Monday, March 14, 2011

I Am a Whale Barnacle

Barnacles on a Grey Whale
I took notes during Taylor's Grandpa's funeral. You would too if you were at a funeral where President Eyring was presiding and speaking. He said a lot of great things and read a special letter to Gramine from the 1st Presidency. During the middle of the funeral as I was contemplating how great Grandpa was and how great Taylor's whole family is I wrote this on the bottom of my the page in my journal: I am a whale barnacle.

Here's why: barnacles attach themselves to whales. They go where the whale goes, seeing the world right along with the whale. They go right along with being the main event in the ocean. A barnacle neither harms nor helps the whales, it just exists along with it. And while I do try to be helpful, I do feel like I am very, very lucky to be along for the ride with this group.

My own family is amazing, don't get me wrong---I just feel lucky to also be attached to Taylor's family. Grandpa accomplished more in his 88 years than most people could ever dream about. A quick read of his obituary will prove it:

Elliot was born in Panguitch, Utah, February 9, 1923, to Benjamin Archie Cameron and Leonia Sargent. He graduated from Springville High School and attended Branch Agricultural College (now Southern Utah University) where he was active in athletics and student government. He met his wife at BAC, and they were elected President and Vice President of the freshman class. They were married after a 15-month courtship. Elliot served as a Master Sergeant in the U.S. Army during World War II before returning to Brigham Young University, where he graduated with both BS and MS degrees in June 1949. He was a life-long educator, serving as Principal of Duchesne High School and South Sevier High School, Superintendent of Sevier County School District, President of Snow College, and Dean of Student Services at Utah State University. In 1962 Elliot joined BYU as Dean of Students and Vice President and served there for 18 years before serving as President of BYU-Hawaii for six years and Commissioner of the LDS Church Education System for three years. Upon retirement, he and Maxine served as President and Matron of the Provo, Utah Temple. While at BYU he completed a study of formal world-wide educational opportunities available to members of the LDS Church called "The Cameron Report." An active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elliot served as a bishop, stake president, LDS General Sunday School Board member, Regional Representative, and as a sealer in the Provo Utah and Laie Hawaii Temples for 36 years. He and Maxine served an LDS mission for two and a half years training temple missionaries. He also served as President of the National Society of Sons of the Utah Pioneers during the sesquicentennial year, 1997.
His career and church callings allowed him to become good friends with a number of prophets and many other people we revere in our church. It must be said that Gramine was by his side for all of that and is due just as much praise for raising a family and being wonderful all on her own.

I met Gramine and Grandpa sometime in the spring of 2002. I remember immediately loving them. Gramine reminded me so much of my own grandmother that it was easy to love them. In fact, I can always count on Gramine to play piano duets with me. Growing up I always wanted to marry someone who could play duets with me. Well, Taylor didn't stick with piano nearly long enough to keep up with me, but Gramine far surpasses my abilities, so it's super fun to play alongside her.

Grandpa performed our marriage in December 2002. It was so special to have that connection to him, to feel his love for us, to have him be the one who created our family.

As I sat at his funeral last week I knew that I knew he had done all of these amazing things, but it was almost overwhelming to consider. On top of all of the church-service spoken of at the funeral, the burial at the cemetery was a military function complete with flag folding, a gun-solute, and a very moving solo of Taps.

Gramine and Grandpa visiting Kyle in the hospital when he was one-day-old.
In the last nine years he has simply been Grandpa to me and Grandpa-Great to my kids. We loved him. We loved spending time with him. We loved that he was always in the temple, and we loved that we got his tickets when BYU games coincided with his assigned time in the temple. We will miss chatting with Grandpa about sports and church and life. I am glad that Claire was old enough to gain real memories with him that will hopefully last her a lifetime---maybe with a little luck Kyle will remember too.

We are slowly recovering from the whirlwind two weeks of death and funerals. I still find myself on the edge of sobbing sometimes whenever I breath too deep or think too much or have a sudden thought and realize that they are gone. It was kind of good for me to see the tsunami coverage and have something new to cry about.

But we are ever-grateful for the time we had with our grandparents. We couldn't have asked for better people to be in our lives and in the lives of our children. We have big shoes to fill!

BYU sent this amazing Y for the funeral.
And here is Gramine a couple days later. The deer ate every single flower at the grave! Look how picked-clean it is! (See how it says "Yo"? I had to smile a bit at that.)

Monday, March 7, 2011

I wrote a book once

At the cemetery after the funeral, March 4, 2011
I wrote a book once. I typed it, edited it, scanned over 500 (maybe 600?) pictures, put it into InDesign, and took it to a publisher. It was about my grandma's life story. I started it in 2001 and spent about 25 hours interviewing and typing up about 20 pages. Then again in 2003 as I finished up college I spent almost 200 hours scanning pictures and finishing her story up to the late 1960s. Then I got a job, had a baby, had another baby, and life happened.

The cover of the book

Then in 2008 I picked it up again right after Grandma turned 92. This time I spent hours and hours perfecting the story, adding forty years, adding hundreds of pages of memories from children and grandchildren, journals, ancestor histories, and much, much more. Probably 400 hours of work (or more) and nearly one year later I had a beautiful 503 page book. Grandma loved roses, so we titled the book "Roses in December" and included the quote on the cover: "God gave us memories that we might have roses in December."

The back cover of the book
It was a lot of work. I spent most naptimes and many late hours working on it. But it was a labor of love, and (especially now) I am so grateful that I had that chance to spend so much time getting to know my grandmother and her progenitors. What a treasure I have in the memories, the book, the pictures scanned and discussed, the hours of tape spent interviewing her. A couple days after her death I pulled out the tapes. I thought I'd break down when I heard them, but instead I just smiled at her strong voice, her quick wit, and her easy laugh.

Each child and grandchild wrote a little tribute for the book. I wanted to share mine here:

    My earliest memory of Grandma is from the morning the twins were born.  I was one week from my third birthday, and I vividly remember that I woke up, walked down the hall and saw her sitting on the couch. She was wearing a pink sweater and said “Jackie, the twins were born this morning!” Later that week over a package of diapers in her front room she taught me how to hold my chubby fingers up and say, “I’m three.”
    While the twins were babies I spent a lot of time with Grandma, sleeping over many nights. Every night before we went to bed she would read me a story, usually the “one with the clock.” I would sleep next to her bed, and as I would fall asleep she would reach down and hold my hand. One day we were having tomato soup at the counter and she put my hair in pigtails, tied with red bow because “Grandpa likes it that way.”
    Because we live only three blocks away from her, she would always walk us home when it was time to go. Grandma taught me how to skip during these walks  I can still remember following behind her, trying to mimic each hop and knowing that I had the best grandma in the world. She would drop me off and say, “See you later, Alligator,” and I’d reply, “In a while Crocodile.” 
    A few years later I went to the library after school on a cold, rainy day. Grandma put a stack of magazines on the old heat register, sat me on top of them and gave me a pile of books to read. I remember getting my first library card. I was so proud because my grandma worked at the library, the most wonderful place in the world. Sometimes I was very lucky and Grandma would let me help her go out to the old silver book drop and bring in the books.
    Grandma always had ice cream with any sauce we wanted, and we could put nuts on it too. We have Chex mix and slush for Christmas. On New Years we march around her block banging pots and pans. She visits on every birthday and makes chocolate nests for Easter. 
    Grandma and I love sunsets.  For as long as I can remember we would call each other whenever we saw a beautiful sunset. 
    During high school Lee and I would stay with Grandpa after school while Grandma rested or did other things. During this time I learned the true meaning of undying love and devotion. I could see the love and care in her eyes as she spoke to him.  I looked forward to the day that I could love someone so much. Grandpa was still worrying about her at this time, just months before he passed away. I remember answering the phone once to hear him saying that Grandma was sick and sleeping at the time; he wanted my mom to come check on her.
    Grandma is a sounding board—every time I am sad or frustrated or excited or happy I go to Grandma and she listens. She offers hot chocolate and gives advice only when asked for.  She is very animated if I have been mistreated. She is honest if I am in the wrong.
    Everyone who knows Grandma loves her. She is always a lady—beautiful and soft-spoken. She loves her children and desires nothing more than their happiness. She is the most selfless person I know. She is gracious and kind. She is generous with time and money. 
    For the rest of my life, whenever I see a sunset I will think of Grandma. I will imagine her waving to me from the carport window, one hand and then the other as she waves goodbye—and I will blow a kiss to say I love you.

    I was blessed with the best grandma in the world. My heart is forever changed, forever a little sad at her passing. But I do know that I will see her again. I can't wait for that day---and I can't wait to meet her parents and grandparents too, because through her I feel like I really know them. I am certain that their reunion in heaven has been a great one. Maybe she can recruit them to find more babies for me! Grandma loved babies more than anything else. I'm sure she'll find just the right one for me. If that day comes, the moment I see light in that child's eyes and feel its warmth on my face I will treasure it, because I will know it came from her.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A final gift

During the first months of 1999 I decided to try out for the Miss Lehi Pageant. In doing so I found out that I needed to have a platform. Coincidentally during the time I had to choose a platform I had an appointment with my ophthalmologist who directed me to the Utah Lion's Eye Bank. I volunteered with the director of the Eye Bank who got me in touch with Intermountain Donor Services and other donation awareness organizations. Little did I know how life-changing that decision would be. I volunteered and worked for donation awareness sometimes full-time, part-time, and as needed from 1999 until we moved to Logan in 2007. Organ, Eye, and Tissue donation is and will always be a big part of my life.

I previously mentioned that upon her death my grandma was able to donate her eyes to research. This was something that Taylor's grandfather was also able to do. In fact we smiled thinking that their eyes were probably somewhere together at the Moran Eye Center waiting to be studied in their search to find a cure for macular degeneration. I was so glad that they were able to donate something. They were 95 and 88 years old, so I didn't expect to even be given the option.

I know a lot of you have grandparents who may consider themselves too old to donate. This experience made me realize, again, how important it is to talk to our families about donation, no matter the age. Macular degeneration is something that most of us will have to face in our older years. The people doing this study feel that they will be able to find a cure in the next 3-4 years. The eye donations of our grandparents that are happening now will directly affect how that cure will benefit us, our parents, and our children in coming years.

Because our grandparents were eye donors, they will be added to the list of names on the Celebration of Life Monument at Library Square in Salt Lake. It will be so wonderful to attend the next wall unveiling ceremony and see their names, to be able to show the names to our children for years to come, and remind them of the legacy and final gift that their great-grandparents left.

When you read this, please make time to talk to your parents and grandparents about being a donor---no matter their age. Lives can be saved and enhanced through transplants and through research. Also, check your state's online donor registry (click here for Utah's) and make sure that you're registered as a donor.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Grandpa Great

Grandpa-Great, Kyle, Claire and Gramine. Easter 2008
I, for one, am so glad February is over. It was rough. As I wrote previously we lost my grandma on Thursday. We spent Friday being pretty sad, and then on Saturday we decided to paint our bedroom to get our minds off of it. Halfway through our painting we got word that Taylor's grandpa was doing poorly and the out-of-state family was flying in to say goodbye. When we got the news about Grandpa we couldn't believe it. Having just lost my grandma two days previous we felt a little overwhelmed with grief.

There was a lot of debate as to whether to go down that day, but Kyle was just barely getting over his fever, so we decided to wait and leave early Sunday morning. Taylor and the kids actually spent Wednesday afternoon with his grandparents while I sat with my grandma in the hospital, so Taylor felt that even if he didn't get to see him before he went that he had had that afternoon a couple days before to say goodbye.

We got to the hospital in Provo just after he fell asleep for the last time. It was like deja vu to walk into his room. He looked much the same as Grandma while she was in the hospital with white hair and body that was half the size it once was. My kids were great and said goodbye to him as he slept. Claire did a repeat performance of Be Still My Soul. It seemed very appropriate that Grandpa passed on a Sunday. He was a spiritual giant and held many important positions. Shortly after we got there the LDS church brought in the Sacrament. They blessed it and gave it to everyone in the room. Gramine held the sacrament to Grandpa's lips. They also shared a scripture (which one was it?).

A little after noon we went to lunch (does this sound familiar?). The cafeteria was only  a few doors down from Grandpa. When Grandma was dying they told us that the death often happens when the family goes to lunch. And so it was that as soon as we had our food on trays we got word that he was failing. We put our food on a table and rushed to his room. His vitals were down and his breathing was practically non-existant. We sang Our Savior's Love (and by the way, it was by far the worst I've ever heard that musically gifted bunch sing---I say that with love---it was impressive that words were able to be said at all) and he passed away while we sang. As we were singing the words rang so true:

Our Savior’s love
Shines like the sun with perfect light,
As from above
It breaks thru clouds of strife.
Lighting our way,
It leads us back into his sight,
Where we may stay
To share eternal life.

It was the perfect hymn and a perfect moment. Though the grief we feel at his loss is tremendous, we have the comfort of a life well-lived. I'm sure he received an amazing welcome to Heaven---surrounded by his prophet-friends and loved ones and probably quite a bit of applause :)

I have to note that the staff at Utah Valley was incredible. We were there with our kids for about two hours before he passed and the nurses went far beyond what was necessary and helped watch our kids so we could be with Grandpa. They brought in crayons and printed off coloring pages and even took them for a long walk during the final moments.

You may think I'm weird to surround my kids with death lately, to not shelter and protect them, but I'm glad Claire was there---and I don't know that Kyle really understood what was going on. Claire really loved her grandparents, and she really understands what happened and that they are with our Heavenly Father now. She sang to Grandpa and gave him hugs before and after he passed. I was so proud of her for being so great about it and so understanding (and honestly I think she's very fascinated by it all). And I have to say that it was helpful that our cat died last year.

The viewing for my grandma is on Thursday evening, and her funeral will be Friday at 11. We'll go from the funeral to Grandpa's viewing, and his funeral is Saturday at 2:00.

A short update on Kyle: I took him back to the doctor yesterday. He said his cheeks and ears hurt. They did a rapid RSV test and it was negative, but they sent the sample to be further evaluated for other infections. They had to suction out his nose. It was awful; it took three of us to hold him down. He does have an ear infection and a nasty sinus infection, so he's on antibiotics. She didn't feel that he was contagious (and hadn't been in the hospital, or we wouldn't have taken him.) She didn't like how his lungs sounded, I guess he was wheezing, so she had him do a breathing treatment in-office and we got an inhaler for home. He did a weird freezing cold and shivering then super hot thing after his bath today (probably I shouldn't have left him in there for over an hour), but he's running around now. Guess we'll see.

**Edited to say that the doctor called a while after I posted this and his lab test for RSV ended up being positive. I'm instructed to take his temperature in the morning and then we'll discuss chest x-rays in the morning. Lovely.