Tuesday, August 22, 2017

There's a Last Time for Everything

Tomorrow marks the end of an era in my life as a mom.

In August of 1994, Nate, my oldest son, went to his first day of kindergarten. 

Tomorrow, August 23, 2017, Alex, my youngest son, begins his senior year of high school. 

Tomorrow will be the last first day that I will send one of my children to public school. Of course there are many days of post-high school education ahead for Alex. But tomorrow, he will embark on the big senior year of high school. The last first day. So hard to believe.

He's so ready.

I'm not so sure I am.

Alex is serving as a studentbody officer this year at Bountiful High School. He's the historian, which means he's responsible for taking pictures at all the school events. He will be a busy boy. He already has been since he was appointed to the office last spring. He will spend a lot more time at school activities and with his fellow officers and friends than he will with me this coming school year.

That's how it should be, I suppose.

But it still makes me a little bit (a lot) sad.

This is my last year with him before he embarks on exciting things like a mission for our church and then college. Prior experience with my three older children has taught me that after this year, things will never be the same.

He will still be my boy and he may still live here in my home for a while. 

But it will be different once he graduates from high school. I want to sit here and be in denial about that fact. 

Sometimes having all this experience as a mom makes things harder and harder as I go along. 

So as I get a little teary eyed tomorrow as I make Alex pose in front of the house for the obligatory first-day-of-school picture, I also will commit to savoring the upcoming days, weeks and months of Alex's senior year. I know it's going to fly by faster than I will want it to. 

There will be a lot of lasts this coming school year. I hope that I can enjoy them and not just be maudlin and sad about them.

Most of all, I hope that Alex can enjoy them. This is a time like none other he will ever have in his life. I want him to enjoy it. I want him to learn. I want him to laugh. I want him to be happy. I want his heart to be touched. I want his sensitivities to increase. I want him to reach out to those who need a friend. I want him to have more fun than he ever imagined was possible. 

I have so many things I hope for him. I know I personally don't have a lot of control over all of it. I won't be directly involved in it. But as I watch, often from the sidelines, I will be cheering (sometimes on the inside so I don't embarrass the heck out of him). But I will be cheering. 

I could not be more proud of this boy. He is a light in my life. I love him with all my heart. This stage in motherhood is not easy for me. Sometimes I struggle with letting go. I struggle with the moodiness that Alex manifests sometimes. I have to remember that he is a cat.

Wait. What?

That's right. Children are like dogs. Teenagers are like cats. There is a wonderful essay that describes such a phenomenon. I will include it here:

"I just realized that while little children are dogs -- loyal and affectionate -- teenagers are cats. It's so easy to be a dog owner. You feed it, train it, boss it around. It puts its head on your knee and gazes at you as if you were a Rembrandt painting. It bounds indoors with enthusiasm when you call it.

Then around age 13, your adoring little puppy turns into a big old cat. When you tell him to come inside, he looks amazed, as if wondering who died and made you emperor.

Instead of dogging your footsteps, he disappears. You won't see him again until he gets hungry. Then, he pauses on his sprint through the kitchen, long enough to turn his nose up at whatever you're serving, swish his tail and give you an aggrieved look until you break out the tuna again.

When you reach out to ruffle his head, in that old affectionate gesture, he twists away from you, then gives you a blank stare, as if trying to remember where he has seen you before. 

You, not realizing that the dog is now a cat, think something must be desperately wrong with him. He seems so antisocial, so distant, sort of depressed. He won't go on family outings. Because you're the one who raised him, taught him to fetch and stay and sit on command, you assume that you did something wrong. Flooded with guilt and fear, you redouble your efforts to make your pet behave.

Only now you're dealing with a cat, so everything that worked before now produces the opposite of the desire result. Call him, and he runs away. Tell him to sit, and he jumps on the counter. The more you go toward him, wringing your hands, the more he moves away.

Instead of continuing to act like a dog owner, you must learn to behave like a cat owner. Put a dish of food near the door and let him come to you. But remember that a cat needs your help and your affection, too. Sit still, and he will come, seeking that warm, comforting lap he has not entirely forgotten. Be there to open the door for him.

One day, your grown-up child will walk into the kitchen, give you a big kiss and say, "You've been on your feet all day. Let me get those dishes for you."

Then you'll realize your cat is a dog again."

That essay rings so true with me. Its definitely not easy to live with a cat when you've grown accustomed to living with a dog. 

But, again, experience with my other kids tells me that Alex is gradually making that change back to adoring, lovable dog. Even though sometimes I think he wants to take his cat claws and scratch my eyes out, I know deep down he really does love me.

So for now, I will put on my seatbelt and hold on tight for the ride that will be Alex's senior year. 

I'm so excited for him and for the wonderful things ahead.

He's grown into an amazing young man. I'm lucky to be his mom.

Sure love my baby boy.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

I Miss Blogging

For a few years I was a faithful blogger.

Then life happened.

Seriously, I was dealing with some really difficult things.

I won't go into all that right now, but it may make for future blog post topics.

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking over old blog posts -- the pictures I posted, the words I wrote.

I'm so glad that I took the time to do that because it preserved precious memories for me that I might otherwise have forgotten by now. Well, at least I wouldn't remember all the details as vividly as I described them in my blog.

That's made me want to start blogging again.

I have this blog....which is more words than pictures.

And I have my photography blog, which surprise, surprise, is more pictures than words.

I really want to start keeping up with both of them again.

I might not do it quite as faithfully as I used to. 

But I want to try to make a good effort to document my life.

So, here goes.....


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Make the Pathway Bright

I've been thinking about and missing my mom a lot today. Even after all these years, sometimes I miss her so much I can barely breathe.

I thought of her first this morning when I heard the song "In the Garden". I was listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir version. That song always reminds me of my mom, although not the MoTab version.

When I was growing up, my mom was not a very frequent church attender. However, she always listened to country gospel music on Sundays. One of her favorites was "In the Garden". I think it was probably the Elvis Presley version she liked the best. 

Hearing it today made me miss her so much. That song is so soothing and beautiful and just a perfect song to help get me in the mood for the Sabbath. The MoTab choir does a good job, but I'm still partial to the versions with a more country flavor. I would have to pick Brad Paisley's as my favorite. 

Then today in sacrament meeting we sang "You Can Make the Pathway Bright" I remember my mom telling me how much she liked that song. During my teenage years she did come to church once in a while and I know she always loved when we sang that song.

That's a song that has cheered me up and given me hope on many occasions. And even though today it made me miss my mom, it also made me smile.

I especially like the verse that says:

You can live a happy life
In this world of toil and strife
If there's sunshine in your heart;
And your soul will glow with love
From the perfect Light above,
If there's sunshine in your heart today.

We are definitely living in a world of toil and strife. Sometimes things are hard and challenges seem insurmountable. But honestly, we can live a happy life if there's sunshine in our hearts. A positive attitude and heart full of hope can make all the difference in the world.

It's easy to look at the events in the world and feel all gloom and doom. But we were meant to have joy. Not every moment in life is joyful, but our attitudes can make such a difference in making hard things become joyful things.

I know if my mom was here today, she would have positive words of encouragement for me. My mom lived a life of toil and strife, but she also lived a life of joy. That's how I want my life to be, too. 

I want to be an influence for good and for positivity in the world around me and more specifically within my own family. 

I want to have sunshine in my heart. Even on this gloomy January day, that's what I'm striving for.
 - M.E.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

I'm Back...maybe. :)

I had really good intentions of updating this blog more frequently last year.

Then life got in the way.

That seems to happen a lot. Must be part of living or something.

Today I looked back at my photography blog and the post I wrote and pictures I posted after Parker received his mission call 5 YEARS AGO!!

Time has flown since then. So much has happened. Many joys. Many challenges. Many tears. Many difficult hours on my knees in prayer.

I feel bad that I haven't kept up my photography blog or this blog. I guess I can't go back and change that, but I can try to be better about writing from here on out.

It's been two and a half years since my brother Lance died. Two and a half of the hardest years I ever thought I would face in this lifetime. I've struggled in many ways. I've felt abandoned and alone. I've been angry. I've been sad. I've worked so hard to pull myself out of my grief and sadness. I've worked to build my faith, to strengthen my relationship with my Heavenly Father. To come to terms with what happened and why. It's been hard.

I went through a really difficult period where I questioned my faith. I questioned what I had always known about God and my religion. I was so angry. So sad. So unable to come to terms with my brother's suicide. I would hear of other people's miracles and wonder why God didn't give our family a miracle. Didn't we pray hard enough? Why weren't we worthy to have a miracle? Why couldn't Lance get better? I had been taught that God could do anything. Why did He choose not to let Lance get better and stay here on earth with those who love him so much? Other people got miracles. Why not me?

I began to feel that my prayers didn't matter at all. If God was just going to do what He wanted to do anyway, why did it matter if I prayed?

I struggled in many of my relationships. I withdrew from many of them. I felt like I didn't have the energy or desire to deal with anyone except those who could really understand what I was going through...and that was a tiny, tiny few.

I'm not sure exactly when things started to turn around for me...but after going through many months of feeling like I was just going through the motions, I began to feel a desire again to pray, to read my scriptures, to draw closer to my Heavenly Father. Nothing spectacular or magical happened, but I felt comfort and peace again in church, prayer and scripture study. Sometimes I still get frustrated and angry about some things, but I feel like I'm finally coming out of that deep place of grief that I was in for so long.

I still miss my brother terribly. Some days, weeks and months are definitely harder than others. There is an empty place in my heart that will never be filled until I see him again.

And honestly I haven't reached the point where I can say I wouldn't trade this trial for anything. I truly still wish Lance was here. Not sure I can ever be grateful that he's not.

But hopefully through all this I have learned something more about the process of grief, the importance of compassion and how important it is to mourn with those that mourn.


Friday, January 1, 2016

Welcome to 2016

Another year begins.

I just logged onto this blog and saw that the last time I wrote was March 21, 2014. My life has changed dramatically since that day.

At the end of March 2014...I can't remember the exact date right now ... I received a phone call from my brother Lance's daughter, Patricia. She told me that her dad was in the psychiatric ward in Atlanta. His girlfriend Brenda had taken him to the emergency room because Lance was having paranoid thoughts and was just not himself.

Four months later, Lance was dead.

He hung himself in my sister's backyard. She found him there on the morning of July 14, 2014.

Typing those words still makes me want to scream, to cry, to rewind and fix it all.

Receiving my sister's phone call that summer morning was the most devastating thing that has ever happened to me.

Coping with my brother's suicide has been the most difficult thing I've ever done.

I have so much to say about it.

But right now, I can't.

But throughout the coming year, I will.

Friday, March 21, 2014

10 Years

Today marks the ten-year anniversary of my mom's death. The word 'anniversary' seems to connote something way happier than the commemoration of 10 years without my mom, but I'm not really sure how else to say it.

In the past, I've described on this blog the circumstances of my mom's death, so I won't go into that today. Let's just say it was sudden, unexpected and devastating. To that point in my life, it was by far the most difficult thing I had ever had to face.

Following my mom's death, I began writing in a grief journal. At first, I wrote in it often. It was a place where I could pour out my heart...where I didn't have to justify or apologize for any of my feelings of grief.

In this blog post today, I will share some of the entries I wrote during the month or so after Mom died.

That first day, March 21, 2004, after spending much of the day in Brigham City with my brother and sister making arrangements for our mother's funeral, I wrote the following:

"It was such a difficult, exhausting day. While we were at the mortuary making decisions, choosing the casket, etc., I kept thinking how unreal it all seemed. It's still so hard to believe this has happened. I don't know how I'm going to go on without her. I miss her so much. I love her so much and am so grateful for all she has done for me. I know she is in Jesus' arms now and that she is having a joyful reunion with her loved ones who went before. I wish I could have just a glimpse or a small feeling of the joy they are feeling now because all I keep thinking about is the great loss we have had on this side of the veil today."

A few days later was her funeral.

March 25, 2004

Today was Mom's funeral, and right now I feel so sad and empty I can hardly stand it. Jan, Lance and I all spoke at the funeral. Patricia played a piano solo and all the grandchildren sang, "Families Can Be Together Forever." It was a sweet service, but very painful to get through. I have cried so much over the past few days, it would seem I would have no more tears left. But I do. I feel like there's this huge sadness, even an anxiety hanging over me, and it feels like it's never going to go away."

One really hard thing as the days passed after Mom's death was having to turn the calendar from March to April. It was so hard to think we were heading into a new month...a month in which she would no longer be with us.

April 1, 2004

"So many times I have heard that grief subsides over time. But for me as the days go by, it seems to intensify to some degree because it means I'm one day further away from the last time I saw Mom. Someone who Jan knows, who has also lost her mother, said you never really get over your grief, but you get used to it. I miss Mom every day, every minute. I mourn over the fact that she left so suddenly and that we didn't get to say goodbye. Did she have any inkling when she saw us, that she would be leaving this earth soon? When her moment of death came, did she go quickly? Was she afraid? Did she realize what was happening? Was she in pain? I hope she passed to the other side quickly and that her dear loved ones were there to welcome her home. Does she miss us? We have our testimonies and our knowledge of the Plan of Salvation, but that doesn't make the separation any easier. My heart aches. I want to have her back. My children struggle to make sense of their loss. I know I need to explain to them and comfort them, but I am struggling to come to terms with it myself."

As the days went on, I wasn't crying non-stop anymore, but sometimes I wished I could.

April 6, 2004

"Time keeps going by, and I find myself missing my mom more every day. When she died, I cried and cried. Now, I don't cry as much, but sometimes I wish I could because crying is such a release. Sometimes I feel like there's all this hurt and pain and emotion pent up inside me with no way to get out. It's just kind of a constant pain. My heart hurts. I had a dream last night that we were at her funeral all over again. It made me wake up with an incredibly lonely, empty feeling. I miss her so much, and it's so hard to think of all the things we will have to go through and not have her here with us. There are so many holidays we will celebrate without her. Will we ever be able to have joy in them again? It doesn't feel like it now. Easter is coming up this Sunday, and I can hardly bear the thought of going through it without her here. I keep wondering why she had to be alone when she died. Why couldn't it have happened when she was here with us or at the senior center or even when she was at Wal-mart? Why couldn't we have been there with her? I don't know if I will ever get over the awful reality that she was alone and that so much time went by before we knew she was gone. (Note...it was a couple of days between the last time any of us talked to her and when we found out she had died of what appeared to be a massive heart attack. She lived alone about 45 minutes from me. One of her neighbors called me and was worried because she had newspapers on her porch, her car was in the driveway, but she didn't answer the door or phone). Why didn't any of us have a spiritual prompting that she was gone? Could we have helped her? I really don't think we could have saved her life, but at least we could have been there at the time when her spirit left her body. Why did she have to be alone? It seems so unfair. So many things about her life were unfair, and the last thing she went through seems unfair. I know that once her spirit left her body she was fine, but what about in the interim as she was dying. Oh, I hope she passed quickly and didn't suffer. I search for strength and comfort, but it seems fleeting. I feel so often to be overwhelmed with grief. Why do I have to go through the rest of my earthly life without my mom? I need her. I want her to be with me. Sometimes, you just need your mom. I need mine, but I can't have her. I don't know how I can go on without her. Lance and I are going headstone shopping. Jan is in St. George for Spring Break. How awful it will be to see her name etched in stone. How final. How certain. How real it will seem that she is truly gone."

Another difficult task following my mom's death was cleaning out her house. She lived in the house where she grew up. My grandparents bought the house in 1945 and they lived there until they died. Mom lived with my grandpa the last few years before his death.

April 9, 2004

"Today, Jan, Lance and I went to Mom's and began the monumental task of cleaning out the house. We have a long ways to go, but we did get a start. Mom owned more clothes and shoes than I've seen anyone own in my life. We probably filled 15-20 bags of clothes and shoes that we hauled to the D.I. It was incredible, really, and very depressing, I thought, when we dropped it all off there. I thought how sad it is that now we just cast off her earthly possessions to the D.I. It made me think how truly insignificant all our earthly possessions are. It really makes no difference whatsoever the things my mom owned in this life. She certainly couldn't take it with her. On the contrary, she had to leave it all behind for us to deal with it. Jan and I dropped some lilacs from Jan's lilac bush to Mom's grave. Mom loved lilacs. We still have so much work to do. It's quite overwhelming to think of it. It seems like we're just going through the motions of all this and then when we're done, she'll come back. Of course, Jan pointed out, if she did come back she would be really mad that we got rid of all her stuff."

Weeks went by and we continued the process of cleaning out Mom's house. It was a big job, full of emotions.

April 25, 2004

"I miss my mom every day. I dream about her every night. I always wake with an empty feeling that I was near to her in my dreams, but once I'm awake, she is gone again. I continue to mourn the fact that we didn't get to say goodbye. She was taken from us so suddenly. I still picture her house the first time we went there after her death. It was still so full of her presence and existence. Dirty dishes in the sink. Her toothbrush in the bathroom. Her purse on her bed. As we have been cleaning out, Jan said yesterday, "Parts of the house are starting to echo. This house has never echoed before." I hate that. I feel like we're taking the heart out of the home as we disassemble the house. My grandparents moved into that house when my mom was 3 years old. They lived there their entire lives after that. It's never been vacant, until now. I makes me sad to think someone new will live there soon. It makes me sad to think of how, little by little, we're erasing the physical evidences of my mom and grandparents being there."

Although my grief journal was just that...a place to grieve...it was also a place where I expressed my faith and testimony.

"Been reading in the book, 'The Gift of Eternal Life', which the bishopric gave to me. In it Orson F. Whitney said this, "Out of the tragedies of life issue our greatest blessings. There is compensation for every calamity. Not more surely does day follow night, than does joy succeed sorrow, and blessing follow blighting." I hope he's right about that, although I wonder how blessings will come from the loss of Mom. Although I can see one blessing: a strengthening of the bonds between Jan, Lance and I. That truly is a blessing for which I am grateful."

And one more entry for now.

April 27, 2004

"It's been over a month since we bid farewell to Mom. How can it be true? I feel the pain so deeply every day. I wonder if I will ever be able to feel true happiness again. To laugh wholeheartedly without feeling that catch in my heart. I truly understand the meaning of the phrase, 'heavy heart'. I live with a heavy heart every day. It's more than an emotion. It's a physical sensation. I feel it weighing down my chest. It makes me want to stop whatever I'm doing and, I don't know what...cry, scream, go crazy. It's so difficult."

And now, here I am on March 21, 2014. Ten years ago, I wasn't sure how I was going to face each day and move on without my mom. It was hard. Very hard. It still is sometimes. I miss her. I wish she could be here for all our family parties, holiday celebrations, and just days when we're hanging out together. I'm sad that my children were so young when she died and that she has missed out on so much of their lives. And yet, I know, she has been there with us in spirit at those important occasions.

Yesterday, Jan and I went to lunch, and we talked about the fact that it's been 10 years since Mom's death. I asked her, "What should we do to commemorate?" For a few minutes, we shared memories and tears and sadness. Then Jan said, "What we should do is celebrate. We should celebrate because we made it. Back then, we didn't know how we were going to be able to do it. But somehow we did. So, good for us."

Yes, good for us. Of course I still wish Mom was here and I miss her so much sometimes that it stops me in my tracks. But I am so grateful that she is my mom. I love her with all my heart. I am grateful for the love she gave me...unconditionally and always. 

And I know that one day we will be reunited because families are forever.

This post is dedicated to my angel mother: Diana Kay Jensen Hammerland 1942-2004

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year!

Hello 2014.

I'm glad to see you.

2013 was rough.

I'm ready to move forward.

In the past year, I've been tested, tried and, at times, taken almost to the limit of what I felt I could bear. I can't really go into details, but let's just say that I have shed more tears in the past several months than probably at any other time in my life.

I've felt lonely, sad, scared, sick, angry, inadequate, frustrated....just to name a few.

Despite all that -- through it all --  I've felt the loving arms of my Heavenly Father around me and the assurance of the Holy Ghost speaking peace to my mind that everything will be okay. That is what keeps me going each day. 

Sometimes it's hard to be still and know that God is in control. I want to be in control. I want to fix things that sometimes I can't fix. I want to make things go away that I don't want to deal with. I want people to change. I want circumstances to change. I want sickness and heartache and despair to depart from me and those I love.

And yet, I firmly believe that all these difficult things are part of this life. I know that my Heavenly Father has a plan for me. I know that He knows what will help me grow. I know that He knows that I am capable of more than I think I am. I know these things. I cling to these things and place my hope in these things. This knowledge is what gets me through.

One thing that I've really struggled with through all this is that I don't want to just endure it. I want to endure it WELL. I doubt my abilities. I get frustrated and lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel. I feel alone. I feel like no one else understands. My inadequacies and limitations loom over me, overshadowing my confidence, my faith, my testimony. I've tried to learn how to push those doubts and negative feelings aside. Some days, I do a better job of that than on other days.

So, as this new year begins, I'm looking forward with hope. I have so many blessings and so much to be grateful for. I have a wonderful family. I love them dearly. I have amazing friends who always stand by me. And most of all, I have a loving Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ who know me and love me and are always there for me.