before he died.

How we are going to miss dad. How we are all going to miss him, but of course, you will miss him most. I hope you can close your eyes and feel him holding your hand and reenact his kiss on your forehead because if I know anything it is that dad will never leave you comfortless. He was such a wonderful husband. What a lucky lady you have been. I know that your last breath on this earth will be the one you take while reaching for dad’s hand to pull you over to the other side with him. As much as I don’t want that to happen, I will be so happy to think of you two together again. Right now, you better keep thinking happy thoughts because selfishly I want to keep you around for awhile.

I love you, mom. I have to get to my homework right now, and the million other household duties that you know all too well. I’m going to try and write you at least once a week, and call you more often than that. I’m so glad our relationship is as good as it is. You’ve always had my best interest at heart, but like dad did, I am still learning how to let go of my stubborn ways.

My kids loved the stories about dad that were told at the funeral. They especially loved the bus and the hole in the backyard. I’m so glad they know dad as well as they do. On the way to the cemetery yesterday we passed by the Dixie football stadium. Abigail remembered  you and dad coming to see her at her track meet. She was laughing about the pink hat dad had  found at Wal-mart and how he passed out water bottles to her whole team. What I would give to have a memory like that with Grandpa John.

Hang in there, mom.

2 Timothy 1:7

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.