Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How Could This Happen?

Today I am in utter disbelief that Jordan is gone.  It seems like, since it's been just over a month, that we are just overdue for a conversation.  It seems like any moment now I will hear a ping on my phone and receive a text message from him.  I feel the urge to call him to see what's going on because it's been just over a month since I talked with him last, but then with a gut-sinking feeling, I remember that I can't just call him because he is not there.  I keep looking for his "likes" and comments on my Facebook posts, but they do not come. 

How can this be true?  How can this be reality?  One of my brothers is gone for the rest of my mortal life already.  Already.  This isn't supposed to happen, is it? All six of us are supposed to outlive our parents.  We are supposed to have many more family reunions where we can talk and laugh about past memories and imagine our futures.

How could it have happened this way?  Jordan, you weren't supposed to leave so suddenly.  This just can't be right. We were supposed to be able to get together, a long time from now, after our kids are grown and married and having their own kids and talk about our grandkids and reminisce about these years. 

It just doesn't seem right.  The timing is all wrong.  How could this happen?  That question reverberates through my mind over and over.  How could this happen?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Compassion in Our Modern World


Let me tell you a story.  On a warm summer morning, my husband was home from work, so I left the older kids with him to clean the house and the backyard and I took my baby with me on my errands.  I had to go to Costco, which was clear across town, the bank, and then stop at the grocery store on the way home.  We went to Costco first because I like to get my errands done in the order of the farthest distance from my house to the closest.  Then I hit the bank drive through, so we stayed in the car.  During this time, from Costco to the grocery store, my baby was quiet.  I was distractedly thinking about the other cars around  me (crazy that I was paying attention to the traffic, eh?) and thinking about other random things and not thinking about my kids or my husband.  Therefore, when I got to the grocery store, and my baby was asleep in her rear-facing car seat, I had forgotten that I had her with me on my errands.  My other kids weren't there to remind me to open the back doors of the car, and absent-mindedly and focused on my grocery shopping, I got out of my car and headed toward the store doors.  I was checking for my keys, my phone, my wallet, like I tend to do as I walk to the store and felt something was missing and then I remembered--my daughter!  So I went back to the car and got her out and took her in the store with me.  Phew!

This type of thing happens all the time.  It may not be a grocery trip or errand run.  It may be switching parents to drop the baby off at daycare or bringing groceries home and the baby is asleep so you let her sleep while you carry them in, but when you bring the last load in, you forget to go back out to the car to get the sleeping baby.  There are so many different ways this can happen.

Not only that, but there are other instances in which parents do things that might result in harm to their precious children.  For instance, maybe they put a video in to watch with their little ones and doze off because they are exhausted and they wake up to discover their toddler has gotten out of the house and gone into the road, or the ditch, or gotten tangled in a soccer net in the backyard.  Maybe Dad goes out to hitch up the trailer and Mom gets busy putting things away in the 4-year-old's room and doesn't realize Dad left the front door cracked and the 18-month-old has gotten outside to follow Dad and Dad doesn't know she's there and he backs the trailer over her.  Maybe Mom is nursing the new baby in the nursery and the older 2-year-old has climbed out of her crib for the very first time and up onto the dresser next to the crib in the upstairs bedroom and sees an open window and goes to look, pushes on the screen and falls two stories to her death.  Maybe you are visiting the grandparents, who have a pool, and are usually very careful about leaving the pool area locked and the outside doors locked, but your 3-year-old has figured out how to unlock the door and finds the pool gate open, so goes in, accidentally throws a ball in the pool, and then goes in after it.

All of these scenarios are real instances when parents that I have read about or even knew personally have done something, made either an error in judgment or a simple human error, a mistake, a forgotten check, and it has resulted in inexplicable tragedy.

Every single day, millions of parents put their little ones in harm's way when we strap them into our cars and take off down the road.  Sure, car seats have helped reduce the deaths, especially if the child is properly strapped in, but there are still accidents where children who are properly strapped into a car seat die.  Does that mean that every parent who puts their child into a car seat and drives away in the car should be charged with abuse or neglect or assault or whatever?  There is risk in everything we do and sometimes we don't even remember to do or not do something that results in a risky outcome.

That's why I am really tired of the way these parents are received by society when their story, their life-changing tragedy, their despair and grief, becomes news.

We say, "I would never do such a thing!"  "My children are my life and anybody who lets this happen to their child shouldn't have had children!"  "What kind of idiots are these people to let this happen to their child!  It would never happen to my child!"

The news story gets posted on a news website and then social media takes over, spreading it around the globe like wildfire with the purpose of stoning the parents or caregivers of the child who was lost, calling for nothing short of a murder charge and the death penalty.

It especially makes my heart ache when this happens in communities with a highly religious population, religion that is supposed to teach love and compassion.

Yes, there are a few parents out there who are really neglectful, who treat their offspring as garbage, and even purposely cause them harm.  But those are not the parents I am talking about.  I am talking about the pediatrician who forgot she was taking her baby to daycare and left her in the sweltering car all day.  I'm talking about the doting mother who fell asleep watching a movie with her little ones and her toddler went in the backyard and was strangled in a soccer net.  I'm talking about the loving father who didn't know his 1-year-old had followed him outside while he hitched up the trailer and he accidentally backed over her while moving it.

These parents are suffering the worst kind of grief and guilt imaginable, and rather than reaching out to help console them in their suffering, we throw stones and call for crucifixion of them.  We are no better than the Puritan society of "The Scarlet Letter" or the witch-burning tribunals of Salem.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches that we should "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep." (Romans 12:15)  In the Book of Mormon, we are taught that to be called the people of God, we must be willing to "bear one another's burdens...and to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort." (Mosiah 18:8-9) In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:4)

Whether or not a person is a Christian doesn't matter.  Yes, those are tenets of Christianity, but I would care to wager that other faiths teach compassion and love also.

Compassion (n) as defined by my 9-year-old's school dictionary is "sympathy for suffering, kindness."  This is something that many people simply lack in our modern society that is so focused on "me" and doing everything with self in mind.

We all need to be more compassionate.  Is there a time and place to punish those who do inflict intentional harm on their children?  Of course.  Are some instances of accidental harm also punishable?  Probably.  But I don't think we should be so quick to stone others for these types of mistakes.  Accidents do happen.  Every single one of us is capable of leaving a child in a car or being unaware while our child wanders out of the house.  Every. Single. One.

I am tired of so much judging and casting of stones.  I think we would all do better to support each other and comfort each other.  It doesn't happen often enough.  Yes, there are times when the news picks up a story of real love, compassion and comfort, but in the public eye, it isn't seen often enough.  Especially on threads of news stories about parents making fatal errors.  Please, people, let's try and be more compassionate and more loving.  If there was more compassion in this world, think of what a better place it would be!


Saturday, July 19, 2014

My Brothers


I have five brothers.  This has been a source of both pride and disappointment throughout my life.  I have always enjoyed telling people that I have five brothers and no sisters.  That automatically paints me as someone who is pretty tough and also someone who has people watching her back.  I do wish that I had sisters, and that is where the disappointment lies, but that is another story for another day.  I fall in the middle with two older and three younger.

This picture was taken four days before my oldest brother Jordan was killed in a car accident.  There aren't a whole lot of pictures of just me and my brothers, especially since we all grew up.  I insisted on having this picture taken at our recent family reunion.  I'm very glad I did.


My relationship with each of my brothers is very unique.  Anyone who knows me knows how much I love all my brothers though.  I have often told people stories of what it was like growing up with five boys.  I have often shared, with pride, the accomplishments of my brothers.  They are all, indeed, great men.  I admire each of them for different reasons. 

But of all my brothers, the only one who ever expressed this same kind of appreciation to me by telling me of his appreciation and sharing his admiration of me with others was Jordan.  Not one of my other brothers ever told me that I looked beautiful, but Jordan did.  Not one of them (to my knowledge) ever told anyone about me with pride that I was his sister, but Jordan did.  I didn't even realize he did as often as he did until after his death.  I have had many, many people that knew him, but not me, tell me how he spoke of me often and how he admired me.

When I was in first grade, Jordan was in fourth grade.  We had recess at the same time.  He introduced me to some of the girls in his class.  Those girls continued to be kind to me, even into high school.  I remember how nervous I was the night before starting junior high school (7th grade).  He was starting 10th grade that year, which was at the high school.  I was so afraid I would get lost in the hallways and not be able to find my classes.  He sat down with me and went over my class schedule and mapped it all out for me.  I remember going to many stake dances with him and his group of friends once I had turned fourteen.  I have a lot of these kinds of memories with Jordan that I don't have with most of my other brothers.

In the last few years, we hadn't talked as much as we used to.  When we were both in college, we talked often on the phone.  After college and when real life started, we still talked a few times a month on the phone.  But as his life got complicated and difficult, we didn't talk as often.  Oh, how I wish I would have been better about calling him.  It had only been in the recent two to three months that we began talking on the phone more often again.

I will miss Jordan tremendously.  I will miss his friendship.  Yes, friendship.  His phone calls, his Facebook comments, his comments on my blog posts, random emails and instant messaging and texts.  It wasn't often, but it was more often than I communicate with some of my other brothers.  I guess now I know what I need to work on with my other brothers.

Jordan, I love you.  You really were a good brother to me.  And even though when we were little, you sometimes teased me, you were never really mean.  I hope and pray you are in a happy place.  I know the last few years of your life you had an immense struggle.  I hope you passed your test.  I love you, my brother.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Heartbroken

It was the afternoon of Wednesday, July 9th, and I had spent the morning visiting with friends at playgroup and then having lunch with my sister-in-law in American Fork.  My husband was gone to a meeting at work and the four older kids were at a park nearby playing with each other.  The younger two had just woken up from naps and were playing in the living room with me while I wrote up a blog post about watching my children grow up.  I finished my blog post and then got my memory card out of my digital camera to start uploading the pictures and videos I took at the family reunion we had with my side of the family over the weekend.

That's when it happened.  The home phone rang.  I rarely get calls on the home phone.  It's usually either my parents or a solicitor.  Being that it was 4:30 p.m., my parents don't usually call at that time, so I figured solicitor.  But I went and got it anyway and saw on the caller i.d. it was coming from my dad's line at the house.  "I wonder why he is calling at 4:30 on a Wednesday, so soon after we just spent a weekend with each other," I thought, frowning, as I answer the phone.

My dad's voice came through on the line.  He was on speaker phone.  He told me that my mother was on the phone too (she said hello) and that they had some news.  My stomach sank.  This couldn't be good.  He didn't say they had good news.  Only that it was news, which is code for "bad news."  I instantly had thoughts flash in my head of someone in the family dying, perhaps a cousin, aunt or uncle.  Perhaps it wasn't a death, but an accident and someone was in a hospital.  I was not ready for what came next.

I was told that my oldest brother had been in a car accident early in the morning and had passed away.

"No!  That can't be right!" I said.  I said that into the phone more than once, with my parents assuring me that it was and that it was real.  They asked where my husband was and whether I wanted them to call him.  I told them he was in a meeting and wouldn't answer his phone, even if it was them calling.  They said they still had others to call and would talk to me more later.  The call ended.

I burst into tears, screaming and crying.  My two little ones looked at me. I got them into the car to pick up my other kids.  As I was buckling my 1-year-old into her car seat, I screamed, "Why, Heavenly Father, why?  Why now?"  I couldn't stop the tears.  I picked up my kids and told them why I was upset.  They all screamed with upset too, some even cried a little.

They didn't know my brother very well.  In the last decade, we have only seen him about once a year, sometimes less.   The reunion we'd just had over the weekend was the first time I had seen him since Thanksgiving of 2012.  It had been twenty months, nearly two years, since my husband, the kids, or I had seen him.

We came home, I called and called my husband's phone.  Eventually he called me back to see what was going on, since I don't usually bother him during meetings.  He came home right away when I told him.

I wanted to write all this down so I can accurately remember what happened and how I felt the day I found out my oldest brother had been killed in a car accident.  It was the most horrifying, awful day of my life, second only to the day his ex-wife called me the previous April (2013) to tell me they were getting a divorce.  I have cried so much in the two days since (has it really only been two days because it feels like normalcy was a lifetime ago) that my eyes are constantly hurting and my head and neck and throat hurt.

I alternate between calmness with acceptance of this change and downright, distraught, deep, deep heartache demonstrated with wrenching sobs and endless tears.  I don't know how to handle this.  I don't know what to think or to feel.

I know the rhetoric.  I even believe it.  It is comforting to have a knowledge of eternal families.  It is comforting to know of Heavenly Father's merciful plan.  It is helpful to recall all of the tender mercies that have been happening surrounding this tragic event.

It is still so very, very painful and I feel so very, very raw.  I do appreciate people's suggestions for scriptures or hymns or temple visits or priesthood blessings.  They are helpful and comforting.  But they don't stop the pain.  My heart aches deeply.  I didn't know it could hurt this badly and not have an actual physical ailment.  It is a constant, deep ache.  My stomach is upset and I am having trouble eating.  I can't sit still.  My mind and its ramblings are ceaseless.

I will probably be talking more about this in future posts.  I feel it will help me grieve, not only to write it down, but to share it.

I will miss my brother tremendously.  I cannot believe that he is gone from this mortal existence. 

This is my brother playing with one of our other nephews at our family reunion.  
His little daughter (one of six kids) is the blondie right next to them.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Bittersweet

My oldest child turned eleven two months ago and my youngest has been one for four months.  Eight more months, which will fly right by, and she will be two years old, no longer really a baby.  I remember my oldest when he was this age.  Of course, I was expecting his brother already, due in a few months (they are seventeen months apart).  With each little step my little one makes in her development, I think back to when her older siblings hit those milestones.  She just figured out how to climb onto the kitchen chairs.  Next will be the crib.  One of her brothers climbed out of the crib at sixteen months.  She is fifteen months, almost sixteen months.  She is so quickly moving away from the baby stage.  And it makes me sad.

But I am also happy to watch my kids grow up.  It's wonderful watching them develop into who they will become.  I love that my oldest child is a fantastic artist who can whip out amazing drawings at request.  He is also able to play the piano by ear, which then he will figure out the music for his trumpet also.  He has even written some of his own music.  I love that my second oldest can fold any paper into any shape or design you want him to.  My third child is very athletic and strong and it is fun to watch him play and do any sport.  My fourth child loves to sing and dance and has natural ability there.  My fifth child is good with his hands and it will be fun to see what he does with his talents (he is only three).  I have no idea what my baby's strengths are yet, but it will be such fun to find out.

It is still sad that they are growing up so quickly.  The innocence of their faces and the sweetness of their questions is disappearing so much more quickly than I imagined.  I remember when my oldest was a newborn, I thought about him being in elementary school, second grade specifically (I had been a second grade teacher before he was born), and how far away that seemed.  Now he is going to be starting middle school and in a few short years, high school, and then he'll be gone.  And the kids following him will just be even more speedy.

Watching your kids grow up is a bittersweet experience, indeed.




Monday, June 30, 2014

Let Them Play Alone

There is a lot of pressure today to do everything with your kids.  You are criticized if you choose to sit back and watch them instead of get down and play with them.  Now, I fully believe that parents should play with their kids often.  I believe in the power of play, and one form of that play includes playing with a parent or other adult.

Tonight I was at the pool with my four older kids.  All this last week, there has been a post (a great post, to be sure) going around about how you should not worry about what you look like in a swimsuit and just get in the pool and play with your kids.  How I look in a swimsuit isn't something that concerns me when I am at the pool.  I don't believe either that people sit around and look at you and think about how you shouldn't be in a swimsuit.  I think most peopled are too self-absorbed to notice or think about how anyone else looks at the pool.

I love to swim and always take my kids swimming in the summer.  Sometimes, though, I just don't want to get in the water.  Sometimes, I just don't want to be wet.  Sometimes, the pool water is just too cold for me.  Tonight, the air was cool (high 70s) and even though it was hot all day, it wasn't warm enough for me to get in the water.  I didn't even want to put my feet in because the air was so comfortable.  So I watched from a chair on the side.  I didn't even bring my phone or something to read.  My four older kids can all swim just fine.  They had brought super spraying water guns to play with and were really going at it with each other.

I started to feel guilty for not getting in the water with them even though they asked several times.  The whole idea of not missing out on sharing a moment with them made me feel like I was doing something wrong.

But then I realized that they were playing together really well.  They played with those water guns for a good thirty to forty minutes, happy, laughing, swimming together.  They were getting along without me having to intervene every few minutes and remind them to be nice and share and blah, blah, blah.  Why should I interrupt that?  As great as it is to play with your kids and swim with them and do all these activities with them, it's also really good for them to play with each other without adult intervention or inclusion.  Sometimes, kids just need to play with other kids and work things out on their own without us.

So, even though it's great to get down and play with them and include yourself in their activities, it's also just fine to sit back and watch and not be part of it.  It helps them bond with each other and build friendships with each other.  After all, when I'm gone, they will have each other, and that will be a hundred times better if they are also friends.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Free Entertainment and Summer Fun

This summer, it is my goal to have as much fun as possible without spending any more money.  I bought a family pool pass for the summer, which was way too much money, in my opinion, given the hours the pool is open and how often it's closed due to thunderstorms, but beyond that, I have no intention of spending any more money.

That means no trips to Thanksgiving Point (a local attraction that consists of a few museums, beautiful gardens, an agricultural learning area, a movie theater, and lots of shops), no trips to the zoo, no trips to the aquarium.  That means no taking any summer classes beyond the private trumpet/trombone lessons I signed the boys up for to keep them practicing over the summer for band.  It means no lunches out and even no stopping at the snow cone shack for a cold treat on a hot day. It also means no road trips to visit family or friends.  What it means is only doing activities that cost no money at all.

What on earth does that leave to do?  In society's eyes, probably not a lot.  I've noticed that the fun most people post on Facebook that they have tend to be activities that cost money.  Not that any of that is bad; it's not.  But I have taken a good look around and realized that there is so much to do that can be done for free, or even really cheap.

Here is a my list of things to do so far:

--BYU has several museums that are free: The Museum of Art, The Monte L. Bean Science Museum, and a natural history museum. 

--There are lots of places to hike in the mountains around here (most of which I still have to discover because I don't know where kid-friendly hikes are)

--Blackridge Reservoir, which is a small man-made lake that we can swim in

--Many biking trails in our city

--Many new parks to explore

--Downtown SLC--Temple Square and some adjacent areas, like the Church History Museum and hiking up to Promontory Point.

--Free concerts/movies in the park hosted by the city

--Free parades, fairs and firework events throughout the summer

Then, of course, there is good, old-fashioned playing in a field: baseball, soccer, tag, etc. and other outdoor activities that can be done with a group of kids (six siblings and a mom count!), like chalk drawing, four square, basketball, bike games, setting up a lemonade/snow cone/other cold treat stand, and many, many more.

When I was growing up, we used to keep ourselves pretty well entertained in the summers without our parents carting us around to museums, aquariums, and zoos and other venues.  Somehow, we all  managed to come out of it okay and not bored.  Somehow we kept busy and out of trouble and had a lot of fun. 

So I'm going to focus this summer on a throwback to old times.  I'm not even doing my usual "summer learning" .  My kids have been in school since last July and they need a real break.  Aside from 30 minutes of daily reading and instrument practicing, they are free to play to their hearts content.

Ah, summer.  Good times!

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