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.









Saturday, August 23, 2014

The difference of ONE

Betty Petersen
1927 - 2014


I attended the funeral today of one of Lauren's closest friends.  It is causing me to ponder on this friend and the difference of one whether "added" or "subtracted."

Betty and Lauren never swapped stories of boyfriends, ate lunch, did homework, or commented and laughed about their science teacher like "typical friends" do.  They never spent hours on the phone or texted a single time.  In fact, Lauren and Betty didn't actually really "meet" until the Carnival celebrating Lauren's first remission.  But, Betty was a close and doting friend.  She had been attentive to Lauren's story and Lauren's needs all throughout her first battle and remission, ... as she would be during her second battle and remission, her third, and ultimately the fourth that ended Lauren's life at 15 1/2.  Cards, gifts, treats, projects to disrupt boredom, and hand-sewn scarves (in every color, pattern, and print known to holidays, seasons, and fashion) to cover Lauren's bald head poured into our home over the 3 1/2 year struggle to defeat cancer .... all at the hands AND HEART of a remarkable friend, Betty - - 

Betty and Lauren became friends, not because of similar life circumstances, or fondness the way many of our friendships began.  It simply began because Betty chose to make it begin.  Through a small association Betty had with us as Lauren's parents 20 years earlier, she heard about Lauren's story and came 'running' (on her crutches) to try to lighten her burden (and ours).  The evidence of her thoughtfulness was apparent all over our home, and most of the scarves she sewed for Lauren (although deeply cherished) were donated to people whose burden Lauren wished to lighten.  Everything we could re-gift was re-gifted and I'll never forget when Lauren sent off the last box of scarves to Primary Children's Medical Center, the name she put on the card was not "Lauren" but "from your friend, Betty Petersen."  Lauren and Betty, although over 60 years different in age, and having no common life experiences, shared the desire to "bear one another's burdens."

I never ceased to marvel at the gifts that would come to us (through Betty's sister Renee who did plenty of serving of her own) even though I came to expect the packages because I knew well enough, the intentions of these two sisters.  Still, I wondered how new Christmas scarves and cross stitch patterns and stacks of $2 bills kept coming after most others would have long since 'lost interest.'  Betty remained Lauren's friend through thick and through thin and mourned deeply when she passed away.

Betty's life had not been easy.  In fact, she had health issues since she was seven years old.  She never had children and never married.  And, though she may have felt otherwise, she made a HUGE difference, especially to a 15 year old dying from cancer that she had met only once, but provided support on a level so very unique to this beautiful woman and her desire to make a difference.  Adding her "one" to our life was exponentially profound, and having that "one" subtracted made a much bigger impact than the amount of interaction or her tiny little frame would suggest in her absence.  We mourn her passing from the exponentially profound impact she had on our family .... which is to say we mourn deeply this great woman who made a sweet and significant difference in our world.  Adding her made a significant difference, so subtracting her did too.  When I heard that she had passed away, I wept .... 

But, like her other friends and family who were touched by her life, I felt happy for her ... and celebrate that she is free of the limitations of her physical body.  And, I can't help but think of the reality that she has many friends who waited to greet her, like my Lauren -- who was likely reunited with a 'forever' friend that she has known for much longer than any of us can imagine.  And, while most life-circumstances bore no similarity, I couldn't help cry just a little (or better said: a lot) that through the promised healing of the Savior, each of these angels has shed crutches they will never need again.

In loving tribute to our sweet friend Betty and to any others who are like her or aspire to be like her ... to reach out even to perfect strangers in a manner of sharing a burden, to be Christ-like and charitable, to mourn with those that mourn ... we give thanks that our lives crossed her path and we were able to see a little more of heaven (and the CEO thereof) through her and the difference she made in our lives.

Dance in peace and joy.  (Psalms 30:11)


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July 1, 8 years ago


July 1, 2006:

The day the battle ensued.

One of those things every parent dreads and hopes won't happen in their lifetime ... a 'private meeting' with the head doctor of the Emergency Room of a local Children's hospital in a conference room where you are given the terrible news ... "your child has a tumor."  Our world turned upside down in that fateful moment.  We would never again be quite the same.

We had been anxious and growing frantic as Lauren's condition had worsened, but no tests were giving an 'answer' to her pain, declining health, and dramatic weight loss she was exhibiting.  We had been in and out of doctors offices for weeks, but until that CT scan showed the vicious beast growing inside of her we couldn't have imagined the deep and real fear that we would now become intimately familiar with.  We simply didn't have any idea it could happen to us.  And, as we would learn over the next years as we struggled, won, recurred, won again, recurred, etc., there was never a 'reason' why it would happen to her.  No logic, no common sense, no fathomable notion would have suggested how something so vial found its way into something (or someone) so perfect and less likely to suffer from cancer.

But, cancer was ours, whether it made sense or not.  It crept into our lives like a thief in the night and it left a heartache that will not heal, for it cut her life short way before we were ready to let go.  We know we never would have been ready to let go, no matter how long we had to fight for her life.  She was just worth every bit of anything we were required to give to the battle.

Fighting was a privilege, for Lauren was (and is) a privilege beyond our comprehension.  She still fills our life with smiles and laughter we could not know without her, while her absence also fills our life with tears that do not run out or dry up and emptiness that can't possibly be filled.  I laugh and cry most every day, but no day seems to inspire the same sorrow as the day the cancer was diagnosed and there was no 'rewind' button to prevent the tragedy.  July 1 will always be a challenge for me as I contemplate all of the regrets, the fatigue, the bitterness, the difficulties, the sadness, and the heartache of seeing her have to endure the illness, the treatments, the side-effects, the loneliness, winning only to lose again, and to have the cancer finally one day stop her heart from beating.  I hated what she had to go through and I do not like the memories that accompany this day, but through the tears, I will always give thanks that her 15 mortal years were ours and her eternity will be too.

The beauty of a 'forever family' is all the more deep, more profound, and more significant when someone such an enormous part of everything you are is already in heaven ahead of you.

I will also give thanks for the friends it brought into our lives.  I still give thanks to a loving Heavenly Father for Dr. Lemons, Diane, Stephanie, Tiffany, Michelle, Kelli, Carrie, Amy, Mindy, Dr. Lenny Wexler, and many others who stood by her side and helped give her reasons to fight, to be brave, and most importantly for her, to laugh.

If I could bypass cancer, I would.  If I could erase July 1, 2006 from my life and hers, I would.  But, I would sign up for any of it again for the privilege of Lauren and her siblings and father .  .  .  . loving this deeply is truly worth all the heartache and sorrow that comes with it.

God please bless those who suffer, those who fight, those who win through life or win through death, those who care for, those who research, those who fund, those who study, those who serve, those who care for, and those who have to watch so helplessly from the sidelines.  God please bless a date to be the day of the 'cure', instead of the day the battle ensued.  And, may it be soon.

In loving honor and memory.



Sunday, May 25, 2014

"Memorial Day"


In Memory ....

Another Memorial Day is upon us.  (The 24th I've trudged up this hill -- my dad's 1989 grave is nearby.) 

Another reminder of those who have gone before us .... those who have made sacrifices that not only molded and shaped their own lives, but ours as well.

Each of the cemeteries I drive by or stop at with flowers of my own to place on graves of loved ones is a sea of flags, flowers, and families gathered.  It's a beautiful sight of honor, of respect, of love, and even of loss.  Loss itself, while painful, is a privilege for it means we had something to lose in the first place.

And sometimes the gift we were given is so monumental, that the hole of loss in their absence is staggering, excruciating, and encompasses much of the life we must press forward in, regardless of our fatigue or our strength.

Yet, loss will be a part of every life ... timely or untimely.  And each of those losses deserves our honor, our respect, and our love.  Lives are lost to war, to accident, to disease, to choice.  Lives are lost to life, ... for on this earth as all are born, all will die and return to our God who gave these lives as a precious opportunity, but finite experience.  And, all, regardless of how they lived or died are welcomed into the infinite portion of existence with the open arms of the One who will trade our corruption for his incorruption and our mortality for his immortality.

And while we still dwell here on a beautiful earth (although small in comparison to what awaits us), we are susceptible, even required (if we love) to the loneliness and grief we feel for a parent, a sibling, a child .... gone before we were 'ready to let go', before we could say goodbye, before and in spite of our capability to 'live without them.'  It is the great human experience to love and be loved.  Therefore, it is also the great human experience to grieve and mourn with those who mourn.

In honor ...

And, in gratitude for the privilege that is mine in my grief.  For I grieve over goodly, loving parents; a kindly, caring brother; and an angelic, inspiring daughter who claims to love me more than I love her.  I honor a rich heritage of family who impacted my story while they lived here and continue to from beyond their graves.  I "drink from wells I did not dig" in profound and constant supply.  I live free on the shoulders of those who did not.  I make choices at the hands of those who had no choice.  And, I worship God (while I still can) openly, as a result of those who could only worship Him silently in their hearts.

Each life is a part of our own.  And, each life is worth our remembering, honoring, and experiencing the profound, painful, privileged emotion of grief.

In love ...









Sunday, May 4, 2014

In celebration of her birthday ....


May 3, 1994 -- Happily Ever After
'Lauren's ride' ...


Never a day goes by that I don't feel to cry, to laugh, to rejoice, to weep, to say "I love you, goodnight", to pray in gratitude and in grief, to simply smile -- all because I was given the privilege of being this girl's mom.

She lived her life to the fullest - - from her first mortal days through her last. There was never a dull moment or a time when there wasn't some reason she could find for us to laugh, to smile, or to just cherish the moment to be alive, to be together, or simply to be precisely where we were at that given time. We even found ourselves laughing as chemotherapy was humorously identified as "che-MOO-therapy" just to lessen OUR pain. It's who she was and who I am confident she remains to this day in a realm we don't see, but look forward to in joyful anticipation.

I love this picture - - taken from the screen when a home movie was playing and had momentarily been put on pause. It speaks volumes about her and how she viewed her life .... stained shirt, too big of a helmet, on a relatively difficult bike ride and the moment was glorious .... and she was truly happy.

Her siblings had everything to do with her humor, and her perspective that her life was worth fighting for. In fact, she credited them with why she believed that even though she had been diagnosed with a rare and deadly cancer, that she could still smile, still laugh, and still find reasons to be grateful. I'm privileged beyond words.

This sweet person left a legacy .... a legacy that happiness isn't in what you own or what you buy or what you accumulate - - it's in your family, your faith, and your friends, but mostly it is in a relationship with Deity. I don't understand why something so vial as Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma could find it's way into my precious and perfect daughter 4 hideous and excruciating times, but I know how fortunate I am that her precious earth time was ours as a family and that families are forever, which means our eternal relationship is unbreakable. For that, there are no sufficient words of adoration and gratitude for the One who makes that not only a possibility, but a reality.

Beauty for ashes, joy for mourning . . . . it will be as he said.

There are hosts of good causes to donate a little of your time and/or energy to .... and more needs than can even be enumerated. In honor of the 20th birthday of a young woman who died at 15 1/2, reach out to one of them - - - if everyone reaches out to ONE, think of how many will be aided in struggles too heavy to bear alone. If it isn't cancer research, it could be suicide prevention, hospital bills for accident victims, grief counseling centers, or being a best buddy. Living Lauren's Legacy foundation was established to do just that (as our daughter lived her life) .... support causes too important to pass by.  

And, we'll be supporting this one:

Lauren's cousin is busily preparing to raise money to support all types of cancer research at the Dana Farber Institute in Boston Massachusetts. This is where money is needed most - - - on ALL types of cancer (there are over 200 different breeds) for all ages, genders, social status, and financial need. May I encourage you to support "his ride" which he does with Lauren's name on his back, and her memory in his heart. 100% of donations reach research and 100% of us can be grateful it will. Cancer needs a cure. Reach out and make a difference. Here is a link to his fundraising page.

http://www2.pmc.org/profile/CM0354

There are many other ways to be a support or to champion the cause, whatever your heart feels to go a little deeper in offering a hand, but as you do so, please feel the gratitude of this particular family and our angel daughter whose life was meant to make a difference.