Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Complete Love

I have to apologize to all who have been following Krista's and my journey for not posting for over a year.  Many of you have asked how it's been going for me and Jake and Em and I'm thankful that y'all are concern about us.  I have meant to respond to your inquiries many times but just couldn't.  It's not that things aren't going well, in fact we have been very blessed this past year.  As I've said before, I tend to post more often when things are getting harder, it's been very therapeutic to write my thoughts, feelings and testimony.  My lack of updates has been due to being blessed beyond what I feel I deserve.

The path that led to these blessings started a few months after Krista passed away.  Every April and October our church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) has what they call "General Conference".  This is where the leaders of our church give us instruction and guidance to help us better live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and find joy in this life and blessings in the life to come.  This conference is held in Salt Lake City Utah and broadcast throughout the world by TV, radio and satellite.  While listening to the April 2011 General Conference I heard from three different speakers that the single men of the church shouldn't wait to get married.  There are countless single women in the church who are waiting for a worthy and righteous man to marry and start and eternal family with.  All three times I heard this admonition it felt as though they were speaking directly to me.  Not wanting to second guess the Lord I decided to become involved with our church's single adult group and attend as many of their activities as I could despite my 24/7 role as dad/mom and provider for Jacob and Emma.  During one of the first activities I went to, a lady named Marlena caught my eye.  I knew I wasn't ready to date yet but from watching her I thought that when I was ready she was the type of woman I would like to date.  Over the next year my schedule and responsibilities allowed me to attend only a handful of single adult activities.  Surprisingly, Marlena was at most of them.  I got to know her better and really liked her even though I thought she was too young for me.  In the meantime she fell in love with Jake and Emma.

Then one day as I was dropping Jake off at his Webelos den meeting, a lady I knew from the singles group saw me and asked if I was there to attend institute (an adult Gospel study class).  I had no idea institute was the same time as scouts but thought it was too convenient not to go.  I could drop Jake off and Emma could either stay with me at institute or hang with Jake at scouts.  I was pleased to see that Marlena was also attending.  The more I learned about her the more I liked and before long she was saving me a seat by her each week.  I finally decided I needed to ask her out.  I planned to ask after our next institute class.  That evening as I was walking her to her car I turned to her and she asked if me and the kids would like to go the the Dallas Auto show with her on Saturday.  After picking my jaw up off the pavement I accepted.  We had a wonderful time at the auto show and I found out she is as big of a gear-head as I.  Our relationship and love for each other quickly grew and before long we knew we had been guided to each other.  

We were married and sealed to each other in the Dallas LDS Temple on June 30th of 2012.  Marlena has been a blessing to me and also to Jacob and Emma.  She loves Jake and Em with all her heart and has been the mom that they have needed since Krista's passing.  She has taken the pain away from my life and replaced it with the joy that I had missed for too long.  

Marlena has taught me a lot about the nature of love.  Krista and I had five years to talk about what to do if her brain cancer took her life.  We both knew it would be for the best if I remarried, especially if Jake and Emma were still at home.  At that time I worried about not being able to love anyone as deeply as I loved her.  I still love Krista with all my heart and always will, but I have learned that love is infinite and has no bounds.  It doesn't diminish as you give it but increases with each person we grow to love.  

I used to tell Krista I loved her more than anyone else in the whole world.  I haven't been able to say that to Marlena because of my love for Krista.  But I do tell her that I love her completely, and when I meet Krista again I will tell her the same because I love them both completely.  Just as our Heavenly Father loves each of His children completely, not one more than another, we can learn love others completely and the more we love the more love we have to give.  Isn't this the great lesson we are to learn in this mortal life?  To love others even as our Heavenly Father loves us.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Widowed Resolution

I've found that one of the hardest questions to answer has been "How are you doing?".  At Mary Kay we're taught to always respond with "Great!" because most of the time it is asked out of politeness and they aren't really interested in the answer so why not answer in the positive.  Plus if answered this way long enough it will eventually become true.

Well, widowerdom (my new word of the day) has brought a whole new dimension to the answer.  It's not that I'm not doing great most of the time, but it can change at a moments notice.  Little things can pull at my heart and remind me of the absence of my sweetheart and leave me with bittersweet emotions that often result in silent tears.

I've evaluated these feelings often and can most closely describe it as the feeling you get while listening to a song with dissonant chords.  The harmonies are so close that they bring an uncomfortable feeling and a longing for the song to resolve into a pleasing harmony.  The only problem is that it doesn't resolve.  You are left with a longing that doesn't dissolve but lingers on.  It doesn't go away, you just become used to it so it doesn't hurt as much.

While thinking about this the following poem came to my mind.  I don't assume to be much of a poet but it describes this feeling well:


Widowed Resolution
The melody I still can hear,
Though worn and old, I shed a tear.
The harmony that once there bore,
Still faintly plays though heard no more.
The songs of two combined as one,
Did rise and grow, a pleasing tone.
O’re dissonance the two did cling,
Then resolution’s joy did bring.
Through rise and fall together bore,
Those harmonies I hear no more.
Though peaceful, calm, is the sound,
Sweet consonance cannot be found.
How long will this new song still ring,
While bittersweet the memories bring?
Yet, the refrain I leave for Him to solve,
Patiently I wait, for it to resolve.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Slip Slidin' Away

Despite having told this story to many of my friends already I feel like I need to record it so it's not forgotten.  And what better place to record it then here where I can find it whenever I need a smile.

It all happened on the morning of Christmas Eve last year.  I woke up early to do some last minute shopping for Krista's family's Christmas party.  I agreed to bring dessert and knew exactly what it would be.  One year before Jacob and Emma came along, Krista and I had Christmas at home with just the two of us.  This was our first Christmas alone, but despite being alone we still wanted to observe all the traditions as if we were with our extended family.  One of those was to have a big dinner on Christmas Eve complete with all the trimmings.  Well, that seemed like a lot of work for just the two of us so we looked for options.  And boy did we find one.  La Madeleine restaurant had a special where you could purchase a complete Christmas dinner for two.  It had everything we needed for a nice dinner including a Bûche de Noël for dessert.  We had never had one before and quickly fell in love with it and have had many since.  Anyway, back to the real story...

Before leaving the house the morning of Christmas Eve, I woke up Jake and told him I needed to run some errands and he was in charge until I returned.  I told him to make sure he and Emma had something for breakfast and I would be back as soon as I could.  Since La Madeleine didn't opened until 10 I figured I had some time to pick up a few things to add to Santa's loot for the next day.  I was amazed at how deserted the stores were.  I was expecting total chaos with all the last minute shoppers frantically trying to find a "Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time" for their son Ralphie.  I guess it was still too early for the true procrastinators to feel like it was finally time to get their Christmas shopping done.

I went to several stores and picked up a few things I wanted to get for the kids then headed to La Madeleine so I could be there as soon as they opened.  When I got there I noticed on the front door that they had been opened since 6:30.  Why in the world did I think they opened at 10?  I blamed the widower's fog - come to think of it I have blamed a lot on that lately, maybe I'm just getting old?  Nah, it was the widower's fog. :)  As soon as I realized they had been opened for 3.5 hours I started thinking... Bûche de Noël was a seasonal item for them which meant that quantities were limited and it was sooooo good that surely there was a huge demand for it and they had been selling them for almost 4 hours already today!  The panic started to rise, what if they didn't have anymore?  What could I possible bring to dinner that would be even half as scrumptious?  It was 10am on Christmas Eve and I had no dessert for tonight!  I was sure everyone in line in front of me was buying a Bûche de Noël and as soon as I reached the counter they would have just sold the last one.

Frantically I waited as I inched closer and closer to the counter doing my best to keep my smile from turning into a gorilla grin.  After what felt like hours I had finally made it. Through the best smile I could muster I nervously asked the man at the counter "do you possibly have any Bûche de Noëls left"?  He calmly smiled and said "did you see the semi trailer outside?  It's still half full".  It took me a couple of seconds to comprehend the words that came out of his mouth, then all the anxiety, worry and panic instantly melted away and was replace with pure joy.  I was ready for Christmas now, I had dessert for tonight!  The drive home was a wonderful experience, I calmly smiled as I passed hoards of procrastinators who were out in force now looking for that perfect gift or maybe even wondering what they we going to do about dessert for tonight.

I was still floating on a triumphant high when I got home and carried my precious cargo in from the car.  Somehow I didn't notice how clean the kitchen floor was or that Jake and Em weren't lounging on the couch like spineless cats unable to turn away from hypnotic glow of Phineas & Ferb on the tv.  That was until I stepped onto the kitchen floor tile. Something wasn't right, I couldn't get any traction to make it to the table to carefully deposit my hard fought loot.  I wondered what I stepped in that made it so slick.  After carefully setting the dessert on the table I checked the soles of my shoes.  They felt oily and quite slick, so I wiped them on the rug in front of the back door.  Then started back to the car to get everything else I had bought.  Once again, as I stepped onto the kitchen floor tile I slipped and almost ended up doing the splits.  I finally realized it wasn't my shoes, it was the floor.  I then realized Jake and Em were no where to be found.  Something was up and they were the cause of it.

After calling for them a few time they sheepishly sauntered  into the kitchen.  Immediately Jake and Em started blaming each other, Jake blamed Emma, Em replied that Jake helped her, Jake denied helping claiming it was all Emma's doing, she quickly countered with it was his idea in the first place.  I quickly ended the bickering and had each of them tell me what happened while the other one listened.

It turned out they really wanted to go ice skating but knew they had no way to get to the rink.  So they came up with the next best thing.  They took Emma's olive oil hairspray that we use to keep her hair and scalp from drying out, and sprayed it all over the kitchen floor.  Then, using their crocs as ice skates they were able to slide all around the kitchen.  I was quite impressed with their creativity and problem solving abilities but of course I can never tell them that.

We then had a good talk about how that wasn't a smart thing to do.  Not only was it dangerous and they could have been seriously injured, but it was Christmas Eve and it wasn't a good time to get on Santa's naughty list.  Their eyes grew to the size of silver dollars as they comprehended the possibility of missing out on Christmas.  I told them the only way to not get stuck on the naughty list was accept the natural consequences of their actions and clean it up before it was too late.  I've never seen them work harder in their lives.  It's amazing what they can do when motivated correctly.  Finally, after mopping the floor six times, I could walk across the kitchen without sliding.

After they were done I assured them they were back on the nice list.  We enjoyed the rest of the day together and had a wonderful Christmas dinner that evening with Krista's family.  The dessert was amazing!


Saturday, January 28, 2012

I know that my redeemer liveth

It's no secret that Krista and I enjoyed singing together.  It started with high school choir during our senior year.  Krista sang alto, as she always did, and surprisingly, I (despite being a first tenor) sang in the bass section.  I guess that happened because I never tried out for the choir.  At the beginning of my senior year I needed to sign up for one more class.  I already had all my required classes scheduled so I needed something easy.  I asked our school's choir director, Mr. Terry Tucker, if I could join the choir, he asked me if I could sing and my reply was "I hope so".  That was good enough for him and he put me in the bass section.  Krista and I have been singing ever since.

One of the many traditions we had was to sing Handel's Messiah during the Christmas and Easter seasons.  Krista would often sing many of the alto solos and the last few years Krista and I sang the one alto and tenor duet in the work "O death, where is thy sting".  She would often joke about "throwing down the gauntlet" each time we sang it.  But Krista's favorite peace from the "Messiah" wasn't one she performed, it is the soprano solo "I know that my redeemer liveth".  The libretto used for this piece comes from two bible passages.  The first is Job 19:25-26:

"For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:"
And the second is 1 Corinthians 15:20:
"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept."
Krista loved the message of these two scriptures.  It's a declaration of faith in our Redeemer Jesus Christ that will overcome all.  Though we suffer and struggle in this life with pains and infirmities of all kinds we will one day stand before our Savior with perfect resurrected bodies never again to suffer the pains of mortality and thank Him for His love for us.  A love that caused Him to suffer all the pains of mortality that have ever been and will ever be so He can free us from the punishments of death and hell.

For weeks after Krista passed away I was living in a surreal, numb state of existence.  I was grieving the loss of my best friend and sweetheart.  Music was such a large part of our relationship and brought back such sharp memories that I couldn't bring myself to even turn on the radio.  After a few weeks, when the numbness started to subside and I could feel again, I returned home from visiting Krista's grave.  As I came in the house I passed the stereo in the family room and felt like I needed music back in my life.  So I turned the stereo on and pushed play on the CD player to listen to whatever was in it.  Instantly I recognized the opening notes to "I know that my redeemer liveth".  I wept as I listened to the word and felt Krista's testimony fill my soul.  He lives!  All is well because He lives.  Through this song she was sharing with me her last testimony.

Since then Job 19:25-26 has become my favorite scripture.  I know He lives and has the power to redeem us from death and hell.  And we shall all, in the flesh, see Him and kneel before Him and proclaim Him our personal Savior and Redeemer.  I'm grateful that Krista was able to share her testimony of our Savior with me. But most of all I'm grateful to know that He lives.


Friday, December 30, 2011

My Choice

I have a friend who's life, unfortunately, parallels mine in many ways.  Her husband passed away a few months before Krista and she has a couple of children still at home she needs to raise on her own.  Because of this and many other reasons, she is someone that totally "gets" my situation.  We've had many discussions about our trials and how we've dealt with them and I've learned a lot from her as she has been one step ahead of me in her journey.

Yesterday we started talking about whether or not we would have chosen this life if we had known our spouses would pass away while still raising children at a relatively young age (yes, 46 is still young).  We discussed this for a while and I couldn't decide one way or another.  I've had a wonderful life with Krista, she's been my best friend for decades and I still love her with all my heart.  But, the pain of her loss, the aching to feel her near and the longing to be with her again has been much more than I could have imagined.  I accept that there's a reason for her passing and I know it's for the best but that doesn't help me like it or want it if I had the choice.

Early this morning before I woke up for the day I had a dream.  Typically I don't remember much of what I dream about but I remember this one in detail.  I had traveled back in time to when we were in high school (yes I even have geeky dreams).  It was when Krista and I had been dating for a while and our love was just beginning to grow.  Krista was there and was so happy to see me and I was amazed at how beautiful she was. She looked just like she did back then and the love that radiated through her smile was just the same as it had always been.  Yet, she didn't know that I was from our future.  I looked at her and realized that she didn't know how our story would unfold, our trials and struggles and ultimately her returning to our Heavenly Father much sooner than hoped for.  I also knew that if I told her it would affect her decision to marry me and I could potentially lose all of the good times, the hard times and those tender times when all we could do was to cry on each others shoulder for comfort.  I knew if I told her she would want to spare me of the pain and heartache I have experienced by her death.

Here was my time to choose.  Would I tell her and jeopardize the decades of joy with her and the eternities to come or would I keep quite and accept our lives as I knew they would unfold?  Instantly I knew what my choice was.  This was my sweetheart, I would walk through hell and back for her.  I would endure all that would be asked of me including being without her for a while for the hope of eternity with her.  Yes, this is the path I would choose.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

One, or a Breath of Fresh Air

I know I haven't posted much lately.  For me that's a good thing.  I tend to post more often when things are getting harder.  Lately I have found comfort and peace in the support of others that as we say "get it".  Before Krista passed away I thought I had an idea of how painful it would be to lose her.  We had been through many trials together including losing our only biological child a couple of months after he was conceived.  It was a painful time and we felt a real sense of loss.  Despite what I thought, I had no idea just how deep the pain can be and how sharp the longing to be with her would become.  And to make matter worse there were few people I knew that fully understood.

A couple of months ago I found and joined a group of LDS widows and widowers on Facebook.  I immediately found relief and comfort in sharing my feelings with those who "got it".  They could empathize with my pain and I with theirs.  We had the same fears, worries and desires for our future and the future of our children.  It was as if I had spent the last 10 months holding my breath and now I was finally able to breathe.  I wish I would have found them sooner.  It has helped me better understand the charge we are given to "mourn with those that mourn... and comfort those that stand in need of comfort".  That has led me to think about our trials and how it would be a shame to waste them by wallowing in the depths of despair rather than using them to empathize with others who have been asked to walk the same path.

Yesterday was one year since Krista passed away.  To avoid it being a day of sorrow I filled it with activities for me and the kids that would help us remember Krista the way she would want us to and to make it a day we enjoyed.  We started the day with going to Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast, I know it's not the healthiest choice but I knew Jake and Emma would love it.  After that we went to the Dallas Temple and checked out the walking tour book.  That's a book that tells about the Temple, how it was built, what it's for and it's importance in our lives.  You take it with you as you walk around the Temple grounds and at certain places you read from the book.  It worked out well as Jake and Em were able to run and jump and play as we learned about the Temple.  They were much more involved in it than if they had to sit still and just listen.  When we finished the book we were at the fountains at the front of the Temple.  This is where we have taken pictures of the family each year on both Jacob's and Emma's sealing days.  As we sat there I told Jacob and Emma how important the Temple was to our family.  It's because of the ordinances performed in the Temple that we will be with mom again.   As I was telling them this the distinct impression hit me that Krista was there with us.  I started to cry, not out of sorrow but happy tears.  I told Jacob and Emma that mom was there with us and they both confirmed that they felt her presence also.  I know she was there with us on this important day and was happy with us and how we were doing.

Then we went to the LDS bookstore.  Lately Emma has been reading during our family scripture study so we needed to get her a set of scriptures.  Emma happily picked out the scriptures she wanted and a nice purple case to keep them in.  While we were at the bookstore painting artist J. Kirk Richards was there embellishing a print of his work and signing his prints.  I had wanted a new picture for our Christmas decorations for a while so I looked at a few of his works.  He has different styles of painting from realistic to more stylized work.  One of his prints grabbed my attention.  It was titled "Song of the Heart".  It was a painting of a choir of Angels.  I knew right where I would hang it.  Krista loved nativity sets and her favorite one is a Willow Tree version that we have had for a few years and have added pieces to it each year.  It has sat in a nook off of our entryway for over a year now as I couldn't bring myself to take it down after Christmas last year.  I realized that picture would be perfect hanging above it.  So I bought it and had the artist autograph it "In memory of Krista".  I just need to get it framed now.

After that I took the kids to Amazing Jake's.  It's like a Chuck E. Cheese on steroids.  It took over both floors of a defunct department store at a mall near us.  They have food, games, rides, go carts, bumper cars, laser tag, mini-golf, rock climbing and more.  It's the kids favorite place to celebrate. We were there for a couple of hours and the kids had a ball.  It was fun watching them have so much fun on a day that could have been spent mourning our loss.

Before we finished the day with Christmas light sight seeing, we went to an Evening Song concert.  Krista and I sang with them for 8 years before Emma was born.  After Emma we became too busy to do it any more.  The choir was also part of Krista's funeral and sang many of her favorite songs.   Ever since we stopped singing with them we started a tradition of making it to one of their Christmas concerts every year.  It just happened to be in our favorite venue this day.  It was nice to see our old friends and hear them sing some of the songs we sang with them and also many new ones.  During one of the songs we had sung with them many times (Dormi Jesu) I could hear Krista's voice singing with the choir.  It was wonderful to hear her voice again.  I didn't tell anyone about it, just kept it to myself figuring it was a blessing just for me. But then after the concert, one of the altos that had sung with Krista for many years came to me, with tears in her eyes, and told me that she could hear Krista singing with them during the concert.  It was nice to receive a second witness to what I experienced so I wouldn't have to wonder if it was just me being crazy.

The previous night during my prayers, before I went to bed, I asked the Lord to bless me with dreams of my sweetheart.  A couple months after her passing I had two dreams of her.  They were special and sacred experiences that imparted comfort and direction to me in my time of need.  Ever since then I have wanted more.  I figured this of all nights was an appropriate time to ask to be blessed with another one.  I wasn't blessed with what I wanted, I was given much more.  In one day I felt her presence and her approval and enjoyed listening to her beautiful alto voice one more time.  I'm so thankful for the love our Heavenly Father has for us and His wisdom to not give us what we want, but to give us what we need.

Monday, November 07, 2011

A Case for Prayers

I'm a firm believer in the power of prayer.  We have been blessed for many years from countless people who have and are still praying for me and my family.  These angels' prayers have been a source of peace in our lives and I know they have contributed to the extension of Krista's life and has given us the best five years of our relationship.  Because we have received so many blessings from the prayers of others, I'm always looking for those whom I can share that same blessing with.

Sadly we have a friend, that I know have offered many prayers for us, who needs prayers for their son.  Emily and Xavier Beckham have been thrust into a world that I know all too well.  Their 10 month old son Case has just been diagnosed with a stage "three-and-a-half" neuroblastoma in his abdomen.  Though their trial has just begun they have already been through a lot.  You can follow their story on their blog at "Best Case Scenario".

Please join with me in offering prayers on their behalf, that the treatment will be effective, that Case will be able to handle the treatment well, so the doctors will know what treatment will be effective and that their family may have peace despite what they are going through with their son.