Thursday, January 5, 2017

Remembering the blessing of my brother --

 
Lessons learned in mourning with those that mourn


The anniversary of my brother's accident and passing (January 3 - January 5, 2013) has me contemplating just how much I miss him (and why) .... I hope my sister-in-law will forgive my sharing some of the more deeply personal reasons I have mourned so much today.

I've been remembering Lauren's funeral (January 2, 2010) and the days surrounding it.  I've remembered the challenges of planning and preparing in a few short days to celebrate her life in the most meaningful ways before sending my son back to college, a daughter back to high school, and one to return to her mission in Thailand ... and dealing with everyone's opinions and parameters of how I should shoulder this new hollowness of soul that was mine to bear.

As hard as it is to lose a child, and to bury one, which is beyond the comprehension of anyone who has not had to endure it -- there is the burden of complex societal "norms" and "expectations" that those on the "outside" create for those left with a new "normal" far outside of society's comfort zone.  The burden of grief is enough, without the criticism or skepticism of those who would define for the grieving what is or is not acceptable.

We experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly during those times. Sometimes as I remember, the tears that fall are excruciatingly painful ones.  Not out of judgment or resentment, just the true hurt that can be inflicted by insensitivities of those who don't have your best interest at heart.  

But, sometimes the tears that fall are the sweetest sensations of love that overflow from a very grateful heart. Those are the memories that scoop me up after the others knock me around for a bit. Those are the ones that testify of a Savior who showers Tender Mercies on the darkest and stormiest of times.  And, a Father in Heaven who is ever mindful.

As I think back to our experience, I remember . . . .

There was a man in our neighborhood who shoveled our driveway every day from the day she died until after her funeral. He did so quietly, early every morning so that there would be no concern for us to remove snow for safety or convenience.  (We have a VERY long driveway.)  We had never asked and he never pointed it out ... I just noticed him outside my window. But, he saw the need and met it.  Jay's kindness will not be forgotten.

I remember Jen re-wrapping hundreds of lollipop's (one of her nicknames) with cow printed paper (her favorite collectible) to give to everyone who came to the funeral.  She also made gold Childhood Cancer ribbons for people to wear for the day.

I remember sweet Jessica who sang so willingly and so beautifully for the funeral (no small task) accompanied by her mother Karen who had to buy a plane ticket to come to Utah and stepped in without having to be acknowledged to provide music before and after the service. 

Mary ... oh dear Mary and my brother Scott.  The subject of another addition to the blog.

Ahhh ... the beauty of real friends.  We were blessed.  

While that isn't all -- my heart (especially today) turns to my dear older brother Thayne and his remarkable family. We aren't just talking about being pall bearers, helping to dress Lauren - (after being the ones who purchased the burial clothing), running all kinds of errands before and after the funeral, taking all of the pictures at the funeral, getting our Christmas Cards out for us that year between her passing and the funeral (to a re-created list {by them} after a computer meltdown) of over 500 that needed to be stamped and stuffed with 3 different items and included about 1200 labels to be printed and applied) . . . I could go on and on about the Festival of Trees tree, the meals they brought, the help with the video, the help procuring the grave site, the love and friendship they offered to my family throughout a very lonely ordeal when others didn't stay . . .

Yep, they were all that. On the morning Lauren passed away, once our family kind of caught our breath momentarily, we called two brothers and their wives ... Scott and Mary, Thayne and Deaun. These were the only people we were ready to share with at the time.  They kept it close and didn't break that confidence.

They came running as fast as they could and wept with us.  

While we went to the mortuary, they cleaned our home, including removing the hospital bed, replacing all the furniture around it, and Thayne took all of the medications to the police department for safe disposal.  No one could have been more kind and loving than these people.

Thayne and Deaun and their family at Lauren's funeral

Two years earlier, I had received the call from them that our mother had passed away.  She was being cared for by them in their home, and I had the opportunity to run to her side before the mortuary came to take her away.  Deaun went with me to dress my mother so I didn't have to be alone.   The day we buried my mother was the day we found out Lauren's cancer had recurred the first time and after their caregiving of my mother, they didn't hesitate to do whatever it took to support us in the next round of our battle ... Again, no one could have been more kind and loving than these people. 

Three years after Lauren's passing, the day after I had been remembering her funeral, I received a call that an unforgiving accident would be taking the life of my brother and I was being given the opportunity to go and give him a kiss goodbye.  I went as fast as I could to say that temporary goodbye ... and to weep with his wife and children who had wept with me.  Years of their love and support flooded my mind as I had no idea what to say in the face of such a tragedy. Being 14 years older than me, this brother had even been a major care-giver to me as a child, besides the comfort he had given me as an adult.  I was overwhelmed to lose the first of my seven siblings, especially since he and his wife had been at every major event of my life and a critical part of my comfort . . . the grief was unbearable.  But, there's was even more than mine and I knew it.

Just because I had lost my parents, my daughter, and now a brother, I didn't know the loss of a husband.  This dear, dear friend/sister-in-law meant the world to me and I loved her dearly ... and even after experiencing their masterful love and support -- I had NO idea what to say or even what to do.  I was so blessed to have her relieve my grief -- and now I needed to find a way to relieve hers.  I suppose we all 'take turns.'  It is one of the great tragedies of grief ... that it is so difficult for those of us required to shoulder it ... to understand what to say or do.  But, it is also, I believe, one of the great lessons of life -- to love one another.  It IS what we have to offer.  While some (like these relatives of mine) know better how to express it than others (including me) ... it is the key to avoiding unnecessary pain in these times of trial.


All I knew to do was to try and be there for them too ... and take photos in the blizzard on the day of the funeral. :-) 




And, I'll do my best to stay by her and not criticize how, when, or why she mourns -- just like she always has for me.

A few years ago, I participated with a few of my thoughts for a video for a woman who was grieving the loss of her son and had compiled a book on grief.  I had no idea why I was chosen or what to say, but wound up being part of a group of people who talked about some of their perspective on loss, based on their experience.  Every once in awhile, like today as I mourn again the loss of my dear brother and give thanks for the deep love of him that causes that mourning, I turn on this video and listen again to the thoughts we all shared in our grief to remind myself how blessed I am to have had those I love and been loved in return to grieve with and for . . .


I have friends who during this 2016 Christmas season have lost their father, one who lost their mother, one who lost her dear husband, one who lost his dear wife, a sweet friend who lost her own life, and one who lost her dear son. They come from various aspects of my life, including my loss of Lauren -- who was one of her favorite nurses.  I share not only the loss, but the heartache of grief in a society that doesn't want to deal with it.  Everyone has someone to comfort or cheer ... or simply mourn with.

Grief is all around us, loss is a part of living and the great price of loving. While grief is a privilege of those who have had tremendous love in order to experience tremendous loss, ... it is my hope that those who stand on the outside and look in, will go a little easier on the hearts of those on the inside looking out.  And today, while I deeply miss this kind-hearted, loving older brother gone too soon, ... I give great thanks for those who embraced me and wept with me, and great thanks for those I have the opportunity to embrace and weep with in their own loss . . .



Thursday, December 29, 2016

Incomplete does not equal empty


December 29, 2016 ...

Yes, still grieving.  It doesn't go away.  It shouldn't go away.  My grief will be a life-long experience because my love for my child, gone way too soon, is also a life-long experience.  In fact, it is an eternal one.  So, it is now an integral part of me.

I am not incapacitated by grief ... I am invigorated by it.  It has become a trusted friend.  I don't wallow in it, rather I embrace it and want to do something meaningful with it.

Another year's journey ... 365 days orbit around the sun.  And we are back to the emotional milestone.  Another tick mark in how many years since Lauren slipped through our fingers, returning to the God who gave her life.

And so, reflection begins again in earnest, wondering what we have done with the time, and remembering both the beautiful and the horrific about cancer and its integral (and inescapable) part of our family's story.  It isn't that I don't think about her every single day still.  I do.  Smiles and tears specifically as a result of those thoughts are still a regular and very common occurrence.  I don't wait until this anniversary to ponder.  But, the anniversary and the season it comes in (which she adored) always brings around a different kind of searching of the soul and its proximity to the God I still find peace in worshipping, praising, and loving ... with all of my broken heart.  And, there is still a nagging in my soul to write, to paint, to return to something I knew before in order that I can do my best to preserve and portray all the abundant evidences of His Grace and Tender Mercies that I know because of this experience

Since my life was shattered burying a precious child, I've struggled to sift through all the pieces of who I used to be, to retrieve what was good about me, and shed what was not.  Some of the pieces remain in a neutral category, and some which I know should be permanently affixed or discarded still elude me.  I find that the bad pieces are sneaky and rather sticky, while the good pieces and the beautiful ones I am still aspiring to are very, very slippery.  In other words, if I find the good ones, they are hard to pick up again; but as I try, I note that some bad ones have found their way back to me, unaware.  I wonder if the process will ever be complete, or if this "recovery process", like grief itself, will be perpetual throughout my life.  I don't mind the reevaluation of those pieces, or the remaining "holes" that cannot be replaced ... they are the distinct reality that by this experience, I am, and will remain so throughout my life, unbearably incomplete.  These holes are cherished, in reality, because they represent that she is missing from me.  They also represent that there is still that which surrounds the "holes" ... meaning that incomplete does not equal empty.  I am grateful for the "holes", and still searching/sifting for the pieces worth keeping to surround them.

And, as I sift through those broken pieces, I see true elements of great joy in my life.  As I sift through those broken pieces, the nagging for my soul to record or somehow express the great joy, the Grace and Tender Mercies I know through my experience, continues ...

I haven't painted in years now, nor have I written anything substantial.  Blank screens, papers, and canvases have become haunting, and I have grown very weary of the phrase "I used to ..." but, I am still sifting and trying to rediscover the personal purpose and meaning after.  The last painting I did was a failed effort to paint her as I believe she looks now, holding our firstborn grandson with the a bow and a tag that said "MOST!"  (Lauren loved to play the "I love you, I love you more" game ... and she was good at it.  Never would admit defeat.)  It was the perfect idea -- except I couldn't pull it off.  It didn't express the real Lauren -- I left it unfinished, and as it has been tucked away in the basement, it has been smudged in several places.


My wise art teacher told me it was time to paint something 'less emotional' to me.  She asked me to paint a landscape, a flower, a tree ... something I had enjoyed enough to photograph -- anything that wasn't so excruciating.  I expressed to her that I wasn't interested in painting something less meaningful to me and wasn't capable of painting that which was so profoundly meaningful to me.  She kindly begged and gently encouraged.  I diligently looked for a photo that I had taken that "meant" something to me without a person (especially Lauren) in it.  I didn't find anything that spoke to me.  I didn't return to class.


Lauren's unfinished painting (nearly complete, but not quite) was finished by
a great friend and artist Judy Cooley (seriously, google her --)
and donated to some of her best friends at Primary Children's Hospital.
Her greatest painting (which she finished during excruciating treatment)
is still displayed at PCH every Sunday outside of services
and portrays who Lauren really is.  There isn't a match or a replacement for it.


The last writing I really attempted was a failed effort to finish the book she had started.  The first lines of her book expressed perfectly who she is and how she lived.  And, it was another claim of victory to all of us who opposed her in her "love you most" game.

"I was born in Fort Collins, Colorado on May 3, 1994 to the coolest family ever.  We've been arguing over who loves who most ever since I could talk and one day they'll realize that I have always been the winner and I will always be the winner.  It's just the way it is.  I love them more than all the drops of water falling from the sky and drops of water in all bodies of water.  My love is more than infinity, more than every blade of grass or grain of sand, more than Mickey loves Minnie and Pooh loves honey.  They are the best family any one could ever ask for.  They love me and care for me.  They watch over me and worry about me.  They support me and make me feel better.  I always have one of them with me and I can always count on them to say something to make me feel better, laugh together at stupid jokes, or simply hang out together in good times and in bad ones too.  They do love me and I am lucky.  I just love them more."

She was (is) witty and clever, and I was out-geniused by her every minute of every day.  Why in the world I thought that adoring her was enough to represent her is beyond me.  The elements of it that I wrote for her are painful - and practically unreadable, while the elements she wrote for herself are optimistic and upbeat.  With failure now part of those 'pieces' and haunting me every time I think of it, I determined that there might come a day when I could do a "better" job and pulled the book from the website where it could be purchased and tucked it away on another painful shelf where those pieces of me are still scattered.


So, in the meantime, full of love for her, and God, and the rest of my family, I've tried to take up a few alternative hobbies that are inspired by this girl who graced my life for a short 15 years and has altered my soul for eternity.   There is still the hope that one magical day, my pieces will align into the right combination of "used to be" and "the new me" and I'll be able to stave off the bad for that which Grace has altered in me, and grief for this angel has created in me.  And, hopefully, by His Grace, I'll be able to find expression of that Grace that so fully He proffers me (and all of us) . . .

His love is everywhere ... especially when we look for it, and sometimes even more so when we don't.  But it is always there.  So, I'll keep trusting, loving, and praising the Source --- and anticipating the reunion he has promised me --

And, in her honor, I'll keep playing the "love you more" game -- pretending I can somehow play at her level . . . . 


Yet, something tells me she is still determined to be the winner
("always have been, always will be"):

  





As usual, I am in over my head ... 
And, that is where I can "Be Still and Know that He is God",
and be free to fully love and grieve in peace that surpasseth understanding.










Tuesday, May 3, 2016

It's a Cow thing!

Lauren's Cow Painting (2008 or 2009)

May 3, 2016  Happy Birthday to the girl who loves cows ....

10 years ago in 2006, life was (mainly) bliss and free from fear.  It was Lauren's 12th birthday, and the lively, enthusiastic, funny girl was consistently making a mark in the lives of all those around her.  Life was sweeeeet to her and she made it sweeeeet for us too.   We celebrated BIG, like we traditionally did in our family.  It was our way of giving thanks for bounteous blessings.

There wasn't a sign, a notion, or a minuscule inclination of what was to come for her.  It wasn't a "that won't ever happen to me" sort of thing, but not even on the radar of possibilities that her life was in danger.  It wasn't even in the realm of our thoughts.  I often tell people that at this point in my life, I didn't even know what an oncologist was.  Naivety doesn't buy you freedom from devastating reality.

And, then the world as we knew it came crashing down.  Venomous cells started multiplying without reason and without restraint and the hideous monster came like a thief in the night when we least suspected it, or knew to fight it.  The perfect, innocent, angelic young woman was thrust into a battle for her cherished, appreciated, well-loved, sweeeeet life ... 

She took it on like a warrior and I took it on sobbing in a fetal position ... but, holding on to her (for dear life), I was able to borrow courage I did not have of myself.  I am still borrowing.

One of the things we learned in the next 3 1/2 years (besides what an oncologist was and that we had the best in the world fighting with us) is that Lauren had (has) an indomitable, unsinkable spirit.  We had long noted her optimism and been blessed by her perspective which awarded us many smiles and much laughter over her short span of life, but now it was different.  Now we saw something 'fierce'  and intensely courageous behind her smile, her light-heartedness, and her contagious, quick sense of humor.  Her catch phrase "Life is sweet" gained a tag line ... "Bring it on!"  And, her collection of cows (which grew tremendously during her battle) brought on a whole new and deeper meaning.

Cows became a symbol of Lauren's perspective.  She could always (and I mean always) find beauty or humor in anything (and, I mean anything). How else could she think to re-name Chemotherapy, Che-MOO-therapy?  It is why, as a family, we continue to "collect cows".  It is, simply put, a way of trying to live her legacy ... to find beauty and/or humor where others tend not to notice.

It enhances every day of my life to 'collect cows'.  Yes, that means that the world over, I take photos of cows, and buy souvenirs with cows on them to add to the hundreds that still sit on her bedroom shelves.  But, more importantly, it means collecting new perspective and experience in making life sweeter and more cherished.  While not anywhere near her flawless execution, I've started raising my face to feel the rain fall on it, instead of bowing my head with my hands over head.  I've started noticing the silver (or better said, gold) linings, and looked for beauty or humor in situations instead of succumbing to the 'stylish' drive for disillusionment so prevalent in today's world.  I am nowhere near the level of my masterful daughter, but my perspective has changed (and is still changing) to recognize the sweetness of life and to live it to its fullest.  Most importantly, in following my angel daughter's example, I am learning to recognize and give credit (and thanks) to the One who gave us this life as well as His Son who succors us in it, whether our current experience and condition is dark or bright.

It has even encouraged me to embrace my grief, to not put away my mourning.  It has helped me to see it as an opportunity to raise my face up to feel it, rather than to hide that face in the fear of actually feeling and experiencing it.  It has encouraged me to love deeper, which creates abundance in my life I cannot contain, and increased the impact of the hole that is so much a part of me now that she lives where I cannot see or touch her.  With the gift of Lauren's perspective, even that pain (which is excruciating) can be seen as a privilege, for I could not hurt so deeply without knowing this incredible LOVE that goes beyond any of this mortal experience I wish I could rewrite another way.

I don't apologize for my tears, nor do I apologize for my smiles.  They are both a reality of my experience.

Today, like every day, I'll try to collect a few cows ... find some beauty or some humor in honor of my baby daughter who graces my life still, ... long years after she slipped through my fingers to return home before me.

Maybe you could collect some cows in her honor, too.  Find some beauty or humor and pass it on to someone else who could use the lift.  That is Living Lauren's Legacy.

Yes, Happy Birthday to my cow-noticing, cow-collecting, cow-loving girl whose halo and wings may just have cow spots on them ..... 




Monday, December 28, 2015

When life is always missing something (or someone)

December 28, 2015
Life is a gift.

Amidst chaos and heartache and sorrow in the real world, there is also beauty, blessings, mercies, and joy.

I'm no stranger to the opposition life is made up of -- pleasure and pain, happiness and disappointment, the good and the bad.  I sometimes feel I have more than my fair share of both.  But, we tend to only ask God why the pain, disappointment, and the bad come to our lives.  "When God sends us blessings, we don't ask why they were sent".  (There Can Be Miracles: The Prince of Egypt.) I'm no stranger to that either.  I am guilty of the same.  I count blessings in gratitude, but I also tend to count what I wish and plead (like crazy) that God would deliver me from.

Many like to say they are grateful for trials, for they help them to grow, to change, to become better.  I tend to see their point, but can't quite pretend that far and prefer learning without pain.  I love to grow, but I don't tend to love pain.  Intellectually I know life is comprised of both -- it is truly a part of God's plan -- but emotionally, I am spent and wish to advise Him of the importance of Him seeing things my way.  I've learned since childhood cancer stole its way into an otherwise perfect life that I am His most unnecessary advisor and am trying to resign the position.  But, I still believe somewhere deep down inside that I may just be able to come up with the perfect way to align His grand eternal plan with less suffering for me and my family. 

But, I don't tend to ask that God deliver me or heal me from the pain of losing a beautiful, bright, perfect daughter to cancer ... for while I would obliterate cancer if the grand eternal plan hinged on my perspective, the Great Creator of the Plan would have to remove my love for her, if He were to remove the pain of her illness, treatments, and death.  Love makes us vulnerable to loss, to grief, to sorrow ... but what else would we choose -- to not experience the love so we wouldn't have to experience the pain!?  Not for me.  I choose the experience of deep, significant, life-altering, eternal love.  It is a profound privilege to love so deeply that I also mourn equal to it -- even if I still wish I didn't understand the pain.  God gave me love, He gave me her, and with that comes the 'privilege' of mourning her loss.  One cannot happen without the other.

And, I find myself realizing yet again, that God's designs are greater than my ability to fathom, much less to tell Him how to write the script.

January 2009 -- 11 months before her passing

I've met an amazing group of people since Lauren took her place in Heaven with the God who gave her life.  They just come at sporadic moments along my journey -- other parents who have had the grueling, heart-breaking, cruel experience of burying a child.  They all have their own unique stories, but the sense of loss is similar enough that it is known as a "club" ... one that NO ONE wants to be part of and wouldn't wish on their worst enemies.  The circle that influences me and my story is too large to be considered the least bit comfortable, but certainly rather meaningful and comforting.  There is an enormous difference.  I've met incredible people (or re-associated with some I knew before) who can step inside my story or include me into theirs that truly enlarges my perspective on a world filled with both love and pain.  I am so grateful for their influence on my life and an enlarged perspective that blesses me on both the "good" and "bad" days of experiencing the Plan and missing Lauren.

I will mark the days of success and failure, victory and defeat, happiness and sadness, perhaps all the days of my life.  While others may believe I should "get over it" or that it is not handling it well to still be remembering; I know differently.  I know it is the unmistakable blessing of never getting over loving her.  Grief is the price of a life lived in love -- 

I remember tonight (6 years ago) as the last night she voiced her love to each of us individually before she slipped through our fingers early the following morning.  I remember that she expressed gratitude to her nurse for caring for her (how we LOVE Diane!) and was still making us laugh, even though she was in extreme pain and was deeply concerned it was time to leave us without her ... something she knew would be nearly impossible for us to do.  She was far more concerned for us than for herself.  She had not fought for herself, but for us ... and I remember.

I remember the embraces and the faces of my other children and my husband -- her two uncles and aunts who ran to our home to help pick up the pieces of our hearts ... at least those that were retrievable, and to help us take the next steps.  (How we love Thayne and Deaun, Scott and Mary!) 
I remember the light snow that fell as her daddy carried her body one more time to be taken to be prepared for burial.  I remember the nightmares that followed and still happen on occasion.  I remember the flowers, the words at the funeral, the little white flowers in her hair, the overflowing church chapel that I still can't attend for Stake Conference without losing my breath just a little.  I remember days where she has felt very nearby and days where she felt horribly absent.  Mainly, I just know a life that once was complete and is now, incomplete.  We all miss her.  Or, better said in the French language, she is missing from all of us.

I don't pass through these days without tears or a yearning that things could have been different.  I don't pretend I'll ever be "over it" and still feel a profound sense that something significant is missing when I glance around the room, in family photos, in the holidays, in family gatherings, in the quiet dark hours when I long to hear her voice say "I love you, good night" as she did every night of her brief and beautiful life.

I also don't pass through these days without the profound reminder that I only feel such excruciating pain because I know such exquisite love.  I don't pass through these days without the remembrance that God gave me a gift that will last eternally when He gave me her life and the overwhelmingly huge capacity to love that was packed into her tiny little frame and her way too brief for me mortal life.  I don't pass through these days without the gratitude that He gave His Only Begotten Son not only so that my family would be a gift that would last forever, and that death and hell would be swallowed up in his sacrifice, but that he would understand specifically, intimately, and personally what it was and always will be like to have experienced the love, life, and loss of Lauren.  He gave me hope, joy, and peace, and they can never be taken away.  He has promised me dancing for mourning and beauty for ashes -- and I know he will be true to his word.

I also remember that life is not through showing me joys and disappointments.  As long as I live, I believe I'll know more than my fair share of both, and they will be deep at both extremes.  I cannot dwell in grief, for it feels to me to be ungrateful, but I also cannot feel gratitude without a sense of grief for the loss of what I was given.  In other words, we don't journey through grief, we journey with it.  And, I'll continue to give gratitude that this family, while incomplete for now, is an eternal one who will be able to keep our promise to "always stick with (her)." 

There will always be a place for her as a part of who we are, and the joy we will feel now and eternally.  

October 9, 2015 -- Cousin Jordan's wedding



Sunday, April 5, 2015

5K!!

On Saturday, May 2, 2015, (9:00am) Lauren's sister Carlie is hosting a 5K event to honor Lauren's birthday.  As a USU senior for a service project, she hopes to be able to honor her sister and raise some funds for two worthy causes in the process.

Hope to see you there.  (Send a message if you have questions.)




Monday, March 16, 2015

Lauren's promise to Grandma Cathy

In loving memory of our Grandpa Tom and Grandma Cathy

When Tom was killed tragically in a car accident in July, 2013, we wondered for our dear Cathy who would now be without his constant care for her.  She did too.

She told me a sacred story that I will cherish forever.  I believe her with all of my heart.


The nights following his accident were overwhelming and daunting.  She felt the weight of the darkness as she couldn't sleep and the inevitable anxiety of separation.  She said that as she lay in bed, her closet light came on .... and an angel .... our Lauren (whom she loves deeply) .... came to her and calmed her fears.  "Lauren told me she was with Tom and that he was all right."  "She told me not to worry, and that when my time came, she would be there with me too."  And, each of the precious times I talked to her after that day, she reminded me that she wasn't afraid to die -- that she knew Lauren would be with her and Tom would be waiting for her.  She liked to remind me that Lauren had "promised" ... and it always made her smile .... and not fear her time.

When the call came from Cathy's daughter and granddaughter that the "time" had come and they were watching and waiting over her bedside, I longed to be there too . . . . not just for Cathy who is one of the most cherished friends I will ever have, but to be where Lauren surely cared lovingly for her adopted grandmother in her transition to the world where Lauren went before.  I envy the paradise where we all see and know His promises are real.  I will have my turn, and it will be true for me as well.



There is no other image (the one at the top, shared by her granddaughter, Jenny) that I know of that could reflect the true nature and relationship of these two sweethearts .... to each other and to all of us.  These are the smiles (younger, of course) that come to me as I shed the tender tears of emotion that they have both passed on.  I will miss their sweet influence and unfettered love.  Something tells me that it won't cease.

We met these two over 20 years ago, by "chance" (this was certainly an orchestrated miracle, actually) through our travel business.  From the very beginning, we were caught unexpectedly in a huge and inescapable embrace that has given us years of love and joy that we give great thanks for.  They embraced us as their own and we have never felt or experienced differently ... and perhaps even forget at times that we aren't actually "related", although I can still feel Cathy's chastisement if I suggest we aren't.  The last time Carlie spoke to her, she made her promise to remember that she was HER granddaughter!  These two just weren't ordinary in any way .... and our lives are extremely blessed by it.

We will miss them.



(I love Lauren's painting hanging on the wall of Tom and Cathy's house behind David's head.  They loved each of us so much ... what a privilege!)

I love the thoughts of what they do now -- free of limitations mortality subjects us to.  I wonder if there is Zucchini bread and Apple Raisin bread -- for that was a little portion of our taste of heaven here.  She was ready to meet her Maker .... maybe they stopped by her freezer for a loaf on their way into Paradise.


God be thanked for the indescribable blessing of relationships that beautify our life here and will continue throughout the eternities .... for mortal angels who grace our lives with love who become immortal ones who will continue with us on our journey.  God be thanked for the love our family experienced in the embrace of Tom and Cathy ... our parents, our grandparents, our friends.

We love you, sweet Cathy.  I hear you say now, as you always did here ... "I'm ok, I'm ok."  I trust more deeply because I knew you.  You are in His arms that you trusted all of your life.  God (and Tom and Lauren) be with you 'til we meet again.





Monday, December 29, 2014

A letter from Lauren

(This photo was taken in January 2009 at the grave of her adored Great Uncle
Vergil - who was similar to a grandfather to Lauren.  The cancer had returned
for the third time, which she would achieve remission from, but die from the
fourth onset by the end of that same year.  I dearly loved the feeling of her on my
 shoulder (as I experienced much of during her illness and treatments) - and miss it.
My painfully swollen eyes and the subsequent smile on my face speaks volumes
about what my heroes (my family) could cause in me at the same time. 


As part of a school assignment after the election of 2008, Lauren's 9th grade geography teacher had the students write letters to themselves, talking about current events and predicting what life would be like in November of 2014 when the letters would arrive back in the mail to these students.  I would suppose that the letters were laughable and even dismissed easily for most of the students and their parents.  For the parents of this particular student who passed away in December 2009, the handwritten letter from Lauren to Lauren arriving unannounced in the mail -- turned the world upside down ... again ... 

Lauren's insights into the world of junior high school, political perspective and consequences of elections, and her own little portion of the world at large were amazing.  She was pretty much spot on and it's unfortunate that she couldn't have had a public voice for her thoughts and concerns.  Even the "impact" she hoped her life would have is remarkable.  For, even though she has passed away, her predictions about her "life" still have many of the same affects that they would have if cancer hadn't robbed her of a longer time to live out her dreams and anticipations.

Lauren couldn't have known then that had she lived, she would have actually just returned from a mission, not been preparing for one, as she didn't know the age for young women would change from 21 to 19.  She desired to serve .... and one can say she was certainly called, she has just been serving for five years, instead of 18 months, and my repeated pleas to her Mission President for weekly e-mails or twice a year Skype like all of my other missionaries had, have still not been responded to as I have hoped.  :-)  She anticipated a college study and career in medical research, although she could not have understood the impact and contributions her repeated remissions would have in the research world that would stretch beyond what any career could have likely contributed.  Her life was indeed, dedicated to making a difference in that world to many who will never meet her or know her name, or see her handwriting that expressed her wish to alter their lives for the better.

There was so much more to the letter.  She included what she was asking for for Christmas (yes, cows were on the list) and what she was grateful for (yes, cows were on the list.)  Her humor was apparent, her hopes for a full life of love and laughter, and her unique perspective too.  It was a great blessing to see this hopeful, spirited, grateful young girl's words from her heart in her own hand.

(A note in the margin ... that makes me smile!)

It was also a cruel burden.  I couldn't breathe.  I dropped to the ground and sobbed in huge heaves of grief.  It at first, seemed to be a sick prank and I mourned that someone would be so thoughtless, and that I had to bear the new angst of the life she "anticipated" that she didn't get.  My despair was thick and deep and inescapable.  How I missed her and how I mourned that she (and her siblings) were deprived of her life as she envisioned it to be.  How I ached that the beautiful and sweet remission she wrote the letter during - was not to last - - that it had only been temporary.

But, so much of this life IS temporary.  Grief, pain, and mourning will all be replaced with lasting joys we cannot as of yet, comprehend.  What we do for a living, what we study in school, what our political persuasion is - - is all fleeting.  While it can feel like an eternal determination, it isn't.  It certainly wasn't for her.

We would all like to "plan" our life ... write the script, determine the "pain threshold", avoid the unpleasant experiences, and experience fulfilled wishes, satisfied dreams, and admirable success.  None of us would write an illness in to the lives of our children, or even into the children of our worst enemy.  If I could have 'predicted' or 'determined' my daughter's script, it would have been much different.  (At least the temporal wishful thinking of no illness.)

But, I couldn't have been as kind and generous as the One who wrote each of my children into my script.  I couldn't have conceived of an all-encompassing, all-inclusive, eternal and infinite Atonement and how it would deliver me (and my children) from death and hell.  I couldn't have been so kind as to make a Redeemer and Savior who comprehended the love and rejoicing as well as the pain and the sorrow of my family's life ... and who would live it with me by his own offering!!

One of the great gifts of being a believer in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the opportunity to bless a baby to give it a name, and an 'invitation' to some of the greater (and more lasting) joys of life.  Lauren was one such baby, with a very loving father who poured out his soul to God as he asked for her to know lasting and eternal joy.  In fact, that was pretty much all this blessing was about -- lasting and eternal things that he blessed our baby daughter with.  It was the most ideal 'script' that could have been written, given the reality that she was susceptible to all of the hardships of life, including disease, as part of God's eternal plan for His children.

(Lauren's blessing day ... July 10, 1994)

One very important line came from that blessing in which God was asked by Lauren's father to bless Lauren with a "desire early in her life to know her Savior, and know of His sacrifice for her that opened up eternal possibilities (for her)" .... What more could be asked of any life ... to know the eternal nature of the Savior's sacrifice, and to know that it is personal!!!?

This, Lauren did know most of all!  This was always a part of her experience, and a part of her anticipation.  This, above all other things, is the most fulfilled dream of all and the sweetest of satisfied wishes.  If we could have had just one wish .... it would have had to have been that one.

The angst I felt at the letter from Lauren's school assignment 6 years ago drew me back to the real blessings that were asked for her life and the real promises that were made to her.  She wasn't promised a life free from suffering, or a life free from disease and death ... but she was promised a Savior - that she could (and did) know personally, and he followed through on his promises.

We couldn't have known the sorrow and the joy that would make that the most profound and sacred of the wishes we could make for any of our children, despite whether we look back, live only for this moment, or dream off into the future.

On this 29th day of December, the 5th anniversary of her passing, I mourn her, yearn for her, ache for her, and rejoice that she finished her course, firm in the faith of her "Best, Heavenly Friend" (as she called him) who assures that I will see her again and my mourning will be exchanged for dancing.

May she dance on in the peace and light she brought to us in her testimony of HIM.