Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday...


Easter will alwatys be a poignant season for me.  It was Easter one year ago that Val, after attending the "Lamb of God" performance, her health then began to wane quickly.  I am so thankful for a redeemer, even Jesus the Christ.  Who through Him, we can return to our Father in Heaven and live eternally with our loved ones.  I've been reading "The Last Week of The Savior's Life" by Andrew Skinner.  Its been a sobering read as this Easter holiday is upon me.  I know that my redeemer lives...

Hearts Break, Hearts Ache...


In life there are years when you wander around not noticing that there is a required balance in all things.  Beginnings and endings, mostly...  That is until you are shocked by the reality of your dog being run over or that your guniea pig ran away...  Now, there are those baseball games you lost, and that girl who stomped on your foot in the recess line, but nothing very harsh...  For the first 17+ years, I would have to say that if I did my homework and paid attention in class, life was pretty easy...  Great parents, wonderful brothers and sisters, life was good..  Even falling in love seemed like a good move, not too much drama really...  However about 1/2 through my senior year in HS, its as if someone, somewhere put everything into really fast mode...
And what seemed to come at me the fastest was how hard life was getting to be...  So in the last 42-43 years, I have learned about life's ups and downs...  That the cherished moments don't linger much, and the painful ones seem to set up house and stay awhile...

April 8th, just 10 days ago, I picked up Val's brother and we took a road trip to Utah for my youngest daughter's wedding.  The last 10 days has been filled with womderful family time and now, as things wrap up, my skin is starting to feel prickly and tingly, that feeling I get when I am upset or feel nervous...  We are all starting to go our separate ways...  Marion off on her honeymoon, then moving to Dallas (she texed me she arrived late last night) where her own reality of being a wife, looking for a new job and settling in will occur...  We've been renting in a house together in sunny St Geo, Utah, enjoying a pool, the warm sun and last night Duff and his family took off.  Today, Anna leaves.  Tomorrow Kjrsten and her family will go back to England, Andrew back to Provo (in 2+ months a new baby girl is coming to them) and Keith flies back to WA.  I am picking up Val's brother and we will drive back to WA, making a few stops along the way.  Sadness was in the air last night and all good, wonderful, family love and togetherness must go back to reality of 7 separate family lives now...

Its Good Friday...  Easter is in 48 hours...

I've been reading a book called the "The Savior's Final Week"...  it has framed for me at this tender, delicate time, just how it is that the atonement, the crucifixtion, the resurrection play the most critical and important roles in all of mankind's life...  And, beautifully, it has given me depth and eternal perspective on the many life changes I have met, am going through and yet need to address...  Though these tender family times come to an end, though its true my heart is being wrenched, and even though the pain has nothing to do with sin, but rather with love, ALL THESE HURTS AND PAINS were felt by our Lord as he bore the sins, the burdens, the very wounds that we all face and deal with in life...  He knows how I feel...

We've had laughter and smiles, we've had tears of joy and sorrow...  the life we share is one of beauty and a rare love between 29 people!  I am so grateful for this...  I cannot conceive of an alternative, nor can I ever understand something that doesn't have to balance out...  The laws of the universe require it...

Today as I walk through my garden of dreams
I'm alone in the sweet used-to-be
My past and my present are one and the same
And the future holds nothing for me
Yesterday's kisses still burning
And yesterday's mem'ries still find me
Scenes from the past keep returning
I've got a wonderful future behind me

You say there is happiness waiting for me
But I know this is just fantasy
Let me trade one tomorrows for one yesterday
Live in my garden of dreams
Yesterday's kisses still burning
And yesterday's mem'ries still find me
Scenes from the past keep returning
I've got a wonderful future behind me

Monday, April 14, 2014

Never Alone...


As I spend time with my family, post Marion's wedding, I marvel at my beautiful, wonderful blessings!  All of them!  But I also wonder about my being in their way.  I also reconnect my own thoughts of care or even did I care enough about my own father after my mom passed away?  Was there more I could have done?  Was there more time I could have given?  Did he feel relevant to me?  Did I honor and respect him?  I sure hope so!





I have the right numbers; 6 children, all married to wonderful people, beautiful grandchildren, we are all together, the love, the cherished moments, the blessings that are so abundant...  Its true, I am NEVER alone...

Val lives on...  And she lives on in 26 people right now...  I see her in them and I feel her around quite a lot...  I can't change the rules of how all this works... 

“Love is the very essence of life. It is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Yet it is not found only at the end of the rainbow. Love is at the beginning also, and from it springs the beauty that arched across the sky on a stormy day. Love is the security for which children weep, the yearning of youth, the adhesive that binds marriage, and the lubricant that prevents devastating friction in the home; it is the peace of old age, the sunlight of hope shining through death. How rich are those who enjoy it in their associations with family, friends, and neighbors! Love, like faith, is a gift of God. It is also the most enduring and most powerful virtue.”
― Gordon B. Hinckley, Standing for Something: Ten Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes    

May the angels protect you
Trouble neglect you
And heaven accept you when its time to go home
May you always have plenty
The glass never empty
Know in your belly
You're never alone

May your tears come from laughing
You find friends worth having
With every year passing
They mean more than gold
May you win but stay humble
Smile more than grumble
And know when you stumble
You're never alone

Chorus: Never alone
Never alone
I'll be in every beat of your heart
When you face the unknown
Wherever you fly
This isn't goodbye
My love will follow you stay with you
Find More lyrics at www.sweetslyrics.com
Baby you're never alone

well
I have to be honest
As much as I wanted
I'm not gonna promise that the cold winds won't blow
So when hard times have found you
And your fears surround you
Wrap my love around you
You're never alone

Chorus

May the angels protect you
Trouble neglect you
And heaven accept you when its time to go home
And when hard times have found you
And your fears surround you
Wrap my love around you
You're never alone

Chorus

My love will follow you stay with you
Baby you're never alone

Sunday, April 13, 2014

No Song Today...

"Its gets easier..."
"You never forget..."
"The pain never goes away, but it does lessen..."
"When I divorced I was told it would take 1 month for every year I was married to heal...  In my group therapy they said there is no formula for losing a spouse to death..."
"Your life will be the sum of firsts; first birthdays without her, first anniversary, first Christmas, first baby being born, firsts...  your life now will be a life of firsts..."

I could go on and on...  I have many kind and loving family and friends who have prayed for me, held me, loved me, written to me, called me, visited me, walked with me, hugged me, told others about me...  I have not been alone...

Marion got married yesterday...  I said goodbye to my last single child...  I did it alone...  Alone...  Whenever I say that word (alone) it by itself makes me feel so alone...  lost... empty...  no rudder...  I am alone...  I heard a Elder Per Malm, a general authority in the LDS church bear his testimony today and he posed this question, "Why do our hearts miss those we love?  As life brings us what it does, why are we sometimes without answers?  What is it that we long for?"  Then he answered his own question, "We are seeking in our hearts that infinite love given to us by Jesus Christ.  He is calling to us..."  In essence, we all must face this knawing dilemna in life...

As each of my children were born, I found that my heart expanded, they were not just added to our family, but they were joyously welcomed in!  To hold them, smell them, hear them coo and cry out was as if someone gave me extra super human strength that I did not know I had!  I wondered how it could be that a heart that was full could fill more?  And in the short life we had together (18 years may seem like a long time) before they headed off to college, missions, getting married and having families of their own, the knawing began.  "Where is everybody going?"  I seemed to hear my heart say aloud?  But...  there was Val, and she was enough for me!  Quite!

When she got sick, we had only Marion left at home...  3 were married, grandchildren adorned our world, Keith was away working, going to school, Andrew was on his mission...  Marion was 2 weeks away from graduating from high school and had been accepted into BYUI...  May 28, 2004 is when the unwinding began and a year ago yesterday, the final piece of my "twine" came off the spool...  The worst "first" of any kind I can imagine...  I wonder, how is this possible?  Of all the billions and billions of people who have come to this mortal life and died, why is it "I" am the only one who feels such pain?

Well, the truth is, I'm not...  I am wallowing right now with a quiver full of change(s) upon me and I am feeling the poignancy of each of them...  As I watched the limo pull away last night, I was so happy for Marion and Nick...  But, I was so sad for me...  I looked around in the darkness and secretly had hoped that Val would have appeared and told me that it would all be ok...  I was so empty and alone to my thoughts...

Last night the Father of the Bride/Bridge dance was set to "Maybe I'm Amazed" one of Val and my favorite songs of all time...  (Truly there are far too many to name, but this is one of the top ones)  As Marion and I danced, we talked...  She was reassuring and confident...  She was happy, so so happy...  I shall always remember her at this moment...  I am so blessed...

So, a first became a last...  A first wedding of a child without Val, and the last one for us...  It was a tender day, but a good day...  Another eternal family link, a royal line, began...  It was all Val had ever hope for with each of our children...  Many commented that they could feel Val's presence...  I know...  but an appearance would have been nice... :o)  My dad always said in times of crisis and pain, "We will get through this..."  He was right then, he is right now...  I am blessed to enjoy my family for another 6 days...  I'm a lucky guy...

Please don't confuse my sorrow and ache without Val at tender moments, that my life is without happiness and that I am filled with gloom...  I am not...  Just a sentimental guy, just a romantic...  Its not "maybe" its "I AM AMAZED!"


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Remember....


Marion is getting married today.  In fact, in just about 4 1/2 hours.  I thought I was prepared for the emotions that I prenotioned would be richoceting around in my head, my heart and my soul.  I found last night at the wedding rehearsal dinner I have never been so unprepared for something in my whole life.  I am hoping that that as my thoughts gel and my heart gets less inflamed from the unexpected feelings I am swimming in that I will find my grounding and have peace wash over me.  Why does eternity feel so dawgone far away?  You know, I just can't remember...






Val, its been 1 year today that you went away...  I miss you so...  I know you can see us and you know how happy Marion is...  thank you for being so close at this most tender time...  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

No Endings, We Are Eternal...

"Have we not reason to be filled with gratitude, regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves?"

2nd counselor in the LDS Church First Presidency, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said in a talk at the church's general conference last weekend, "Over the years, I have had the sacred opportunity to meet with many people whose sorrows seem to reach the very depths of their soul. In these moments, I have listened to my beloved brothers and sisters and grieved with them over their burdens. I have pondered what to say to them, and I have struggled to know how to comfort and support them in their trials.
Often their grief is caused by what seems to them as an ending. Some are facing the end of a cherished relationship, such as the death of a loved one or estrangement from a family member. Others feel they are facing the end of hope—the hope of being married or bearing children or overcoming an illness. Others may be facing the end of their faith, as confusing and conflicting voices in the world tempt them to question, even abandon, what they once knew to be true.
Sooner or later, I believe that all of us experience times when the very fabric of our world tears at the seams, leaving us feeling alone, frustrated, and adrift.
It can happen to anyone. No one is immune.

We Can Be Grateful

Everyone’s situation is different, and the details of each life are unique. Nevertheless, I have learned that there is something that would take away the bitterness that may come into our lives. There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious.
We can be grateful!
It might sound contrary to the wisdom of the world to suggest that one who is burdened with sorrow should give thanks to God. But those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitudecan find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding.
As disciples of Christ, we are commanded to “thank the Lord [our] God in all things,”  to “sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving,” and to “let [our] heart be full of thanks unto God.”
Why does God command us to be grateful?
All of His commandments are given to make blessings available to us. Commandments are opportunities to exercise our agency and to receive blessings. Our loving Heavenly Father knows that choosing to develop a spirit of gratitude will bring us true joy and great happiness.

Being Grateful for Things

But some might say, “What do I have to be grateful for when my world is falling apart?”
Perhaps focusing on what we are grateful for is the wrong approach. It is difficult to develop a spirit of gratitude if our thankfulness is only proportional to the number of blessings we can count. True, it is important to frequently “count our blessings”—and anyone who has tried this knows there are many—but I don’t believe the Lord expects us to be less thankful in times of trial than in times of abundance and ease. In fact, most of the scriptural references do not speak of gratitude for things but rather suggest an overall spirit or attitude of gratitude.
It is easy to be grateful for things when life seems to be going our way. But what then of those times when what we wish for seems to be far out of reach?
Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be.
There is an old story of a waiter who asked a customer whether he had enjoyed the meal. The guest replied that everything was fine, but it would have been better if they had served more bread. The next day, when the man returned, the waiter doubled the amount of bread, giving him four slices instead of two, but still the man was not happy. The next day, the waiter doubled the bread again, without success.
On the fourth day, the waiter was really determined to make the man happy. And so he took a nine-foot-long (3-m) loaf of bread, cut it in half, and with a smile, served that to the customer. The waiter could scarcely wait for the man’s reaction.
After the meal, the man looked up and said, “Good as always. But I see you’re back to giving only two slices of bread.”

Being Grateful in Our Circumstances

My dear brothers and sisters, the choice is ours. We can choose to limit our gratitude, based on the blessings we feel we lack. Or we can choose to be like Nephi, whose grateful heart never faltered. When his brothers tied him up on the ship—which he had built to take them to the promised land—his ankles and wrists were so sore “they had swollen exceedingly,” and a violent storm threatened to swallow him up in the depths of the sea. “Nevertheless,” Nephi said, “I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions.”
We can choose to be like Job, who seemed to have everything but then lost it all. Yet Job responded by saying, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return … : the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
We can choose to be like the Mormon pioneers, who maintained a spirit of gratitude during their slow and painful trek toward the Great Salt Lake, even singing and dancing and glorying in the goodness of God.  Many of us would have been inclined to withdraw, complain, and agonize about the difficulty of the journey.
We can choose to be like the Prophet Joseph Smith, who, while a prisoner in miserable conditions in Liberty Jail, penned these inspired words: “Dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.”
We can choose to be grateful, no matter what.
This type of gratitude transcends whatever is happening around us. It surpasses disappointment, discouragement, and despair. It blooms just as beautifully in the icy landscape of winter as it does in the pleasant warmth of summer.
When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace.
We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain?
Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith we look beyond our present-day challenges.
This is not a gratitude of the lips but of the soul. It is a gratitude that heals the heart and expands the mind.

Gratitude as an Act of Faith

Being grateful in our circumstances is an act of faith in God. It requires that we trust God and hope for things we may not see but which are true.  By being grateful, we follow the example of our beloved Savior, who said, “Not my will, but thine, be done.”
True gratitude is an expression of hope and testimony. It comes from acknowledging that we do not always understand the trials of life but trusting that one day we will.
In any circumstance, our sense of gratitude is nourished by the many and sacred truths we do know: that our Father has given His children the great plan of happiness; that through the Atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ, we can live forever with our loved ones; that in the end, we will have glorious, perfect, and immortal bodies, unburdened by sickness or disability; and that our tears of sadness and loss will be replaced with an abundance of happiness and joy, “good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over.”
It must have been this kind of testimony that transformed the Savior’s Apostles from fearful, doubting men into fearless, joyful emissaries of the Master. In the hours following His Crucifixion, they were consumed with despair and grief, unable to understand what had just happened. But one event changed all of that. Their Lord appeared to them and declared, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.”
When the Apostles recognized the risen Christ—when they experienced the glorious Resurrection of their beloved Savior—they became different men. Nothing could keep them from fulfilling their mission. They accepted with courage and determination the torture, humiliation, and even death that would come to them because of their testimony.  They were not deterred from praising and serving their Lord. They changed the lives of people everywhere. They changed the world.
You do not need to see the Savior, as the Apostles did, to experience the same transformation. Your testimony of Christ, born of the Holy Ghost, can help you look past the disappointing endings in mortality and see the bright future that the Redeemer of the world has prepared.

We Are Not Made for Endings

In light of what we know about our eternal destiny, is it any wonder that whenever we face the bitter endings of life, they seem unacceptable to us? There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings.
Why is this? Because we are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny.
The more we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that endings here in mortality are not endings at all. They are merely interruptions—temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternal joy awaiting the faithful.
How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings.

Those Who Are Grateful Will Be Made Glorious

Brothers and sisters, have we not reason to be filled with gratitude, regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves?
Do we need any greater reason to let our hearts “be full of thanks unto God”?
“Have we not great reason to rejoice?”
How blessed we are if we recognize God’s handiwork in the marvelous tapestry of life. Gratitude to our Father in Heaven broadens our perception and clears our vision. It inspires humility and fosters empathy toward our fellowmen and all of God’s creation. Gratitude is a catalyst to all Christlike attributes! A thankful heart is the parent of all virtues.
The Lord has given us His promise that those “who [receive] all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto [them], even an hundred fold, yea, more.”
May we “live in thanksgiving daily” —especially during the seemingly unexplainable endings that are part of mortality. May we allow our souls to expand in thankfulness toward our merciful Heavenly Father. May we ever and constantly raise our voices and show by word and deed our gratitude to our Father in Heaven and to His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. For this I pray, and leave you my testimony and blessing, in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ, amen.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

5' 6", But Still...


They say that when a loved one dies they become a saint, that you forget all the hassles, nit picks, moments of frustration and things that drove you crazy.  "They" are right...  You know its been 362 days now since Val went away from us...  The more distant that point in time, and I am speaking of "eternal" time, the more I am surprised at myself and how I do NOT remember a single thing about her that drove me crazy...  Perhaps now I am beginning to see that I was driving myself crazy...  Could I be that weird?  Probably...

Sitting in the barracks at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas was the first time I heard this song by the Hollies...  It was hot!  We had just passed a milestone in our training where we could wander over to the "base exchange" and make phone calls home, buy snacks and other sundries like greeting cards.  Most of us sent cards home expressing love for wives, girlfriends and family...  Today you can email and in a flash get a response, back then it took about 2 weeks to turn around a response or a "I love you too" from home...  So, in the 8 weeks of basic training (Vietnam was raging, they didn't want to over train and had numbers to move on out!) we only had a 3-4 times cards/letters sent and returned with cohesive thoughts and questions someone may have had/answered...

Because my dad was in the FBI, the lyrics of this song peaked my interest...  I also began to wonder just why it was that I had never (in all the years I had spent with Val) seen Val in a black dress?  More weird was the fact that Val looked great in black but she liked color!




I have described Val as a "spicy" girl many times...  Her italian genes, coupled with her familial background and training added to her spicy'iness!  Many a legend is told about her being the family "protector" and her dad relying on her to settle the neighborhood disagreements...  Well, as you can imagine, some of those "go get 'em and hit with a rock" traits carried over into our relationship and what was once a petty complaint of mine now is deeply endearing to me...  I suppose it is with life that the things you take for granted are the things that you miss and matter to you most and you forget the bumps and bruises, pretty easily...

It makes me wonder and pnder just how it is that God loves us like he does...  How we achieve forgiveness and through humility learn to accept who we are and strive to be better people...  I am so grateful for the long goodbye that Val and I had to talk through all this nonsense and say our "sorrys" and ask for "forgiveness".  All too often life is shortened, taken suddenly and the blessing of remorse and repair isn't always afforded everyone...  That said, I do believe all will have those moments needed to express love and patch things up with those to whom we have brought hurt and pain...

You know, Val did have it all...  In fact, she had so much of it, she was able to share it with me and help me see myself as I really was (am) -- I hope I am the fastest "apologizer" in the land...  I hope that I bridle my emotions and take care in how I both view and treat others...


Saturday night I was downtown
Working for the FBI
Sitting in a nest of bad men
Whisky bottles piling high

Bootlegging boozer on the west side
Full of people who are doing wrong
Just about to call up the DA man
When I heard this woman singing a song

A pair of 45's made me open my eyes
My temperature started to rise
She was a long cool woman in a black dress
Just a 5'9, beautiful tall
With just one look I was a bad mess
'Cos that long cool woman had it all

Whoa

I saw her headin' to the table
Well a tall walking big black cat
When Charlie said I hope that you're able boy
Well I'm telling you she knows where it's at
Well suddenly we heard the sirens
And everybody started to run
A jumping out of doors and tables
Well I heard somebody shooting a gun

Well the DA was pumping my left hand
And then she was a-holding my right
Well I told her don't get scared
'Cos you're gonna be spared
Well I've gotta be forgiven
If I wanna spend my living
With a long cool woman in a black dress
Just a 5'9 beautiful tall
Well, with just one look I was a bad mess
'Cos that long cool woman had it all

Had it all
Had it all
Yeah had it all
Had it all
Had it all
Oooh
Had it all