Saturday, June 8, 2013

Strength for the Week

I had a prayer answered this week.

I keep asking the Lord what my path should be, and what would He have me do?  I also complain a little to Him as well.  But only in a whisper...

And this week through my personal Gospel study and then getting up and going 'to work', a little perfect truth seeped into my weary but grateful heart.

"Be patient.  Your duty is to learn everything you possibly can during the pain.  Make the most of your tutelage.  Trust Me."

It has not only stayed with me, but it has broadened my shoulders and changed my attitude for the better this week.

In essence, I feel hope.  

Yes, my friend April S. said it well:  God is good.  He is so, so very good.  

BYUI Devotional quote from Tuesday, June 4:

"Our goal must be to find the good that can result from our challenges.  God in His great wisdom and love will do what is best for us and those around us, if we will but turn to Him and have faith in Him.
It will often require enduring experiences that are not pleasant or easy, but enduring them with faith that will eventually result in greater blessings for us and certainly a blessing to those who watch how we handle these difficult challenges."

-- Harold C. Brown
President, Draper UT temple

How have I seen God's love for me in my personal life this week?

1) This quote has a sentence that is in my patriarchal blessing word for word.  Coincidence?  Nope.

2)  One of my favorite mission companions whom I have not spoken with in years, sent me a beautiful card this week.  I read it with tears.  I love her.

3)  My friend and drama teacher from high school also owns the Playmill Theater in West Yellowstone.  I stopped in to say 'hi' last weekend when the kids and I were in town.  He gave us 5 comp tickets to see Beauty and the Beast that night.  It lifted my spirits.  There's nothing better than live musical productions to enrich the human spirit.

4)  Our friends the Abel's gave us the gift of creating new memories with them last weekend.  They hosted us in their beautiful cabin in Island Park, and a day touring Yellowstone (which my children have never seen.  Ridiculous because we live in it's backyard, I know.)

5) My son made a new friend this week.  We have been praying since Leech's left for him to make new friends... and he is the happiest 13-year old.  Hanging out with Jaxon has been a daily adventure for Josh.

6) I got to talk to each of my siblings this week.  They call and check up on us.  I love that.

7) I was informed that our names have been placed on 19 different temples' prayer roll.  I'm feeling it!

8)  Earlier this week, the Primary Presidency came by and visited my Emma.  (They had visited my youngest a few months ago, but had missed Emma somehow.)  They gave her four hand-crafted, personalized journals for each of our four children (even though Josh is in Young Men's.)  They told her that the presidency is concerned about them, and that they love them.  They also told her that sometimes when things in our lives are hard, it helps to get our feelings out in our journals.

On the inside cover, each journal reads,

"Allow the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not:  for of such is the kingdom of God.
"And he took them up in his arms, and put his hands upon them, and blessed them..."
"... Behold, your little ones.
"And they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven...; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and the angels did minister unto them."

Emma read those verses to me, lovingly copied into each child's journal, and something about the offering from someone else who cares for my children almost as much as I do, made me cry.

Emma said, "Mom, I don't feel like writing.  Can I draw my feelings in the journal instead?"

I responded, "Absolutely, Em.  Get all your sads out on paper.  It's up to you."

9) One of my BFF's is going through a similar trial.  While our sons were on the Fathers and Sons Campout, she and I took our daughters to dinner and shopping at the mall.  And then to breakfast in the morning.  She has been a godsend.  We push each other forward when things seem so bleak...

Lastly, my mission comp sent this thought:

"He will sit as a Refiner and Purifier."

This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study, and they pondered what the statement meant about the character and nature of God.  One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study.

That week the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work.  She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.  As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were the hottest as to burn away all the impurities.  The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; in Malachi 3:3, it reads:  "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purge them as gold and silver , that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness."

She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the entire time the silver was being refined.  The man answered yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire.  If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

The woman was silent for a moment.  She then asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?"  He smiled and answered, "Oh, that's easy-- when I see my image in it."

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday Ramblings-- Gratitude

First I want to say 'Thank you' to my sweet friends and family who have contacted me after the last post updating our lives.  I so appreciate your prayers on our behalf, as well as my husband's and I appreciate your generosity, too.

I've decided that I vacillate between four emotions throughout the past several days:
Anger, Hope, Indifference, and Compassion (but not in any particular order.)

However, I feel more hopeless with each passing day.  I don't know if that's reality settling in and preparing me for life as a single mom, or perhaps opposition running it's course to deter me from my goal to work at keeping my end of the marriage intact.  (Holy abundance of prepositional phrases, Batman!)  The kids have stopped asking for their Dad.  (I don't know if that's a positive thing or not).  We have all settled into a 'new normal' and are adjusting much better this week.

Can you see my dilemma?  I'm trying so very hard to discern God's will for me through promptings and impressions I feel from the Spirit.  But I have so many conflicting feelings...

I am becoming stronger in almost every area of my personal life.  (Physical health, spiritual closeness to my Heavenly Father and Savior, financial independence, and home improvement/maintenance.  I mean, come on-- how many women can start a fire for roasting hot dogs/smores with a few pieces of wood, newspaper and vaseline-soaked cotton balls?  I rock, I know.)

I say almost every area.  Emotionally?  As you can see, I'm all over the map.  Today I nearly broke down in church, but held it together until I got home.  But in the end, surely I will become more resilient, as well as compassionate through my trials.  No matter what the outcome entails.

Church was very uplifting.  I felt so grateful for the privilege of partaking of the sacrament.  It gives me renewed conviction to keep my promises to the Lord, and it provides a time for introspection.  (I have a lot of weaknesses and I have never been a perfect spouse or parent, or anything else, for that matter...and either way, I need to improve many things about myself.)

The lessons in Relief Society and Sunday School had personal, poignant lessons for me.  I'm trying to soak all those truths in and figure out how to apply them to me.

I received some bad news today-- another good friend and mother of one of my violin students attempted suicide last night.  I am so very sad.  She brought me in two meals last week.  I miss her, and hope she will get better soon.  Can the millennium please come a little sooner?  Pretty please?

How wonderful the Gospel of Jesus Christ is!  How kind and loving my neighbors and friends are!
And I love my children so much.  I am in awe at their uniqueness and strength.

I do not know what our future holds, but I am trying to not fear whatever that may be.  My God is an 'on-time' God.  He knows what I need, when I need it.  One day at a time.

"In the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you have help from both sides of the veil, and you must never forget that.  When disappointment and discouragement strike... you remember and never forget that if our eyes could be opened, we would see horses and chariots of fire as far as the eye can see riding at reckless speed to come to our protection."   ( ~ Jeffrey R. Holland, In Times of Trouble, March 1980)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Swimming in Deep Waters

I sleep alone.

It's been 13 days since the Mister left our family, suddenly and painfully.

I have been mourning our marriage, and our memories.  It's as if he erased 16 years of our lives.  And it hurts.

My ward has been exceptionally supportive and compassionate.  My neighbors, friends and family (my in-laws, too) have been life savers.

It feels like he died.  My house is full of cards, flowers, gifts, and meals.  Yet I have no grave to visit; except the other side of our bed.  Which lies empty and undisturbed.

The kids had a rough first week.  Anxiety attacks, teachers calling from school because the innocent kindergartener won't stop crying in class.  The 11-year old who comes home from school every day and has to be held like a baby on my lap for long periods of time.  My oldest feels responsible for Dad leaving.  He sees the school counselor regularly.

It's as if my neatly stacked apple cart has been dumped over, and the order and predictability of my life is scattered in all directions.  The energy previously used for other things is rerouted to gathering, cleaning, sorting, and restacking the apples.  Our lives are fraught with disorder, confusion, despair, and loneliness.  I focus only on surviving one day at a time.

Last Saturday, I couldn't get out of bed.  I wanted my life to be over, for the pain to stop.  The despair and feelings of betrayal were thick and wide.  I only had 4 reasons to get up that day, and they were all hungry.  So finally at 11:00, I made breakfast.

"Mama, can you make the waffles that Daddy makes?" she asked hopefully.

I smiled weakly, and made sweet rolls.  (He never used a recipe, but made the best weekend breakfasts that I can't begin to replicate.)

I find great comfort in the knowledge that God loves me, and through the love of my Savior and Healer, Jesus Christ, we can have our broken hearts healed.  God counts each of my tears, as well as my children's.  There will be more 'Saturdays', but I will get through them.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Missing her

Dear blogger friends-- this is my therapy tonight.  Typing out some memories from last weekend, and some feelings.  It's pretty personal, so bear with me.

Dear Chrishel,

If I could talk to you right now, this is what I would say...

Julie and I miss you something fierce.  I can't even imagine how Tim and the kids are coping.  And Julie and I have had some significant trials in the past couple of months as well, and we both look at each other and say, "I wonder what advice Chrishel would give."  I'm so glad I have Jules.  You'll always be in our hearts.  I miss everything about you.  I don't cry much anymore.  And since my grief therapy session, I haven't had anymore anxiety/panic attacks that plagued me after your funeral.  But I think about you every day.  The doctor started me on some anti-anxiety/anti-depressant meds.  I think they are helping.

Last weekend, I received a text that made me giddy with excitement.  It was from Tim, letting me know that he was on his way to Idaho Falls and would be here in a few hours!  I also felt a sense of dread, because I was afraid of the emotions that seeing them up here would trigger for me.  After all, the last time they were up here, so were you.  And we had a grand time.

I knew it would be hard for Tim, because at the time of her funeral, he didn't ever want to come back up here... too many memories.

But when I told Julie he was on his way, she screamed happily and we were so excited to love on those kids and see Tim again!

Tim had some business to take care of over in the Boise area, so he left Grace and Isaac in my care Friday night and Saturday.  And it was a bittersweet experience.

Did you know that Isaac lost a tooth while he was here?  He saved it and put it in a plastic bag to put under his pillow.  But the tooth fairy kept forgetting to remind him to place it there, so we decided that the he/she/it would have an easier time finding him in his own bed.

His hair is lightening up into a beautiful golden brown and his permanent teeth are coming in so straight, Chrishel!  You'd love his smile.

It was such a delightful surprise to have "the Littles" (remember how you and I referred to our two youngest kids that way) with us for a visit that Julie and I spoiled them.  I even took Caleb and Lizzy out of school Friday at lunchtime and Jules and I took the Littles to Chick-fil-a for lunch.  Isaac couldn't get enough of the milkshakes:)

Since Bishop Hansen put Tim up in his hotel, I took the kids swimming there Saturday afternoon since he was out of town all day.  Julie was in Utah picking up a new van, so I was on my own with six chitlins on my own.  We had a blast.  We went to Arctic Circle (I miss how you used to pronounce it Arktic Circle, instead of like us locals pronouncing it 'artic') and guess what?  Isaac wanted another milkshake.  Cookies and Cream.  How could I say 'no'?  I did, however, require a hug and a kiss from him for payment, which he reluctantly rendered.

When we were swimming, Isaac proudly announced that he wanted me to text his Dad and tell him that he swam across the whole width of the pool without any floaties for the first time!  I took a picture and sent the text.  You would have cheered him on.

In the course of that day, Isaac only called me 'mommy' twice.

Sierra got a few more ear piercings since we saw her last.  I wondered what you would've thought about that.  Julie gave her a piece of her mind, though.  And I think you would have been just fine with that!

Once when I was drying off a Pampered Chef cool and serve tray in the kitchen, Grace came in the kitchen and stared at it.  I noticed and asked her if her Mama had one of these.  She slowly nodded her head.  You had tons of PC products, and I think it sparked a memory.  I'm guessing Tim hasn't pulled the appetizer tray out much...

Did you know that Grace is the spitting image of you?  She has your spunk.  She can talk my ear off.  She let me snuggle her many times and I cherished it deeply.  I rocked her in my bedroom rocking chair (the same one you sat in when we had our 'deep' conversations when you were up here last) and I snuggled and kissed her.  I didn't let her see the moisture forming in my tired eyes as I held her.

"Do you miss your mommy, Gracie girl?" I asked as I rocked her.

"Yes." she answered with determination.

"Do you know where she is, honey?"

"She's up in heaven and I bet she's rocking our little baby right this very minute!  Plus, I bet she's rocking Megan's baby Layna, too.  She's taking care of them for us."

"I think you're absolutely right, Gracie.  I miss her, too.  But I know she's okay.  She showed me that in a very special dream.  She's keeping an eye on all of us, and helping us from her side of heaven."

Several times throughout the day she asked for her Daddy.  She's pretty attached to him right now, and I guess she has since stopped asking for you.  I guess that's a good step.  But what a heavy burden for Tim.  We all wish they were closer so we could help them out more.  Tim says the ward still brings in a meal every week, and his mom does some cooking and leftovers get them by.  But Tim has lost a lot of weight.  I'm sure he doesn't have much of an appetite these days.

Grace let me put a pony in her baby fine hair (sorry to say it hasn't grown in any thicker yet) and Tim made some comment on Sunday that he needed to learn how to curl her hair so she didn't look so 'orphaned' on Sundays.  She's so dang cute, nobody would care.  Remember how you loved to do Lizzy's hair?  You used to bathe Grace and Liz together and then do these extravagant hair dos in her hair because Grace just simply didn't have enough?  I miss the curls you'd do in her hair to make it look so feminine.  I should've had you teach me how to do those cool braids.

We fed Tim and the kids dinner over the course of the weekend, and of course, we missed you.  Remember how last time you came up, you brought chicken noodle soup and rolls from Ruby's restaurant to feed us???  And a cheesecake for both Julie and me for our birthdays?  You silly.  We were supposed to be feeding and hosting you, but you were always making sure everyone else was taken care of.

Remember all of our combined meals?  We'd plan a menu and throw together a feast for our families.  Chaotic delight, no?  Remember how we used to joke about being sister wives?  (Well, except for the ... uh... bedroom part.  Because we shared just about every other responsibility!)

Taten didn't come up-- he had some other commitment.

Tim is being such a good daddy.  I know he doesn't feel very strong, but he is doing a great work with your babies.  I hope you'll let him feel your love for him and your presence somehow.  To say he misses you would be such a gross understatement.  You were his life.  You were all he had known since he was 17 years old.  He's trying very hard to move forward.  He's done what I would consider, very brave things.  He and I visited for a while Sunday afternoon.  I'm so glad he's so easy to talk to.  It was good to see him smile and joke around at dinner.  But I know those moments are few and far between in his life right now...

I think the ward was happy to see Tim and the kids at church.  Everytime I saw Tim, he had people surrounding him.  In fact, Joseph and I held a little open house for him before he left Sunday night.  It was fun to chat with the ladies, and Tim and JP chatted with the men while the kids ran wild throughout the yard and house.

I hope they'll come back to visit.  They are our link to you.  And we love them.  More than ever.


I have always, and I mean ALWAYS loved a good dill pickle.  Even when I was a kid, my friends' moms would give me pickles by the gallon with a ribbon on top for my birthday.

Chrishel knew this, and a few years ago, she raided her grandmother's food storage and found the holy grail of delight:  homemade, canned dill pickles!  She brought me every last 10-year old jar.  And not only did I eat every soft, salty pickle, but I drank every.  last.  drop. of.  pickle.  juice.  Bottoms up!

Fast forward to the Fall of 2012... Tim was up here doing some work on the house and she asked me to  send him home with a dozen quart jars because for my upcoming birthday, she was going to bottle her grandmother's homemade dill pickles for me.

And she did.  She came up later that month and proudly delivered them to me.  I gave her the biggest hug.  We used to joke that she was like my drug supplier.

She told me to let them sit until Christmas time, and then they would be ready to eat.

 I opened my first jar during the holidays and savored my birthday present.

And ever since she died on January 16, I go down to my basement and see my 11 unopened quart jars of lovingly pickled cucumbers.  And it is painful.  Because I want to eat them, but I simply cannot.  I start to feel guilty.  And sad.  Because what happens if I start eating and then get down to the last jar?

The pickles are the only thing I have of hers that are handmade.  I have jewelry she gave me from Ruby's Inn for my birthday, but her canning... she loved to garden and to can.  At her viewing, on one of the display tables in the church, her family had put symbols of all of her hobbies and talents... her gardening spade still grimy with last fall's hardened soil, her well worn hiking Keens, and a few jars of her beautifully canned fruits and vegetables.  (She was the one who taught me how to can applesauce.)

So last night, I was craving one of her pickles.  (I have been a pickle snob my entire life, and I can unabashedly say that hers are THE BEST I have ever tasted.  Ever.  Maybe it's that red jalapeƱo pepper she adds with the garlic...)

I went down to the basement and gingerly took a bottle of the pickles and brought it upstairs to the kitchen.  The house was quiet.  Everyone else was fast asleep.  And like a drunk, I sat in the dark at my kitchen table and ate pickle after delicious pickle as I stroked the smooth glass bottle.  I tried to imagine her with her hair pulled back, lovingly packing those cucumber spears into the sterile bottles.

Today I told my husband that I had made progress and opened a jar.  But tears started to spill onto my cheeks as I described what I was feeling.

"Am I going crazy?  Over some damn pickles?!  Why am I so sentimental over this?"

He quietly smiled and wiped my stray tears and replied, "Maybe you should go see the counselor again, honey."

But then I mentioned how Julie soothingly told me recently, "She would want you to eat her pickles and enjoy every last drop.  She wouldn't want you to keep a shrine of those for her.  Enjoy them, and remember her."

He said, "I'm glad you have Julie."

Tonight before our couples prayer, I shared one small spear with the Mister.  He savored it.  He smiled in appreciation.

Maybe, just maybe, things will get a little easier.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Baptism Day for Isaac!

It's been another week.  I'm not sure how I'm doing.  The tears have dried up the past few days, still no panic attacks, but I still don't feel... normal.  I really feel numb.  Like I'm in survival mode with the auto-pilot switch turned on.

I've been mindful that today is Isaac's baptism.  I'm sad because I know Chrishel would have wanted to be there.  I wonder if she was, in fact, present in spirit?  If so, was she saddened that she could not be there in person?  She would be so proud of him.  And so proud of Tim for carrying through for the both of them.  I texted Tim to ask how the day went today, and he said it went as well as it could have, but Chrishel's absence was noticeable.  Family support has been good, so I'm sure he's relieved about having all her family around...

I want to post about the funeral, but I'm soooo tired.  Soon.  ANd then I will take down the condolence cards and her funeral program that have been sitting atop the piano in my living room since.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Tender Mercies

Yesterday was an interesting day.  At church, all the youth in the ward took over the primary so all the adults could have a combined meeting in the chapel.  (Our ward is H.U.G.E.)  The bishop had arranged for a counselor from LDS Family Services to come and speak about Suicide and Depression.

It was well timed, considering the loss of one of our former ward members and neighbor.  It was a pretty good meeting.  There were some helpful things said, but overall, I was just relieved and grateful for our bishop's insight in discussing such a sensitive topic, and being open about it so we all can move forward and heal.

Julie sat by us, and she and I had trouble keeping composure.  Bad day to forget tissues...

After that meeting, the other ward was anxious to come in to the chapel for their sacrament meeting.  One of my good friends took one look at me and asked, "That must have been some topic!  Are you okay?"  ANd she opened her arms and hugged me.

I had cried a river during that meeting, and I was exhausted.  After church, I came home and took a two-hour nap.  I was awoken to find a neighbor in a different ward standing on my porch with homemade hot rolls and jam in hand.

A few hours later, two more dear friends brought plates of goodies.

I know these kindnesses seem so insignificant, but they touch me and feed my soul.  My heart has felt so broken since January 14.  But God in his mercy, has sent so much generosity my way through caring family members and friends.

I want to do another post when I am not so tired, and journal the many other kindnesses shown to us this past month, but because yesterday was recently difficult, and so many people reached out, I wanted to testify that God notices me.  And I love Him.

Incidentally, more bad news from Tropic:  the husband of Chrishel's second cousin shot himself over the weekend.  His funeral will be later this week.  He left behind a wife and 3 young children.  I really hope their ward does something similar.  I don't know how a community that small can recover from these tragedies so close together, and the vulnerability of the youth would frighten me.

Tim called a few days ago and reported that he survived Valentine's Day.  He took red roses to each of Chrishel's sisters.  How sweet is that???  I sure look up to him.  He doesn't feel too courageous right now, and things are getting harder, but I pray he recognizes how truly good he is.

God is good:)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Good Days and Bad Days

Since my grief counseling session last week, I have been doing much better.  I have felt more like I am emerging out of a dark fog that has been prevalent since January 14.

The good news is I went to Walmart by myself today and I didn't have a panic attack.  (Going into stores or being around a lot of people has been triggering the anxiety attacks.  I've been a Young Women's President twice, and I teach regular violin group lessons to dozens of kids each month, but I haven't been able to walk into a grocery store without feeling like I can't breathe or function?  Pathetic, I know.)  Baby steps...

I talked to Tim on the phone for a good 40 minutes yesterday.  I miss that man and his beautiful wife.  But it is healing to keep in touch with their family.  I hope I didn't tire him out with all my questions and memories.  He's trying so hard to pick up the pieces.

Julie and I sent off a Valentine's Care Package to Tim and the kids yesterday.  We sure love them.  And since Chrishel isn't here to help me cook our men our annual steak and shrimp candlelight dinner, we're sending a bit of Idaho love to them.  I find comfort spending so much time with Julie since we got back from Utah.  I cling to her because she understands my pain.  And I understand hers.

Today has been kind of rough.  I dreamed about Chrishel again last night.  But not the good kind.  It's the one where we're still in the hospital.  Waiting, weeping, and hoping.  I remember the callouses on her heels and the remnants of silver sparkly toe nail polish on her toes.  (I spent a good deal of time rubbing her petite feet.  I tried to memorize all the details of her physical body.)  I miss her so much.  I can't even imagine how intense this ordeal is for Tim.

As I was driving home from the store today, the Phil Collins song, "You'll Be in My Heart" came on the radio.  This made me nostalgic for her. The lyrics to this song were printed on the back of her funeral program.  It was the lullaby Chrishel would sing to Sierra every night.  So tender:)

Tonight I spent most of the evening rereading old texts from her, as well as going through pictures of happier times.  I don't want to forget.  I wish I could talk to her one more time.  I wish I had done more.  I wish, I wish, I wish...

And then my sweet next door neighbor sent over a plate of the most delicious, warm chocolate chip cookies and it reminded me that I have other good people in my corner.  I can do this.  I will keep going.  I have so much to be thankful for.

When I met with Bro. H for my grief therapy session last week, I told him that when I start to feel joy, it is immediately shut down by this feeling of grief and guilt.  He assured me that was very normal.  "The survivors often feel disloyal if they start to move forward in their lives when their loved ones have died.  Frankly, I'd be worried if you didn't feel this way.  It simply means you love her."

"What about the fact that I wear my Bryce Canyon sweatshirt over and over and over?  That's not normal, is it?"

"You'll know when it starts to stink.  Give yourself some slack.  It's kinda like a child and a teddy bear. If it's providing some tie to her and comfort to you, let it serve it's purpose."

We talked about a lot of concerns I have had, but the $85 bottom line, according to him, is this:

I'm supposed to give myself permission to grieve.  That means allow myself to fully feel all the feelings that accompany this tragic death.  Let myself cry when I need to, let myself wear that sweatshirt one more week, and embrace the tender feelings of mourning someone so brilliant.  Because if we place restrictions on our grief, it will ooze out in unhealthy ways later on.  Exercise, sleep well, and share memories... Take the grieving one day at a time.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Haunting Questions, Very Few Answers Except the Only One that Really Matters...

*This picture was taken in June of 2011 when we were down in Tropic visiting them. Julie, Chrishel and I were taking a walk around town (it took all of 30 minutes to complete the grid) and Julie and I couldn't figure out these random little concrete tiles with various townspeople carved into them.  Kinda like the Hollywood Boulevard I had visited as a teenager many years ago.  Only not.  

Why wasn't I prompted to call her?  Why weren't we motivated to go see them New Years Eve?

Why was she making specific plans with me just days before she did this?

Was it an impulse on a very dark day, or had she been planning a specific deadline for herself???

Why did she choose to hang herself at home, perhaps not thinking ahead to the fact that the sleeping family would at some point find her?  Why not overdosing on a cocktail of pills?

Was her spirit aware of what was happening in the hospital?  Did she have a choice at the end to fight or 'go home to the God who gave her life?'

Why do I feel guilt if I start to enjoy something?  Chrishel wouldn't want me to feel this way, but knowing Tim and the kids are suffering so makes me hesitate to feel joy.  Not so healthy, I know.

Why have I started having these blasted panic attacks since the hospital?  What's up with normal mundane activities like going to Walmart or teaching group lesson that seem to trigger the anxiety attacks???  Why the heaviness in my chest, and feeling like I am running out of air and am I going crazy?  What is wrong with me?

Is she aware of the anguish her loved ones feel over her absence?

Can she feel our love for her?  Can she hear me whisper softly to her?  When I pray to Heavenly Father and ask Him to let her know how much we miss her, does He relay my message?

Will I ever be able to pass her  frozen, barren garden on the way to the mailbox without feeling a longing for her in my life?

Will her children know that none of this was their fault, or will they mistakenly think, 'If I had kept my room cleaner, she would still be here..."?  (When I found out as a child that my mom was suffering from severe depression and having suicidal thoughts, my faulty belief system caused me to own her problem... I specifically remember thinking that if I tried harder, if I was a better, more successful kid, she would be happier.  I warned Sierra that the Adversary might steer the blame in those directions.)

One night last week, as usual, I was the last one eating dinner (I'm a notoriously slow eater).  My sons were wrestling in the living room.  Josh is about a hundred pounds heavier than Caleb, and, well, you can probably predict the result of their wrestling sessions.  Caleb came in crying, "Mommy!  I want my mommy!  Josh hurt me!"

He curled up on my lap and I stroked his back and loved on him for a moment, when all of the sudden, a starting realization occurred to me--  Who will do this for Isaac?  Who will snuggle him and reassure him and wipe his tears?  Her babies are kinda like mine.  I've bathed and fed and babysat hers, as she had mine many, many times.  And I started to cry and the tears would not stop.

Another evening at dinnertime, Liz was saying the blessing on the food, and she asked Heavenly Father to help Chrishel feel better.

Caleb immediately saw fit to correct her after the "Amens", by saying, "Lizzy, Chrishel is dead.  Right, Mom?"

I nodded numbly and whispered, "Yes, son, she is."  And the tears spilled down my cheeks.  (The younger two were told that Chrishel was sick and died.  No specifics on the rest.  The older two know she took her life.  I hope I never have to have those kind of conversations again.  In fact, Caleb drew a picture for Isaac with the sentence, "Dear Isaac, I hope you can be happy again even though your mom is dead."  I didn't send it...)

When will my emotional strength return?

When will my tears dry up?

When will my two youngest children feel secure again?  They are both having major separation anxiety issues from me since the funeral.  Neither of them has experienced a viewing or funeral prior to this.  We have had some good Family Home Evenings the past couple of weeks about God's Plan, and how death is part of that Plan.  *I recommend a book available at Deseret Book called, "What Happens to my Spirit When I Die".  (Can't think of the author at the moment, but perfect for young children.  Beautifully written.)  If I leave to run an errand, Caleb calls every few minutes asking when I'm coming home.  When I left on one errand last week without telling him, he called me on my cell in a panic.  "Mom!  You promised me you would always tell me if you had to leave me!"  "Buddy, I told Josh where I was going.  I'll be home soon.  Everything is fine."

I can't get Lizzy to stay in Primary by herself.  Joseph had to sit with her in her class on Sunday because she was crying so hard.  (She is 6!)

Tomorrow night I have an appointment with a therapist at the BYU-I Counseling Center.  He is a dear friend.  I hope he will have some answers for me.  But I know there aren't any to many of these questions, so I pray the counselor will be able to help me let go of the things I cannot control.

That's what I'm learning-- grieving a loved one whom we lost to suicide has so many layers of grief and sorrow to work through.

I cling to my knowledge and resolution that Christ is our Redeemer.  He is our only Hope.  Somehow, someday, it will all be made well.  I know this fervently.  This carries me.  And it is enough.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

It's Time...

The Mister is concerned that I haven't changed my shirt since Chrishel's funeral.  (I take off my Bryce Canyon sweatshirt to shower, so I don't see the problem.)  I haven't blogged in many months.  Maybe now's a good time to start again.

Death was an intruder a couple of weeks ago, and I wasn't ready.  I'm hurting inside, and one thing that will help me through this trial is to get my sads out on my blog.  Besides, I want to remember all the things I have been feeling and learning.  And I don't want to forget my best friend Chrishel, and some of the significant experiences we had together both in life, and in her death.

Bear with me as I recount the events of the past few weeks...

December 26, 2012:
Chrishel texted me asking if we could drive down to Bryce and stay with them over New Year's Eve.  She mentioned ice skating, sledding and a big New Years Eve party on Monday night.  I never replied.  If I had known she was not doing well, I would have moved heaven and earth to be there.  I regret that.  Why didn't I sense something was wrong?

December 30-January 6:
Chrishel had been texting me about wanting to come up to Idaho Falls and take a mini vacation with Tim.  She wanted Julie and Tom, and Joseph and me to go with them up to Island Park or Jackson Hole to rent a cabin and go snow mobiling.  Somewhere along the way, Julie and Tom backed out, so Chrishel and I were making plans.  She had been excitedly researching cabin rates and sled rentals, as well as sketching out some meal plans.  I was looking forward to it.  She and I thought it would be a fun Valentine's weekend surprise for our husbands.  She also texted about having us come down to Lake Powell with them this summer to boat for a few days.

Meanwhile, I mailed her a simple (late!) Christmas package from Julie and myself.  Among other things, It contained a true story by Kerry Blair detailing her experience as a new Relief Society President seeking out every single sister on the ward roster.  The final last name ended up being a sister who was trying to take her own life.  Ironically,  the package arrived just days before Chrishel's accident.

January 12:  The last communication I had with Chrishel came on this date.  It had a different 'tone' to it than other texts I had ever received from her.  She thanked Julie and I for the Christmas package and story.  Her last words:  "I found it!  I found it!  Thanks ladies for the Christmas gift!  I got it a few days ago but misplaced the candy bar.  It is a really good story.  Oranges are my favorite food and The Christmas Orange is my favorite Christmas story.  So this was perfect!  Thanks for being the best friends ever."

January 13:  Sometime in the night, she took her life.  Tim went to bed, and she had been writing on the iPad, but not wanting Tim to look at it.  He didn't think much of it.  He got ready to go to bed, and she said she'd be in shortly.  At 1:00 a.m., Tim awoke to realize she hadn't come to bed yet, so he frantically searched the house and found that she had locked herself in the basement storage room and hung herself.  She left a suicide note on the iPad.

She was not breathing.  She did not have a pulse.  EMT's came and worked on her, and somehow they got her heart beating again, and life flighted her to Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah.

January 14:  I was finishing up a violin lesson around 10:00 a.m. when I got a frantic text from Julie letting me know Sierra had just texted her about Chrishel.  Tim called me shortly after to tell me Chrishel was on life support in the Shock Trauma ICU.  After talking to Julie and Joseph, and realizing Chrishel was likely not going to wake up, I packed my bags and Julie and I headed to SLC to say goodbye to our best friend.

Julie and I drove with heavy hearts and many tears to Salt Lake.  We spent Monday through Wednesday literally living in Chrishel's room.  We only left to eat meals in the cafeteria and sleep a few hours at Julie's sister's house in Farmington.

The first thing Tim said to me was, "She's all I've known since I was 17.  How can I go on without her?  She better have a lot of answers for me when I get to the other side."

Julie and I each took turns stroking her hair back, rubbing her feet and holding her hand all evening.  She was so cold.  (Medical staff kept her body at 92* for the first 24 hours to help with brain tissue preservation.) I whispered in her ear how much I loved her, how we weren't angry with her, and I pleaded with her to fight on one last time... I told her how much Tim and the kids desperately need her, and that I needed her, too.

The doctors told Tim that if there is going to be a miracle, it had better happen in the first 24 hours.  But they didn't give much hope.  Tim stayed realistic, but hopeful.  She responded somewhat to light in her pupils, so that was the only sliver of hope.  The other tests she was not responsive to.

At one point that first night, I looked over at Sierra and asked if she would like to play for her mom if I could track down a violin.  "Sure.  But where am I going to find one?"

"I have no idea.  But let me see what I can do."

So I put a quick post on Facebook, and minutes later, I was inundated with responses from Bountiful all the way down to Provo.  My sweet friend Kristine Parker made arrangements with a man I had never met who called and said, "My name is Kelly and I heard about your situation.  I own Day Murray Music here on State Street, and I'll open my store back up and bring you my finest instrument."

When he and his wife arrived with gentle smiles and thousands of dollars worth of his best violin in hand, I was overwhelmed with the kindness of strangers.

"Take as long as you need.  My wife and I will be waiting in the waiting room.  Best of luck."

Sierra played "Come Thou Fount" beautifully.  She had a strong, clear tone.  She handed the violin to me, and I played Ashokan Farewell and "I Know that My Redeemer Lives".

I hope Chrishel heard the sweet strains of her daughter's final song.

Late Monday evening, Julie and I took Sierra (15 yrs) and Tate (12 yrs) down to the cafeteria to eat.  They ate, we laughed and joked around.  It was so refreshing to have a 'normal' hour with them.  Plus, Chrishel would be proud of the fact that the kids were eating something...

On Tuesday, the 24 hour deadline was up and the medical staff began the 6 hour process of warming Chrishel's body back up to 98.6*.  At that point, they would do more tests to see if there was any brain function.  (Response to light and pain.)  The first couple of days, she was taking about 17 respirations per minute on top of the ventilator.  That was hopeful, right?

It was heart wrenching to watch Tim curl up beside Chrishel on the bed and stroke her arms, and stomach.  He lovingly kissed her lips, cheeks, forehead.  He was exhausted, and broke down off and on all the time we were there.  Julie stroked Tim's head, and I rubbed his stinky feet while he whispered encouraging words to his eternal Valentine.  We wanted to ease his burden.

My heart broke into smaller pieces watching Isaac.  He wouldn't speak for the first day, but kneeled in a chair facing the window in the waiting room.  He's so quiet and introspective.  The next two days, he sat in Chrishel's room and wouldn't leave her side.  All he wanted to do was draw and color.

"That's right, buddy.  Get all your sads out on paper.  Your mama would love that."  And he colored and colored and I went out to the nurse's station over and over to ask for more scotch tape so Isaac could tape the pictures up on her wall.  He drew him and Chrishel on a pirate ship sailing away together.  He drew pictures of Bryce Canyon hoo doo's; he drew an eagle;   He drew his family.  He drew his family with me, dating it 2012 "when my mom was happier."

Grace had the opposite reaction: she didn't want to be in the room much at all. I think all the tubes and machines scared her some.  She was too young to process what was happening.  She was happiest playing at Jentre's house with her cousins in Bountiful.

Tate hardly spoke.  (That's how he rolls.) He mostly played on his cell phone/ipod.  He stayed in her room mostly as well, standing at her bedside holding her hand every so often.

Sierra was very clear minded.  On the last day, she curled up beside Chrishel and wrapped the quilt Chrishel had made for her over both of them.  She stroked Chrishel's hand and lovingly suctioned the fluid/saliva out of her mouth throughout the day when needed.  I was proud of Sierra.  She was being strengthened.

On Tuesday, it was determined that Chrishel was an organ donor, and the family was waiting for the Organ Donation Services Reps to come and consult.  Chrishel's sisters had many questions.

I observed Tim from time to time pulling aside the children asking them how they were doing.
"We're going to figure this out somehow.  Hang in there with me.  Your mom tended to keep things inside, but we can't do that.  We have to talk about this.  Please tell me how you're feeling." He was so brave, yet so fragile.  He was being a good father and patriarch.

Chrishel was deteriorating slowly day by day.  On Wednesday, she spiked a fever and her brain was starting to swell.  Her hands and feet were starting to retain fluid, and she was getting puffy.  Phlebotomists kept coming in to draw what seemed like bazillions of vials of her blood for the organ donation prep.  They needed to send it to Denver to begin the process of finding matches for Chrishel's organ/blood type.  Finally, Chrishel's veins were blowing, and  it was getting more difficult to find hopeful sites.  In the early afternoon, she stopped taking any breaths on her own all together.  The vent was doing all the labor.

Tim knew he needed to let her go.  He didn't want to prolong her suffering anymore, even though he couldn't fathom a life without Chrishel.

The doctors told us to say our goodbyes before 5:00.  At that time, they would do one final test, but there was no hope.

At precisely 5:00 p.m., the cardiologist, head doctor and nurses came in and tested her eyes for light response.  None.  Next, they took a syringe full of cold water and shot it in her ear.  No flinching or pain response.  The final test included turning off the ventilator and putting a black balloon-like bag on the end so we could visibly see if she would inhale on her own.  After a few minutes, the carbon dioxide would start to build up in her blood, and even in 'normal' coma patients, the survival instinct to draw a breath of oxygen would kick in.  Theoretically.  Her sisters and parents, Tim, Sierra, Tate and Isaac, Elaine (Tim's sweet mother), Julie and I were crowded around the room.  Julie and I held hands until our knuckles turned white, not wanting her life to end.  Not like this.

It was the longest 15 minutes of my life, waiting, our eyes darting between the monitors and the black respiration bag.  The atmosphere in that room was filled with the most intense emotions I have ever experienced.  The silence was laden with dashed hopes and dreams, and the worst of all emotions...regret.

At 5:42, the doctor shook his head and officially called her death.

Her oldest sister Sheila turned to the doctor, and erupted in emotional pain, "Why are you calling it?!  Her heart is still beating!  You can't tell me she's dead!"  Sheila spun around to Rod, Chrishel's dad, and fell into his arms saying,"Daddy, where is her spirit?!  Where is she right now??!"

The doctor tried to explain that her heart was only beating because of the machines, and she was officially and completely brain dead.  It was time for the organ donation team to take her.  The window for using her organs was precise and rushed.

As we hung our heads and trudged out of Chrishel's ICU room for the last time, I thought about those three numbers:  5:42 p.m.  They changed my life.  I've seen thousands of hours of movies and t.v. in my life, and that includes death scenes, murder mysteries, romance and family bonding scenes.

But none of that even comes close to the exquisite reality of what happened Wednesday, January 16 at 5:42.  It was something so incredibly sobering and heart wrenching, and... sacred.  

I know I speak for Julie when I say that those three days have shaped our lives in such a dramatic way, that it is so impossible to reflect in words, what we felt and learned.  I could feel and sense Chrishel's desires.  I know that must sound cooky, but it was as if her spirit was communicating with mine and Julie's.  She needed to move on to the next phase of her part in the Plan.  She was ready.  Sadly, we were not.  I don't know how all that will get worked out in the after life for her, but she will be able to acknowledge her mistake and have a perfect Judge to help make sense of it all. She is okay.  Somehow, someday, it will all be made right.  But I am not worried about her.

What I can say is that without equivocation, the veil was thin in that room.  My Heavenly Father clothed us in a cocoon of comfort.  I don't know how I know, but I know that my sweet sister and best friend heard us and was with us.  The healing powers of the Atonement are our only hope.  I thank God for His intimate awareness of our loss.

This is all the energy I have to recount tonight, but I will be back again tomorrow.  Or the next day... and recount the tender mercies that have attended me through this ordeal, and write about the funeral and burial, and finally, what my grief has looked like the past week.

Good night.  God speed, Chrishel.