Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Easter Program

(Pictures from Easter, 2002.
The boys helped to make our traditional lamb cake.)

Easter is the holiday that keeps you guessing. You're not even sure which month it will be in. In 2008, Easter came on March 23rd.

I was serving as Relief Society President and normally it was my responsibility to only give the lessons on the first Sunday of each month, but since we didn't have a teacher lined up, I pulled together an Easter Presentation. I remember getting onto and doing a search. Several conference talks popped up and I felt pulled to click on one that was not even remotely the first. It was by Bruce R. McConkie. At first I didn't recognize it for what it was. As I got to the end, tears spilt over as I read his last testimony of Christ. You've heard it quoted before. I don't remember hearing his voice in 1985 when he spoke at General Conference, but I remember my mom, who died from cancer three months later, reading it to me with tears streaming. His testimony was hers; she told me that and she expressed her deep love for the Savior.

In Relief Society that day, I told my sisters about that tender moment my mom shared with me. I said that the suffering from cancer had given my mom amazing spiritual strength. I also said that although I hoped to have a relationship as close to the Savior as she had developed, I acknowledged that I wasn't there. I had yet to experience the refining fire.

I had four 'Readers' sitting up front and the words were intermingled with all the sisters singing Easter hymns. When our twenty minutes were up, I could see that the power of the word and music had touched the sisters. I felt joy that my efforts to increase their testimonies came to fruition.

The following Sunday I was not at church with my sisters. I was home with my family and close relatives. My twelve year old son, Josh, had passed away unexpectedly. With the Bishop's permission we had Sacrament meeting in our living room. Instead of Relief Society sisters reading the parts to that Easter Program, there were our brothers and nephew. Everyone sang. Little Jonathon changed out the scripture pictures that went with the talk. I sat at the piano, glad to have something to focus on.

It was powerful.

If we had simply met as an extended family and partaken of the sacrament, that would have sufficed. But I think Heavenly Father knew that the day after Josh's funeral, we needed more. We needed to hear specifically about the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ with the healing power of music included. It was a tender mercy to have a 'sacrament meeting' program already prepared.

I realized that the effort I put forth to serve the sisters and the Lord had really been a preparation to bless my own life and that of my family's.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Letter

Today was our home study with the Office of Licensing. Ellen said to expect it to take 3 hours; it took 3 1/2. The home inspection was a breeze and lasted maybe 15 minutes. The rest of the time was a study on us as individuals, a couple, and a family. Instead of a true/false or multiple answers test, it was an oral essay, so to speak.

Ellen asked us how our community support was. Immediately I thought about all the amazing kindnesses shared with us yesterday. Two years, 24 whole months, had gone by since Josh passed away and still people were showing true compassion to us. We explained that to Ellen. And then the doorbell rang. There stood my Primary friend, Ashley, and her mother, Mindy. I got a beautiful homemade card with a picture of what I assumed was me and Ashley enclosed in a heart as well as chocolate and a hug from Ashley. We also received a dozen red roses and a letter to treasure from her mom.

Do you remember on that Chevy Chase movie when they were trying to sell the house and someone says, "Cue the deer." During our interview, it seemed that we were trying to 'sell' ourselves as a wonderful family that had strong family and community support and after receiving the timely gifts at the door. I sat down and said to Enos, "Cue the deer." He smiled, knowingly.

During the interview we were asked many detailed questions about Josh's death and how we have been coping with that sad reality. It was exhausting, especially after the emotions from yesterday, the day that marked two years from Josh's passing.

Enos and I were asked to talk about each of our boys, all three of them. What were they like?

After Ellen left, I opened the envelope and read the letter from Mindy. What was Josh like? She answered the question for me and tears streamed down my face. Among other things she said...

They (the memories I have of Josh) are something that I feel impressed upon to share with you. He was always so well behaved in primary. He was the one being reverent, listening. He was the one I could count on to give an appropriate answer in sharing time (and it was always the right answer). He was always one that we could go to if we needed the prayer or scripture in a pinch. He was always so respectful.

When he turned 12 and made that great transition into the Aaronic Priesthood, we still got to see those fine qualities of Josh's. The way he passed the sacrament, so reverently, always looking so handsome, was a quiet reminder of how I needed to be during that ordinance.

My children are another story...

Mindy's sweet family

(In Sacrament meeting) it seems as if their selection process when it comes to the bread or water goes on a bit too long, and I grow impatient. I had the thought in my head that those young men probably felt the same way, just needing to get on to the next bench, the next family, and my girls take their time. One Sunday, as Josh was passing to us, these thoughts were running through my head, and I looked up at him, just expecting to see an exasperated expression. It wasn't there. It wasn't at all what I had expected. He was standing there, doing his duty, and smiling down at Ashley. Not a bit of impatience in his face. It was so sweet to me. Just another great lesson taught to me by an incredible person.

Another time, when I was pregnant with Peyton (and I remember that because the pregnancy and that placenta sucked out just about every fully functioning brain cell from my head...I forgot many things as you will soon read.) Still in the Primary, I had brought some treats for teacher appreciation. After getting them to all the primary workers, I had leftovers and thought I'd take them to sacrament meeting in the box I brought them in, just in case I thought of someone else that could use the uplift. By the end of Sacrament meeting, I had totally forgotten that I brought them into the chapel with me. They stayed underneath the bench. Josh and another boy (I think it was Connor) went in afterward and cleaned up the chapel. I was in the primary closet when Josh brought it to me and asked if it was mine. I was so impressed! I would think that most boys would find an abandoned box with candy in it and claim it for themselves. Not your boy. (I did give it to them anyway; they deserved it.)

Just another small example of how his life has touched mine for good. I know he is doing even more incredible things where he is now. Hopefully he found my relatives, especially my grandpa, and is teaching them of the truth. Josh had that capability too, I learned that from a few sharing time role-play sessions.

Mindy will never know (even after reading this post) how much hearing about Josh in such a personal and poetic way meant to me at that moment. I'm so grateful she listened and acted upon her impression. I know that Josh is involved in our foster to adopt journey. (I will share more details about that at the right time.) But reading that letter helped me feel so close to him. I needed that. So, Mindy, thank you for following that prompting and taking the time to write and deliver that letter. It is sweet that you let Ashley also have a gift to deliver. That's what mothering is about. Oh, and the roses were nice too! :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Can you see our light, Josh?

An entry from my Tender Mercies Journal dated Aug. 22, 2008

We had family home evening last Sunday. It was the first time since Josh passed away that we had an official family home evening - with someone in the 'conductor's chair', with an opening hymn, prayer, lesson, refreshments and an activity. There are some things that are emotionally difficult to go back to. After Nate finished the lesson, we talked about how different it was without Josh (less interruptions and less entertainment) and being so tender hearted, Nathan and Enos both cried a bit.

We took a bag of bread and headed to Beus Pond to feed the ducks for our activity. We felt Heavenly Father's love for us as we soaked in the natural beauty all around us.

We stopped at the cemetary on our way home. As we stood around Josh's grave, Cody pulled a little white plastic 'tea candle' out of his pocket. He turned the switch on underneath and the little flame on top started to glow. He placed it by Josh's memorial. Just then the nearby line of sprinklers shut down and correctly anticipating the closer ones would quickly turn on, we ran for the car.

We drove up and around to the top point of the cemetary and there Enos stopped. We were in the little red Cabriolet convertible and could all look down and see the dim glow of the candle. I found myself grateful to be able to see the light from that distance and I wondered, "Can you see our light, Josh?"

Enos interrupted my thoughts by pointing excitedly in the other direction and saying, "Look!" There were two deer standing just north of us. Directly above the two bucks, a star suddenly blazed brightly. We followed it's brilliant dive earthward. None of us could speak for a moment.

(Nathan made this sculpey art to remember our experience)

We all felt Josh had seen our little light and sent a sign. I told Enos when I could speak, "It's just like Josh to outdo us!" Nathan shared with us that the last time he had seen a shooting star, he was with Josh laying down on the trampoline looking up at the night sky. Cody declared that he had never in his life seen a shooting star so bright and brilliant and what a long streak it made!

We walked back into our home that night feeling like we had received an amazing gift. Instead of feeling sad and weighed down, we were in a celebratory spirit.

This week I've found myself singing, "Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, never let it fade away...Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day."

Some people may see the falling star as a coincidence, or the timing of all four of us paused and looking in just the right direction as happenstance, but I will always see the heavenly light as a message of love from Josh.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tulips and Daffodils

Within weeks of Josh's funeral, green stems pushed up from the ground and vibrant tulips and daffodils greeted us.  Josh planted the bulbs back in the fall. The spring flowers will be a reminder to us every year of Josh and the miracle of the resurrection.  

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Power of Deliverance

From my Tender Mercies Journal dated May 14, 2009

Derek Jasper died in a tragic car accident on April 22nd. Experiencing the past three weeks with our dear friends has been emotional for us. The day after the funeral I pretty much fell apart, crying hard, and frequently. That night I told Heavenly Father that I wasn't doing very well, that even though He had given me so many tender mercies, I needed one more.

The next morning, I did an unusual thing; I turned on the TV. Because I had spent all my spare time the day before working on a picture video for the Jaspers, I hadn't gotten my laundry folded. So, as I waited for Nate to shower and dress so we could take Brody (our dog) for a walk, I folded whites on the couch in front of the TV. I was repeatedly pushing the channel up button on my way to HGTV, but as I hit KBYU, before I could press the button again, I heard, "Stop. Stay here." I obeyed. There was Pres. Eyring speaking. The first complete sentence I heard was "We can feel overcome with pain and sorrow at the death of a loved one." He had my full attention.

I later found the talk on line. It's titled, The Power of Deliverance. I printed it out and underlined several gems such as these:

"Life ends early for some. Each of us will be tested by facing the death of someone we love. The hardest part of that test is to know what to do with the sorrow, the loneliness, and the loss that can feel as if a part of us has been lost. Grief can persist like a chronic ache. And for some there may be feelings of anger or injustice."

"Good people around you will try to understand your grief at the passing of a loved one. They may feel grief themselves. The Savior not only understands and feels grief but also feels your personal grief that only you feel. And He knows you perfectly. He knows your heart. So He can know which of the many things you can do that will be best for you as you invite the Holy Ghost to comfort and bless you. He will know where it is best for you to start. Sometimes it will be to pray. It might be to go to comfort someone else."

"By the inspiration of the Spirit we can have a testimony of the Resurrection and a clear view of the glorious reunion ahead. I have felt that comfort as I looked down at the gravestone of someone I knew - someone that I know I can at some future time hold in my arms. Knowing that, I was not only delivered from grief but was filled with happy anticipation."

It was as if after asking Heavenly Father for help, he took my hand, sat me down on his lap, put an arm around my shoulder and spoke directly to my soul.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Nate's Easter Talk

This is an entry from my Tender Mercies Journal written about two months after Josh passed away.

About a week ago I found some folded paper in the back of the van while I was hauling in groceries. I discovered it was Nathan's talk he gave in Primary on Easter Sunday. I had forgotten he had given a talk, even though I'm the one who condensed it and printed it out. Because I was doing a Relief Society Easter program, I didn't get to hear Nate present his talk in Primary. And then life changed the next morning and if I hadn't found the printed talk, I would have forgotten all about it. As I read it, I was amazed at how much more meaningful and profound it was now that Josh has passed away. I gave it to Nate to read. He was quiet.

The talk begins with a story of how an older brother helps his younger brother and then ties it into how Jesus helped us when we were unable to help ourselves ~ through the atonement and resurrection.

I asked Nate if he were in pain, wouldn't Josh do everything he could to help him just like the brother in the story? He answered, "yes." Josh may have been a tease to Nate, but he would be a protector and a helper when needed.

When Nate presented the talk which testifies of the resurrection and of families blessed to be together forever, they were words.

After Nate read it again last week, I asked if he was done with it. He said, 'yes, but don't throw it away.'

It was more than words now. It was a tender mercy that someone in the Primary assigned him to give a talk on the true meaning of Easter on the last day he would see his brother, Josh, in mortality.

Quoting from the talk..."In the peaceful setting of a spring garden, Jesus arose from His burial tomb to live again with our Heavenly Father. And in some wonderful, miraculous way, He gave us the same power and privilege. I do not know exactly how this will happen, but I know that we have, through Jesus, been given the opportunity to conquer all doubt and despair and death. That is what Easter means to me."

This picture is of the boys (and our Japanese student) holding up the Easter eggs they colored that morning. On Hiroki's egg he wrote a word in Japanese. We asked him if it was his own name and he shook his head no, and simply said, "Faith."