Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Life's a Journey--Serve With a Friend

Paul doing what he loved to do!  He was always cooking for others!

One year ago today, Paul passed away after courageously battling cancer.  He was such an inspiration to all who knew him.  He was that one-in-a-million kind of guy!

As I was thinking about his many great qualities today, I think his greatest qualities were his ability to love unconditionally and serve others.  He was always the first person to offer a helping hand…no matter what…if he was able, he would drop what he was doing and help someone else. 

This post is something that I feel Paul would like me to share with others.  This was his legacy…to serve others.  I feel that it is very important to share this message for and in behalf of my loving husband. 

Like Paul, I was raised in a home where service was always a top priority…for that I will always be grateful.  I learned the importance of serving others at a young age.  I learned that if at all possible, you stop what you are doing and help others.

Paul and I were “two peas in a pod”…honestly, we were inseparable…I miss taking his homemade rolls and cookies to people…I miss his optimistic outlook…I miss his kind and giving heart…I miss so many things…

To marry a man with the understanding of the importance of service was such a blessing for me.  It was something else we did together.  If we couldn’t do it together, we would SUPPORT EACH OTHER in accomplishing the things we needed to do.

Ok, I just have to say this…I enjoy the serving part more! To be the one receiving service is not easy…but in saying that, I am so grateful for all the many friends and family who have made our burdens lighter through their service.  Not only during Paul’s illness, but we are still receiving kind acts of service on a regular basis.

You know something really cool that I have discovered that has been a huge help to me?  You can still serve others, even during your own trials.   In fact, I have discovered that SERVICE is a great way to help YOU get THROUGH your TRIALS.  Besides the obvious thing like it helps you to focus on someone else, therefore you forget about yourself, service creates an enabling power which actually improves our own individual lives.

Jesus Christ taught, Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it”-Luke 9:24 

“I believe,” said Thomas S. Monson, “the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish—and in effect save their lives”-Serve the Lord with Love, Ensign, Feb. 2014.

Thomas S. Monson also said, “Often we live side by side but do not communicate heart to heart. There are those within the sphere of our own influence who, with outstretched hands, cry out, “Is there no balm in Gilead?”

How many times has your heart been touched as you have witnessed the need of another? How often have you intended to be the one to help? And yet how often has day-to-day living interfered and you’ve left it for others to help, feeling that “oh, surely someone will take care of that need.

We become so caught up in the busyness of our lives. Were we to step back, however, and take a good look at what we’re doing, we may find that we have immersed ourselves in the “thick of thin things.” In other words, too often we spend most of our time taking care of the things which do not really matter much at all in the grand scheme of things, neglecting those more important causes.

Many years ago I heard a poem which has stayed with me, by which I have tried to guide my life. 
 It’s one of my favorites:

I have wept in the night
For the shortness of sight
That to somebody’s need made me blind;
But I never have yet
Felt a tinge of regret
For being a little too kind. 

My brothers and sisters, we are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness—be they family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers. We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of us.

You may lament: I can barely make it through each day, doing all that I need to do. How can I provide service for others? What can I possibly do?

Just over a year ago, I was interviewed by the Church News prior to my birthday. At the conclusion of the interview, the reporter asked what I would consider the ideal gift that members worldwide could give to me. I replied, “Find someone who is having a hard time or is ill or lonely, and do something for him or her”-What Have I Done for Someone Today, Ensign, Nov. 2009.

I have asked myself these important questions and would encourage you to do the same. Am I willing to sacrifice my time to help someone else? Am I really too busy to help?   Am I waiting or hoping for someone else to do it…let that someone else be ME and YOU!

You might say, but I am serving.  I serve all the time.  I have family responsibilities that require me to serve them.  I have no time to serve anyone else but them.   They are my priority.  Yes, our immediate families are our priority so I am not suggesting that we don’t serve and take care of them.  What I am suggesting, and what Thomas Monson is suggesting is that just maybe we have more time to help than we think.  Maybe we can rearrange our schedules. Maybe we do actually have time to prepare a meal and take over to the sick neighbor.  Just maybe we can do it!

Yes, the dishes will still be there when you get home; the laundry will still be piled high; dinner will not be cooked; there may be little in your own cupboards; but this I know, we are blessed when we follow the teachings of our Savior.  Somehow those things will be taken care of.  Ironically, it may be through the help of someone else!

Paul was an example of true love and service up until the moment he went into a coma.  He found ways to serve while he was sick and in bed.  He would call and check on other people to see how they were doing and to offer words of encouragement.  He would greet others who came to visit with a warm smile…he always wanted to know about them.  He wanted to serve them. He wanted them to leave his presence knowing that they were loved.  Service doesn’t always have to be something big.  Sometimes it is the small things that matter most!

In Matthew Chapter 5 we read, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
“Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
“When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
“Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

This I know, when I stand before my Savior, He is not going to ask me if I had my laundry done; if my house was clean; what kind of car I drove; how big my house was; which soccer team my child played on; if I got an A on the math test…He is going to ask me how I loved and served others.  It is all about love.  And a large part of love is the service we render. 

Life can be busy.  We are counseled not to run faster than we have strength.  In fact, sometimes I have felt like I was pushing the edge a little.  Often times I wish I could do more, but find that my body just won’t allow it!  I hate to say no, but understand that sometimes it is necessary. I feel the way Anne Morrow Lindberg does, “My life cannot implement in action the demands of all the people to whom my heart responds.”  

While I have never run the Ragnar Relay Race, I have numerous friends who have.  On the website it says this about the race,  “In the Ragnar Relay Series, teams of 12 run a 200-mile relay over two days and one night; in the Ragnar Relay Series teams of 8 run a 120-mile trail relay over the same time span. Often called a slumber party without sleep, pillows or deodorant, this unique relay turns out crazy costumes, inside jokes, close quarters and unforgettable stories.

Each Ragnar brings thousands of people together to create deeper connections and celebrate together as they conquer a challenge they couldn’t accomplish alone. Life’s a journey – run it with friends!”

At times, service can be like a relay race.  You go and go and then you need a break.  You need someone to pick up where you left off.  Together you can accomplish great things.  Together you can experience true joy and happiness.  Together you might get sweaty and stinky. Together you can find much laughter. Together, many hands make work light.  I would like to ask you to join my team and remember : Life’s a journey - serve with friends! 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Those Words You Never Want to Hear!

One year ago today was one of those days that I don’t really want to remember.  While we were meeting with Paul’s oncologist this is what we were told, ”Paul, you have fought a good fight, but it is time to stop fighting…the chemotherapy is not working…you need to go on hospice and let them help you be as comfortable as possible…” Those are words no one ever wants to hear!

At that news, Paul and I held each other and cried and cried and cried…to be told that you will have 7 to 10 days to live…to know that you can no longer fight…to know that all the dreams and plans you created together are about to end…there is no way to adequately describe the pain and sorrow. 

Today, I was reading an article from the Deseret News To Wives: Before You Were Mommy.
This is an excerpt from the article, “But Ladies, when Mommy becomes your name, remember this man. Remember that you are his wife. Remember how much you love and appreciate him in this moment. Remember his dedication to your family. Remember his love and devotion to you. And then, when the days are long and you need a break, fall into his arms.

Men, remember your bride. The care and love that she has given you will soon be spilled over to your children. Her love for you will not change. Give her the grace to be enough even when she doesn’t feel like it. Remember when your days are long, hers are too. Remember her. Fall in love with her again.

Remember each other. Remember the two that made the family. Let the Lord lead you both together. Because when the days are endless and the hours short, it will only be his love who keeps you together. It will only be his mercy that gently guides your hearts as one. Hold tightly to one another, and even more tightly to the Lord. There is no greater adventure for you to experience and no greater gift than to walk through parenthood with your best friend. You are a team. Every single day.”

I cried big tears as I read this article. I remember how much I loved being his wife. I remember how much I loved and appreciated him.   I remember his love and devotion to me. I remember the butterflies in my stomach when I would hear his voice on the phone and when he would come home from work. 

I also remember my teammate is no longer physically here.   I do not get to fall into his arms after a long hard day.   He is not here to give me a break.  He is not here to fall in love with me again.  My best friend is not here to walk through parenthood with.  Not only do I not have “every single day”, I do not have even one day now.

Yes, my husband helped me around the house.  He cooked. He cleaned dishes.  He helped with laundry.  He even, on occasion, cleaned the bathrooms.   

I know that not all men help around the house.  I also know that this is a sore spot for many women.  Yes, I believe that maintaining the house should be a joint effort, but ironically it is not those things that I miss.

I miss talking to my best friend.  I miss holding hands.  I miss laughing together.  I miss the way he looked at me.  I miss hearing his voice.  I miss someone to vent to.  I miss my parenting teammate.  I miss his hugs and kisses.  I miss the smell of his cologne.  I miss hearing “I love you”.  I miss being told I am beautiful.  I miss his smile.  I miss his optimism.  I just miss him…

The last year of Paul’s life he was not able to help me around the house.  He was too sick.  In fact, I had more work to do because I was his caregiver…but you know what, it didn’t matter because he was here with me.   I could still talk to him and see him.  He was present in my life.  

Paul and I had an amazing marriage.  First and foremost, we always put God first.  If you put God first everything else will fall into place.  Because of our love of God, we followed/follow His teachings.  

Why should we love God?  I like Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s explanation, God the Eternal Father did not give that first great commandment because He needs us to love Him. His power and glory are not diminished should we disregard, deny, or even defile His name. His influence and dominion extend through time and space independent of our acceptance, approval, or admiration.

No, God does not need us to love Him. But oh, how we need to love God!

For what we love determines what we seek.

What we seek determines what we think and do.

What we think and do determines who we are—and who we will become”-The Love of God, Ensign, Oct. 2009.

It was our love of God first that enabled us to love each other completely.  We learned by following God’s teachings what love really is and how to establish a loving relationship.

Our relationship was fabulous because of one really important teaching.  Service. It was never about what I could get from him or how he could help me. It was never about what he could get from me or how I could help him. I always worried more about him and his needs and he always worried more about me and my needs.  Therefore, both our needs were always met. 

Selflessness and service is what develops love.  Not the other way around.  Once love is established than continual service is what keeps that love going strong.  Service promotes charity, the pure love of Christ.

I love this quote, “No, love isn’t an emotion or even a noun.  It’s a verb.  Better defined as giving.  As putting someone else’s needs above your own.”

I couldn’t agree more.  Why do we love our children so deeply?  I say it is more than genetics...it is because we are constantly serving them…it is about putting their needs above our own.  This is how it should be with our spouses as well. 

Lynn G. Robbins said, “If a husband and wife are willing to apply the scriptural definition of love to their relationship, even a stale marriage and romance can be revived. Stephen R. Covey relates the following experience:

“At one seminar, after I’d spoken on the importance of demonstrating character within the family, a man came up and said, ‘I like what you’re saying, but my wife and I just don’t have the same feelings for each other that we used to. I guess we don’t love each other anymore. What can I do?’

“‘Love her,’ I replied.

“He looked puzzled. ‘How do you love when you don’t feel love?’

“‘My friend,’ I responded, ‘love is a verb. The feeling of love is the fruit of love. So love your wife. You did it once, you can do it again. Listen. Empathize. Appreciate. It’s your choice. Are you willing to do that?’-Agency and Love in Marriage, Ensign, Oct. 2000.

As we are approaching Valentines Day, I would like to challenge everyone to reassess their relationships.  Remember love is a verb.  As such, it requires action. How are you serving your companion?  Often times, it is the simple things that matter most!

I miss serving my husband.  I will be forever grateful for the opportunity I had to serve such an amazing man!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Who Knew...Press'n Seal Can Make You Cry?!

Today I was using Glad Press’n Seal Wrap and I started to cry.  Yes, it made me sad.  I know it probably sounds crazy, but the tears started to flow freely.  Who would have thought wrap used to protect your food could bring on such sadness…

Actually, I am not surprised at all.  When Paul had his port accessed, we had to cover it every time he showered. He would have times where he would be accessed for weeks at a time.  When we ran out of the medical plastic protectors, we had to get a little more creative.  We discovered that Press’n Seal worked better than anything else…it clung pretty closely and helped to keep the port dry.  

Port accessed

Port not accessed

So, now every time I see Press’n Seal it makes me think of Paul…it makes me think of all his suffering.  I don’t use it often anymore, but I do have a couple rolls sitting in the drawer…we bought several to use for him.  Usually it doesn’t make me cry, but it does make me think and feel a bit sad.

I think I am feeling a bit more sensitive now that February is here.  I have dreaded this month.  This month represents a lot of sadness for me.  Ironically, some of my best and happiest memories were in February.   Our wedding anniversary is on February 5; on February 12, 2013, we received the news that Paul was going on hospice; February 14, 2013, was the last Valentine Day I spent with Paul; February 25, 2013, Paul passed away.

It is hard to believe that Paul has been gone for almost a year now.  I miss him more than words can say.  I can say that I understand true sorrow. 

At times, I feel deep sadness for my children.  Recently, I received a couple emails from my girl’s elementary school.  Both emails were regarding activities involving  dads.  One of the emails was referring to the annual Valentine dance.  The dads and their daughters get dressed up, of course spend time dancing, have treats, and get their picture taken together.  Last year, my father-in-law took the girls because Paul was in the hospital, and obviously was too sick to take them anyway. 

As I read those emails, I cried.  This is our reality now.  Paul is not coming home from work…

Paul is not here to take the girls to the Valentine dance.  He will never be here to take them again.  He will not be here when they are learning to drive.  He will not be here when they go on their first date.  He will not be here when they graduate from high school.  He will not be here when they graduate from college.  He will not be here when they get married.  He will not be here when they have their babies.  He will not be here……..at least not physically.

I do believe that Paul will be present for all of those activities, just not in the sense we would really like him to be here.  He will be here in the only way that is possible at the moment.  I am grateful that I know I will see him again one day and so will my children.  I know, like Paul said in the video we recorded of him, he will be here watching over them on their first dates!

As I look at my journey over this past year it has been a huge growing experience. Well, actually it began about 4 years ago when Paul was having major problems with his back, died on the operating table but came back, and then had to have another surgery to repair his back; his cancer diagnosis (surgeries, chemo);my dad’s heart attack and major surgery; my mom dying; Paul dying; and a few other trials along the way…

There have been times this past year where I have wondered how I was going to do this by myself.  I have come to realize that I am not doing this by myself at all.  I have help from a loving Heavenly Father and my Savior.  I also know that Paul is still watching over us and helping us.  I have amazing friends and family who have become my angels and Paul’s hands.

Do I have moments of complete sorrow?  Absolutely!  But, fortunately they are just moments.  I have discovered that I can experience great sorrow and then move forward.

Do I feel blessed?  Absolutely!  I have so many things to be grateful for!  I woke up this morning to find this beautiful, brightly lit mohawk, little girl laying in my bed!