Friday, November 30, 2012

The End. But It Isn't, Really.

On Sunday, November 4, my brother went to visit my grandparents.  Grandpa had been basically unconscious for the past 3 days or so.  The continued to give him morphine because of the terrible pain he was in.  He was very weak and dehydrated.  Grandma and her children had spent several nights and days on constant vigil, waiting for his spirit to leave his body.  For the days before he was unconscious, he had been talking to people who were long dead, and it was clear that he had one foot in this world and one in the next. 

Grandma told my brother that she wanted the boys to come give Grandpa a priesthood blessing and to be very stern with him.  She felt that he needed to be told that it was time for him to let go of this life and that he did not need to worry about her.  Grandma was exhausted, physically and emotionally.

So my two brothers (who live in Utah), their wives, Spencer, Ashtyn, and I went to Grandma's on Sunday night.  The boys sweetly and firmly blessed my grandpa according to Grandma's wishes.  We each spent time alone with Grandpa, touching and kissing him, talking to him, expressing our love.  We gathered in small groups and reminisced together.  There was laughter.  There were tears.

We asked Mom to call us when he left, even if it was the middle of the night.  I didn't sleep well, knowing that that call was going to come at any time.  It didn't come during the night.

On Monday morning we have our devotionals at work.  Tim B. shared his testimony of the work of temples, and it was more than I could bear.  Because of gratitude and knowledge, the tears flowed freely for me, and I finally left because my sniffling was becoming ridiculous.  My boss came to my desk and asked if I was OK.  I was, because the tears were not despair, they were gratitude.  So he said, "If you're OK, come into my office and we'll go through some things."

I'd only been in his office about 10 minutes when my headset beeped.  I answered it as I always do, and my mom said, "Hi, darlin'."  Her voice broke, and I knew why she was calling.  Even though I was SO happy that my grandpa no longer had to be in pain, I was still very sad to know he was gone.  Of course, the loss is not just mine, and I was concerned for my grandma and my mom and others.  As soon as I hung up the phone I buried my face in my hands and sobbed.  My sweet boss had the tissue box in front of me in no time flat, and he just stayed and let me meltdown for a moment.

A moment is really all it took.  We have been preparing for Grandpa's departure from mortality for six months or more.  It is a relief to know that he is pain free.  It is a blessing to know that he is joyfully rejoining his family and friends who left this life earlier.  It is a relief that Grandma doesn't have to worry about him any more.  And it is amazing to have the gospel of Jesus Christ and the blessed peace brought through the Holy Ghost.

The funeral was held on Saturday, November 10th.  There was a horrific snowstorm that weekend, yet we still had a nice turnout of family and friends.  The funeral went beautifully, and I was even able to sing without a meltdown. 

The interment was in the mountain valley town where Grandpa grew up.  The roads were clear, but it was COLD and windy.  Yet still, people came to pay their respects.  The American Legion sent a contingent to give a 21-gun salute, a bugler to play "Taps," and a color guard who retired the flag on the casket and presented it to Grandma "on behalf of a grateful nation."  My sister had purchased three dozen flowers so that anyone who wanted to could place a flower on the casket.  The simple act of all the children placing those flowers on the casket was my grandma's undoing.  She cried and cried and said, "It's so final!"

Well, it is final.  But also, it isn't.  Because of our Savior, Grandpa will have a glorified, perfected, pain-free body at the resurrection.  Because of our Redeemer and the restoration of priesthood keys, we can be a family eternally.  I'm so thankful for what we have, what we know, and the blessings that come from God.

For flowers and cards sent, for prayers offered, for phone calls and emails, for kind and loving friends, for sweet family, I am sincerely thankful.

Grandpa and Grandma in high school

My hero AND the hero of a nation

With his family

Holding me

The two of us

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I Go For Days with Nothing to Say...

...but today is not that day.

I am currently on a term break with school.  Earning my MBA has taken much longer than I would have guessed at the beginning.  Part of it is that I have to take term breaks in order to get the money together for the next term.  But really, let's be honest.  It is really hard to go to school.  I have learned that I would probably do better with a teacher and a class instead of online.  I have learned that I really, really like to be home and I am easily distracted by my sweet family (who I just adore).  I have learned that it would be OK with me if I was a full-time mom and grandma forever.  I already knew that one, sort of--but sometimes we have to travel to the greener grass on the other side of the fence in order to REALLY KNOW (stupid, right?).

I have also learned that my dream job is not in business.  I chose an MBA (instead of another master's emphasis) because I thought it would give me a good look at many different careers:  HR, marketing, finance, etc.  I was right about that.  But I've also found that I don't LOVE any of those things.  I can do them, but I don't love them.

Working toward an MBA has opened other learning opportunities for me, particularly in my work.  When people learn that I am a student, they treat me with more respect than a "lowly secretary."  That bugs me (everyone should receive respect and acceptance), but it definitely opens doors for me.  Also, my boss (who is the kind of person who is open and willing to allow me to participate and learn) has been even more open to my input because of my familiarity with parlance, theories, etc.

 Last month we had a training meeting in our division that involved studying brain dominance theory.  That test showed me something I already knew--I am an empathetic person and I excel with people.

In a way, this makes me laugh, because frankly, people kinda make me crazy.  When they do stupid things I just want to SCREAM in frustration.  I really hate working retail, because people are so rude!  Customer service jobs BITE because I hate that people think they are ENTITLED to something.

The flip side of that is that I care and get bugged about these things because I AM a people person.  I believe--to my core--that ALL people should be treated fairly, kindly, and respectfully.  That includes the customer's treatment of the service providerAND vice versa.  No one is ENTITLED to preferential treatment just because he or she holds a certain degree or is holding the cash or has a certain title.

Also, I love children, and they love me.  I always wanted to teach school, from the time I was a child myself.  But once I reached adulthood, I did not (and I still do not) want to play the political games that are involved for school teachers.  Their livelihood is very much influenced by the national, state, and local political "scene" as well as the politics that are in any workplace.  I LOVED having my preschool because I got to teach, organize, plan, and love kids, but I didn't have to fight any politics.  If a parent didn't want their child to be with me, they could leave.  And guess what?  That was OK with me, because I truly wanted what was best for each child and for their parents (that people-person thing again).

I've have many people ask why I didn't/don't do daycare.  It's because I love kids, but I also love structure.  Also--as long as we're being honest--there are certain things about motherhood that I don't miss, diapers being at the forefront.  School with 4-year-olds is one thing.  All day with babies and toddlers is another.

One of the things I really loved about preschool was that, at the end of the day, I felt really fulfilled about what I had done that day.  I had many things to laugh about.  I had many things to learn.  And I saw the lights turn on in the eyes of many children.  Additionally, I gave them a safe harbor for several hours each week.  I couldn't fix all of their families' problems, but I could give them a safe, happy, educational, loving atmosphere while they were with me.  Many of them already had that at home.  Far too many did not.

In the past week I've had three different people confide things to me.  ALWAYS they just need someone who they trust will keep their issues private, who will listen to them, who will help them carry the burden that they can't carry alone, and who will love them in spite of their challenges and their weaknesses.  I feel these things very deeply, and there are times when I am moved to tears because of my pain for others' challenges.  These people (and their families) go on my prayer list.  But I learned while I was teaching Good Touch/Bad Touch that at some point I have to let it go.  It's OK to cry.  It's OK to give empathy and sympathy.  But in order to not be paralyzed by the sadness, I have to let it go.  I think I could do something like that professionally, and I think it would be fulfilling to help enable people to find the strength to deal with hard things.

So the careers I'm considering are as follows.  The first one would be my #1 choice, but the rest are in no particular order, simply because I DON'T KNOW!

  • Quitting employment altogether and staying home to take my high schooler to lunch, take care packages to my kids in college, plan play dates with my grandchildren, and volunteer somewhere wonderful.  Unfortunately, we need my income, so this is not the most viable option.
  • Teaching college, especially if I were somewhere like a business college (because of my career experience).  What I don't know is a) if I'm qualified; b) if I would love college students the way I love younger children; c) how colleges are influenced by politics. 
  • Getting a degree in social work or counseling, and specializing in working with children.  What I don't know is a) if anyone would want to hire a 50-something woman with no experience; b) if the financial and time trade-offs would be worth it this late in my life; c) if I would actually enjoy it once I got there. 
  • Staying right where I am, helping these people who I've come to love, and volunteering somewhere wonderful.  Here I don't feel the fulfillment that I might in another career; but if I volunteer somewhere, I can find that, I think.  Here I'm comfortable.  Here I don't have to leave my family or spend lots of money and time to go to school.  Here I don't work with children (chronologically), but it's really not that different in how they need to be treated (I just can't give hugs).  Here I get really good benefits, my job is very stable, and I am earning retirement benefits. 


The night before last Landon and I spent a couple of hours together.  Part of our conversation included the revelation that one of the high school coach's wives is fighting breast cancer right now.  One of the seniors has chosen as a senior project to raise money for the Huntsman Cancer Institute in honor of Coach Briggs and his wife.  This young man's dad prints t-shirts for a living.  One of the companies donated 250 shirts, and this dad has donated the shirt printing, and this boy is selling shirts at school for $10 each.  Landon asked if he could purchase one (we have tender feelings about breast cancer at our house).  We didn't have $10 in our wallets, but I wanted Landon to be able to help out.

On the drive into work yesterday I thought I could get $10, take it to Landon during his lunch hour, and be back to work all within the hour I had for lunch.  Then I thought, "Why not just take a little longer lunch and take Landon out?"  So that is exactly what I did.  We went to Costa Vida in Jordan Landing and had lunch together.

It was an A Day at the high school (they are on a track schedule), and Landon despises his math class.  But his last class was going to be volleyball, which he enjoys.  I said, "Well, at least you have volleyball to look forward to on A Days."  He responded, "Yeah.  And seminary. (long pause) I love seminary!"

Yesterday Brother Clark invited several young people who either have their mission call, are awaiting their mission call, or are working on their mission papers to come to class and teach the students.  The premise was that the kids could "critique" their teaching style, but I suspect it was a great opportunity to have young people who many of the students know come to seminary and share their testimonies with the kids.  That is exactly what happened for Landon.

In grade school Ashie was friends with girls from a neighboring ward who are twins.  Ashtyn went off to Entheos for middle school, and these two girls became quite popular.  They were never unkind to Ashtyn, but they were definitely in their own world.  And--as happens often with the popular kids--they were perceived as "snobs" and "stuck up."  (I refuse to make a judgment because everyone has their own hangups.)  Well, one of these girls, Kara, has her mission papers in and was one of yesterday's seminary teachers.

Landon:  Mom, did you know that Kara _______ is going on a mission?  Her papers are filled out and she is just waiting for her call.  I would NEVER have expected that from her.  She taught in our class today, and Mom, the spirit was so strong while she was talking!

Later, at lunch, Landon asked me if he could get his Patriarchal blessing.  I said, "Of course!"  So he asked me the process, and by this morning he had texted the bishop (who is being released on Sunday and advised Landon to call the new bishop as soon as he could).

We have a super son, and I am grateful to be his mother.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Still Thinking About Happiness

More about Grandpa and Me

I went to my grandparents' home in Orem 3 or 4 times last week.  My mom is there, and she is working hard to make sure EVERYTHING is taken care of.  So when I have arrived, there isn't really anything I have been needed to DO.  Grandma says that's better, anyway, because she just wants to visit.  And so we visit.

Every day I have waited for the phone call, telling me that Grandpa had finally reached the end of his mortality; but it just hasn't come.  He's been stubborn all his life, and he's been stubborn in his death.

Yesterday my grandma told my brother that Grandpa needed to be blessed and told that it was OK and high time to leave mortality.  My 2 brothers, their wives, Spencer, Ash, and I went to Orem again.  These three good men laid their hands on Grandpa's head and kindly gave him the what-for.  :)  Grandpa looked skeletal, and he hasn't been really conscious for days now.  We spent several hours there, migrating in and out of Grandpa's room, visiting, weeping, laughing, remembering, loving. 

This morning at 8:02 a.m., Grandpa finally left mortality and joined much family and many friends in the spirit world.  My mom called me, and I had a good, sobbing cry (in my boss's office, no less).  And since that good cry, I feel grateful and relieved and oh, so blessed!

My grandpa had the largest hands I've ever seen.  9 years ago he got cellulitis in his right hand.  That, combined with age and arthritis, have left those massive hands curled and useless.  The rest of his body has wasted away to nearly nothing, especially in the past two weeks.  But last night we uncovered his hands, and I had a flood of memories.

Those hands were the hardest-working set of hands I have ever seen: 

  • He could dig fast and deep and for a long time, never stopping till the job was done.  I never saw him hold up a shovel.  It was only in his hands if he was working, and he didn't lay it down till the dig was done.
  • Grandpa laid yards and yards and yards of concrete.
  • Grandpa was a master mechanic and specialized in body work.  He was incredible.
  • He and Uncle Bud (his brother) beat the tar out of everyone else (three or four generations of men) in a two-man hand-saw race.
  • Those hands "bucked" a lot of wood, built and remodeled a lot of rooms, tarred (and batted) some bats, built some fires, and whittled many sticks and whistles.
  • Those hands grabbed the steering wheel once or twice while he helped me learn to drive (while Daddy was in California).  :)
  • Grandpa drove many a car, truck, van, boat, and snowmobile.   He probably fixed even more vehicles than he drove!
  • Those hands signed my parents' marriage certificate.
  • Those hands held onto my mother for hours and hours while she was in labor (and his feet walked miles and miles with hers).  Then those hands held mine when I was a tiny little girl.  And a bigger girl.  And a teen.  And a woman.
  • Those ginormous hands gave me birthday spanks (and dimes) every year in my childhood.
  • Those hands were placed tenderly on my head to confirm me a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to give me other blessings.  I was not the first and not the only one of his grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grands who received priesthood blessing through those beautiful hands.
  • Grandpa would wipe his tears with those hands--usually with a thumb.  The first time I remember seeing Grandpa's tears was the day he got new scriptures for Christmas.  It was not the last time, and it was nearly always in regard to his love for his family.
  • Grandpa shook hands with countless people in business dealings and church assignments. Those handshakes were promises.  The handshakes I remember most were the ones he gave Spencer. They were man-to-man handshakes.
  • Those hands tenderly held my babies.
  • Those hands tenderly held other babies as he blessed them and cherished them.
Thinking about his hands has opened a floodgate of memories, each of which I am nothing but grateful for!  Grandpa was imperfect but oh, so good.  He loved me, and I love him back.  It is hard to imagine life without him--not because I've seen him every day, but because I've just always known he was there.

On the plus side, how many women get to know, like, respect, love, admire, cherish, and laugh with their grandparents for 44 years of their lives?  How many great-grandchildren can say that they made it to adulthood before they lost that grandparent, and--even better--that they knew and loved him?  Not many.  I am so very grateful!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Reality Bites

The saddest thing that happened today was when I realized remembered that my artistic talent is limited to coloring inside the lines and therefore, the Christmas ornament I've been working on is NOT going to come together.

Back to Square One...

Why, oh why did I not remember this sooner?

Friday, November 2, 2012


Do you ever walk through life feeling like you're in multiple places at the same time?  That is how I have felt this week.  It's a little bit tiring.

I know I have to get up in the morning and get ready for work.  That's so normal!  I shower.  I feed the dog.  I put on my makeup.  I get dressed.  The laundry and the dishes still need to be done.  We still need meals.

I go to work.  I read and respond to emails from colleagues, friends, and family.  It's so normal!  I schedule things.  I assemble reports and books.  I answer the same phone calls as every other day of my life.  I greet people and they greet me.

But, like an underlying current, my heart and my brain seem to be flowing in a different place than my body. 

I'm in Indiana and Calgary, watching over our beautiful missionaries, hoping they are thriving and working hard and not being sad, and knowing that they have very little idea (as it should be) of the things that are unfolding at home. 

I'm at Beehive Clothing, wondering if our daughter is well and if she's secretly disappointed that those pin curls didn't work, so the costume didn't come together after all. 

I'm at home and at WJHS, hoping that our son is safe and happy, in spite of all the weird things happening and the upheaval of our schedules right now. 

I'm at Boeing, wondering if Spencer is getting along OK, and if the job is going well or if it's killing him, and if people hate him or love him (as they should!).

I'm on my knees, thanking God that our children are friends, that Spencer is a strong, wonderful, faith-filled man, and that we know of His marvelous plan for our happiness. 

I'm also at the U of U med center, hoping that my cousin is healing well and wishing that she knew how much I cherish our memories together and praying that somehow something might make a change in her life. 

And all of these roads lead to Orem, where my grandpa lays helplessly dying and my grandma watches, just as helplessly.  I think of my mom, who is missing a lot of work and time at home but is still working oh, so hard.  I think of my Dad in Sacramento, who is kind of lost when Mom is not there, and who will continue to plug faithfully away because he knows his bride is needed in Utah right now.

Sometimes my eyes leak a little bit, and sometimes my heart is a bit heavy.  Sometimes my eyes are dry and my tummy is hollow.  But mostly I'm filled with hope and gladness and gratitude and peace.  I adore my family so much:  my sweetheart, our children, my wonderful parents, my extended family (aunts, uncles, GRANDPARENTS, cousins, siblings, etc.).  We have the gospel plan, which I KNOW is true and real and completely operative in my life and the lives of my loved ones. 

It's difficult to describe, but this week feels a bit surreal.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hoping for Death

Yesterday my grandpa got up and got himself dressed.  By noon he was unable to stand on his own.  The hospice nurse helped him to his bed, where he stayed for the remainder of the day, semi-unconscious.  My cousin, an EMT, went in and rolled him over every half hour or so, and Grandpa didn't even flinch.

The end is near.  His wife and children doubted he'd last through the night.

It is sad to lose his companionship in mortality. It will also be a blessing for him and all of us who love him when he is gone.  It seems really selfish and somehow WRONG to pray for death to come, except that when it does, it will be as is told in The Tale of Three Brothers (Harry Potter):  

And then he greeted Death as an old friend, and went with him gladly,
and, equals, they departed this life.