A Few of My Favorite Things

  • God and all that goes with Him
  • Time Spent With Family
  • Bedtime Prayers
  • Family/Group Hugs
  • The Beach
  • Good Friends
  • Good Music
  • Laughter

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Discovering the Importance of What A Life Taught Me

If you are new to my blog or don't know me very well, then it's important to me that you know that in January of 1998 we lost my sister and cousin to the stupidity of a high, drunk driver. One moment they were to very independent young people and the next they were gone. Every year I use this time to remind those young people (or young at heart) that the choice to drink and drive has repercussions far beyond those of the moment. The young man that drove drunk died in the wreck as well. I'm still searching for some type of forgiveness, not for his sake but mine. We'll explore those ugly emotions another day. Today, I want to share some things that I've learned from their lives. I have a sweet sister/friend who reminded at Christmas to value the lessons learned from their short lives instead of just concentrating on the missing. She has no idea how much that suggestion has helped me over the last month. It has actually made it possible to look at both lives and their cumulative effect on my life. I know that just because we lost two family members at once doesn't make my grief any harder or different from others, but I must admit that the emotions feel like on ocean trying to pull me from the safety of the shore when I think about both of them being gone and so quickly. It is so much easier to deal with pieces at a time, but I'm still digressing from my original intentions. So, I'll leave this alone for now and talk about the kids and the joy, adventure, and frustration they brought me and what I learned from them.

I'm the oldest of the three of us and then Willard was nine months younger (we actually buried him on his birthday) and Jenny was 2 years younger. I always felt like Willard was more of a brother than cousin and the trouble and fun the three of us found our way into made for a wonderful childhood. I learned to use my imagination with those two, whether we were hunting lions in the tall grass around the clay pit or tracking Indians in the woods. The toy box was a ship, a plane, a car, or a treasure chest. We transported ourselves from the house or backyard and went on adventures that only wonderfully creative minds can come up with. I was not the creative one, but once given the situation would willingly bury myself in whatever adventure we were on for the day. So the first thing they taught me was you could have fun without toys and that the imagination could carry us where ever we wanted to go. It was wonderful and the adventures didn't stop once we left our young childhood they just expanded and included going places and still being just as silly as we where when we were limited by location.

They taught me how to laugh and laugh. Jenny because it just seemed to be in her nature and Willard because he loved to irritate Jenny and as the mean big sister I must admit to enjoying those moments. He had the ability to make her fighting mad and then turn the switch back to laughter. (Family members, I realize some of my memories are clouded by what I want to remember and those things I don't.) When we were all younger there was so much fun in tackling Willard and him ending up on the bottom of the dog pile. As we got older he was able to tackle the two of us and with a handful of her hair in one hand and mine in the other finally made the top of the dog pile. So we learned that you can play rough, get mad, and forgive and move on.

Jenny and I both shared the same room for most of our childhood. So that meant secrets shared into the night. She was a cover stealer, but a great keeper of secrets....at least I think she was. She was hard headed and found joy in taking the heads off my dolls and hiding clothes and baby bottles. She taught me the joy in climbing trees by shaming me into being too scared to climb and follow her. She loved to spend time outside and I would have been just as happy playing school inside. She taught me the triumph that comes with overcoming fears, the excitement in facing the unknown, and the need to stand up and be bold even when you're shaking on the inside.

Willard taught me a lot about how a guy thinks and just how much grief hurts. We lost one of his brothers when I was about 11. I didn't really have a picture of pain until we lost Matthew. He taught me how important sincerity is and that sarcasm can often cover pain that the mind cannot share. He taught me to see the world with a little less naivety than I had before. He was also the true keeper of secrets. If you asked him not to tell, he didn't. There were times I needed that. He taught me how to play cards and the fun that comes with just goofing off at home (along with an infusion of caffeine and candy). He made sure I was sure I loved my sweetheart and then once he saw how determined I was accepted Rich probably before anyone else did. He taught me that sometimes there can be too much hurt to pray for yourself so you ask someone else to do it for you. (I wish I had remembered that lesson earlier than I did). He allowed me to see his hurt and taught me that sometimes just being there to listen can help mend broken parts of ourselves.

I love them and what they could help me become with the two of them I was loud and silly. I was a head scrubber, leg pincher, and someone who laughed easily. They taught me that. They taught me not to worry what anyone might say or think if I was at church in play clothes that being there was what was important. Jenny taught me that no matter how shy I felt and how much I wanted to stand behind someone else to teach the gospel that I needed to be bold. Right was right and wrong was wrong. Willard helped me to see the need for grace and mercy that sometimes life wasn't as black and white as Jenny saw them that you needed to be willing to give people space. The most important thing they taught me together was to lighten up and have a good time. Jenny also helped me learn that I could make it through anything I didn't want to do, was sad or happy by singing.

I have to admit that since their deaths I haven't sung as much, I don't just get silly with laughter very often, and I take myself so much more seriously than I even did back then. It's been 16 years without them and there days when it feels like it all happened yesterday, and yet it feels like a life time ago. Their loss is one that has changed how we interact as a family. The silliness, the laughing until our sides hurt, and how much time we spend together has changed. Our babies don't know these two sweet souls who would have loved them. We miss them, the drunk driver left a hole that will only be filled completely when we see them again on the other side of Jordan.

You see there's where our hope is...It's in the knowing that one day they will meet us at the gate of heaven along with other precious souls that have moved on. There's comfort in knowing there's more to come and that is why we move through the moments of deep grief and pain because one day we'll join them in a land without pain.

You will call upon Me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:12-13

The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made.
Psalms 145:13

The Lord is my strength, my shield from every danger. I trust in Him with all my heart.
Psalms 28:7

It is my prayer that if you are someone who has been known to drive drunk or drive while on drugs, or even drive while texting that just knowing the pain caused by another bad decision will help you to decide not to repeat the stupidity of the young man who killed my sister and cousin. You have the ability to choose not to drive under the influence. If you find you must drink or get high, please call a cab or have a designated driver. You never know you might just save your own life as well as that of someone else. Don't steal the laughter, silliness, and songs from your family or that of another.

May God help us to concentrate on the love He has for us and the joy that we carry because of His promise of salvation. May He help us to honor the lives of our loved ones by sharing the very best parts of ourselves that they helped to mold and shape.

Thanks for your love and support. This blog has been a big part of helping me to see that I can still share the Savior with others even when I feel like hiding. Your support is lifting up this tired soul and helping to put the pieces back again. I love you.