Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In The Spirit Of Friendship

This holiday season I have so much to be thankful for. I love my family. They are truly the love of my life. My husband, children and grandchildren bring so much joy and sunshine into my life. Because of my wonderful family, I feel fulfilled and have meaning in my world. We had a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner and yes, I did make Lindsey’s apple pie and it turned out beautiful and very tasty. I didn’t even burn it.
This time of year I am also grateful for friends. I have such dear friends who have sustained me through the most difficult times in my life. I have literally been sustained through the love and support of my dear friends. I have received texts, flowers, hugs, listening ears, tender hearts holding me while I cried, meals, cards, emails, words of comfort and an offering of strength from other mothers who have lost children. These mothers have offered their love and understanding from a remarkable place of power that has come through their own suffering. I have truly been buoyed up by the love of God through the blessings of friends.
During our greatest struggles this past summer when it felt like I was in the pit of despair, I can see that I was sustained through the power of friends and family gathering around us physically, emotionally and spiritually. It was my friends outpouring of comfort and love that helped me understand that God was calling Lindsey home. My friends also helped me accept God’s will as he responded with a firm but, gentle “no” to our desperate pleas and prayers in Lindsey’s behalf.
Friends loving arms around me helped me understand that I couldn’t go with her and that I am still needed here. I was being invited to surrender my will and trust in God even if it meant giving up my daughter. Friends have literally help me cross over the deep abyss of death and brought me to the other side.
So this Thanksgiving marked three months exactly from Lindsey’s passing. I did shed a few tears and we talked about her and spent time remembering her. We thanked God for all we learned through this blessed daughter. She was not only my daughter but she was my friend. I know that Lindsey is helping us from the other side, she and many others. I know she has helped me personally with my work over the last three months.
During all this I have been working on editing and preparing my book The Bright Red Bow for a second reprint. I have had friends working on this project for several months. This week it goes to print. We will have it at our Christmas Party Dec. 1, 2011. I just wanted to thank God, my family, and my friends for their love and support in all the many ways their support has been expressed. I have truly been blessed. I am acknowledging that all this couldn’t have happened on my own accord and that it has been through the work of many that we are even crossing this bridge of completion.
If you notice the cover, it was designed by Joshua Karr, Lindsey’s husband. The cover was designed in June and will always remind me of Lindsey and Josh and the time we spent together in our home. It is a beautiful design and again, brought forward in such a way that I cannot deny that it came from God in a loving and supportive way. The Bright Red Bow was rewritten during my last few months with Lindsey and if you put that with the creation of the design by Josh, and this book will live as a legacy in my mind and heart. The creation of this book will serve as a tribute to Lindsey and her life and the sacrifice Josh made in letting her go. They both participated in the coming forth of this book in the spirit of friendship. It has required great sacrifice to bring it forward. This book represents the beginning steps of my own personal healing and it has come back around to help me get through my healing after Lindsey’s passing.
I think the thing that I am coming to is that Lindsey was truly a friend to everyone she came in contact with and it has been the power of friendship that has carried me through all this. And I think about the Savior saying that “no man hath greater love than this, than he lay down his life for a friend.” I say that this kind of love is more powerful than death. This kind of love has the power to reach beyond the veil and is the kind of love that cannot die or be destroyed. It is the power to suffer with those that suffer, to mourn with those that mourn, and to lift up the arms that hang down.
As Lindsey was with us her last few hours in this world, her best friends and family gathered in the spirit of friendship and supported her til the end . . .when it was time for her to pass over. Such tender expressions of love and concern were shared with her, and heartfelt goodbyes with soft tears flowing, as we bid her farewell to the other side of the veil. A true spirit of friendship I have never witnessed than what was offered to Lindsey and our family on that day and since then.
I trust that I shall never forget that moment. I pray that as many gathered to support Lindsey and our family in friendship that I might be able to give back and be a friend in the ways that I have truly experienced friendship. I shall never forget the gentle acts of caring that have been shown to us by all of you and that have been given to us by God. God truly made the ultimate sacrifice, his own Son.
May we continue to learn about friendship and deepen our capacity to love in the ways that God and the Savior have shown us. May we come to understand on a deeper level, the beautiful gift of friends. From the bottom of my heart and soul, thank you dear friends for your sustaining influence in my life and especially this past year. May God bless you and may he bless us all with the renewal of the spirit of friendship.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Cookin" in the Kitchen with Lindsey

Thanksgiving is a great time of year. It reminds me of past Thanksgivings at my mom and dad’s house. When Lindsey was little, she loved baking and cooking and was always in the kitchen. She would often go over to my mom’s house, her Grandma Gwen’s, and spend hours cooking with grandma.
Lindsey would go to Grandma Gwen’s the day before Thanksgiving and they would bake pies and rolls together. She loved recipes and copied a large portion of her hand-written recipes from Grandma’s recipe box. Lindsey loved collecting and trying out new and different recipes. I still have some of her most used recipes, scribbled on bits and pieces of paper, stuffed in the canister on my counter. She would hide them there so she could have them for future use.
She would get the ingredients out and follow each recipe carefully. She loved to try new things. Last Thanksgiving, she was just re-cooperating from radiation and was still very skinny and frail. But, she was determined to make Jalapeño Poppers to share at Thanksgiving. It was something new she had tried before she got sick, and she was determined to get out of bed and come downstairs to the kitchen and bake. So Josh and I helped get the ingredients out and helped her make stuffed Jalapeño Poppers, a great tasting o’derve. She was laughing and giggling and it was so good to see her with energy and doing something she enjoyed. She was happy in the kitchen.
Cooking brought out her creativity and her playfulness. She got feisty in the kitchen especially if anyone got in her way. And if someone did get in her way, she would start throwing food at someone and then it would all end in a playful food fight. She talked to herself while she was reading the recipes and following the instructions. She loved spices and the way cinnamon and nutmeg smelled. She loved bread, cookies and especially food in general, she just loved to eat. However, she hated clean-up. She would always leave some part of her mess for someone else to clean up, usually me.
In the kitchen, she always worked in a methodical way and was brave in attempting difficult recipes. She loved making Tomato Alfredo and used an original recipe from Kate’s Italian family recipes. Kate was her best friend and they would cook together often even after they were both married.
Lindsey’s specialties were German pancakes that you bake in the oven, crepes which we called Swedish pancakes, baking powder biscuits, muffins, Grandma’s rolls and apple pie. This Thanksgiving if Lindsey were still with us she would be at my house the day before Thanksgiving, baking rolls and making apple pie for her dad. Yes, her dad is the reason that she practiced so hard with Grandma. She became our designated baker of the rolls and pies for our Thanksgiving dinners.
Now, the reason for this is because I have never been that interested in learning how to cook or bake. Oh, I’ve done enough throughout the years that we haven’t starved, but, my cooking and baking is downright embarrassing. Yes, now you know I cannot bake except chocolate chip cookies and rice krispie treats. If it wasn’t for Lindsey and my mom throughout the years, Todd would have been seriously deprived.
As a little boy, Lindsey’s dad, Todd, would beg his grandma to make him an apple pie every year for his birthday. It was all he ever wanted. Every year his own grandma would make him an apple pie. After we were married, he somehow got my mom to bake him an apple pie for his birthday. And when Grandma Gwen passed away in 2004, Lindsey took over making apple pie for her dad especially at Thanksgiving and his birthday in June.
We are having twenty five people for Thanksgiving at our house this year. I love setting the tables with the linens, the pretty dishes, goblets filled with red punch, candles, silverware, folded napkins and making sure there is a place for every guest. As I write this I am remembering that we will have one less setting at our table this year. And neither Lindsey nor Josh will be coming through the door. He will be at his parents for Thanksgiving and we will be missing Lindsey in the kitchen.
Of course, on that day everybody brings food and as everyone arrives, we will have the smell of turkey roasting in the oven, someone mashing the potatoes, the gravy simmering on the stove and Todd getting ready to carve the turkey. My sister-in-law will be bringing homemade rolls and everyone brings an assortment of delicious pies. Except this year, Lindsey’s pie won’t be getting any ooooo’s or ahhhhh’s at our Thanksgiving dinner. . .
But, there will be an apple pie sitting on the counter. . . I hope I can follow her recipe and that it turns out as good as her apple pie. This year I will bake an apple pie the day before Thanksgiving and pretend that I am spending time with her. She will be there. We will both be laughing, and she will help me follow the recipe. It will be a chance to spend time with her in the kitchen. I will remember all the funny things she would do and say. This apple pie will be in remembrance of Lindsey holding the space for her thanksgiving tradition and the apple pie will be for her dad.

Lindsey’s Apple Pie Recipe from Grandma Gwen
(Taken from Lindsey’s well worn recipe card in her own handwriting)
Pie Crust
2 c. flour
1 c. butter (just a little less)
2 tsp. salt
7 Tbs. cold water
Fork in butter with flour and salt, fold in water. Roll into 2 pie crusts
6-7 thinly sliced apples
¾ cup white sugar
2 Tablespoons of butter
3/4 tsp. of ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
¼ teaspoon of salt
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 tbs. lemon juice
1/3 c. cold water
Combine sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, water, butter, salt and lemon juice in mixing bowl with apples. Add cornstarch for thickening while baking
Mix ingredients and pour into pie crust. Use second pie crust to top the apple pie.
Bake at 425 for 40-45 min.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Celebrate your loved ones this Thanksgiving Holiday

Different families have different issues and lessons to learn. Certain families struggle with finances addictions, sexual abuse, divorce, autism, mental illness, depression, hyperactivity, issues with fertility and adoption, substance abuse, eating disorders, the death of a loved one, same sex issues, or suicide, etc.

Our family has really struggled with cancer. My mom died from multiple myeloma , a sister cancer to Leukemia in 2004, Todd’s mom died from breast cancer in 1995 and of course, we struggled with Lindsey and her brain tumors for over 11 years.

Our family lived in southern Utah in the 1960’s, when they were doing the atomic testing. We are considered “down winders”, people who were affected with certain cancers that have manifest with a higher percentage of occurrence for people who lived there during that time.

A couple of weeks ago we found out that my dad’s thyroid cancer had returned. It is known as papillary cancer. This is his fourth time and each one has resulted in surgery and treatments. They detected a small growth where his thyroid used to be. This came as such a surprise because our family hadn’t even begun to pick up the pieces from our experience the last fourteen months with Lindsey.

When I first heard the news from my dad, Todd held me while I cried. I am sure I was jumping to the future and imagining that I was going to lose him too. But, in the next few days approaching the situation with fasting and prayer, individually and collectively, I continued on the best I could.

The surgery would be more intense this time. The doctors had predicted a 10-hour surgery. It included reconstruction of the esophagus, a feeding tube and a possible tracheotomy, several days in ICU and six weeks recovery followed by radiation treatments. It seemed like it might be too much for my 72, almost 73 year old father to live through.

As I tried to “digest” this information, only six weeks after Lindsey’s passing, I wondered if I would be able to handle this. Of course, my mind immediately went to “I cannot watch another loved one go through all the suffering that this disease brings, nor can I watch another loved one die. It is too soon. I haven’t even caught my breath from my experience with my daughter.”

We prepared ourselves for what seemed like an aggressive surgery for Nov. 11, 2011. Much to our surprise the doctor came out after he had only been in surgery three hours. He indicated that the surgery was complete and dad was in recovery. He said that the tumor had not attached to the esophagus wall. He also informed us that there would be no need for reconstructive surgery and that radiation treatments would follow but, everything else we had prepared for would not be necessary.

I was there when the doctor reported on the surgery in the waiting room and also when dad was wheeled into his personal room, (not ICU). He seemed a little groggy, but still able to talk and respond. When we told him the news, I could see tears well up in his eyes with gratitude and thanksgiving. He asked if we would close the door. His wife, Cheryl, my step-mom, was holding his hand and my brother Jeff and I stood by his bed. He asked if we would offer a prayer of gratitude to God for this miracle.

I said the prayer and thanked those on the other side for their assistance and acknowledged that we could feel their presence, even my mom and Lindsey, I thanked God for allowing my dad to remain with us on this earth and expressed gratitude to all those who had fasted and prayed. I also thanked God that in this situation, he had heard our prayers and responded with a “yes” answer.

With tears streaming down my face I acknowledged that sometimes it is for our benefit that the very thing we desire (to have Lindsey live) is not according to God’s will. I thanked God for easing our pain and grief. I will always remember that moment and praying with my father at his bedside.

My dad is my hero. He is a man of great faith and in some of my most difficult times with Lindsey it has been my earthly father that I have turned to for guidance and counsel. He is loving and wise. Both my mother and my father understand and love the process. Both of them have been facilitators in the past.

My dad loves ropes and was able to attend with us Oct. 8th. At the time we did not know anything about the tumor.

My parents have been willing to address their issues through processing and other modalities and for that I am so grateful. They understand how important it is to have our hearts knit together in unity and peace, even to have the hearts of the fathers turn to the children and the hearts of the children turn to the fathers. This Thanksgiving I shall have my heart turned to my father as we celebrate his 73rd birthday.

Even though I am not sure how I will do emotionally this coming holiday, especially with the absence of Lindsey at our Thanksgiving table, I will be celebrating the presence of my father. May we offer our sincere love and gratitude to our families this Thanksgiving. May we renew our relationships with tender, heartfelt expressions of love. May we remember that the greatest pain we take with us to the other side is love that we did not express while here on earth. And the greatest pain we carry with us here on earth is the love that we did not express to someone who passes to the other side. Life is fragile. Celebrate your loved ones this Thanksgiving Holiday.

I love you dad.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Finding Comfort From The Ones We Love

As mother’s we have innate desires and strong instincts to protect our children from pain. It is a built in mechanism to be protective and to meet our children’s needs from the time the baby is in the womb, to feeding our babies, changing their diapers, and doing everything we can to ensure their comfort and safety.
As mothers we are so committed to meet the needs of our children that we give up our needs, space, time and food if need be. Mothering is designed to stretch us beyond our own selfishness and our own limitations. As our children grow, we work to help our children learn to meet their own needs. We want them to become independent and self-sustaining.
As Lindsey was sick and we saw her go through radiation last fall and watched her gradually decline even further in the spring. I saw Josh, Lindsey’s husband, my husband Todd and my children as they witnessed her suffering. It was so painful to be the mother and be aware of everyone’s pain. How badly I wanted it to stop and to see my family with a different story in some other circumstance.
I remember many times questioning God and praying that he wouldn’t require us to actually go through losing her, that surely things would take a turn for the better, that at her worst points it couldn’t get any worse, and yet it did. In looking back, I was trying to express to God that I personally couldn’t stand to watch Lindsey suffer, let alone watch my whole family suffer as well. I didn’t have any power or control over any of the physical or emotional suffering. I couldn’t really fix anything or even offer any promise of comfort.
As mother’s we feel we are successful when we can offer comfort or find solutions for our children so they can be happy and comfortable. I know I was not humanly capable to offer solutions or comfort like I desperately wanted to during Lindsey’s illness. Now, as I am going through some of the grieving, I still cannot protect my children from the pain of my grieving, nor can I take away their own pain.
A couple of days after Halloween, Jessica and our two granddaughters were visiting and she and I started talking and the next thing I knew I was crying and she was listening. I was expressing my loneliness and sadness and how much I missed Lindsey Halloween night and then, Jessica, who is a mother herself, was holding me while I cried. I realized that she had grown up into the most beautiful and independent woman and that she was comforting me.
I was sharing with her, and she was reaching out to me. We were both grieving the loss of a daughter and sister. Jessica and I need each other now more than ever. Instead of me worrying about Jessica and trying to protect her from the pain of losing her sister and best friend, I was able to receive her love for me as she held me and offered her love and comfort to me in a gentle, peaceful way.
I have been trying to protect my children from my sad feelings and grief thinking that they would be better off if they saw me functioning and trying to be happy. Yet, when she put her arms around me and I allowed her to be there for me, it felt so good to have her be there as my daughter. I understood in that one moment I cannot protect her from my pain. I also realized that God does not take us out of our pain because he knows that we are capable of handling it and that it makes us stronger.
What I am coming to understand is that grieving the loss of a loved one happens over a long period of time. Healing the heart from loss is a gradual process, mostly because the body is designed to compartmentalize the pain and hold it until we are ready to let it go. We would die if we were to feel all our pain all at once. I only know one person that was able to do that and it was Christ. In our humanness we deal with grief in portions or parts while the heart heals.
Each time we release a wave of grief it allows us to let go of some of that heavy sadness and moves us closer to finding joy and happiness in our lives in present time. I truly have so many blessings and so much support and comfort being offered to me. Every time I experience the overwhelming sadness a way is provided for me to get through it and come back to joy and happiness.
There are places for a mother who has lost a child to find comfort: from God and the Atonement, from processing and from the ones we love.

I love you Jessica

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Place of Comfort

This past week I had some really good days, but by the weekend, as Halloween was approaching, a deep sense of sadness and heartache came over me. Grief is so interesting - it comes upon you so suddenly. Of course, in trying to deal with all the sadness, it spills into anger. So Friday night, tossing and turning and not being able to sleep, I realized that the tightness in my chest wasn’t just sadness, there was a deep rage welling up inside me.
Knowing that it was starting to feel really heavy in my heart and that I probably wouldn’t be able to sleep unless I addressed these feelings, I leaned into the anger. I allowed the anger to come forward, and just like we do in a process, I played out a video in my mind. I visualized everything I was angry about, and using pictures, images and words I saw myself releasing all my anger. After I played out the anger video, I pulled out shapes and colors and continued to play out even more anger videos. I did this for about an hour and then finally fell asleep.
In the dark hours of the morning, still feeling heavy, I continued to work through the memories, the anger and the sadness. I released quite a bit of emotion about the medical treatments and the day my daughter died. I am sharing all of this because I want to share what came as this deep overwhelming grief and sadness lifted. I had reached a point where my pillow was soaked, and yet I had been crying for so long that some of the tears were drying on my face.
I finally felt like I could move into the clearing. As I cleared the pain, the sadness, the grief and feelings of not wanting to be here anymore because of this deep, suffocating pain, I saw a light and felt some relief. It was truly as if the first hint of the morning light was coming into my room.
The dark cloud of grief that had been hanging around me lifted, I felt God, the image of a loving father, step into the picture and hold me while I cried in his arms. I felt the residue of hardness ad bitterness melt away and I felt like I was finally being offered some comfort. I felt a simple impression that he knew what I was feeling, because he had sacrificed his own son. He continued to hold me and my heart was able to receive the comfort he was offering.
After a time, I could see Lindsey dressed in white, she stepped forward. She hugged me, and held me close, it felt so good to feel her hugging me and smiling at me. She led me into a beautiful garden. I love gardens. I had never seen a garden like this one, of course, it was not an earthly garden. Beautiful plants and trees growing everywhere, we walked a short distance on a gentle path and came to stand in what seemed like the middle of the garden.
There she pointed out a beautiful rose bush, tall and well groomed. The first thing I noticed is that the whole plant seemed illuminated, it sparkled with glowing light. The roses were pink and yellow and a held the most beautiful fragrance. As I was drawn into the beauty of the roses I realized they looked like what is known as the peace rose. My mom’s favorite rose. She had a lot of them planted along the backside of her house as we were growing up.
Then I saw my mother who passed away seven years ago, standing there so clear and so fully present. She reached out to me, and I to her, with such a warm, real embrace. I sobbed in her arms. I miss her so much, how can a mother and daughter survive the pain of being separated. Lindsey joined us in the hugging. I found myself being comforted by my mother and my daughter. It was a glorious reunion. It was so real and such a gift from God. I saw my grandmother’s step in and hug us. Such warm embraces.
Then I saw others that live on that side of the veil. I saw the space open to include many people standing there gathered around us. Many were my family members. There were some that seemed familiar but that I did not know. They had come to acknowledge that they were family members of some of the people I have worked with here with processing.
It was overwhelming to say the least. This scene reminded me that I am not done. I still have a purpose and a mission to complete. My heart was starting to be filled with joy and an even deeper understanding that Lindsey is with my mom and many family members. She is not suffering, and she lives and works with me from the other side.
Of course, I know and understand these truths spiritually and intellectually, however, emotionally I was being given this experience to help this mother’s heart transition into this time in my life where Lindsey will not be with us physically. Grieving helps us move into acceptance of change.
Instead of feeling so alone in my personal grief, I allowed my heart to be filled with the love and support from those on the other side. I did not feel so alone but, rather felt buoyed up and supported. In my heart, I could truly feel that I had not been abandoned, nor had I been forsaken or forgotten. In those dark and heavy times of grief, where a mother’s human heart can hardly bear the pain of separation from her child, I had been given the simple power of the process and through God’s grace, found a place of comfort.