Saturday, July 27, 2019

When the heart needs a hug…

A sunset full of hugs

I was looking out at the sky the other night and saw the most beautiful sunset.  As I looked to that beautiful horizon, I felt as if the sky reached out and wrapped the distant land in a graceful warm beautiful hug.  I felt as if Zach was giving me an angelic hug through this picturesque scene.  This was an incredibly beautiful feeling.  I love those special moments that pierce my heart with love and gratitude.

Today is certainly a day to reflect on the sweet life of our son Zach.  Today, he would be 21.  Today, he would have already completed a mission for our church.  Today, he would probably be holding to his promise to his father and attending college at the University of Utah.   Today, he would be excited to celebrate another birthday.  Today, I would see a young man whose smile, personality, and incredible spirit bless all he knows and loves.

But Zach’s “today,” his birthday, will be celebrated differently than the rest of us here on earth. We do celebrate Zach’s life and the magic he brought into our family and the lives of those he knew in his short life. We celebrate by remembering the moments in time of the things he did that continue to bring us joy, even today. There is not a day that goes by that thoughts or memories of Zach surface and today those floodgates are open. 

While I miss Zach each and every day, I am eternally grateful for that “Great Plan,” the Plan of Salvation. This plan offers me comfort, peace, and an opportunity to work at being worthy of seeing our sweet Zach again. For I truly believe there is life after this life, eternal life.  I believe that a loving Savior lived, died and rose from the grave, breaking the bonds of death, to give us this incredible gift.  How grateful I am to Him for giving me this hope, for my greatest desire is to see Zach again.  Because of my faith, I can press forward with confidence being optimistic in my pursuit of eternal happiness.

So “today,” I say, “Happy Birthday Zach!”  While you are dearly missed, I love that you are my angel, our family’s angel.  Thank you for hugging me through those beautiful sunsets of life.

Friday, June 21, 2019

When One Door Closes, Another Always Opens

The newest member to join our family sooooooooon!

Mark and I have made many changes in our lives over the past few months.  The biggest change is that we moved.  We moved eight houses down from our old home.  We decided it was time to rid ourselves of the stairs/two-story home and build a one level home.  We started the process last June and we were able to finally move in on April 15th-Tax Day!

As I did the final walk-through of our old home, I found myself downstairs where Zach passed away. With all the fun, beautiful, awesome memories of living in our old home, there is one memory that is still heartbreaking, Zach’s death.  I actually kissed my hand and touched all the places where his last moments were in that house.  I then looked around that mostly empty room and said my final good-bye.  That home served us well and another family will make their beautiful memories in it, and truly, that makes me smile.

I came home, opened the door, and thought, “I love our new home.”  We have beautiful views of Pine Valley Mountain and various vistas.  I love watching storms roll in.  I love planting my garden and my flowerpots, and even weeding.  I love to cook in my dream kitchen and to grill outside in 100+ degree weather.  I love doing the dishes and even laundry.  I love to sit outside by our water feature and meditate.  I often ponder as to how many dogs I can talk Mark into letting me have-hahaha!  I love that we were able to help create this house and now we can enjoy the fruits of those labors.

As the door of the old closes, we take with us many beautiful, sweet, and fun memories. Those memories will stay tucked warmly and safely in my heart, never to forget.  “We don’t remember days…we remember moments.” (Author Unknown) “Today’s little moments become tomorrow’s precious memories.” (Author Unknown)

Here are a few pictures of our new home where we hope to make many new memories, especially with our new addition to the family coming on July 8th~Gus!

This is the old home

Kitchen which is part of the "Great Room"

Great Room

The Great Room's view... it really is a "great" room!

The view can be seen right through the front doors

Pano of the front

These doors!  I am obsessed!  Shout out to Urban Iron Doors for the design  :)

Mark's man cave-beautiful office

View from the Master Suite

A little video of the water feature our builder Dave created :)  Shout out to DAVE!!!!

Gorgeous fire pit that Dave also created :)  Another shout out to DAVE!!!!

Ahhhh... the pool!  When the beach is unavailable...

Another pool view - shout out to Oasis for creating this refreshing scene :)

Back patio pano

And then...  Gus!

He has even captured Dr. Mark's heart :)

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Seven in Heaven

It has been a LONG while since I have written anything!  This time of year always brings Zach’s passing to the forefront of my thoughts and deepest feelings.  I had a sweet friend ask me recently if I relive those moments in time seven years ago. I replied, “every year!”

There is so much to try and comprehend, to try and overcome, all the while remembering to always look up and keep the faith.  Recalling Zach’s death is at times extremely difficult.  And yet, I feel I can see him filled with a joy I completely have no understanding of.

In reading the Book of Mormon, I have pondered Ammon’s “joy.”  What would that be like to have that kind of joy?  What would that be like to be filled with that kind of joy? To the point of laying prostrate on the ground?

When in my life have I been “filled” with joy?  

When I was baptized, I was filled with joy.  While it was a special day and moment, it cannot be compared to Ammon’s joy.

When my family was sealed in the temple, I was filled with joy.  That moment in time was sacred and beautiful, but still cannot be compared to Ammon’s joy.

When I was married in the temple, I was filled with immense joy.  That was an incredibly happy day.  I remember smiling so much that my face began to hurt.  Nevertheless, I feel it falls just short of that joy Ammon felt.

When I had each of my children, my joy thermometer was off the charts.  As I held each one of these precious little beings fresh from heaven, my feelings of joy were so intense, so pure, and really beyond description.  I think that those beautiful moments are probably the closest times in my life of feeling the joy Ammon must have felt.

Being an empty nester, with a child on the other side of the veil, and a Nana, how can I feel that joy I have tasted at various times in my life?  Each of us NEEDS to have some sort of joy in our lives.  Each of us should seek to find joy in our lives.  And most of the time, we do not have to look far to find and feel it.

I think the biggest secret to finding joy is simply serving someone in need.  Serving brings those desired droplets of joy to my soul.  They fuel me to want to do more and to have more of those particularly sweet moments.  Serving can be as simple as putting someone’s shopping cart away for them. Or, it can be purchasing someone’s groceries for them.  It can be calling your eighty-one year old mother.  It can be visiting family members.  Serving can be taking a treat to someone who may be shut in.  It can be showing up to clean someone’s home, and even making them dinner.

Where does the joy come from any of those suggestions?  It comes from the woman with five children who is so grateful you are putting her grocery cart away as she tries to multitask loading children and groceries into her car.  Joy comes from seeing a person’s face light up with immense gratitude as you help pay the difference she is short in the grocery check-out line.  Joy comes from calling my mother, asking about her day, and letting her know how much I love her.  And in turn, I feel my mother’s gratitude and love from making a simple phone call.  Joy comes from visiting my children and playing with my grandchildren.  I am always excited to see them, to feel of their love, and to spend time making special memories for all to remember.

As I have pondered Ammon’s joy lately, I have given deep thought as to how I will feel when I see Zach again.  Joy. And I actually believe, it will be the kind of joy that Ammon felt.  I do not think I will be laying prostrate on the ground, but I will be hugging him, kissing him, and crying big crocodile tears of joy when that blessed day comes.

Our angel Zach has had seven years in heaven.  Oh how we miss him.  I believe my job on earth is to serve and find ways to bring joy to others.  And in turn, this brings my soul joy.  I like to picture Zach smiling his big beautiful smile, full of joy, and busily serving.  As we continue our journey joyfully here on earth, may each of us share our “joy” and “Light the World” this Christmas season. 

Listen to this beautiful song "The Sweetest Gift"

This is a beautiful talk about service.  Click link below

The Joy of Unselfish Service

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Monday, February 12, 2018

“Tell Your Heart to Beat Again…”

First, listen to this song.  Then if you desire, continue reading.

Recently, I have had several people come to me for help in regards to friends who have lost children.  More specifically, I have been asked to help friends who have lost children to suicide, and parents who have children contemplating suicide.  Mark and I were also asked to consider sharing our story in an even more public forum.  However, we declined for numerous personal reasons.

I decided, for Valentine’s Day, to share what is in my heart in regards to Zach’s death and the topic of suicide.  I share it specifically for those who have lost a loved one to suicide and pray that my words will somehow lift and encourage you.  I also share our story from a heart that is in a good place at this time in my life. 

On December 11, 2011, our sweet Zach hanged himself.  Mark found him and together we took him down.  Mark desperately tried CPR, but has seen death enough to know that Zach had been gone for more than an hour.  Most of that horrific night is still yet a blur.  The police came.  The ambulance came.  They put our son’s body in a body bag and left it open at his face where I could kiss his head.

As you may well imagine, we were left with the ever-pressing question of “why.”  Zach left us no note.  We had noticed some changes in Zach’s behavior, but attributed most of it to teenage hormones.  A few months passed and we discovered the reason that led to Zach doing what he thought was his only way to relieve his suffering.  I won’t go into all the particulars, but suffice it to say, someone we trusted hurt him in a way that could not be remedied.  His soul was in utter anguish, and he obviously felt he had no one to turn to for help.

As Mark and I have done a “play by play” playback of the last six months of his life, we each have recalled various times of those “red flag moments.”  “Why didn’t I see this?”  “Why didn’t I do something when he said that?”  All this coupled with the could haves, should haves, and would haves, had we known what was going on in his head and heart.  Sadly, we didn’t.

As far as my knowledge of suicide goes, I will leave that to the professionals to better assist in those situations.  They have the knowledge and skillset, and are equipped to address and aid those who may be contemplating suicide.   With that said, suicide is becoming a problem amongst our young people.  There is an urgency to help with this incredibly deadly disease.  There is an urgency for making people aware.  This is probably the reason Mark and I were sought out.  This is the sole reason for this post.  We decided to share our journey through grief in the hopes that it may offer some sort of help.

We cannot change what Zach did.  We cannot bring him back.  Bad things happen.  And as we have learned, our personal response to trials is paramount in our healing process.  Perhaps the most important decision that Mark and I made was to turn our hearts to our Father in Heaven and our Savior Jesus Christ.  We cannot go through this storm without faith that everything will be made right in the end.  We cannot go through this trial finding blame or letting anger control our actions or thoughts.  We cannot go through this trial without our loved ones.  But, we had to go through this trial with every ounce of faith we could muster.  This was going to take an immense amount of work and effort on our part to pass through this incredibly difficult storm.

This trial brought us to our knees.  Our prayers were heard and have been answered in many ways over time.  We have looked to each other for comfort and help.  We study our church doctrine and have faith in the eternal nature of families.  We firmly believe we will see Zach again, along with other loved ones who have passed on. 

We faithfully serve in our church assignments.  Shortly after Zach’s passing, I was asked to serve in the Special Needs Mutual.  It was an incredible blessing to work with these beautiful Celestial people.  I have always felt that Heavenly Father knew that I had “special needs” and gave me these very special friends who greatly blessed my life.

We attend the temple often.  The temple is where we bind families for time and all eternity.  My experiences there are too sacred to share in this venue.  But those experiences have taught me, lifted me, and let me know often that our Father in Heaven is ever aware of my every heartache and need.  I can honestly say I would go through those doors with the heaviest of heart, and leave having the strength to continue on.  

We serve in our community.  We exercise.  Mark much more so than me!  He is our marathon man as he #runswithourangel. 

These are but a few of the things we do to “progress.”  We cannot sit idly by hoping that we will get a simple fix, that it will all go away, or that we will wake up from this nightmare and it will all have disappeared. 

We need to get up everyday.  Pray.  Study.  Work.  Serve.  Love.  Exercise.  Find gratitude.  Get ready for the day.  And then, start all over again the next day.  If we could only see ALL the angels cheering us on each and every minute of the day…  that particular thought makes me smile and brings me peace.  Especially since one of those angels is our Zach.

For you dear parents who have lost a child through suicide or other ways, I say to you that days do get brighter.  You can smile again.  You can laugh again.  You can find joy again.  And the most important thing to know is that your child wants you to be happy.  We know Zach is happy.

Through all this, the word that has continually come to my mind is gratitude.  I am grateful for the things I have learned through this trial.  I am grateful for Mark, his friendship, his love, and his kind and forgiving heart.  I am grateful for a heart that believes that this life is not the end.  I am grateful for my eternal family.  I am grateful for my journey through grief.  I am grateful for Zach.  I love him and miss him, each and every day.  Remembering the beautiful and wonderful things about his life brings me joy, brings me comfort, and brings me peace.  Remembering his awesome drumming and how much he enjoyed drumming makes me smile… pretty big.

I love the song “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again.”  A friend posted it on his wall and I have listened to it over and over and over again.  I hope those of you who have found yourself in the same shoes as Mark and I can begin to “feel the sun,” because “your journey’s just begun.”  And remember, “In this moment, heaven’s working everything for your good.”

And now... watch the video again!

Below is a link to a beautiful talk Elder Holland gave that addresses mental health.

Like a Broken Vessel by Elder Holland

Sunday, January 14, 2018

And so, I kiss my hand, then touch the ground, and turn to look into the sky

In my now 59 years of age, I like to think that I have seen it all.  And also that, I have “pearls” of wisdom.  I think we like to think we know a thing or two at our age.  Or maybe, just maybe, we have “learned” a thing or two.  Learning is a lifelong process (profound, I know!).  But more importantly, we need to grow from those incredibly challenging experiences that help to mold us and to shape us into human beings with hearts that see and feel.  Then, we need to use that knowledge for good, turning it into “positive” actions.

After Zach’s passing, and learning all the circumstances that surrounded his death, I knew the only way I would survive was to stay busy by serving.  If I could look for someone to help in some small way, I knew my life would be blessed.  Do you even realize how many people need help?  The list is endless!  Reading to pre-schoolers, helping an elderly person across the street, helping someone at the check-out line in the grocery store who clearly has no money, helping someone who has made poor choices, being a friend who listens, loving your family and all their imperfections, bake something yummy and secretly deliver it to someone who needs to feel special, and most importantly we need to be kind.  These are only a very small amount of the types of things we can do.  And, we can do these types of things every day!

Instead of hard-heartedness, find compassion.  Instead of blame and judgment, find forgiveness.  Instead of prejudice, find acceptance and friendship.  Instead of cruelty, find kindness. Instead of hate, find love.

Now, I am NOT perfect and therefore have to work on ALL of these things.  I can say, I am trying to give life my best effort.  The things that have become obstacles in my life, I simply cut a wide path around them.  I basically try and avoid the negative.  Negative is dark and heavy, but positive is ethereal and full of light.

Every day I have a choice of how I want to live, of what I want to do, of how I want to feel.  I have the choice.  At the end of the day, I evaluate my day, my efforts, and my choices.  Would Zach be smiling and proud of me?  OR would he be covering his eyes saying, “Oh Mom, why did you do (or say) that?!!”  Would my Savior be pleased with my efforts?  Would my Father in Heaven?  I am praying that each of them is pleased with my efforts.

I went to the cemetery on my birthday with Mark.  It is sweet to remember our son, his life, his infectious laugh, any memory that brings us joy and peace.  My ritual when I leave is to kiss my hand, touch the ground where he is buried, and then look to the bright blue sky.  I sometimes feel like I am staring straight into heaven.  And, I sometimes feel like Zach is staring and smiling… right back at me.

A few kindness quotes to ponder:
"No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted."  Aesop

"Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see."  Mark Twain

"Kindness in words creates confidence.  Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.  Kindness in giving creates love."  Lao Tzu

"A warm smile is the universal language of kindness."  William Arthur Ward

And one of my new favorite songs by Tim McGraw "Humble and Kind"

AND... Mark also took me to "Puppy Palace" to hug and hold some sweet pups

Mark trying to love holding a puppy

I fell in love with this one!
Puppies make everything happy! <3

Thursday, November 9, 2017

If I Can Find My Smile…

Since Zach’s passing nearly six years ago, I have found myself working on finding my smile.  How can I smile?  Why smile?  What’s behind a smile?  And, how can my smile help someone who may need “just a smile?”

After the many bleak days and long nights following Zach’s passing, how could I smile?  There were so many reasons NOT to smile.  And, the thought that was foremost on my mind and in my heart was that I would not properly be grieving Zach’s loss… if I did, in fact, smile.   As I began sorting through his room just days after his passing, I found myself holding his Karate clothes and weapons and recalled Zach shouting his Karate grunts.  I then visualized Coach Reis getting Zach to yell SO loud.  When Zach would yell, Coach Reis would get so tickled.  That memory brought on a big smile combined with a few nostalgic tears.  As I recovered his drumsticks, his favorite shirt, his golf clubs… basically I found numerous beautiful memories, pieces of him and his life that not only made me miss him, but also helped me to smile at those sweet memories.   I often wonder if Zach was sitting right by me saying, “remember this…  remember when…  just remember.”  When I go to those sweet moments in time, it is impossible NOT to smile.



I confess, those first few months, I would often think why would I even want to smile.  I lost my son in a tragic and traumatic way, why should I smile?  Those thoughts right there are what lead many people down a dark, unforgiving, and hopeless road.  The religious part of me also recognizes that that particular road is one the adversary not only wants me on, but also anyone he can trap in his snare.  Do I really want to let him have that much power over me?  Over my life?  Simple answer~NO! 

Whatever journey we may be on, we need to find joy.  For me, attending the temple has been my lifeline for “why” I want to smile and where I find joy.  I can walk through those doors with the heaviest of heart and literally feel the Savior gather my woes and tell me, “Go to work and be happy.”  Miraculously, I could every time.  In the temple, I am surrounded by angels.  These angels may seem as ordinary as you and me, but they are extraordinary human beings.  Their smiles come from the depths of their souls infusing them with love and compassion for everyone.  They smile.  They are happy.  It is a very special light they carry, the kind of light I would like to acquire and share.  Their smiles are genuine, warm, and most of all contagious. 

In a dream of sorts, Zach came to me.  He told me to remember him the way he was from a silly video he made before he died.  After watching that video, I just smiled.  I well remember at his viewing when SO many of his friends came through the line…heartbroken and sobbing.  I told them the story about this particular video and they would smile and laugh.  I also remember asking them, “doesn’t it feel better to smile and laugh a little?  Zach would want it that way.”  Sister Hinckley said, “The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it.  You either have to laugh or cry.  I prefer to laugh.  Crying gives me a headache.”  There really is no truer statement!

  This is the video of how Zach wanted me (and all his friends) to remember him 

What’s behind a smile? And, how can my smile possibly help someone?  As I listen to various friends share their life’s journey, I have come to understand that oft times their smile is sometimes masking their pain.  I have come to appreciate and admire their choice to smile.  When they get ready for the day, their smile is part of their dress routine.  They pick out their outfit and put on their smile.  They say their prayers and put on their smile.  They do not want to leave home without their smile.  Their choice not only blesses them, but also others whom they may come in contact with.  I truly believe a smile helps to open gates and tear down walls.  It becomes a bridge that can help connect and bless human beings with one another. 

A quote I found most helpful (with no author listed), “Be the reason someone smiles today.”  I am grateful for my life and the many journeys I have experienced.  I am grateful for when the Holy Ghost tutors me and comforts me.  I am grateful for eternal families, and in particular, for my eternal family.  I also have a deep love and appreciation for our Savior Jesus Christ.  He has lifted me, blessed me, and helps to give me a reason to smile everyday.  I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father whose guiding hand is felt every day of my life.  With ALL these wonderful blessings, I have a heart full of gratitude and I can most certainly find my smile.

Sharing some contagious smiles with each of you