Thursday, August 14, 2008

a look back on what my home life has been like.

This past year has been a rollercoaster year for me and I have found myself reflecting today and realizing some new things recently. If you read this, bear with me and please don't judge. I put my thoughts out there just to put them out there. Maybe someone needs to hear them.

2007 started off with K being born and having health issues. Despite my best efforts, I was plagued with fears for his health and well-being. I couldn't shake a feeling that he wouldn't make it and it left me in a deep darkness. I felt like I was pretty much just on autopilot but couldn't get out of it. I had received Priesthood blessings but none were of any comfort. I did, however, recognize it as a trial where I needed to learn to rely on my husband. Financially, we started off 2007 with all of our credit card debt paid off and only a small amount left on our auto loan. I had felt a strong prompting a few months prior to get it all paid off regardless of the sacrifice.

A few months into the year we found ourselves looking at new homes. It wasn't something we planned, though I had hoped to move before W started school. The first house we looked at was pure curiosity. Soon, as usual, I was obsessed with research. We looked at other homes ('just looking' we told ourselves), and kept finding ourselves being drawn back to this first house. There were just so many things about it that were so what we had hoped for when we eventually moved. I felt like I was in no emotional state still to make any major decisions, and so I left it to DH. I told him that he was the head of our family and that I trusted him to take it to the Lord and I would accept whatever answer he received. Well, the answer was that this house was the house and this time was the time...everything would work itself out. And so we invested money into our home to secure it's equity (so we thought) and found ourselves putting money on the credit cards again. We repainted the exterior, recarpeted, and installed a new air conditioner. We felt like it was the right thing to do and that it would pay off. For many months we tried selling our house on our own, holding open houses every weekend- not any easy task for me. As construction on our new home progressed and nothing happened with that house I felt very discouraged. I questioned DH's decision. I questioned my answer in following his. I felt that if we made every effort to make every sacrifice on our part and to do all those things that God asks us to do (the prayers, the scripture study etc) then He truly would bless us and that it would work out. I recognized that this was going to be a test of my faith but at the time had no idea just the extent of it. I went to the temple weekly.

It was during one time at the temple that I had a choice spiritual experience...actually it was really the result of two different visits. On one visit I was thinking about the sacrifices I, we, had made and the blessings we desired but seemed to not be receiving. I thought we were doing something wrong and that there must be something we were missing...that there was something more that my Heavenly Father desired of me. It occurred to me that there was one more sacrifice that I had not yet made and that was the most difficult sacrifice for me to make. I desired to show Him that I did have faith that He had told us what to do and that we had made the right decision. I wanted to show him that I trusted Him and would do whatever He asked of me, regardless of the cost. That's when I had that unmistakable feeling that there was another child who needed to come into our family at that time. Having K had been so difficult for me and had brought so many trials on top of the normal trial of being pregnant and having another baby. Truly the biggest sacrifice I could make would be to have another baby and to trust God that would work out. There were other choice experiences that occurred but I knew this was what needed to happen and I got the distinct impression that if I would do this then He would do His part. We made a pact.

So it wasn't long after that I found myself pregnant with K2 (who, by the way, I was certain was going to be a girl- another test of faith that I'm not going to go into right now). However, things were still not working out. We moved into our new house just a couple of weeks after I found out I was pregnant. We made more purchases on credit for the new house (appliances and the like) with the belief and understanding that things would work out as we had been promised. We typically got a sort of bonus at the end of the year from DH's job and we budgeted our purchases according to what we expected from that. We had initially hoped to make some money on the sale of our house but it was becoming more and more evident that was not going to happen. We moved into our new home the first week of October 2007. Our old house had been for sale since April 2007 with no offers. We had our realtor take over trying to sell it as it was now obvious that it was going to have to be a short sale. My nerves were a wreck as I felt out of control of our situation- moving into a new house without our old one sold and without a plan for how to take care of it. I could almost tangibly feel my faith faltering and asked DH for a Priesthood blessing. In it I was promised that I would "find joy" in my new ward. I loved the ward we had been in but I also knew very strongly right then that Heavenly Father knew me better and had a different thing in mind. He loved me and because He loved me He wanted me to not just be happy, but to be joyful, and He was telling me where I would find that joy... and that, if nothing else, that was the reason for the move.

November and December rolled around. I struggled with feeling forgotten by friends, family, and God. Things were not panning out as I had imagined. I couldn't imagine why God would want us to do things that would lead to debt when it was so contrary to what we are taught. And yet, I knew that we had made the right decision...that this was the house and that this was the time and that we weren't just being foolish when we got into debt again. I struggled even more when it was obvious DH couldn't work his second job anymore. We had tried not to plan on that income but we knew we would need it at least for a little while- if nothing else to pay those credit card bills. Joy was not exactly a part of my life. The one exception being the tremendous blessing that our neighbors (who moved in about 6 weeks after us) turned out to be. Come the end of the year I thought things would work out.  However, what he hadn't budgeted for was the economy.  We didn't get that bonus from work that I expected and instead we found ourselves with a compounding debt, minus an income, additional unexpected car costs, and no real hope.

So I'll fast forward a little bit. It's now August 2008. K2 was born relatively healthy despite the doctors beliefs that he would have more problems than he has. However, he has added another $400 to our monthly expenses (his special formula and diapers)....$400 we haven't had. Up until this past year I have always been the one to pay the bills around the house. However, I got the very strong impression that I needed to let DH pay them. Trying to make the money work when it wouldn't was very stressful for me. I was angry that we were in this situation and hurt and upset with God. Doing the bills each month only reminded me of our situation. I felt like He made me a promise and then I must have done something wrong and He changed His mind and was just leaving me to learn a long, hard lesson. I had got to the temple sometime after we had moved and was in a true state of despair. I had this thought come into my mind as clear as if it had been spoken in my ear "It is enough. You have done your part and it is acceptable. I will take care of the rest." Yet, I didn't see that happening at all. Turning the bills over to DH has been another exercise in trusting him. He's never had to do much bill-paying in his life and as a result is not in the habit of it. We have had countless late fees, disconnect fees, collection calls, etc. I don't say this to speak ill of my husband. I know that he is unaccustomed to it. All these things have been a big source of discontent in our home. Financial strains are huge strains on any marriage. I've asked myself, Why would God want us to go through all of this?  Until today I have asked that with a begrudging heart. I have been depressed that things have been so much harder than I expected or imagined. I have been frustrated at the struggle it has all been for me. I have been hurt that my faith and trust have felt shattered. However, all of a sudden I have recently started seeing the ways that God has been trying to find His way back into my life...back into showing me that He is still there and still aware of me and that He isn't mad at me or something.

For many months I had a thought in the back of my head that I should speak to a certain family member of mine and ask for help. I didn't want them to feel like I was taking advantage of them and I felt like we had put ourselves in this situation and that we needed to get ourselves out of it. After all, isn't that how Heavenly Father works? It wasn't until a recent Relief Society lesson that I had that thought come back into my mind. I believe the lesson was on receiving inspiration and that it is sometimes not anything like what we expect and so we argue or reason ourselves out of it.... And that as we refuse that answer we close ourselves off to the spirit and to any further inspiration. When that thought came to my mind during the lesson I knew then that I'd been getting an answer to my prayers but not been willing to hear it because I didn't see the reasoning, because it was hard, and because it wasn't at all what I expected. I summoned my courage and humility and called my family member. I had talked to her before about our financial problems but had never asked for help nor had she offered it. And yet, every time I had had that feeling, she had called me for no apparent reason- I just had chickened out on saying anything about my feeling every single time. So I talked to her about my feelings and asked for help though I explained that I didn't expect it but felt very strongly that I needed to at least have the experience of asking for it.  The conversation went much better than I expected. I knew she understood my situation because she's been here. I knew she felt my pain. I also knew that she couldn't help me because the economy has affected her as well. However, I felt much better at the end of our conversation and had my first glimmer of hope...simply because I had finally made that call I had thought of making nearly 6 months before.
Since that time I have still struggled a lot, but I have seen more. I had the prompting for several weeks that I should talk to the bishop. However, I couldn't figure out what for and so I didn't go. Remembering the experience with the family member I finally resolved that I would just go talk to him and maybe it would come to me. I literally sat down in his office and said "I don't know why I am here but I'm supposed to talk to you." Things then just sort of poured out. He didn't have any great inspiration or answers for me but I felt so much better afterwards. I actually feel hope now. This whole me going to work thing has bothered me. That's always been such a big deal for us, something we felt so strongly about- me staying home. I remembered something in my patriarchal blessing about being able to use my talents to provide means for my family and I thought perhaps this is the situation it refers to. I know we need more money and Billy hasn't argued with the idea of me going to work at night.... and yet it just hasn't settled with me and that has been a struggle for me. Talking to the bishop made me feel much better and reiterated my feelings, to my surprise, that there had to be another answer. He also reiterated another feeling that we need to be going on regular dates again, even though I hadn't brought that up. Every week. He was disappointed that we don't have family members who could (or would) really watch the kids every single week for a couple of hours for us to go out. However, he had some ideas for us and when I told DH about what he had said he seemed more inclined to make more of an effort to plan in advance for finding a sitter.

But I've gotten off track. What I realized today is this.... I should not be asking "Why would God want us to do this?" with a begruding heart when so many things seem to be so wrong and so off from what He would seem to want. I should be asking with an open mind into the lessons to be learned. I shouldn't worry so much about how it is going to work out and whether it will...but should worry more about what I can learn in the process. In the past month, we have had our water, power, phone, and gas shut off. A year ago we were debt free and setting money aside.  But I have learned more about emergency preparedness and about humility and the bigger blessings. I finally don't feel like we are being punished for small mistakes or for planning on money that then didn't come. I think this was part of the picture and I do have hope again, and more faith and knowledge, that it will work out. My brother recently asked me about faith and how much of it we just convince ourselves of.  With all the trials of my faith recently it has given me much to think about. My faith has typically come with taking a step with the hope that things will go a certain positive way to show that it was the right step. This has not been my experience and therein has lied the trial. But DH has never wavered. And I have never lost that conviction that this was the right move to make. If we hadn't paid off those debts we would not have had the excellent credit to qualify for this home when the other still hadn't sold and we would not have been able to move. If we had chosen any other house or moved here at a different time we would not have our neighbors that we have. I have felt angry at God for telling us to do something that would cause so much pain, suffering, struggles, tension, and that would put our marriage to such tests. But it occurs to me that I am not the first to feel this way. Surely the pioneers felt this way too as they crossed the plains, with faith in every footstep, suffering so much hardship and loss. I do not doubt that those parents who lost their children or the children who lost their parents or siblings questioned, even if for only a moment, why God would tell them to make such a leap of faith, promising that all would be well, and then seemingly punish them by causing so much pain and trial. I see now that as hard as it has been for me to keep going to church, I have been blessed with a lesson that touched my heart and gave me words I needed to hear (or comments by other sisters during the lesson) each and every time. When we went to the temple with my sister I sat in the Celestial Room and told DH "I'm just so tired. I'm so tired of the fighting, of the trying to be strong and faithful." His response? "That is why you come here, to rest." Why did that never occur to me before? Instead I have shied away from the place and things that once brought me such peace and comfort because it was there I received the promptings that then led to my pain. I'm not saying that I'm not still tired of it. I feel like I have been fighting to endure for most of my life. But I am feeling hopeful again and that is nice. It is such a wonderful blessing to be able to see the Lord's hand in your life and to recognize it. I still don't know how things will work out but they will. The bishop said to me "The Lord told you that things will work out and they will." It renewed my faith.

The house still hasn't sold. Oh, we've had offers...but the bank hasn't accepted them- or at least not in a timely enough manner. That's been another issue of concern for me. But DH also finally followed a prompting this week and spoke with a friend who is a real estate attorney. We learned that if you have homesteaded your property then if it sells as a short sale then you cannot be taxed on the difference between your loan amount and the sale amount (your debt forgiveness). We hadn't homesteaded yet so had one of those other offers gone through we would have had to pay that very large tax. Needless to say, it's taken care of now. There is another offer on the table and it will be interesting to see if they actually take this one and if it happens fast enough that the buyer doesn't go elsewhere.

So I'm still learning not to second guess myself so much. We've had to pay dearly for not managing the bills the right way, but I still feel strongly that I have done the right thing in giving them to my husband. He has a lesson he needs to learn and I have trust that I need to rebuild in him. This is our opportunity (plus, I've always felt like he needed to better learn how to run the household in case I wasn't around). I'm learning that sometimes it's just about an attitude adjustment. Heavenly Father wanted us to make these decisions and do these things so that we could learn certain lessons, have certain growing experiences, and maybe even because someone else needs something from our experience. I didn't make some royal screwup in the money department that I have to be punished for or pay the consequences of for a long time. I really feel like Heavenly Father is okay with what we have done and still approves of us. I think that is a feeling I have been lacking for a while and that I needed to get. I know that we have been affected severely by the economy as so many others have. I don't pretend that we are the only ones in a situation like this. I don't have a lot of hope for our economy turning around but I do have hope for our particular situation because I do realize that Heavenly Father really did make us a promise and He will stick to His word...even if it's not on my timetable and if I've done a lot of kicking and crying and whining like a baby. Growing pains hurt but evidently I had some faith that needed to be tested a new way and that needed to grow for some future trial. I'm so thankful that God hasn't given up on me. He's provided teachers who have been inspired to speak words I needed to hear or that I actually would hear. He's provided comments from others who listened to the prompting of the Holy Ghost to speak up during a lesson. He's surrounded me with people who love me for me and know me so well... who can see me at church and know what is going on and what to say or who can call me at just the right time and say the right things. He has given me a bishop who made me not feel bad for all the bad feelings I have had but who, instead, said 'it's okay' and 'it's not your fault' and 'you're not a bad person and neither is your husband' and 'I don't judge you' and who was saying what I truly felt like Heavenly Father was saying. He has been patient and loving with me and thank goodness for that! Don't get me wrong...I haven't been completely unhappy for the past year. I'm just saying that I have struggled and I am aware of how much I have whined. Some trials are harder than others and it has been a rollercoaster. I'm sure it will continue to be but I sure am glad to see a little more of the track now. I've spent a lot of time wondering if I have just 'convinced myself' of a lot of the decisions I have made in the past year or if I misinterpreted things. I can honestly say now that even if the path hasn't been the one I expected I was still led by the spirit. Sometimes we realize our testimony in the bearing of it. Sometimes we need to hear the spirit a different way or have it tested a different way in order for our testimony to rebuild itself. Heck, sometimes we have to fake it till we make it and then one day we wake up and realize that we've had it all along and just haven't realized it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

feeling reflective- a post about my mom.

I tend to get particularly reflective this time each year.

9 years ago....
Nine years ago today I sat at Sunrise Hospital. Waiting. My mother's friends filled the waiting room with worried looks and looks of concern for us. I can picture some of those faces still so clearly as if it were yesterday...not nine years ago. Michelle.  Annette. Kathy Mitchell.  Oh Kathy, that was so hard.  DH's mom and sister came too.  He was at BYU for the summer and I had called him in a panic. He sent them just to give me a hug. It meant so much.

It was July 6, 1999. I didn't feel like going to work that day. Just felt like hanging out at home with my mom. I'd gone to Utah to be with (now DH) for the 4th of July and to get a feel for BYU's campus before heading there in August. She gave me a hard time, teased me, and made me feel guilty so we came back for the actual holiday. She teased DH for not spending enough time with her either.  My dad sang with the Bluth Chorale in a memorial pageant in Boulder City that year so we watched the fireworks there. It was fun but the memory of that night haunts me. We were all playing around and pulling each other over in our low lawnchairs. I pulled my mom's and she hit her head. I didn't really hurt her, and I certainly didn't mean to cause any harm. But that memory haunts me because my brother once wrote that he thought her hitting her head (because of me) had caused things- or at the very least sped things up. I have asked countless doctors, including my neurologist, and they have assured me over and over that it would have had no effect whatsoever on what happened...but it haunts me because I know he accused me for my mother's death. Whether he blames me still, I don't know. I have always been too afraid to ask. But it doesn't matter. She's gone either way and we all hurt, and grieve, and blame, and so much more in our own ways.

DH flew back to Utah on Monday night. He had midterms to get to. I spent Tuesday morning (the 6th) chatting with my mom. We sat at the kitchen table eating out of a tub of Blue Bunny ice cream. It was a new flavor she insisted I try. It was really good. I've never been able to find it since. I asked her if she thought I would marry DH.  A good friend had recently sent her boyfriend off on his mission (or was about to) and I we pondered whether they would get married. That gave me the guts to finally ask my mom if she thought (now DH) and I would. She got a little twinkle in her eye and said that she did. She told me of the things she would like for my wedding. Somehow we went from that conversation to talking about the new millennium  Funny how conversations run. She made a comment about not wanting to be around for it. Too much bad stuff. She finally convinced me I should go to work, at least for a little bit. I worked for my dad doing clerical stuff. So sometime around 12:30, I think, I left.

I was in the habit of talking to my mom on the phone as I worked. I'd think of something to tell her and I'd call. Sorting through papers was boring work. I had been on the phone with her and she got off as she was filling up the mop bucket. She didn't really want to mop but it needed to be done. Not fifteen minutes later I was in the office with my dad when he picked up the phone- it was my brother. He yelled "Call 9-1-1" and hung up.  He looked at me and said "It's your mom. Go home."  Of course we both raced out of there. His office then was on North 5th and Gowan. I raced up Ann Rd at speeds of 100mph, praying that there would be no cops or cars. Back then Ann Rd was far less developed. As I went over the overpass at US-95 I saw the ambulance about to get on the freeway. I saw my brother's face in the front seat. I continued home. For one, I was going too fast to turn around. I didn't have a cell phone and didn't want my dad to wonder where I was. I didn't know what hospital they were going to either. And I didn't know what was going on with the rest of the kids.

I got home before my dad. His good friend worked in the office across the hall from him and had heard everything. He called his wife who is a nurse. She pulled up just as my dad did. The neighbor was with the kids and told me what had happened. My oldest brother had found my mom collapsed on the kitchen floor, mop beside her. He thought she slipped and hit her head. She was unconscious and having a seizure... just like one I had had several months earlier after getting some immunizations (mine was the result of hypoglycemic shock). He'd been there that day too and it scared him. He did CPR and called 9-1-1. They took my mom to Mountain View Hospital and my dad left for there, telling me to stay home with the kids. I went into immediate business mode- as I often do when crisis calls. I called the a family friend. She came over right away to take all the other siblings that were home with her (the oldest one was in the ambulance remember). I called my friend, who insisted she drive me to the hospital because I was in no condition to be driving again. I grabbed my mom's address book, some granola bars, and my calling card. We got to the hospital just as they were getting ready to put my mom on a life flight helicopter. My Grandpa was there and I knew from his face that things weren't good. Inside I already knew what was going to happen. A strange thing had happened to me exactly a week earlier. I had been driving home from work, on the overpass at Ann Rd & 95, when I had the thought occur to me 'what would I do if I lost my mom at this stage in my life'. I went through all of the emotions and thoughts at that time. I knew. So I went to say goodbye to my mom just before they took her onto the helicopter. They gave me a few minutes alone and I whispered to my mom "It's okay. If you need to go, I can take care of everyone. We'll be okay." I knew she'd missed her mom for a long time.

We got to Sunrise Hospital just as the helicopter had landed. I will never forget that image of the parking lot blocked off because it was too much of an emergency to land on top. I used to get anxiety attacks any time I went by there. It's a little better now but I still avoid it. A lot after that is a blur. I called people from the payphone with my calling card to let them know what was going on. I remember being taken to the cafeteria because everyone was concerned about me eating because of my low blood sugar. I assured them repeatedly that I was fine and capable of taking care of myself. After all, I'd had the sense to grab granola bars and other snacks for myself and others there. It was when we were in the cafeteria that my uncle came in and said my mom had been given a blessing but it didn't seem good. I told those there then about what had happened to me a week earlier. It was late at night, somewhere around 11, when they were taking my mom in for surgery. See, she'd had a brain aneurysm, and they were going to do what they could to cut off the bleeding. They said it would be 48-72 hours before we knew anything so my dad sent me and my brother home to get some rest. Our family friends had brought the kids down before bed and we'd been taken to a tiny room to explain what was going on. We headed home. That's when it started to rain.

The house seemed so unbelievably empty that night.  My brother went to bed, exhausted. He'd always been a better sleeper than I. I got on the computer and sent out an email to everyone about what was going on and asking for prayers. I called a few people on the east coast and I called DH. It didn't seem like long before my dad called saying that we had better come back quickly. I woke up my brother and we left again.

We drove quickly to the hospital but it didn't seem quick enough. We had to laugh when we found ourselves detoured because the completely empty highway was closed due to two trucks carrying hay bales that had collided and spilled hay all over the highway. It was 4 in the morning. When we got to the hospital my dad explained that my mom's pressure had gone haywire. He said she was 'alive' still but that he and the nurse had both commented that they felt her leave. He didn't think she was going to make it. I could feel it too and I knew he was right. I didn't leave again. Time passed too quickly and yet it dragged on. I watched the rain out the window falling on the parking lot. Everything seemed so peaceful out there.
My aunt was there, painting my mom's toes. "It would bug her" she said. My dad looked like a wreck. I was trying to think of what else needed to be done, what else I could do. It was July 7th.... 7/7/99. At some point in time the doctors told us that she was essentially brain dead and we needed to take her off life support. They said she probably had been brain dead since the very first moment. She'd had a rare brain aneurysm that burst on both sides in the center of her brain, much like a balloon. Our friend brought the kids to the hospital to say goodbye. I will never ever forget the looks on their faces. Taking my youngest brother in to say goodbye and trying to explain to him that mommy would never be back. He was 4 1/2 but he understood. He told us that she was an angel now and with the lady with the yellow hair who had been hurt by the red car. My Grandma. My mom's mom who had, 6 years earlier, been hit and killed by a car while riding her bike. I didn't know before that that the car had been red. One brother was almost 13 and my sister was almost 10. I was 17 and my oldest brother was 15.

Nine years ago tomorrow they took my dad and I into a room with the organ donor people. The lady's name was Sherry. It was fitting. Sherry was my Grandma's name. My mom had been a crisis volunteer with T.I.P (Trauma Intervention Program) and every serious call she had been on had involved someone named Sherry. She said it made her feel like her mom was with her. So we laughed that this person who had come to discuss what parts of my mother would be preserved would be named Sherry. It felt weird, talking about donating organs and turning off breathing machines. The time had come and I was given some time again to be alone with my mom. I curled up in the bed with her. I couldn't think what else to do. I felt so small, so much like a little child. I curled up there and I just cried. I have no idea how long it was. But she felt hot. She didn't feel like her... only like a thing that was kept functioning by machines. They were keeping her hot to keep the organs alive for donation. It was when I could no longer ignore the feeling that my mom really wasn't there, that it was just a shell of a body, that I said goodbye and I left. I saw my friend's sad eyes and those of my mom's friends. My other best friend hadn't come. She'd been at work. I was numb and tired. And it hadn't stopped raining.

I drove home by myself that day. When I got in the car at the parking lot to leave I turned on the radio. The theme song for Tarzan was playing. "You'll be in my heart.... From this day on, now and forever. Always." I felt like it was my mom telling me she was there with me. I cried the whole way home. My dad was right behind me. We pulled into our driveway at 4pm.... exactly 24 hours after my brother had made that phone call. The house was always emptier after that. Even when it was filled to the brim with flowers. You couldn't walk through our living room because it was so full. It felt like the fridge at the florist's shop. The smell was comforting to me though and I slept on the couch in there. The lilies were the strongest and felt like a hug.

There was a lot of business to be taken care of and I was there for all of it. I went with my dad to make the funeral arrangements. It wasn't right that I was 17 and picking out my mother's casket. I don't remember if I said that aloud but I do remember thinking it. There was no question to me where my mom would want to be buried. At the cemetery and near the pond where her mother's ashes had been sprinkled. We'd gone out there often with her to feed the ducks and visit. So my dad and I rode in the mortuary's limo across town to pick out a burial site. The rain had still not stopped. I had fallen asleep lying down in the back when I was woken up by a jar and strange noises. I looked out the window to see that we were in a flood and the water was to the door. But we were just around the corner from the cemetery and we made it. My dad asked me to do my mom's makeup and I agreed. I remembered my mom and aunt complaining about how my grandma looked nothing like herself. I had spent hours sitting and talking to my mom while she'd done her makeup. She had taught me anything I knew about it and I knew I could do it how she would. So my aunt met me there along with a friend of the family's. The led us to a room where it was just us and my mom's body in a casket. I'll spare the details because it would be hard to explain anyway and I prefer not to think of my mom that way. I was glad my aunt was there though because she can always turn everything into a joke. We laughed more than I felt appropriate but as much as I knew my mom would wish us to. She painted her fingernails and I did her makeup. When we were done she just looked like she'd been sleeping.

The funeral was on the 10th. We were supposed to be at my dad's family reunion but it was canceled because of the funeral. My brothers and I got a kick out of this because we knew she didn't want to go that year and we thought it funny that she'd found quite the way to get out of it. Funnier still, but then not really, was that everyone came to the funeral and it was like the reunion came to her. Maybe you had to be there to get the joke. The Relief Society kept us well stocked with food. I knew the drill from friends' experiences with crises and I expected dinners. But I was overwhelmed that they also brought lunch and they also brought food for our family and friends that would come in town. We were overwhelmed. They took our photographs and photo albums to put the loose ones into albums to be on display at the viewing/funeral. The bishop came over and played chess with my youngest brother. My brother won. A friend of ours flew in from England. DH drove back down from Utah. My uncle came down and was the one to dedicate the grave. It was his one year wedding anniversary. DH drove me to the viewing at the mortuary the night before the funeral. He just sat there in the back the whole time. Just sat there so that I would know I had someone to lean on. I remember a friend's parents coming and thinking that was so nice of them. My piano teacher came. He was mine and my brother's piano teacher. I can still see him sitting on the bench with my brother and holding him as he cried. It broke my heart. I remember my friends sitting there, clearly not knowing what to do but wanting me to know that they were there for me. I felt bad because I didn't know what to do either or what to tell them.

The morning of the funeral, the rain stopped. They'd called it "The 100-year flood." The sun shone bright and strong and it was more humid than anything I could remember. I'd gone back to New York with my mom the August before for her 20 year class reunion and it was more muggy than that. My dad hadn't wanted a normal funeral. He didn't like the "stupid Plan of Salvation" talks. I wasn't surprised... he hadn't been active in church for years. In fact, on the way to pick up our friend from the airport we had wondered if my mom had 'chosen to die' so that my dad would find his way back to church again. I thought that and I understood and I only hoped that I wouldn't blame my dad for her needing to make that sacrifice. At the funeral we displayed a lot of the things she had made, crafts and paintings, flower arrangements etc along with the photo albums. Seems like she had wished her mom's funeral was recorded so we set up a videotape. In the end it needed 4 tapes. Some unknown person had taken care of switching them out, even getting additional ones from somewhere. The chapel was overflowed. There were so many people that they had to set up chairs and sound in the Primary and Relief Society rooms. I was touched by the friends of mine that came. My mom was the kind of mom who was a friend and mom to all of my friends as well. I knew it was hard for them as well and I wanted to be able to comfort them. DH had to take some of them home after the funeral and before the graveside service because it was just too hard. I remember him saying that one in particular was having a really rough time. I played the piano during the service. There was never any real question about what the service would entail. I played two of my mom's favorite pieces... "The Forrest Gump Suite" and "Hymne". I didn't think I could do it but I prayed I would do it justice for her. When I played it was as if someone else's hands were playing. I have never played them that perfectly since, though I have tried. We didn't have a closing song. I hated "God Be With You" that was always sung. We had opened with "Families Can Be Together". My brother had started playing it seemingly nonstop since my mom had died. To close we played on the radio "The River" by Garth Brooks. It had been my senior class song and I had played it at graduation only a month earlier. My mom said she wanted it played at her funeral. I still wonder if she knew.

I don't think a lot of things truly hit me until we were there at the cemetery. It felt so final then. I didn't want to leave. I couldn't will myself to leave. It was so hot and I could hardly breathe. I just laid on the grass next to the flowers. The poor cemetery workers were waiting for me to leave so that they could lower the casket into the ground, but I didn't want them to. One of my mom's friends gathered flowers from the bouquets to make into a wreath for us. Someone finally pulled me up off the ground and got me to go back to the church for the luncheon that had been prepared. It was nearly done by the time I got there.

Nine years ago. It seems so long ago and yet so recent. I can hear her in me, especially when I laugh or yell at my children. Billy hears it too. My mom's closest friends still call me Pam sometimes. My mom's family hasn't kept in touch much. I think it was hard for them. Many of them aren't LDS either and don't share the same beliefs about families and being together forever. It was hard for me for a long time, still is sometimes.... feeling like I didn't just lose my mom but like I lost her entire family as well. It's gotten better since with some of them. I know it was really hard for my Grandpa. He had never really been much of an emotional man. He softened a lot after that and I was grateful that he and I were able to develop some relationship. It had upset him to outlive his daughter, especially when he had always expected to die young himself. It's hard sometimes being the reminder of the sadness, and I think we kids were a little bit of that for them. Even more so for me. Everyone always told me how much I looked like my mom, how much I reminded them of her. I'm not sure if I realized that completely until I moved back into our ward. Back around some of those friends who were there that day. They still talk about my mom and that's nice. It's nice to have her still 'alive' and not forgotten. But sometimes I still see that sadness in their eyes. It's gotten better recently but I saw it a lot when we first moved here. They would look at me and they would see my mom and would be sad. They would look at my children and see what my mom was missing, especially with P, and you could see their heartstrings pulled a little bit.

I try to get over it but I know I never really will. I had dreams that I won't get to live. I used to go to the park and on outings a lot with my mom and grandma when I was little. I dreamed of doing that with my kids and mom. I knew she was so excited for me to be a grown up with her. We had gone on the youth conference trek together just a year before and she had written in a note to me a quote from Joan Rivers "It's a beautiful thing to have your daughter grow old and realize she's your best friend." She said she already felt that way about me. I dreamed of my mom taking me off to college and sending me care packages and talking to me on the phone all the time because she hated that I was so far away. She told me that's how it was going to be. I dreamed of my mom fussing over my wedding and getting so excited for me to get dolled up, the way she had at senior prom. I dreamed of her being there when my kids were born, helping me and telling me what to do and having them over for sleepovers like I had done with my grandma. I don't get those dreams and sometimes I still get mad about it. Sometimes I still get jealous of those who do, especially when they don't realize just how lucky they are that they get to. Instead I got nightmares as a freshman in college. I would get nightmares where I had killed a loved one. They got so vivid and real and scary that I was afraid to go to sleep. My roommate used to read me stories and sing me lullabies to help me fall asleep. I hurt but I didn't want anyone to see that. I didn't want them to hurt for me. I didn't want them to be sad about me being sad, they way they had seemed at the funeral. And so I shut them all out without even meaning to. I didn't know how bad it was until years later when DH and my roommate (who was one of my hs best friends) would tell me. I'm glad they stuck it out.

It's not so bad anymore. The nightmares are different now. Instead, I sometimes have dreams where my mom is in them and has abandoned us. Or she is there trying to be there but I am arguing with her about the fact that she is dead. Those are the unpleasant dreams that leave me unhappy and unsettled the next day. I once was walking to the Celestial Room in the temple and I had the feeling that she was walking there beside me, holding me. It was so strong that I could hardly breathe. I prefer to hang on to that feeling and I sometimes hate that I can't just feel it whenever. Whenever DH and I truly get into a fight I get mad all over again that I don't have my mom. He knows it too, and he understands. It's this weird psychological thing. It must be getting better though because it doesn't last quite as long, though I think it depends on the 'fight.' When someone important to me says unkind things to me or is unsupportive of me, I get upset that I don't have my mom because I know she would not be that way. Don't get me wrong...she told me my faults. But she was only ever being honest, never hurtful, and I always knew she was in my corner. When I was 6 I tried to run away for the first time. She made me a cross stitch that I still have hanging. It says "A Mother is a forever friend." Sometimes I get mad at her for leaving me and I turn it around... but that doesn't last long either and I usually just laugh at my ridiculousness. I know that's what she would do. Oh, the pain is definitely still there and just as strong but I don't think about it as often. The ache will always still exist but in different ways and for different things.

But nine years has gone by fast. My mom was 38 when she died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. When I miss her it seems like it's been forever already. Those memories seem so far and distant. I still have her in me and I think I realize that more now than ever. I can't be 'fake' like some people would like me to be because it's not in the nature she gave me. Honesty and openness are important to me. I try to laugh more because that's what she did and I know that's what she wanted of me. I stick up for myself because she used to stick up for me. I don't forget about myself and my talents just because I am a mother because she never did. I have girlfriends that I do things with because I know how much they enriched her life and how much they meant to her. I think it's okay to miss my mom and to sometimes be sad about it because she taught me that it's okay to feel and I know she'd felt the same way after her mom had died. I make jokes with my children and call them names like 'dork' and 'nerd' in a loving way, just like my mom did us...because I find that I just can't help it. I read something in a book called "Motherless Daughters" by Hope Edelman about how a motherless daughter often finds some fulfillment when she has a daughter of her own because she is able to reestablish a mother-daughter bond. I think there is something to be said for that. More and more I see that my mother is still alive in me as a mother. It's something I'm happy to see, even though I know she wasn't perfect. I always wanted to be just like her. My mom's best friend once told me that our children will always be better parents than us and better people than us because they will see our mistakes and improve on them. They take the best parts of us and fix the worst. I think she was right. I'm pleasantly surprised when I 'find' my mom in the random moments of the day and I'm happy that she was open and honest enough with me that I know what I want and don't want and that I can be like her, only my own version with my own touch. It's been nine years mom but I still miss your smile and laughter...and your fight and compassion and your honesty and acceptance....oh, and your sarcasm. ;)