Monday, April 22, 2013

Remembering During Cancer Month

My shoes clogged on the tarred railroad ties doing triple-time to Dad’s long gait. His big hand wrapped around my little palm; his other held two poles. I was six-years-old and absolutely in love with him. We had just left Vivian Park General Store where we bought Twinkies and Orange Crush for me, bait, and a six-pack for him. He carried our fishing poles and I carried the worms. A big ole ball of sunshine followed us down the tracks to our new fishing hole. We readied our haul and I hung on to his hand tighter as we waded out to the middle of the Provo River. He made me feel brave as he tossed me up onto the big boulder and told me to get baiting and start catching fish – like it was just an ordinary day. It was the best day of my tiny little life. He left us shortly after that.

Joe Goulding – my Dad, never screamed to the world that he was there. He quietly built. First a new family; then our relationship; then a name. And eventually a multi-million dollar company. He beat prostate cancer and barely mentioned treatment. He retired, and only then told his wife that he had lung problems. He teased, “It was nothing death wouldn’t cure.” Once I knew, it was too late to do anything but try to see him every five days. On one of my last weekly trips to Vegas, he asked for a fifty-cent cheeseburger. Then quietly ate.

Joe Goulding – my Dad, died of lung cancer in June 2011. It wasn’t honorable, or pretty, or easy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lucky Dog

The 4th Annual Lucky Dog Day is approaching and this year we are taking LDD on the road! We started LDD nearly four years ago when I found out I'd been accepted to receive a service dog. Tadaki wasn't there the first year. He was learning to pull and getting ready for our team training that would happen a couple months later.

This year, we are sharing our passion for CCI and presenting to one of our employer's other regional offices in Chicago. They have 900 employees in the region so we expect about 300 people to attend one of two presentations. More visits are in the works. I'll let you know how it goes.

And if you are interested in having Lucky Dog Day come to your workplace or school, just comment below and we will make it happen for you. There isn't anything much better than a happy dog, except a lucky one.


Barbara is scared to death and scared to live. I met her this week and haven’t stopped thinking of her. She is 82 and a new paraplegic. The difference between Barbara and I is practically nothing. Except that she is older, thinner, wiser. I happen to have a few more years in the chair than she does. My aunt asked me to visit her, so on Sunday, Tadaki and I parked in the back parking lot at\ the IMC in the last row where there is a stall painted with encouragement to walk instead of parking in the front row. We were the first to park there, but others came as the 1:00 p.m. shift change started. We trotted through the patient drop off roundabout for the 10th time in a few months.

She had a few questions. I mostly talked about myself. People cried. I’ll stay in touch because I like her and her family and I want to know how her chair feels in a few more months. Literally and figuratively. She is strong. She will make the best of her days and her family will grow closer and people will sleep in her room at the rehab center. There will be a chair in the corner and sons and daughters will sit quietly listening to her breathe and sometimes they will sleep, and they will cry. She will have to push up an unreasonably long and steep ramp to show that she is strong enough to leave the rehab center. And she will because she is.

7,000 Thanks

Really? Over 7,000 blog views. Seriously, thank you.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Done with the Old... Bring On the New!

What did I do this year? 
  • Buried two fathers.
  • Wrote one obituary.
  • Spoke at a few presentations.
    Sidebar: Ha, that reminds me. I was going to get back to you about how the graduation speech went. I had everyone's attention. The room was silent. All eyes were on me. No one breathed. But, if I thought that I did ok, think again. It was too short, abruptly ended, and on top of that... my little wheelchair pouch was open and an unused catheter was trailing in front of me. Only about 1,000 people were asking, "What is that?" (Explains the silence and the eyes all forward.) HUMILITY! There is no hiding the fact that I am a geek.
  • Wrote several Good Cents articles
  • ADP awarded CCI a $2,000 grant for an essay that I wrote.
  • Take a big breath because this is the big stomache punch: organized a golf tournament (which explains why the list is so short.) We made $25,000!
  • Travelled twice each to California, Idaho, and Wyoming; Nevada (4x), Illinois, and... I don't remember... somewhere else I think.
  • Went camping twice, fished a little
  • Was a better mother and daughter
  • Had the worst professional year, ever
  • Gained 15 pounds
  • Read a little
  • Donated
Everything is up from here. It was a painful year

The Death Watch

I struggle to title this post because the obvious is irreverent but really, nothing else quite says it as accurately. I was a front line spectator as I watched Dad die. And again, this month, I watched Mario die. The wait was different both times. But like I do to incredibly significant events, I hole up my words and tuck them inside my lapel until they come bursting out when I least expect them.

I'll see you in heaven, Dad.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Who That Matters

Inflate. My oldest daughter stayed at home this weekend. She said she needed to inflate with her family. I love that word. It's a new metaphor for me and perfectly said. Tiff inflated by taking pictures of her family in the fallen leaves in her backyard. She lives in the mountains where leaves leave their rack earlier than they do in our valley. My leaves are still green with flecks of yellow. We still sit on the deck wearing a sweatshirt. The red glow of the heater drips down on us as we watch the World Series with a bucket of peanuts and a beer. It's different for Tiff. Things are a little complicated right now and the strength of her family is built up by sitting in a pile of leaves that haven't gone musty quite yet. How wonderful is that simple reality. We may see the familial glow in their Christmas card this year. 

We have a big family built of parcels from here and there, and when we get together, we glow. We light up the sky from Idaho to Vegas. Every facet of the one and many are magnified in a spectrum of the darkest places to the most joyous. We are pieces with a common denominator of love and we are a misfit family of yours, mine and his.

We finally took the significant turn this year from being separate parcels to one family. It took me awhile to give up the thought of being a mother to a 40-year-old. When the girls raised their arms in a sink-or-swim wave, I finally stepped up and became what they needed--a Mom.

Count Them. We have ten children. We don't differentiate between in-laws; his, mine or yours, and an inheritance divided by ten isn't hitting the big booty for any of them, but we hope it's a confirmation that each are loved equally. Some get more face time than others because of geography. But the last year has been one of the most painful and joyous for me because this mother finally got it. I learned years ago that the most valuable gift you can give a daughter is self-confidence. I relearned it this year.

SIDEBAR: Twenty-plus Christmas Stockings hang from every inflated surface in our house. We hang them from Christmas hooks on our two mantles, couch tables, and TV cabinet. And eight dogs' stockings sit on the floor. The grandkids' count most and a couple of them get to decide which stocking each of us get that year. They paperclip each name to the stocking because one year, Santa had gotten confused when the post-it notes fell on the floor. The homemade camo fleece is the most favorite, then simple sheepskin and the grand-daughters cross their fingers for the leopard one. The expensive elaborate needlepoint ones are last to go and usually get assigned to a grandparent. The only ones that are constant are the big gold one and the big red one. That's Papa's and Kelly's; if we give each other a gift, it is in the stocking.

When we started Stockings, we made fleece. There were just a few of us and I cut the pattern from a page from the newspaper and made a couple seams. Those get a small orange in the toe because I didn't gauge size very well. (More things stick out of the top than the beautiful ones.)  Delightfully, we keep growing, so we add one each year. We do toothbrushes, an orange, candy and something significantly small. Scarily, the oldest will get a gift card to a gas station this year. Last year, all Twenty-something agreed that a family trust fund to pay for college books would be a good trade for a crappy game or widget. We still do books for everyone because we believe you can live without gas, but you can't live without literature.

What matters is most often magnified at Christmas. Our last Christmas was exceptionally joyful because everyone was there. The glow could be seen from Space. Then...

...And as the year progressed, I found myself without my Dad--hard enough by itself, but then I sat helplessly watching J.D. revive his Dad on the living room floor--I was frantic to let my children know that they matter.  Because of that, I finally listened to the screech coming from our daughters. Four of them have lost their father. Step-fathers are a good trade, but the importance of first-fathers can never be replaced. And while I was listening, I learned what is in their hearts. Remarkably, it is the same as mine. I WANT TO BE SIGNIFICANT. And I want to be acknowledged by you.

No matter how old or wise, or experienced, or how well we fake joy, we all need recognition that we matter. And from my experience, my Mom is who provides that. I hadn't transferred that reality to all of my children. I'm so proud of them but I've been a half-hearted mother to nine of them because I didn't insert myself and wear the parent pin. I've attached it to my lapel and to get it off, you'll need to pull my heart out. It's there to stay.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Learning to Write

I learned to write about every other semester starting in kindergarten. Back then it was, just circles lines and I moved on to crossing x's and t's and eventually learned how to put letters together to say things. I didn't think I had much to say, really. But I started noticing. That's a pretty important part about writing, well, living really. If you see it and say it, it's yours.

I am pretty intimate with my Muse. I let her do things to me that J.D. would never dream of doing. She gets in my head and I have to stop doing math or peeing or driving when she talks to me. I keep a notepad everywhere I go. Mostly the pages are blank, but inevitably if I look at a blank page or a keyboard for more than 10 seconds and I don't have a pressing project, I'll write whatever she wants. I usually sort it to the 5-Words file.

I have many writer friends and my Muse may be just like there's, but we don't compare. That's not nice to do because you can't control her and a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. Like the eight-armed goddess that touches where ever she wants and leaves small, visible welts when she touches you. And, oh my, it feels really good when the welts end up being grafts of drafts that you've started somewhere else.

In many writing classes there is a standard outline to writing a good... whatever your good thing is... there is a process. Outline; build a story; never use adjectives when a verb screams meaning; on and on and on. I've taken a lot of writing classes. I started early but when I was a young mother I craved writing so I'd take all kinds of creative writing classes at the library, night classes, workshops. How to get published in a magazine like, wait... wait... Better Homes and Gardens. That was my dream. Make money writing. So now I can spend an hour writing about how to remove a stain of blood while remaining sitting, at a ballpark, watching a baseball game, holding a Colissimo sasauge, and all you have in your purse is a sock... and I've made $20! Making the money, oh yeah!

Anyway, just in the last year I've felt really comfortable writing about anything and I know it's because I really don't care if any one likes it. I finally imagined what I could do if I knew I couldn't fail.

So, here I am, the night before the big day for a lot of people that have invested years and thousands in nursing school (these people aren't dummies), and my niece has asked me to speak at graduation. It's a big day to me too because I'm arrogant enough to believe that I could come up with something someone might want to hear. And because I'm me, I wait until midnight and counting to pull together some thoughts. It wouldn't matter to me if there were 50,000 people or 2, I prepare the same.
Back to musings. This is my process and it is not easy. Stew about it for 8 weeks, thunk, thunk, thunk. Could say this, or this, or this. But I'm insecure enough to recognize that no one ever remembers their graduation speech. So I could go a couple ways -- care, or not care -- about what they think. But this time I want to inspire just one person. Just one.

If I could take everything back and have a do over graduation, I'd redo high school graduation and wear a thong and flip-flops and a demi bra under my red graduation gown. That's it folks! People actually do that now days. I'd still have the ceremony on the football field and I'd still sit next to my best friend that was 5-months pregnant (the first ever allowed to walk at graduation as long as her condition wasn't obvious). And I'd ask Philip Levine to recite a poem. Yes, I'd like that.

But I can't so that's why I've waited until Graduation Eve to find the perfect things to say. Here's the rub. If I outline, strategize, plan the best poem or speech, it reeks of speakage and who wants to remember something that is seeping everywhere for 5 excruciating minutes. And then they will remember my speech as the most immemorial one ever!

Nurses are no dummies so that's what is so weird about this. My niece asked me to speak, for 5 minutes, about anything, yes ANYTHING I want. Ummm, that's a little vague. So now, not only do I need to write it, I have to invent it too!

So, rule # 1: Write what you know.

All I really know intimately is me and my story(ies). I chose to stick with the same old one and pull in some things I've written before. And I ramble and revise and write what seems to be some waa, waa, waa about being hurt and healing.

And after a couple hours I do a dry read. And OMG! And stupidhead, me, I didn't recognize it when it was darting from my fingers. It's about nurses changing lives. That Muse, she is a sneaky little viper. Just one, I just want to affect one person.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Where's Delta?

Delta is a hole in the earth somewhere near nowhere in the remote West desert of Utah. It has no water, lots of blowing sand, a general store that sells curling irons, fish hooks and bacon, and it's the gateway to the Great Basin National Park. I've been there once, and have no desire, or reason, to go back. So why do I care about, where's Delta?


Kel2 travelled to Louisville, KY on the red-eye flight in order to make it to a meeting we really wanted to attend. We made it (great meeting), but in the process we ended up with a couple of disposable airplane blankets in Tadaki's backpack so his shedding problem didn't end up in another $100 cleaning fee for the rental car or hotel room.

Tadaki ended up being pretty proud of his blanket booty and slept on, and fluffed up his favorite of the two red blankets.

To teach a new command (code word for Trick), you need to have a unique name for that command. He's a quick learner so it took just one command for him to figure out what, "Where's Delta," meant.


T-Bone: "Gotta get that really, really cool red blanket the nice guy on the airplane gave me to cuddle up with. Where'd it go? Where'd it go?" After all, it's embroidered with DELTA across one corner. Delta became his new girlfriend.

He fluffs it. He lays on it. He wrangles, then licks it until Delta says, "You are ruining my sizing!"

So we spent a Kentucky night playing, WHERE'S DELTA, and he fetched and licked and eventually fell asleep with her. She's a redhead and she's coming home to meet the family.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Tree Grows...

I was 11-years old when I was first recognized as a writer. I had written since the womb but I wasn't mature enough to know what that meant until Mom raved about, my poem, Peas and Carrots, a true-life poem about a bag lady that rummaged through the garbage cans I passed on the way to school. Mom gave me the confidence to believe that I was a writer! I was something! She talked it up. I wish I had that hand-written, carefully scrawled poem that she told me was, "beyond my years". What I really learned that day and saved for 15 years later was that the greatest gift you can give your child is a strong self-confidence.

The next year, I gave a "talk" in church. I didn't know that I was being judged (on my speaking ability, not on my morality -- which I would have failed if anyone ratted me out for being nasty in the basement of the church), and a couple weeks later, the Mormon Bishop showed up at my house 30 minutes before I was to present my "talk" to the "Region".

"What?" I said. "My talk?" Someone dropped the ball and didn't relay the message to me.

"You'll need to put on a dress," He said. "I'll wait."

So I did while he waited. It was green double-knit with darker green stripes wrapped around me. I sewed it myself, and I wore knee-sox. I was that young. And I didn't wear panties because by then I had given up the practice of pants-up-butt. I was that progressive. I'd given up the thong long before its time.

And I rode with the Bishop to the cultural hall to compete with my "talk."

The hall was the size of a basketball court with bleachers around the room and it was crammed full of peopled chairs. It was the hottest ticket in town because the Salt Palace was barely built and certainly, there was no bigger place in town as the Liberty Park Stake Hall in 1971. Every chair was full. We arrived with only minutes to spare. And I did what I was told.

The bishop ran me back-stage. "Your turn!" And I walked out into a flooded spotlight, hot white-heat, to a podium taller than me. I stepped aside so I cold see the crowd. I had notes cards -- but they were blank -- so I set them aside and gave my ad-libbed speech. I must have learned the meaning of presence early in life because I wasn't scared. I said what I was supposed to say.

The bishop had coached me. The speech I had given in my Ward (competing against my very best friend) wasn't EXACTLY what they wanted represented that night in the region competition. Originally, I spoke about how drugs were bad for young people. He'd said that I needed to give a speech on Testimony. So I did, but I was 11 and no one can have a sound, realistic testimony of anything at that age, except that they might like Captain Crunch better than Oatmeal smothered in Charcoal Seasoning.

As I stood beside the cast-off podium, I was thinking of how I'd made out with the neighbor boy in the basement of the church and smoked pot with my brother the prior day. And certainly the roof would fall in if I talked about that. So I didn't and I stole my best friend's speech -- sort of -- I said what I knew they expected to hear. And they didn't even clap.

So the prissy girl with a frilly, white, dry-cleaned dress gave her book-marked and highlighted Testimony talk while flipping Book of Mormon pages and regurgitating what her parents had outlined for her. She won because she recited scripture and wore white tights. (Knee-sox were just barely trending.)

And I walked away with a 2nd place ranking out of two people and a taste of what it was like to speak in front of a few hundred people. What I knew for sure was that it wasn't scary.

So the next opportunity to enter a speech contest was when I'd started at a new Jr. High School. We moved to the suburbs to get my brother out of the bad element of East High School.  On the first day at my new school, I was repremanded for not tucking in my shirt. Obedience still isn't my stong feature. I spent many days in the Vice Principal's office because I refused to conform. I'd mock the VP by unzipping my pants in the hall, revealing more than he wanted me to reveal (I gave up wearing panties), but I'd tuck in my shirt tails. Then before walking into a classroom, out they'd come.  Brent had a phrase for that behaviour: Malicious Obedience.

So, onward we manage our way through daily life so I read. Read, read, read. And I eventually found myself in a speech contest and speaking in front of the entire school about a book I'd read, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. And I managed to package it up nicely so I finally won first place. I got a certificate; printed out on the old blue Xerox Mimeograph machine. It was not even remotely close to what I came in 2nd place with for my plagarized Testimony speech: Eternal Happiness and acceptance into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Hold 'em

Caveat: If this offends, it is solely because I cannot write what my heart feels.

When I was a kid, I feigned being religious. I realized that I really wasn't religious when I was in my twenties and then I totally came out in my 30's. But that's another 50 posts worth of writing and potential familial disappointments. BUT one of the incredible lessons I learned while feigning religious was that some things are secret and some things are sacred. I didn't always see eye-to-eye with those that thought they could clearly delineate the difference between secret and sacred.

Sidebar: Somewhere, someone thought that there are some things that are waaaay too secret to be discussed, so they came up with a special word: Sacred. It's code for scenarios like:
  • I don't have an explanation in writing for that very controversial issue so I'm are going with waaaay too sacred to discuss
  • Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, The Acts, and the Romans... (yes, I can name every book in the New Testament) never once mentioned that my Mother and Father in Heaven had screaming monkey sex. (My only explanation of where I could have possibly originated).
I spent some time in Institute classes (collegiate studies about the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, etc.). And  a couple of teachers had a pragmatic viewpoint about sacred vs secret that I've adopted.

Father in Haven (Big Guy) and Mother in Heaven (Mama) bonked their brains out because it felt sooooo good. (Brother Monson taught his classes that if it didn't feel good, humans would have been too lazy to procreate. So somewhere in the evolution chain we grew nubbins, then discovered that if two nubbins are rubbed together -- KY Jelly Miracle! Tada! Sparks!). So, the Begats began...

Fast forward to the industrial age when a bunch of hard-up men who couldn't get a chick their own age decided that "feeling good" was not utilitarian or heavenly enough and they all got freaked out and frigid. So along came Sacred. (I thank the Big Guy that I was born in the me-me-me age.) Sacred became the it's-just-too-special-to-me-to-share-it-with-the-world-right-now explanation.

If you aren't religious, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. If you are, then you know that secret is eventually found out. Sacred is something that you hold against your chest so the world cannot see your cards. Hold them tight and peek at them only when you think you've won the hand. Otherwise, you can just lay down your cards and call it. You don't need to explain secret or sacred.

So, here is what I know for sure. My Mother is too sacred to post about. My J.D. is too sacred to post about, and The River is to sacred to post about. Maybe you could ask about them next year.

Friday, June 24, 2011


It's been a while coming but I'm finally found out. J.D. caught me in the act. Sometimes, when he's not home, Brent stops by to see me. It's not that J.D. can smell him on my shirt, or the shower is wet at odd times of the day, or I look suspicious or anything, but he always knows what's going on with me. Brent stops by occasionally and leaves the slightest trace of himself.

Brent's father made beautiful shadow boxes for all Brent's women when he died. Mine and Kristin's hang in the house. Mine is at my eye level; Kristin's at hers. There are little mementos appropriate for each of us; things that have raw, deep emotions attached to them. We never open the boxes, but we are always closing mine. Brent stops by to let me know things: that he has his eye on his kids; that he appreciates J.D.; that he just needs to sit around and watch me work.

He's scary sneaky though. I can sit at the table all day and if I leave for a few minutes, the shadow box door will be open when I get back. No one was running in the house or the house didn't shake, it's a stealth visit and most often it's J.D. that says, "Brent stopped by today?"

"Huh?" I say with an are-you-asking-ME? look. If I ever did anything to really confess to, he'd have my number because apparently, my cheater look is obvious. Brent's visits come closer together this time of year, which is OK because I must need acknowledgement this time of year.

See you in heaven, Brent.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Serenity Garden

See you in heaven, Dad!

Saturday, June 4, 2011


It's June. My friends and family have learned that something is different about June, but they don't remember exactly how poignant it is until I start to cry; every freaking day! Like Kir cries in August.

J.D. is taking me to Piedmont in the morning. I know I have the right guy when visiting the grave of his predecessor is at the top of his I-want-to-do list.

Brent has been reminding us for a few weeks that June is approaching. Whenever Brent visits, he leaves the door to his/my shadow box open. He seldom visits Kristin because her shadow box door stays shut. But when I especially need him, or when the lilacs start blooming, he visits me. Sometimes he visits when I'm not there and J.D. quietly closes the door behind him. J.D. always tells me that he stopped by.

The lilacs are starting to bloom with this year's big rain, so we are headed to Piedmont tomorrow. This is how it goes and I've finally started to enjoy the trip, even if I spend hours in tears. We get up early, I skulk around while I get ready, Deacon knows it's Piedmont day so he's very respectful. He doesn't get too excited because he's the only dog that gets to go.

I dress. Hold back tears. Smile at J.D. as he loads up water, a blanket made for dirt, a jacket, a leash, a water bowl and me. We used to take Arial. She died, too. She is the only tie between Brent and J.D. except our children. She is now buried in a box outside the cemetery fence just east of Brent's headstone. That was J.D.'s idea. Of course it is a perfect place for her.

We drive and talk about the weather and try to spot eagles through the Wasatch Back, then around, Coleville, UT, we get quiet. I look at the fortifications in the red hills that the Mormons built as they fought back Johnston's Army between Coleville and Evanston. Brent told me the story the first time we went to Piedmont together. I try to remember it and I've done an injustice to the story as I've tried to tell J.D. about it. Once we stopped at the historical marker, but it was deft of adequate description.


Kristin and I used to do a monthly trip to Piedmont. About the time we reached the historical marker, I had gone beyond my 50-mile limit and had peed my pants, so we’d pull off the highway and she’d read the marker, again, while I washed out my pants with a bottle of water. She’d tie my pants to the luggage rack with my belt and they’d flap all the way to Piedmont. Truckers especially enjoyed my pants flapping as I sat butt naked driving to the Leroy exit. That’s a good June memory.

There is a little family cemetery, only for the Byrnes. Brent's mother's family. Moses Byrne settled the town and named it after the place in Italy that his wife was from. Piedmont, Italy.

J.D.'s Dad, Mario, is from Piedmont, Italy. Another example of my serendipitous life. You too, are connected to me.

The cemetery is on a hill that you can see for miles from every spot in the small valley. Our adult kids built a sturdy fence around it to keep the free-range cattle from destroying more headstones than they already had. The fence should last for years. It hardly seems worn after 14. It's been built for the duration. Nothing's getting in that doesn't belong in the sacred space. We even keep weeds out.

While I sit beside the headstone, I feel vulnerable. The entire world can see me. I'm a misplaced comma bent against squares of wood fence and livestock wire and sandstone. And the wind blows through everything on me. My hair separates, and strands release, giving building ropes for bird's nests. And if I speak, the wind takes the words and packages them up tight and saves the song, or the cry, or the scream, for someone else.

Sitting there on top of everything that means heaven to me, J.D. lets me dissolve into depression; grief; longing, and pretends it doesn't bother him. I WILL NEVER RECOVER, so he accepts it. When we get there the wind blows. Always. Sometimes the new hay shoots look green, then grey, as they sway against the morning wind. Last year, a storm rolled in and mixed dirt drops with my tears. J.D. could tell which was which. He suffers through the ordeal and says he loves me no matter what. And he does. And I love him no matter what too. Knowing that gets me through the silent ride home.

I try to reason with Brent. Then I end up shouting. I never fought with him, except in his absence, so it's easy to get the upper hand. I always win because he died. Who does that to someone they love?

I pull the small shoots of weeds from around his headstone and roll my fingers across the part that says "Kelly Crompton, Born April 19, 1959 — Died..." That date won't be filled in because only direct family members are allowed to be buried there now. I will miss him when I die.

Then after the rain and wind or an hour passes, J.D. and Deacon cross the little hill where he's feigned looking for arrowheads. I can sense him walking back. I always know he will come back. He stands at the cattle gate to the cemetery and the wind quietly asks if I'm ready.

"Yes,” but he only sees my nod coming windward.

Once, after a long hour when I thought they should have been back by then, I day-dreamt that J.D. and Deacon never came back. I waited. Waited! Until it was obvious they were dead as well. I imagined I scooted down the cemetery hill until my ankles and palms were bloody nubs. More bloody than scooting from the bedroom to the garage ramp. More bloody than scooting from the front yard to the garage ramp. I COULD NOT SEE HIM! Scooting down the hill only made me further away from where he was supposed to be. The world was too vast and my small accessible square of earth was just what I was currently scooting on. I dwelled on it too long, the thought made me frantic — for him, and for me. Grief squared, is intolerable. I do not want him to die there! Nor me.

Then after the right amount of pause, I see him walking carefully across the eons-old rocks and dodging the barely blooming sage. He meets up to the deeply-rutted, unkempt road and I start to cry again. He thinks it is because it is a “Brent” day. I cannot live without him, too!

He rigs the self-closing gate so it stays open and trudges up the hill. It is short but steep. I try to ignore its pitch because it means frailty – in both of us. He steadies himself as he prepares to lift me from the ground. What was once a light 100-pound person has grown heavier through the years. He heaves, albeit quietly, and manages an Olympic lift from ground to chest. He carries me to the truck, then goes back to get the blanket, water, and jacket I've shed from the morning heat. I can see that he pauses longer each year and I know that he worries that there will be a day when he cannot heave me any longer.

Sometimes I leave a pinwheel tucked in next to the granite to catch the breeze; most often l do not. Usually, the day feels too sacred to leave anything. I always leave a kiss for Janis on Craig’s headstone and pray that I will never have to bury another lover. Today, I cannot bear to bury another person. God, please give me strength to outlast my parents so they do not have to bury another child.

An image that haunts me is the collapse of a strong child as she watches with a cocked head while her husband hears that her father dies. She runs for as long as her lungs can work. Then bends at the knees and sobs.

Tiffany has given Piedmont valley its wind. I have a series of pictures of her; then her and Chris; then the two and Merrick... and when I think of Tiffany and Piedmont, I can almost hear the "Woooowww," that a hollow, rounded mouth makes when imitating the scary woof of wolves. The valley is saying something deep and sweet and longing, like six-o' clock in Wheeler Canyon when the wind blows down sunset, and the musky odor of wild animals blend with dinner sounds.

Once, I looked down from 30,000 feet as I flew over Wyoming, and I could see the small checkbox of graveyard. I remembered the names on the tall white sandstone marker that listed Moses and his children. But looking at the blank, un-inscribed names on those small, tiny, blank white markers felt intrusive. There is nothing there but your own bare story for everyone to see. And as I looked down, I knew I wasn't meant to see it from that angle. You have to be there to understand the gravity of connection with those that died without names. Even with the names engraved for me, I was not close enough to the earth to feel the grit of a cemetery visit.

I've sent people there; friends and family and when they come back, they think they understand — barely — what it means to be there. Reverence. That's the only place I've ever felt it. A cathedral in Saint Sebastian, Spain, built in 300 A.D. gave me the closest feeling of reverence that Piedmont does. I ran my fingers along the stone threshold in the cathedral a year after Brent was buried. I can still imagine how my fingerprints felt on both stones.

I have a piece of art from a best friend who shushed her kids at the cemetery as they made a graphite etching of Brent's headstone. When I got the etching, it startled me. We are etched together, as husband and wife, but not together, now.

Brent and I made love for the first time on a hill in Piedmont; I wore his shirt. After he died, I learned that other couples had done the same. It's a place that you are yourselves. And that happened to be the best we were at the time. Sometimes I think about that day, but not always; and never when J.D. is there. We have our own places that can’t compare.

Piedmont is a ghost town, full-fledged, registered ghost town. The boards are warped in the house that Fae was born in. We used to have family reunions in it, but it's dilapidated and unsafe except to poke your head or one foot and a camera into. It's magic in a very small scale that Lake Powell or the Grand Canyon is magic. People without a connection may call it lovely, sweet or interesting. But to family, and in-laws, it's magic and intriguing and the stories are worth repeating. There are headstones that just say "Child - Killed by Indians."

There are other headstones that give you the full lineage from Moses to Brent, or to Craig, the next brother that died prematurely. And Fae tells stories that grow or diminish as she grows old. The family keeps the stories alive. I'm only part of the family now and I have my own family, and J.D.'s family that must be kept too. Now that I know that my great-grandfather was the Garfield County Attorney, I have a responsibility to tell his story along with many, many others.

There are tiny purple flowers and a wild rose bush above Brent's grave. There are tacky plastic flowers that a frugal generation leaves because plastic lasts. Our kids leave pinwheels and painted wooden sunflowers. Bree left a pointed flower 15 years ago that the chipmunks have chewed until it is round, but it is still there and it's the most beautiful thing in the valley because she didn't need to leave a calling card with it. It is Bree sublime. She has left her spirit there — just for her Dad.

I leave tears and water for the itsy, bitsy purple blossoms that grow in the niche between the cement headstone and dry spring earth. And I leave my fingerprints. One year I realized that I had nearly scuffed off the ridges on my index finger from tracing "Clifford Brent" engraved in the granite.

The family collects rocks. I think all families collect rocks. At least all the families I've gathered in 52 years collect rocks. J.D and I took a rock laden with lichen and cracked; its parts are separated just enough to run a piece of wheat through the gap. But so close together that it looks like only a tight black thread runs through it. It is part of many pieces that line our driveway and sometimes I go to it and smile because I know where it has been. I wonder if J.D. does that too.

There are a few people who have taken a charred stone from the blown-up charcoal kiln. I know because I see them in the flower beds at their houses — it is sacred ground that begs to be shared in daily lives. I do not disapprove. I hope to see part of a rock wall in Idaho one day that has Brent and Craig ashes on it.

A few highlights of Piedmont are here, but you'll never catchthe magic unless you go there.
Google Piedmont, WY for more links.

Monday, May 30, 2011


Dad gave in yesterday. He didn't give up; he's still fighting, but he gave up his dignity to necessity. His scrawny flesh hangs on his skeleton. I don't know how a person lives that long with no nutrients. What he gets is pumped in with saline and there's no meat left anywhere. Just a saggy dress of flesh. "What's your plan? What do you need Dad?"

He answers, "Time."

Watching him made the horror that Kristin went through every day for 6 months as she watched me waiting for time very real. Full of boredom and silence. There were just a handful of days that I wasted time. But a lot of time was spent waiting, for the next thing to heal. The scrapes on Dad's knees are gone. When I asked him about it, he slid up his drapy hospital gown to show me the worn flesh on his arms that hadn't entirely healed yet. I wanted to stand and put my chest against his in a deep hug. I remember that was the one thing I missed desperately. I can't stand, so the hug went undone.

He spent a few days (I'm not sure how many because I'm not privy to the details of his daily life, but I'm guessing less than a week) in a comprehensive assisted living facility. Beautiful, clean, refreshing air; without sterile, antiseptic fumes. We went there to see him. When the nurse asked who I was, and stalled her answer, I had the thought that we were a couple hours too late. He was back at the hospital.

He sat up awake, finally, as we walked into his fifth room in that hospital. Blood is being pumped into him; saline, nutrients and blood. He looks good. I only once told him that he needed to eat or he would die. He knew that of course. Then he offered me one of the green beans on his lunch tray. Aaaaah! That's the reason! His dinner was absolutely disgusting. He just wanted a cheap cheeseburger. No fries. So J.D. took the chance to take a breath and walked to Jack in the Box.

"Dad, who is Popeye's friend that eats cheeseburgers?" To get him to talk, you have to ask him a question that he can't reply with a nod.

"I will gladly pay you on Tuesday." We laughed at Dad's immediate reply. "Wimpy."

When I got home after the last trip to see him, I wrote down all the memories I had of him. It filled five pages. As a comparison, I can write twenty pages of memories that I've had in the last day, so when I discovered that five was the measure of our relationship, I cried the rest of the night.

He stayed awake for a couple hours and let me hold his wrist, which is smaller than mine, and he tolerated  me asking over and over what he needed. He said the Vegas wind was coming from the South at 50 mph. It was. And he knew that because he can see the flag out of the window from his bed. He is 75 years old and knows by the shape of a flung flag how hard the wind is.

There is a white board on the wall with his stats and important numbers. Last trip he thought it was a horribly ugly picture on his living room wall. This trip, he could see the flag outside and comprehended everything that the flag meant. Behind the words Today's Goal on the white board the space was blank. So when I left his room the first night, I wrote, "Live," on it. When I returned in the morning, the nurse had added, "& Smile." He's not a good patient. You can bet he knew exactly what was written and who had written it. He's saving his energy for healing the immediate things like lungs and brain and kidneys. I remember saving energy and sleeping through the boredom. I know he's not just lying there for the change of scenery.

I know what it's like to lay there and wait, for whatever the universe has for you, you just swap out your energy for the time it takes to heal. And I remember laying there fully aware of what was happening around me, but knowing that everyone thinks you are barely there. That's what he is doing. So I made time to make another memory. I asked and he told me what he thought.

I found out that his paternal grandfather was a self-proclaimed lawyer and later when I told J.D. about it, we figured that it must have been between 100 and 80 years ago when he was the Garfield County Attorney for 20 years. Dad was proud of that. He is also proud of himself for being a successful businessman -- without a high school diploma. Me too!

I also learned that his paternal grandmother died before or near Dad's birth. He spent most of his time with his maternal grandmother. He and I both have fond memories of Grandma Orton who died at 98. And my mother shared a secret that I was conceived in Grandma Orton's feather bed.

I told him about when we used to go fishing together. And he may not have remembered, but he smiled when I told him about how we walked along the railroad tracks in Provo Canyon. He put me on a big rock in the middle of Provo River while we fished. I probably told him about all my thoughts while sitting on that rock because he said, "You have to be quiet or you'll scare the fish away." I thanked him for those trips and the Tiger Tails he bought me at the Vivian Park store when we went in after fishing. I know he is still thinking about that.

He remembered watching cartoons with us. But didn't remember that he called us MaGoo, MaGee and Magilla. He smiled again. And he told me about people I asked about and what he meant when he said someone had "Committed Sideways." I didn't understand until he said that this person had drank his way out of love. Interesting phrase, and the way he said it, like he would never do that to himself. Really!

So I sat there for a couple hours and asked him about whatever I could think of. And he answered with more than a nod and I knew it was a great gift he was giving me.

The physical therapist had him stand. And he did! He had refused for weeks and I knew that was a gift too. And then it happened. He lost his dignity and his bowels and all he could muster was a tiny whisper begging the therapist to reassure him that his world was ok. "My kids." He was afraid we saw. And we stepped out while the therapist reassured him that we were not watching. I remember. And with time, you start to not care how your body betrays you because what can you do but live because that's your goal for the day.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bloody to the Bone

I spent 24 hours watching my dad struggle to get a good breath this weekend. He is decimated, bruised and thin-skinned. He gurgles when he sleeps and jokes when he is awake. I've started this post hundreds of times and erased, deleted, emptied his trash; longed for anything about him to be mine, just mine; I've prayed and begged in my prayers to be significant to him.

Eventually, my prayers were answered, but in such a way that I haven't recognized. His world and mine are written so differently. Our family rules were scripted differently:

"Leave well enough alone if that's what he asks." Or, "She is so reserved, she must not need me."

I started to say that I've never been in my father's shoes because I am the weaker of the two, but maybe that's the only thing that binds us. Maybe we have a teeny glimpse into what each other feels. Few people can understand the depth of dignity it takes for others to bore through to get to the real person unless you've been whittled away at unrelentingly. Eventually, the digging of divots to the flesh wears down to the soul of a person. And they have to give it up just to stay alive. Just give it up, Dad.

Dad fell with no one around and as he lay on the new carpet, half conscious, I imagine he was at first warmed by the slow throb of vodka numbing his hip. And as that facade melted, he laid there for five hours before he had the nerve to push through the pain while he dragged his skinny ass to the phone.

Years ago I read a seven-line news story in the paper that started with, "There was a sixteen-mile trail of blood." It described how an Indian had pulled himself up into the stowed snow chains that hung under a semi truck and passed out. His drunken body dragged to a whittled stub and he couldn't do anything because the one part of him that was left was tangled up so tightly and didn't hold his brain. I imagine the pain subsided when his brainstem ripped away.

It might be an overexggerated comparison, but I know Dad felt the pain as the skin all over the front of his body peeled onto the new carpet as he dragged his 90-pounds bones to the phone for 3 hours. Knowing his stubbornness and pride, it took him another half hour to get the nerve to dial 911.

Then he made a phone call to my brother, who was in town, to tell him that he wasn't up for a visit that day. No freaking shit!?! But for God's sake keep the facade as high as you can so no one sees behind the curtain. So Dave granted Dad's request and left well enough alone. In 24 hours, I've discovered that anything I would normally take at face value is now suspect. Question everything.

And the pitiful part about it is that I understand it. I've dragged myself through the house so many times with only a short cry or 5-second vein-popping scream at the end after I crawled down the garage ramp and wrung out my bloody socks. I understand. I got his nose and his drive to be independent.
Today he's sedated so the alcohol TDs won't be too sever to cause a deadly seizure. If he doesn't get pneumonia in the next two days he has a chance to make it to physical therapy rehab to try out his new hip. He's hallucinating, which I recognize, and he's sad, and he's proud; which I recognize. There are moments in your life that you have a right to check out of, like when your body is banged up so bad that your mind has to accept that people are rolling you over to change the shitty pad under you. And there is really no other place for you to shit except right there, smeared between your legs. You have to find ways of accepting it by talking about the weather or praying while they clean you. We don't talk about things like that because dignity seems to be more important than surviving the really nasty parts of being frail and broken.

I get that he's tired of living that shitty, greasy-hair, drunken life, except that there are people here that he still wants a relationship with, or he would have given it all up in a pile of bones stuck together with white translucent skin right there on the new carpet.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Not Going There Again

Today I was outed at a place I never want anyone I know to see me there. Like the Brazillian Wax place, or Planned Parenthood if you are Mormon, or a psychiatrist appointment or a restaurant with your boyfriend when you have a husband, or Sylvan Learning Center if you've faked reading for years, or Victoria Secret when you run into a colleague -- and he's not married or the cosmetic surgeon when you are thinking of an enhancement but haven't committed yet.

One of those happened to me today and I ended up paying them $30 to talk about how robins save their young in a May snowstorm. It was worth the $30. Anyway, totally outed in a waiting room that you can never escape from and to top it off, I was 30 minutes early so it was extra awkward and I floundered for the last 5 minutes because I ran out of commonality with the person that I used to be intimate with.

The last 5 minutes was a morsel of delight though. The conversation went like this:

Them: "Your daughter is the most cool person I know."
Me: "Yes, she is. Thank you."
Them: "Please tell her she is really cool."
Me: "I will."
Them: "You know what, on second thought, I'll tell her."
Me: "Good."
Them: "You did well. You should be proud of who she turned out to be."
Me: [Pause, because I'm still working through how to accept a compliment.] "Thank you, I'm proud of her. Randy and I did ok. He was a great Dad too." He died 3 years ago and I am so grateful that I told him how great he was with his child.

Yes, thriving and I'm very proud of her.

But still awkward to be recognized... I didn't think that person would want the same "services" that I was getting. It worked out, but I'm changing my appointment if I ever go back so we don't run into each other again. But it was worth the 30 minute humiliation to hear that I have a great kid.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Crossing the Line

When do we cross the line between humility and self-deprecation? For example, which are you?

Someone: "[Insert name], you are so nice. Thanks for doing that for me!"
Insert Name: "Oh geez, no I'm not; it was nothing."
Insert Name: "You are welcome. I hoped that would make you happy."

Now, who says that? Not any women I know. And it's a shame. I've been watching and listening and we ALWAYS say, "Oh geez... "self deprecate comment"...  that denies what was really in our heart. But we don't really see it as insulting ourselves. We are really thinking that denial of a good deed is a form of humility. NOT SO MUCH! Own up! Take responsibility for what you say!

My friend has given up the word, "Mine." That inspires me to give up something too, so for 40 days I'm not saying: "No, I'm not..."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Chocolates, Sparkles and a Bicycle Bell

Chocolates come from a recessive gene. Once, I wanted to automatically disregard Chocolates because Yellows and Blacks are dominant and make really good souls. I like people with Chocolates. Especially two very intelligent people that support my Black. My simple-cell brain says something like, "I have friends with Chocolates. I just choose not to have Chocolates." My evolved self says, "WTF are you thinking, you stupid white-faced, cancer-scaled, Recessive with your Blues and Blondes that your father left you?" Yes, I'm the only one! I got the recessive. I got the prize! Me, me! Golden hair, golden eyes, Goulding ticket!

I once had a purple wheelchair; I think I might have had two, and with the second one, I tried to add sparkles to really set me apart from everyone else. I remember thinking when I only had a tenth of a working brain that sparkles would do that for me. The two places that I can actually see on my wheelchair are where my knees lean, and the place where I grab a thousand times a day to fidget and pressure release. The sparkles wore off to a smooth chalky metal color in about a month. So, if I couldn't see the sparkles, did anyone else? From where I sit, the sparkle is gone.

Dana gave me a bicycle bell that I wanted to put on my chair when I thought a wheelchair was a novelty and I was all Rah Rah about being ok with sitting down through my best decades. It is silver and fits perfectly in my palm and the thumb ringer isn't too hard for me to push if it is secured to something. I loved it and several times a day I'd cha ching it. I said I wanted to mount it on my chair at the place my knees lean. And I might cha ching it in dark hallways, or at work as a hey, how are you today... but that was just creepy so I didn't ever mount it. It sits with my treasures. I keep it to remind me of how much I loved Dana.

I know I will never have Cherry Chocolates or Vanilla Chocolates or Dark Chocolates and I do not want anything with sparkles. I really do like Chocolates; I just don't have one and my pure Black is a perfect soul that gets me through the day-sweats when my Prince is surveying the kingdom. I'm no longer distracted by sparkles or think they make me any better or worse than I am. I am certainly not secure with where I sit, and I will never ring a bell that isn't on the verge of a trill anyway. I know the sum of the Golden rule and I know that what I put in my bucket is more valuable than how much spills over. Lately, I've tried to spin gold where I can and toss pennies for those who need a magical surprise at their feet.

I get it. 

But I am... changed, and I hate it. I'm trying to be ok with my snooze at five-, then six-o'clock to start a nasty three-hour routine that we keep tucked in our 3-ring binder titled: Your Life as a Paraplegic/Quadraplegic that we got at the hospital debrief. Danika-Up! You freaking whiny-ass!

And I think I might go crazy every day with regret. I hope that I have it in me to love bigger than what I have given because so far, it feels puny compared to what the Universe has put in my lap.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Today's Postcard

I love this one that came to us today

"Greetings from Belarus!
I wish to both of you to live on an easy street and to be full of beans in order to make your life interesting."

How great is that blessing.

Monday, January 24, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about disposable items and how I decide if they are or not. I'm a consumer and a waster. Both are in my nature and try as I might, I cannot break the habit of consuming... food, clothes, personal products, books. And I never feel bad about tossing out a paperback once I've shredded it with a butcher knife, but NEVER toss a hardcover.

I play Lost and Found. If I spend an hour writing an article and get $15 that's money found. But if I let a Walgreen's Register Reward expire it is money Lost. The object is to find more than you lose. I have not learned the finding aspect as well as I have mastered the lost concept.

So I could use your help defining what makes an item disposable. Here are some of my dillemmas and my scorecard.
  • Why is a $10 razor disposable and a $2 piece of fabric a keeper?
  • I bought a $10 book light that didn't work and I felt like I had to return it. But I intentionally leave $15 books for others to find and that makes me feel generous. 
  • I clip coupons then buy things I give away.
  • I won't make a doctor's appointment until my deductible is met. Think that through colleagues.
  • I give perfectly good items to the thrift store but sell used things on
  • Why do I keep a jar of buttons I'll never use, but toss paper clips?
  • I buy pencils but I can never find a sharpener.
  • I don't mind paying for airfare, but I feel ripped off buying gas.
  • I'll buy a cookbook to cook one recipe.
Now, no judgement. I know most of you have your own little delimmas too. Like if you get a discount on coats, you'll buy nine of them instead of just one.

How much is disposable worth? $1, $5, $10. A pair of $30 Old Navy jeans should be disposable after 15 or 20 washes but I have 20 pair in my closet nicely hanging on $2 hangers. And is disposable strictly a financial decision? Absolutley not a financial decision. It's mostly emotional and how attached I feel toward the item. A brass screw is worth more to me than a quarter because I can sew a screw into an art project but a quarter has to have something else with it to be worth anything. Something handmade is worth ten times more than something purchased. And why in hell's sake do I think I can make just about everything? Pioneer heritage. DUH!

I wish we still had returnable pop bottles. I miss that easily found money. I have my limits though. I will not gather scrap metal on the curb and sell it on I will keep fabric scraps of any size (more art materials). I will keep a spool of lime green thread even if I don't have a piece of lime green fabric. Lost!

Make no mistake. I am acutely aware of my inequities and inadequacies.

Friday, January 14, 2011


6,000 Visits! Wow, thanks.

But 5,999 of them have been stealth visits. If you visit, please comment or make me a favorite. I want to know if what you are reading is interesting. Humor me, stroke me.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

About Bedrooms

The thing about bedrooms is that their personality is distinct and instantly obvious once you break the intimate seal of the door -- Donna Karen Talc, diffuser oil, Old Spice, candles -- lovely smells and images rush in as you suck in the first breath of the room. Sometimes when I open my bedroom door, it smells like shirts waiting for starch or brown sugar lotion waiting for hands. The other day, it smelled like a dog lying on a new quilt and on another it was freshly watered dirt and Swiffer Wets. The beneath scent is always a blend of sweat and sex and dogs.

I used to think I wanted it to smell like Tiffany's on Fifth Avenue in New York, but when I tried to step inside to get a sniff, the doors were locked. Tiffany's likes the smell so much that they lock it inside and never let it out. You have to make an appointment to get a whiff of it. I bet it smells like new carpet and besides, who wants a deadbolt on your bedroom door?

Then I thought I'd like our bedroom to smell like Bath and Body Works, but the last time I went there I left sneezing and a woman stopped me to say she recognized me when I spoke at the prison. It was awkward. I don't want to think of felons when I do what I do in my bedroom.

Tonight I changed my mind and thought I'd like a Pottery Barn bedroom of dark wood and eclectic pillows and whatever scent that type of bedroom would be. The smell of this month's catalog would smell like birds and weathered lanterns, but next month, I'd have to change the scent so it smelled like balls of rolled up vines and weathered candlesticks. Changing the scent every month overwhelmes me. I just can't do it.

Somewhere I heard that your bedroom should be feminine. I think it was Maxum magazine. Feminine because you want your woman to feel her sexiest in the bedroom. I am about the most butch heterosexual woman around but I have to agree that things like that matter. There is just something like lace and goddesses that make a bedroom just about perfect. I slept in a bedroom that has angels and flowers for a few days this week and it made me feel lovely and because of that, I think it made J.D. feel lovely too.

I'll say it one more time, I'm giving up anything that doesn't bring me joy. It's a very slow process deciding what those things are because first, I need to figure out what doesn't bring me joy. Sometimes that's hard to recognize. I'm trying very hard to be aware of every thing I do, see, and smell, and what do you know, dirty Ingido jeans and dog beds bring me joy!

If you don't know me, you may have expected me to lie and say that joy is happy, happy pictures of brooks and trees and the smell of campfire marshmallows and lavender. But if you know me, you know that blueberry-sage candles are nice, but the scent of a fresh shower and shave smells devine. The woody scent of the ficus tree from Brent's funeral  that has grown to be eight-feet tall mixed with slippers and Vicks and douche is what makes my bedroom the best.

I love a new quilt, a pillow case washed in Clorox, a bottle of J&J lotion and Just Like Me, and a bottle of water on the night stand. I love dog beds, a ficus tree, and Old Spice to wake me in the morning just a few minutes before the alarm goes off. And I love it when a bedroom smells like LIFE instead of a magazine

Sunday, December 26, 2010


When I was a lanky, awkward 8th grader, Lila P. Burgoyne thought I’d grow up to be something special. She was the Roosevelt Jr. High School librarian and I was her 1st period teacher’s aide. She introduced me to Dewey and his decimals, Dickinson and her sonnets, and a seagull named Johnathon Livingston who introduced me to metaphor.

She taught, without lecture or syllabus, that who you read is who you become. And the frightful day that I left Roosevelt to transfer to Mt. Jordan, she gave me a hug and a wrapped package with four paperbacks which I immediately loved as much as I loved her. Now that I’m grown, I'm not especially special, but the parts that are were made from Bronte, Bach, and Burgoyne.

I've spent plenty of time in libraries. The main Salt Lake City Library was like a toy land to me when I was a child. Mom loved to read and she taught my brothers and I that it was fun. Later I realized that it was not only fun, but it is essential sunlight for my soul. We went to the library at least once a week and rode the escalator up to the childrens' room. There were huge two-story paintings that hung on the wall by the escalator. When they decommissioned the library, they moved them to the Salt Lake City Airport and I get nostalgic for reading when I see them on my way in and out of the state.

It smelled rich--the ink in a newly printed book or the musk of the canvas-covered books--richness that you could smell but never explain the exact scent. We read Rabbit Hill, my Mom's favorite children's chapter book and Little Women which was probably the first adult book I read when I transitioned from the second floor books to the main floor books.

I could mark my height and maturity against the check-out counter. I remember reaching up to hand the librarian my card, then years later thinking that the counter seemed rather short. I vaguely remember a snake in a terrarium.

Twenty-five years later, I met my literacy student, Dave, at the library where I was teaching him to read. He couldn't grasp the meaning of an exclamation mark so I demonstrated it one day and hollered out, "Hello!" After that, every time he ran into an exclamation mark, he hollered too. That library has been converted to the Leonardo, a science center, and a new beautiful building houses the Main Salt Lake City Library now.

I felt at home at the Sprauge Library in Sugarhouse when we moved to that part of town. It is now surrounded with stores that incorporated the library into the Hidden Hollow shopping center. It is right next door to Barnes & Noble. That library had a book return slot in the side of the building instead of having a detached box.

I also frequented the Bookmobile. It came to our neighborhood every two weeks. Entering it was magical and the white bus with red letters: BOOKMOBILE had it's own enchantment. I love that books and buses can be said in the same phrase. And of course I have great memories of all the school libraries I've visited. Emerson Elementary had a library with wood floors and dark wood shelves. It was there that I read the Betsy, Tacy and Tib series and memorized the poem Eldorado.  I attended Hawthorne Elementary for only about two-weeks and the thing I remember the best is the library.

As an adult I'd go to the tiny Sandy Library that has since been replaced with a somewhat soulless building that I've had trouble warming up to. I took a writing class at the Whitmore branch when I was a new mother and later visited the Ogden Library to submit poems to the Literary Magazine.

I've been enamoured with the New York City Library since the first time I visited New York. Across the street from the library is a bakery that I love and whenever I went to the bakery I watched the building with the stone lions welcoming patrons. I've been inside and walked up the marble staircase, but I've never taken the time to peruse through its books. In fact, it's been a long time since I've had a library card. Now I buy books, but I should get back to checking them out.

I think I might like to visit every library in Utah.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wrapping It Up

Significant things I've done this year:
  • Ate Waffles topped with Deep Fried Chicken and Maple Syrup. It was delicious. Kind of like caramel popcorn with bacon grease. And I paid money for it and would again.
  • Finished the CCI Cookbook. Which you can buy here.
  • Travelled to Jackson Hole, Oceanside twice, San Antonio, Seaside, Portland, Laguna Beach, Phoenix, Malad and Las Vegas three times each.
  • Rafted down the Grand Canyon. Amazing trip of a lifetime made possible by an amazing friend of a lifetime, Eileen.
  • Received a few thoughtful postcards from around the world. Which you can also do by joining Postcrossing here.
  • Saw Concerts of Norah Jones, Tim McGraw, Modest Mouse, and Elvis Circ du Soleil
  • CCI Stuff: REI Presentation, attended Misty's Turn-in in February, Recertified for Public Access with Tadaki, Attended Family Links Conference, Attended March Puppy Training and Open House, presented at St. John The Baptist School, greeted new puppies at the airport, held Summer Pot-Luck, was featured on KSL News with Tadaki, interviewed by FOX News, attended November graduation, Holiday Open House, published cookbook, CCI Night at the Bee's Game, Monthly Leadership Meetings, Submitted ADP Charitable Giving Application, wrapped books at Barnes & Noble, Donated. Still love Tadaki.
  • Book Club.
  • Boating and fishing at Jordanelle and Strawberry.
  • Hosted two wedding showers, attended two weddings, and was a Second String Bridesmaid.
  • Family Dutch Oven Party, attended music concerts, soccer games, football games, sewing projects and enjoyed kids, grandkids, parents, siblings and nieces and nephews.
  • Donated
  • Wrote; but not nearly enough.
  • Created seven quilts, twenty table runners and pole wraps, five flower girl dresses, two purses, three houses.
  • Got overwhelmed and seeking recovery.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What I Didn't Know...

"So, Mom, you wrote that your book is only from your point of view. Well, I wrote this a while ago, about the accident. Thought you might like to read it........"

When I was 16 (Thursday, June 27, 1996 to be exact) my life changed forever. I was driving back from Panguitch (a funeral) with my Grandma Darlene and my Uncle Dave. I saw the sun streaming through the clouds (you know, when you can see the sunlight falling to the ground almost like ribbons), I got a sinking feeling. A few years before, my friend Jen told me that when you see this phenomenon it means that an angel is getting it's wings. It was about 12:30 in the afternoon. I brushed it off, as most people do. We pull into my Grandma's house, walk in the door and was met by my Aunt Becca. Bec hugged me, looked like she had been crying. I thought this was very odd. Then I hear those words "I'm so sorry Tin. There's been an accident." Immediately, I think of my dogs (because your parents are indestructible) I pull away, look at her and she proceeds to tell me that my mom and Brent were in an accident, Brent and Steve were dead and my mother is paralyzed from the neck down. It's all a blur after that. I don't remember who called Dad, but he showed up just after we pulled into the drive way. I remember laying on the floor of my Grandma's house, head buried in my arms, not really sure if I should cry or be grateful that my mom was still alive.

I will never forget making those phone calls, to friends, family and co-workers. I was 16 and had to tell people that my step dad was dead and my mother would never walk again. Something that I don't believe any 16 year old should have to do. There are very bizarre coincidences that occurred in the months leading up to the accident and that day. Brent knew he was going to die; he talked about it with my Mom; how he wanted his funeral, what to do with life insurance, etc. Mom had extreme pain in her legs for about a month prior. Indescribable, idiopathic pain. I had a dream about the man we do not speak of. In my dream he called me, said he needed to tell me something important, I blew him off, he told me I would need help, I would need money and I could use his credit card. Very weird, I hadn't thought of him since the day we left him. But he was the one that called Bec to tell her about the accident. The last time I saw Brent, we were pulling out of the parking lot, I looked back, waved and thought that's the last time I'm going to see him. Then there's the clouds and that sinking feeling I felt at 12:30, the same time that their plane crashed.

Fast forward to the next afternoon, I walk into Deaconess Hospital in Billings with my Grandma and my mom's dad. No one prepared me for what I would see, no doctors told me that my mother would be strapped to a hospital bed, tubes and wires all over her, and the the 2nd worst thing I have ever seen in my mother's head is screwed (literally) into a halo. My mother had screws in her skull! My heart sank, I stopped, staring at her. Her eyes were closed, I thought she was dead. I gather myself and say "Hi Mom."

Those words prove to be the most powerful words I would ever utter. I didn't know it for years later, but I saved my mom's life. Later, my mom explained to me that when I walked into that ICU hospital room, she was "dreaming" of Brent. Brent was standing there, holding his hand out, saying "Please come with me, it's nothing like they explain, it's a wonderful place. Let me share it with you." Mom said he was surrounded by light. She went to grab his hand, almost touched it, then she heard my words. "Hi Mom." In my upbeat voice. Just as she heard those words, Brent disappeared forever. She opened her eyes.

Change of Plans

So I put it out there to get it out of my system. I knew it was a good story, but I didn't realize that it was written well. I may finish it...


Good night.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Good Night Sweetheart — Chapter Seven

I do not remember the conversation Kristin and I had that day. It was probably rather benign and uneventful. I fell in and out of sleep and she sat beside me until she could no longer bear the image. I imagine she walked the hallway not knowing what would come next and struggled with her emotions. She typically does not share her feelings; they are a very private part of who she is. I imagine she was quiet through dinner and returned to ask if I needed anything. She may have held my hand; I do not remember her touch. But I do know that she saved my life that day and made me understand that the most important thing I will ever learn is that I need her more than she will ever need me.

For a couple of months after, I toyed with dying. It is easy to die and so comforting. It was a familiar path and I had learned the way. Once you have been there, an indelible map is seared on your soul. I perfected the skill of meditation with help from friends and the hospital psychologist and visited the edge of death often in hopes I could feel the incredible joy again. I did not seek Brent’s presence because I knew he was happy and I had the incredible gift of saying good-bye. I sought the bright white light of love. Of course I was afraid I’d stay too long or step too far beyond coming back and I would leave Kristin alone. I finally relented to the hardware and attachments to my body and meditated only for pain relief, gratitude, and strength.

The details of the time I spent in the hospital immediately following the accident are gone. If I ever was aware of everything that was happening around me, the time I was in Deaconess Hospital in Billings, Montana is now gone, as are huge chunks of days and some weeks as I continued to recover. I absolutely know that I’ve consciously suppressed many of the details surrounding the trauma of the crash and Brent’s death. I know my own survival tactics and remembering the fear and pain is not something that would be beneficial to me, or to any other family member. The details we have are graphic enough and our imaginations can run rampant, but for now, there is no reason to undergo any kind of remembering exercise like hypnotism. I’m sometimes asked if I remember everything, or if I want to remember. No.

There was a time that I briefly entertained the thought that I might be expected to recount each detail and if I couldn’t do that voluntarily, I should offer to undergo hypnotherapy. That was entirely my sense of duty to explain the best I could what happened. Everyone knows that it was an accident and at no time did I ever feel like I was being blamed for the deaths of Steve and Brent. Except that I blamed myself, and still, years later although I’ve been through counseling, and have reconciled the role of death with my personal faith, I have dreams that clearly suggest that I still harbor some degree of guilt for living. Rational? No. But very real feelings just the same.

Memory is not a reliable source of the facts. But many times it is all we have. Fortunately, I could discern the difference between actual events and dreams. I was aware of things that were happening around me and I was coherent and talking, but for the most part, I forgot conversations quickly. I would fall asleep from survival exhaustion or pass out a few seconds after I pressed the button for the morphine drip. I rambled in mumbles at times while other times I made perfect sense. What was happening in my head was often different than what was happening around me. Trauma and drugs are superb cures for reality; however, there will never be doubt that I received two immeasurable gifts: the chance to say good-bye to Brent and the chance to say hello to Kristin. That resonance of absolute reality is as clear and pure as eternity itself.

My most profound memories of my hospital stay in Billings are Kristin’s voice and my mother sitting by my side as I dictated Brent’s obituary.

“We need to do this,” she said. “I know it will be difficult.”

It wasn’t. But writing anyone’s obituary other than your parents’ is unthinkable. Had I taken a vow to write his obituary, or for that matter, had I ever considered having to write his obituary, I would have prepared better. I would have jotted down something poetic about him every time he made me smile. I would have formulated the perfect words that told the world about how his eyes glistened when his children walked through the door. I would have outlined a ten-thousand word essay so the world could understand just who my love was. Instead, I mumbled through sedation small ordinary things and aside from the historical details and the funeral date and time, it was printed as I told her, it was about him, and it was true.

Between hospital visits and calling home to report my condition, my Parents, Kristin and her father, Randy, killed time with Bob and his family. Randy and I had married the year after my Freshman year of college, and along about the fourth year, my maturity took a nose dive and I decided I needed a break from marriage. It devastated Randy to lose his little family. We had a few tough years trying to find our own way through life without each other, and to make a sturdy bridge for Kristin as she jumped from one parent on weekends and the other on weekdays. But through the struggle, we remained friends and at different levels, we really never fell out of love. The day after my accident, Randy hugged Kristin as he put her on an airplane to Montana with my Mom and Dad. He cried all the way home and immediately bought an airline ticket for the next day to be with her.

“I can’t believe I put her on that airplane all by herself,” he told me later that year. “I wasn’t thinking. And I made her face that without a Father at her side.” He flew to Billings to spend a night and a day with Kristin as she numbly faced a tragedy that a sixteen-year-old shouldn’t have to face.

Randy and Brent had become friends because they shared a daughter. As I worked long hours at a fast-paced, demanding job that also required three hours a day of commute time, they made time to see all of Kristin’s school sports. They sat next to each other on the basketball bleachers cheering, urging, and cussing. Randy drove the fifty miles between our houses to coach Kristin’s softball team three days a week. Brent never missed a practice or a game. I worked through most of them.

In the hours that had passed since Thursday at noon, Kristin had been to Southern Utah, returned to Sandy where she heard the news in my Mother’s driveway, to Ogden to pick up her clothes, back to Sandy to live with Randy and his wife, and on to Montana to be with me. It had been a long exhausting 30 hours for her. She was also by my side a couple days later as she and I boarded an air ambulance jet with a team of intensive care nurses to fly back to Utah. We landed at the at Salt Lake International Airport Executive Terminal then rode in an ambulance to LDS Hospital where I was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.

Kristin walked behind me as the Salt Lake City medical team pushed my gurney through the hallway into ICU. My little family was in the family lounge waiting for us to arrive. I had no idea that the day of our accident they were told to prepare for my death. She will not make it through the night. So they prepared themselves to say goodbye to a son and a daughter, a sister and a brother, their father and their mother. I made it through the night because of great health care professionals and because I did not take Brent’s hand. I chose to stay and I knew that I would be here with my family for many years. But they continued to ready themselves for my passing each day.

“Hey, Sis,” Dave said as tears streamed from his eyes. “How was your flight?”

I felt like I was lucid and alert but I also existed in a fog of fear, pain and despair.

-  -  -

You've reached the abrupt end. I have several more paragraphs and half chapters that I've started throughout the last 14 years, but it felt forced to write further about my survival because it was just about me. I've told the world what I needed to say. Good Night Sweetheart, I will always miss you. But I am doing fine. I'm happy.

Good Night Sweetheart -- Chapter Six

My story is all I know. Although I have been told the chronology of events, and family and friends have shared bits and pieces of conversations, I possess the emotional ties only to the story here. For years, the other stories were more than I could bear to hear. Only a little at a time was fine with me. My children own their own horror. Those I would not have wanted to live through. After hearing the details of each child’s grief, it seems I had the easy job of just surviving each day and going to the next. I would not want to have lived the moment each one heard of their father’s death.

I cannot imagine the pain Tiffany felt as she covered her ears when hearing the unexpected. She watched detached, as Chris took the news and fell to his knees, then faltered to her side. I picture the scene only because she has told me through tears how her mind left her and her legs began to run and run and run, until she fell in emotional exhaustion. Or Bree, who huddled in the arms of her new husband, drained of life before the night even began. She had been married only ten days when her bliss was interrupted with tragedy.

Kristin was with my mother and brother in Southern Utah attending a graveside service for my uncle. As my sister, Rebecca, took the phone call in the late afternoon, my family traveled home where they would be met in the driveway with a clutching hug and the shattering news. By the time my closest family members heard the news, Rebecca had called Brent’s parents, my friends and other family members then waited in grief for their arrival.

My pain was physical and was eased with medication and prayer. I could not have finished the housework that was left or walked into a room occupied with Brent’s belongings. Someone had to run their fingers across the metal cross bar of his mountain bike as they lifted it into the moving van. Imagination can take me to the cold metal touch if I want. For now, after years, I can still hardly bear to think of him without us. I am sure my heart was too tender to hear of him going away hours after it had happened.

Still, the hours are dark to me through the first day. I cannot remember the faces of the paramedics, nurses, and doctors who attended me, nor can I remember the decisions made or the words they spoke to each other. I can, however, imagine the scene and the grief they experienced. And I have reread the newspaper articles and medical reports many times in an effort to understand the facts. Trauma of this scale does not happen often in quiet Park County. As people have told me, the difference between a car wreck and an airplane accident seems more profound precisely because of its rarity. People just do not fall from the sky in the rural Montana valley. I had assumed that medical personnel, police, and rescue crews grew tough and indifferent about the people in their keep. That is not true, and it is evident from the love and care I have received from that day to now.

I suppose we sped the thirty miles to Livingston Memorial Hospital. And I suppose the medical technicians riding with me in the ambulance felt the same way for me as Bernadette felt for Steve. My vulnerable body lay before them as they assessed the damage and radioed to the hospital to prepare the staff. They were also heroes that day by reviving my mangled body twice before we arrived at the emergency room doors. I have been unable to obtain details of the resuscitation noted only as a brief note in my medical records, nor do I remember the event, but I am grateful for their successes in saving my life.

The photo published in the Livingston Enterprise showed an emergency team carrying me strapped to a flat backboard. I am no longer wearing shoes and my arms lie comfortably by my side. If it wasn’t for the airplane in the background, the picture looks like people in a first aid class in a mock exercise. There is no blood or visible injuries. But at 1:47 p.m. I was admitted to the emergency room with many. The initial diagnosis read like the index in a medical textbook. Many Latin words described my condition. Simply, I was beaten up pretty badly. I broke three ribs, and my right collarbone and shoulder blade. Both lungs were punctured and filled with fluid. My neck was broken in two places as well as three vertebrae in my upper back. I could not sit up, or use my legs and had no feeling from my armpits down. It was obvious that my spinal cord was either bruised or severed.

Breathing was difficult and raspy without the help of an oxygen tank. The immediate concern was to get me breathing independently. Chest x-rays showed a large amount of fluid in my right lung. The doctors carefully marked a spot on the side of my body where a chest tube needed to be inserted. Then a small incision was made between two ribs and a long plastic tube was inserted into my lung. Nearly two cups of fluid was drained, making it easier for me to breathe normally.

I arrived at the hospital wearing the cervical neck brace the EMTs used to secure my head while moving me into the ambulance. Carefully, but quickly, the emergency room team worked to reduce further injury to my neck and spine. I received an injection of [name of drug] which, when given shortly after a spinal injury, reduces swelling of the spinal cord and in some cases, aids in rapid healing. My blood pressure was stabilized with a low dose of Dopamine and I was given saline intravenously. Six people gently slid their hands under my neck, back, and legs to keep my body as still as possible as they lifted me onto the flat, metal bed of the MRI machine. X-rays showed that the damage to my vertebrae was severe, but only by taking a picture of the soft tissue of my spinal cord could they tell the extent of the damage and determine the level and severity of my paralysis.

Again, I imagine the sinking feeling each person on my triage team felt as they discovered that my spinal cord was fully severed and that my paralysis was permanent. In total, six bones were broken. The breaks in my neck and spine were high, which meant that I would have no use of any muscles below the highest severed part of my spinal cord.

As my head smashed into the side window where Brent sat, my chin bone broke in half, slicing my chin diagonally and deep to the bone. My upper lip was nearly severed and hung precariously crooked as I tried to answer the nurses’ questions. And although none were lost, my teeth sat twisted and askew and covered in deep red blood.

My brain was jolted back and forth within my skull, bruising precious brain tissue. At that time, it was not possible to do immediate tests to determine the extent of the brain damage, but I later requested tests that determined the effects the hard hit had caused. My short-term memory would be affected for years. Subsequent tests weeks later showed that the left optic nerve was pinched which caused blindness in my eye.

Once my vital signs were stabilized and the extent of my spinal injury was determined, the physicians prepared me for surgery to attach a support halo to my skull. Four screws were drilled into my skull and attached to a metal ring called a halo. The halo was then bolted to a plastic back and chest support, which kept the neck and back aligned correctly. It prevented my spine from further movement and I would wear the halo until the vertebrae were fully healed.

By 4:00 p.m., I was on my way to Billings in a medical air transport. The small Livingston Regional Hospital was no equipped to support trauma at the level I sustained for ver long. Once I was stabilized, preparations were made to get me to the capitol city in Montana, where a large staff could assess the next steps for my care. I do not remember anything until the next day. I lay in a strange city—a strange bed—trying to survive. The strength it takes to survive is something our soul and body musters without regard of our mind—we do not choose to survive—it happens because of a connection we have to something beyond us. I lay there seeing all the strangeness around me and only a few things I clearly remember. But that memory is the most profound surety I will ever know.

I spent some amount of time visiting Brent’s new world. It is a remarkable place! I struggle to get the description right even after thinking of it for many months. It took me years to get it to paper when I wrote a letter to my dear aunt who lost a son to suicide in 1999. Even after pen to paper, and many rewrites and edits, it is nearly impossible to describe the feelings I experienced. There are no words in English that can explicate the infinite language shared by angels. Writing and speaking of it cannot give it worthy brilliance or intelligence. Again, I will try to edit, describe, or interpret the joy it brought.

I am still not certain what got me there. There were no angels or whispers. No yearning to die or heart attack as far as the medical records shows. My resuscitation the day before was not connected to this experience and I was out of imminent mortal danger. There was no motion from a giant hand beckoning me forward or deep biblical voice urging me beyond, but I was drawn to walk to the tunnel.

To walk is not the correct description. I can only describe it as traveling because the apparatus or means of travel is not relevant there. I was drawn from every synapse within me to follow or seek a compelling presence before me. My entire soul reached toward an extraordinarily white light that emanated from within me. It was not a tunnel as the type you walk or drive through, but was more of a funnel of light pouring from my heart, only deeper. It began as a diminutive speck so small but so intense from the most fundamental part of my being. It radiated forward to a place far and beyond that I cannot imagine its distance or width. It spread out in front of me and around me. Within it the past was behind and eternity before me.

There is a paradox there where nothing should make sense but everything is made clear. It is clarity of emotion--clarity of rightness and balance. To follow something that emanated from within me seemed natural because I understood the science of it. As I try to understand it now, the depth of my intelligence does not extend to where I could ever hope to grasp the how’s and why’s of it all. But I know that eternity is immutable and definite. However, eternity is in no way tied to the religion or power or the God as I had been taught. It just was. The light was a personality—deep, and combined of millions of entities—yet of no one person. I was drawn to wallow in the feeling of it. I was in absolute pure emotion, the kind that you can only know in your quintessential rapture. It is Joy. Blissfulness. Absolute love, non-judging love, love, love.

To travel there, I did not walk or run or glide. I thought myself forward. And as I did, the light and love surrounded me. I felt it particularly in my chest, but deeper than even my heart of hearts. It could be that I walked for hours amid the whiteness. Or I could have walked for seconds, or was it a million of our lifetimes? Maybe it was the briefest of milliseconds. Time is as insignificant as distance there. As I walked forward, I began to recognize the familiarity of the emotion. Brent.

He formulated in the distance as a very small shadow. The light or love that surrounded the shadow made him look black in the midst of the white light. He was growing in size as we traveled closer to each other and though I recognized him by his soul, I did not recognize the shape of him for quite some time. I cannot gauge time, but I waited in anticipation for a very long time as the shadow came toward me—or was it I who came to him? I recall that he walked forward as a convenience, a frame of reference created for me so I could understand what was happening and not spend time analyzing the logistics of movement. He walked confidently, slowly and gracefully. I remember thinking that he walked without pain. I knew the figure formulating before me was for context only because I was incapable of fully recognizing that it was Brent if he was not contained in his body. He stood before me close enough to touch, however; I knew that we did not need to feel each other physically to know the reality of each other. He was surrounded with white so immaculate that the dark outline of his arms and legs was outlined in even purer white light. He emanated an aura of strong tenderness.

We stood, feeling each other together, and I closed my eyes and breathed in his essence. He spoke to me in his dear sweet voice that I miss so much now, and told me how much I was loved. Not only by him but a universal love that spread around me forever. Imagination cannot take me there again. I cry for the yearning of it. My soul aches for it just as my breast yearns for hugs or my eyes seek light. It is a feeling so powerful that if it were given to the strongest of us, it would make his knees weak and leave him so immensely fulfilled that he would spend eternity seeking even one more second of the experience.

As Brent spoke to me, in an instant I knew his thoughts. He did not mouth the words. Telepathy was something we had practiced when he was alive, and it became evident that it was natural once he began to speak to me again. I immediately understood that this mental power was a skill our bodies had lost through always speaking.

“My sweetheart,” I said with calmness. “I love you.” I had said those words thousands of times to him, but never was I able to convey how I really felt. Only once, this time, did I know that he understood the depth and conviction I felt. I thought love to every part of his soul. I cannot characterize where I concentrated, but I felt a reflection back from every organ, flesh, and cell confirming that he heard me and understood my love. I had no mechanism to hear his reply, just as he had none to speak. My ears were superfluous because I listened with all of me, and he spoke without saying. But there was a wholeness about us that felt solid and withstanding and right. And I heard his love as well.

“I love you, Kelly.” And he began to tell me about himself. “I am happy and well. You do not need to wish me there. It is good here, as you can see.”

“But, I miss you so much.” And longing welled inside me until I could not stand the intensity.

“I am well and busy. There is so much we can do here.” I did not ask him to explain because I knew that it was something more than I could understand at that time. Again, the science of it made sense. Now, I picture that he is busy enjoying his mind and his ability to do what ever his limited body did not allow.

Brent and I talked for quite some time about very personal and spiritual things that he and I share for eternity. He explained the complexity and simplicity of life beyond and my role in it all. It is not so very far from what I had believed for many, many years. We talked of Gods and Goddesses and about loving forever.

We talked of religions and the role of ritual and ceremony. And I understood that for some people, ritual is a necessary path to find the love I was feeling. I have since spent much time meditating about the things he told me. And in the same way that I immediately understood the physics of how I saw and spoke to Brent, I absolutely know the way to return. It is an intuitive understanding that cannot be explained. It is the act of seeking and giving to others the love I was feeling.

I felt no righteousness in Brent’s world. No judgment or guilt or ownership or possession. There is not custody to one person, there is only belonging to something that encompasses every person and every thought. Love is not exclusive to one man and woman. The type of love I was experiencing was more mature than what I felt on earth. I understood that there is no one who stands apart and above us. There is an entity that embraces everyone, everything, and we become a powerful loving part of that entity. We become an entire All who shares knowledge and emotion and experience. I cannot understand it now. It is an understanding whose intensity has faded in time. But I remember my conviction of its truth and I know that I will feel it again. I was not surprised by my sudden knowledge and as we spoke to each other about what is there and what we can experience, the simple truth he gave me that day was trust your heart.

“You are doing fine,” He whispered into my heart. “You have figured it out.”

It became instantly clear that I was asking him how we could be together. He answered clearly and definitely.


I understood simultaneously that I didn’t need to master love, but I needed to do the best I could, and nothing, no one but our mortal neighbors, judge whether we deserved to be together forever.

“You may come with me.”

My breath caught, and with a conviction so sure, I knew his invitation was genuine. He turned slightly to the right to open his world to me, gesturing come with me. “You can come if you want,” and I watched his lips and mustache make a grand smile as his head dipped a bit and his chin gestured into the broad expanse of light.

I saw the next few moments before they happened. My gaze focused on his extended hand. I imagined my fingers slowly feeling their way into his palm, and felt his grip as he lovingly bent his arm and pulled me toward him. I imagined the light getting whiter around us and my world leaving as I entered his. I could almost feel the warmth surround me and pour into the crevices of my spine. And I imagined us walking farther and farther away from my world.

I took a breath, righted my shoulders, and with anticipation similar to the expectation of that first dive into the icy quarry lake at Chico, I watched my hand reach for his.

I did not speak.

I simply moved closer with such a resounding, “Yes,” escaping my spirit then felt an overpowering force welcoming me forward toward him.

“Hi, Mom!”

Once again, instantly, my world changed forever, for better, and for love. I was startled from my soothing surroundings. Brent froze in time, my mind turned in on itself, and for the first time in many hours felt the intimacy of a familiar human voice. A noise outside the expanse of the eternal love intruded my consciousness.

Kristin opened my hospital room door and for the first time saw me lying in what must have been her ultimate horror. Nothing could have prepared her for the condition of her mother lying flat, immobile, with metal screws imbedded a quarter-of-an-inch into her skull. A bruise was growing deep shades of purple and green around my left eye. Stitches held my upper lip and chin in place and tubes of varying diameter attached me to monitors and IVs. I do not know if others followed, I suppose my mother and father entered the room as well, but the room was filled with overwhelming care and concern and Kristin was the source. But as though my condition was normal and nothing had changed between us, she came into the room with her confidence and unreserved charm. I realized it was her voice with no trepidation that called my name as though she was proudly introducing a new friend. With her happy, singsong voice, my darling baby was there to abruptly teach me more about love.

With a certainty I knew I would not go. I could not go. I was drawn to Kristin’s spirit as strongly as I was drawn to Brent’s. I looked into his eyes and did not need to tell him. I had already sent my message. I needed to stay to love my daughter.

“She needs me,” thundered through me and echoed throughout eternity.

I saw his smile clearly. His soul told me, made me realize, that was exactly what he knew I would say, and with that he began to grow smaller and smaller as though he was shrinking into the distance. Until the last thing he thought to me was, “I’ll be here.” And even with that thought it was clear he didn’t mean I should save myself for him or he would wait for me. It meant that we are always together—just a prayer away. And in the long run there is no ownership as a couple, he was not my sweetheart, I was not his wife, but we were together as one spirit, always.

And in that moment that he faded, I felt and heard the brilliance suck itself back into my chest—into that miniature spot where my soul is tied to my body. It began as a feeling of motion as though an image on a movie screen was sliding past me. The motion grew faster and faster until I could almost hear the light leaving. The edges of my vision began to fill with darkness and the funnel shape formed again. The far distance of it grew narrow and the point that was connected to me became more pointed. It pulled itself like an elastic band stretched tightly and rebounded itself deep and tight into my heart with a physical jolt and audible “pop,” and was gone.