Before and After

Oh, Natalie.
I remember trying to describe this once.
How pictures from Before
bring such an onslaught of feelings,
such a mix of emotion.
My After-self gazes with tenderness
longing, yearning, sorrow
when I see pictures
of my innocent, unsuspecting Before-self.
I trace her face with my fingertip
and whisper sweet condolences.
Though my heart yearned for your understanding,
in all my aching prayers for freedom from grief's isolation,
did I think that your understanding,
your empathy
would one day be this full . . .
. . . this excruciating.
My heart lifts in gratitude
as I watch yours open so fully,
and your soul rise so sweetly
in love for He who walks this path with us.
I have prayed for these blessings in your life
from the moment I first kissed your beautiful little face.
never did I imagine
my prayers would be answered in

If I had known . . .
Would I have tried to spare you ?

But we did know, didn't we?
And we chose not to change a thing.
How great the wisdom and the love
that called for our vote before
and not after
the Plan was set in motion.

Again life's double edged sword,
the opposition in all things:
It's dizzying
to feel so sorry
and yet so grateful
all in the same heartbeat.

Please feel both from me.
I love you so.


Once upon a time
parents, families, friends
stood on a windy pier
said tearful good-byes
held each other close
and then watched as their loved one
climbed aboard a ship and
sailed away.

From that day on
they knew only that
the adventurers would be
out there
in a New World
making a new life
for themselves.
And that knowledge
had to be enough.

Most of them called it


Ecclesiastes 3:3

I've gotten email from so many of you who have lost children and wonder that you still grieve so deeply--who somehow feel frail and awkward and guilty about your grief, like maybe you need to hide your pain somehow. This post is for you. It's from a journal entry I wrote a full 18 months after Gavin died, and two months after losing my amazing friend and brother.

The late spring snows have crushed my daffodils again . . . arrrgh! Just when I was so hungry for the sun! But we need the water and my sweet little daffodils are still under there, spunky and resilient. They'll come back--good as new.
This weekend [general conference], I drank in precious, healing waters I know Heavenly Father wanted me to hear. He's been feeling after me and is concerned I know, but I'm still bowed down under the weight of grief come again too soon. If I were a little bird, the coyotes would have gotten me by now. Vulnerable. Wanting to hide.
God understands this need to hide, I'm sure. He waits and watches lovingly, leans toward me, hands patiently folded. Quiet. Tender. Patient. He knows me. Knows I'll find my balance and open up again, come out into the light. I will. Everything in it's time.

We cleaned out Gavin's car on Saturday. Well, Greg did. I love that man. Later, I stood in the laundry room and hugged a shirt that Gav had left in his trunk . . . how long ago? Long enough that his smell was missing. I searched for it, buried my face in that shirt, tried to imagine it. It wasn't there. But I could feel him in the thin, smooth cotton against my cheek, and I held him tight to my chest and cried. Hot, yearning tears. I don't resist them when they come. In many ways, they're part of what I have left of my boy, and it's good to feel them on my face, taste their salt on my lips.

Today, I loved these words from President Uchdorf:

We need the refining lessons of the journey
to craft our character
and purify our hearts.


Birthday wishes

I wish I could decorate your door with crepe paper streamers and balloons.
And wake you in the morning with a do-nut birthday cake and candles
and a crazy birthday song
that I stayed up too late writing
(set to Beatles music, of course)

I wish I could touch your face and tell you how proud of you I am
and hug you and tell you how cool it is that you're taller than me

I wish we could dance around the kitchen together
(oh, I miss dancing with you, so much)
I wish we could go for a hike
or a late night walk in the snow

I wish for one of your phone calls to tell me about
the tiny frog you've got in your hand
or the run you just finished
or how much you love President Hinckley
or that you're back safe from your ocean paddle
(thanks so much for those 'I'm home safe' calls)

Today, I'm cherishing
the way you'd open my car door
the notes you always left for me to find
the way you always said, "I love you, Mama."
and the way your voicemails always started out,
"Hi Mama! It's your baby boy!"

I'm remembering your arm around my shoulder
and your smile
(oh, your smile)
and your text messages--
"11:11 Mom. Thinkin of you."
And your amazing hugs
your grateful heart
and the way you loved me so openly
So freely
So unashamedly
So unconditionally

Thank you, my son.
For all you were.
For all you are.
You're a pretty awesome guy, you know.
I feel humbled and so blessed
that you chose me to be your mom
Grateful that you knew I'd understand
that you had to leave-
that you had a greater work to do
that there were others who needed your love
your testimony of the Savior and His Atonement
and the gift of your understanding heart.

I am eternally blessed by the knowledge of
Where you are now
and What you're doing
and in Whose name you serve.

I do love you Gav.
Always did, no matter what
Always will, no matter where

Please feel my hand on your cheek
and hear the love in my heart when I say,
You're still making me proud, my buddy.

Happy Birthday, Gavin-San.
I love you.
Kiss your little nephew for me, will you?
And tell him how much I miss him--
miss both of you.
I love you both.
So very much.
Ooooooooooooo, I love you.

p.s. I know I'm a day early,
but, I wanted to make sure you get this first thing in the morning-
(I know it's not quite a do-nut cake, candles and streamers. I just
couldn't figure that one out.)



Dearest Arden,
Let me give you one simple reason
I know that God is good.
(There are a million of them --
but for tonight
this is the one that shines most brightly for me.)

My patriarchal blessing tells me that I will live
only as long as life is sweet to me.
So whenever life seems like more than I can bear
I always check to see if I'm still alive.

Yes, today my heart is breaking at
yet another unimaginable loss
A tiny life, bright and precious
gone from our arms so soon.
Almost too soon to bear
So soon, following
So many others
I have cherished and prayed for
And still lost
So soon
I can't seem to catch my breath in between them all
And now no way to spare my beautiful daughter
from this anguish
I understand far too well.

But I know God is good,
And I know His promises are sure
And I'm still alive.
So, I dry my eyes and lift my weary head
and look around
for the promised sweetness.

I don't have to look far.

Tonight, when I went out to walk the dogs,
a quiet moon poured down onto the fresh, perfect snow
and cast a thousand shimmering diamonds across the landscape.

Even if He asks me to suffer for now
I know God is good and tender
and loving and caring
and mindful of me.

Because when I walked out into the darkness
and the deep chill of this winter night,
He cared enough
to pave my way with diamonds.

"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit,
that we are the children of God:
and if children, then heirs;
heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ;
if so be that we suffer with him,
that we may be also glorified together.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time
are not worthy to be compared
with the glory which shall be revealed in us."

Romans 8:16-18


the heart always makes the perfect choice

I wrote the following not long after my son Gavin died:

We've often been asked why we chose to bury Gavin in Hawaii rather than here on the mainland. Luckily, in the shattered days when you're required to make this kind of decision, logic has little sway. My heart knew though, without question. And now, in retrospect, I'm so glad that his body rests there in that warm island sand, in view of the ocean where he loved to swim, surf and kayak with his sea turtles and whales. The gentle trades bring quiet comfort; the mountains in the distance hold his footprints; Natalie, Richie and the boys visit and remember Unkie whenever they feel the need.

The heart always makes the perfect choice.


And now today,

Now that our Baby Gavin's little body lies
in this same sacred place-
right over his Uncle Gavin's heart-
I'm so grateful for my heart
that knew to listen.
And, I am reminded once again . . .

God knows the end from the beginning.
He watches over us
and plans for us,
and keeps His loving arms around us.


Longing to hold him

To all of you who have been so supportive,
loving and prayerful
(and patient while I've been unable to access
the internet),
Thank you.
From the deepest parts of my weary heart.
Thank you for your love.
And your prayers
and emails and blog comments,
and your tears.
Mostly for your tears.
As we weep together,
I feel your love and it lifts me through this trial.

I am spending my days and nights
holding my own baby
while she longs to hold hers.

I've written several posts in my heart.
I'll start posting them . . .
Today I need to take my baby to the beach
and let the sun warm her lonely arms.
You understand, I know.
Love you.
And yes,
God is good!
And His purposes are just
and perfect.