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Thursday, August 29, 2013

What to say when you don't have the words.



Today, I was talking to my sister. She has been writing songs. They are beautiful. She is speaking about our mother's death. Yes, my mother died. I have ached to write something, but each time I sit down to try, I can't. I don't know why. Maybe I haven't found the words, or they haven't found me yet. In April, she was diagnosed. Brain cancer. She fought. She fought hard. But in June, she had moved on. I miss her terribly.

This is what I wrote for her memorial, though my words have been few since. Maybe they will find me.

Anyone who knows my mom has likely been acquainted with her affinity for The Muppets. Through the hallways at Cal State, her Muppet and Sesame Street CDs might be heard from time to time. She would joke that people might think she was crazy, but I think she enjoyed the fact that it drew people into her office and that it brought a smile to their faces.

She would often be asked who her favorite Muppet was and without hesitation she would reply: “Kermit”. She loved the song, “It’s Not Easy Being Green” where Kermit is ruminating about identity and accepting yourself even if sometimes you feel you fade into the background. I think she enjoyed the character of Kermit and how he was always trying to manage the madness around him and allowing other people to shine. My mom knew how to do this and yet, deep down, she wasn’t fully a Kermit. No. My mother was a Gonzo. Why is she a Gonzo? Well, let’s examine the evidence.

After Kermit meets Gonzo he asks himself: What is Gonzo anyway? “He’s a little like a turkey. Yeah, a little like a turkey, but not much.” The other muppets classified him as a Weirdo, or a Whatever. Gonzo was unique. There was never any doubt that my mom was as well. There is a quote from a movie that I enjoy where someone something to the effect of “when you start out in life standing out, you just keep on standing out”. My mom embraced her “differentness”. She couldn’t help the fact that she was tall, striking, and redheaded, but she embraced it fully and started to stand out in other ways as well. The way she walked with purpose, her commanding voice that when she sang you could hear her from far away. Her whistling any tune she had heard. Even in expressing herself, she would sound different. Her large vocabulary and unique writing style certainly let you know it was her. A family favorite being “Nice evasive maneuver, Matthew!” after my brother had a near miss on a sledding adventure. Even if, perhaps, she worried about being ordinary, it was clear she wasn’t. And, like a friend said, “did I mention she had red hair?”

Gonzo is well known for his many ideas. Sometimes, it wouldn’t work out so well, but it never spoiled his enthusiasm or desire to try again. Once before a stunt, Floyd Pepper asks Gonzo “Do you think it will work?” to which Gonzo responds, “No! Isn’t it terrific?” Our mom was always full of ideas. Even when she was ill, I would get phone calls from her that would start out, “I’ve got a couple of ideas for you....” Even when something wouldn’t work out, her mind would still be percolating on something new or thinking of another way to approach a problem.

Gonzo and Kermit are both known for being fearless. Kermit for leaving the swamp and pursuing his dream and sharing it with others. Gonzo for his stunts and generally living his life on the edge. She was ahead of her time in many ways which I think carries with it a great degree of fearlessness. She was certainly not afraid of being herself. The only time she seemed to fear anything was when it regarded someone she loved and cared about, rarely was it fear for herself. She’d shoot herself out of a cannon if the situation called for it! I think she inspired others to be fearless as well, to go after what they wanted, the way she did.

How do we remember such an individual? Well, I’ve got a couple of ideas. Be yourself, don’t be afraid to be daring and follow where your heart and your mind lead you. And even though she is no longer in our company, in the words of Gonzo: “We can hold onto love like invisible strings”.

So whether she was being a Kermit and bringing people together or a Gonzo and pulling off feats that are unexpected, I’d like to say in her own words, “What a character!”







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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tragedy

I joke sometimes that since we've moved to Connecticut, there seems to be disaster after disaster and that maybe if we moved, things would go back to normal. Maybe I am not so funny.

We live a few miles away, but attend church in Newtown, Connecticut. The congregants in our ward come from multiple towns in the area. Today, one of the families lost their precious and beautiful six year old daughter. Tomorrow, we were to have a Nativity celebration and she was to have been an angel in the play. Instead, she is a true angel.

I have tried to put together words that would be eloquent or that would really capture the feelings of this day and give it the reverence it deserves, but, I struggle. Even having walked the path of child loss, I can't even begin to comprehend what anguish so many families are dealing with.

I looked so many times at my daughters, who would sit near that little girl in Primary on Sundays, and just thanked my Heavenly Father for each moment I get with them. Thankfully, they put up with my many hugs and squeezes and kisses today.

Tonight, they prayed for this girl's family. Unfortunately, the know death all too well. I prayed that they will turn to God always in the face of tragedy and that we will all continue to hold each other close.

With such a heavy heart, I hope that we can all "mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort."

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Lifetime


Sorry for the lack of blogging. Life just gets crazy, I guess. Today is eleven years since that day that changed the world. September 11th. Everyone who was old enough can cast their mind back and remember the moments of that day, where they were, what they were doing when those things happened. A friend mentioned today on Facebook that it felt like just yesterday. Yesterday.

No, not yesterday. For me, now, it feels like a lifetime ago. I can remember that day with great clarity, indeed, but its shock and misery pierced another me. A person who was not quite an adult. Someone on the brink. I do remember thinking to myself that day that things, the world, would never be the same. It is rare that one event can cause collective feelings of grief and loss and a different outlook on life.

But our lives are made up of more than just collective experience. I was trying to remember last night when 9/11 started to feel so far away. It was two years ago when a personal and family tragedy rocked our world and we knew that our lives would never be the same.

A couple years ago, Johnson & Johnson had a beautiful ad campaign that featured black and white footage of adorable babies and their parents and at the end it would say, "having a baby changes everything". Indeed. Two weeks ago, my two little girls, my first two babies, went back to school. Cecily in first grade, Cordelia in kindergarten. Their lives have existed only in a post 9/11 world. This changed world is their world. I looked at Cordelia last night and remarked to Nate, "She looks like a kindergartner." I know, of course she does! She is growing up, a lifetime away from what happened 11 years ago.

When Phineas died, our world changed. Our little family was irrevocably different. I stressed and worried about imposing grief on my daughters' young souls. And yet, we are coming through it, bit by bit. But even beyond our family tempest, there has been another lifetime. Freddie was born into a world where 9/11 and his brother's death were just part of the fabric of life. He officially went to nursery on Sunday and again I was just amazed at how quickly things pass.

It is strange to look back at such a tragic and life changing event, back when you were a different person, because really, who is the same after 11 years? It feels like looking into a vision of the past, like in Harry Potter, looking into the pensieve where your mind has stored your experience of events. Each person's would be different, but when you stop and look, you are different and the world is too. But then it is okay. New life springs forth after tragedy and destruction, new lifetimes always being built. This does not diminish what has been lost, only strengthens the knowledge of what should be kept and treasured. Those people and experiences and little lifetimes. The world can be better and not worse because of what happened.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Huh

Sorry for my super down-in-the-dumps post. I was planning to write something else right after but "going to" doesn't necessarily mean that I am going to.

Funny thing happened.

We were packing boxes. Cleaning. Preparing for the realtor to come over to the house to photograph. We were planning on making a trip cross country to California.

Then, anxiety. An anxious feeling came over me that I could just not shake off. Just like that, we decided to stay. A couple weeks ago, Nate mentioned that maybe "Connecticut wasn't quite done with us yet". I think he was right. Over the last weekend, Nate and I both had so much anxiety and were panicking. Red flags.

So, after a five minute conversation, we changed our minds. I emailed the landlord. Almost instantly, our burden was lifted and we both felt an immediate feeling of relief. We are winging it, yes, but I know this is the right choice. Things are looking better, brighter.

We also made a pact to "live" here. So much of our time here has been spent with us apart. Nate working, me hanging out with the kids.

The past couple days, we have gone swimming on the lake, yes we live on a lake. Nice, huh? It felt like a mini-vacation, a bit of release for us. A renewal.

Hoping for more good things to come.



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