Monday, August 27, 2012


One afternoon last fall, after Jonah passed away, Jordan and I sat quietly eating french fries among the red and white palm trees of our local In-and-Out.  We didn't have much to say to each other.  Both of us still felt quite shattered and tired, so we just ate in silence and listened to the energetic conversations of the people around us.

Near us two young couples sat and discussed the details of a recent engagement. The description was theatrical; full of dramatic pauses and hyperbole. The new fiance started with a comprehensive synopsis of important events and dates in the couples dating history. Then she began a step-by-step description of her boyfriend's clever deceptions and misdirections, and finally she shared her astonishment when she was led to the very park where they shared their first kiss. The excitement in her voice intensified as she described the candle-lit path, her kneeling boyfriend, the enormous glittering ring he brandished, and the hidden photographer hired to capture her reaction.

As I listened I thought about my own engagement six years earlier.  It was so simple.  After two years of dating - and breaking up - Jordan finally asked me to marry him.  It was a cool summer evening, and we sat talking and kissing on the grey weathered wood of his mom's back porch.  There were no fireworks or surprises, no elaborate plans, and no eloquent speeches.  Just the words, "I really love you, will you marry me?"

I thought about how scared I was to say yes.  I was afraid of divorce and disappointment.  I was afraid of heartache and instability.  I worried about making the right decision, or rather making the wrong decision.  I was afraid of the pain a poor decision would carry.  I wanted my happiness guaranteed, and yet despite all my fears I said "yes."

My understanding of pain was so naive six years ago.

As I listened to the bubbly couple beside us, I thought
"Do you know how hard it will be?"
"Do you realize what you are doing?"

Then I looked across the table at my silent heartbroken husband.  I thought about the day we were married and how peaceful I felt as I stood beside him.  All of my worry and apprehension seemed to melt away when he held my hand in the temple.  I thought about all the times he drove hundreds of miles to work in cold and dusty and dirty conditions to provide a comfortable life for me.  I thought about the first time he held Jonah; how he radiated love instantly despite Jonah's complications.  I remembered the beautiful moments we shared together as a family; the walks up the canyon; Jonah's first time in a swimming pool; giggly chases around the living room couch.

When Jonah died, and I was waiting for Jordan at the hospital, I wondered what would happen to us.  Could our relationship survive something so devastating?  Would Jordan blame me for Jonah's death?  I could not bear the idea of losing Jonah and Jordan.  I wondered how we would ever recover from such sorrow.  But when Jordan arrived, and he realized Jonah was gone, I was overwhelmed by the love he showed to me.  There was no contention, no accusations, only pain and tears.   

All of this flooded my heart and mind as I ate my french fries, and I thought about this newly engaged couple.  I thought about how at one point in my life I may have been jealous of such a romantic story.  But instead I wondered if they understood how simple love can be.  It can be as simple as saying "I really love you, will you marry me?" It can be as simple as forgiveness and kindness.  It can be as simple as holding hands in the midst of intense pain.  Did they know they should be jealous of us?...a silent heartbroken fry-eating couple beside them.

Probably not.  But I knew.  I thought about the complicated package of beauty and joy and pain that arrived in my life when I said yes six years agoI would say yes again today.  I am so grateful that I was brave enough to walk into the unknown with Jordan.  How blessed we have been to learn to love in the simplest of ways.

Among the blessings of love there is hardly one more exquisite than the sense that in uniting the beloved life to ours we can watch over its happiness, bring comfort where hardship was, and over memories of privation and suffering open the sweetest fountains of joy.
George Eliot

Thursday, August 23, 2012

For Good

This summer has been unusually musical for us...well for me at least.  I have been immersed in the kindness of friends with artistic connections, and as a result I have seen more than my fair share of plays and concerts.  I say for me because I have, for the most part, charitably spared Jordan from the agony of attending the theater.

The first year Jordan and I were married I was finishing my graduate degree and working with the Utah Shakespearean Festival.  As a perk I got a few free tickets to the festival each semester.  One summer evening when my parents were in town I thought it would be fun to see a play.  I should have been more selective.  We saw Johnny Guitar, a campy western musical with singing cowboys and melodramatic showdowns.  Honestly, Jordan has never been the same.  Every time a pair of theatrical tickets comes our way I see the fear in his eyes and sense the flashbacks of dancing cowboys joined in song. His relief is visible when I say "I'll call a friend."  Shortly after the Johnny Guitar incident I realized that musical theater wasn't our thing.  Hiking is our thing.  Going to thrift stores is our thing.  Eating delicious cheese is our thing.

Anyway, I have seen a lot of great plays this summer and been reminded why I love the theater.  When I was at BYU, studying humanities, a professor told me that we were really studying the good, the true, and the beautiful.  I feel like my year of heartbreak has made the good, the true and the beautiful even more poignant to me, and as a result I have cried at some point in almost every performance I have seen this summer.

I know it is super cheesy, but I secretly cried into my program as Mother Superior told Maria to "climb every mountain."  I wiped a single tear from my cheek when Eliza Doolittle could have danced all night.  I choked back tears when the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sang "He Has the Whole World in His Hands," because I really believe that He does.

The only performance I didn't cry in was Phantom of the Opera, where I felt like screaming at the star-crossed lovers, "You don't even know each other!!!"

My musical summer ended last Saturday when I saw Wicked with Jordan's mom.  I didn't know much about the play before we went.  I could have spouted off a few impressions: witches, green, Oz, etc..  All I knew was that other people - musical theater people - love it.  I heard a few song snippets out of context, and didn't really expect the whole experience to live up to the hype.  But it did, and I discovered that I really loved the whole thing.

I loved the message and the music and the humor.  But most of all I was moved to body-shaking sobs when I heard the song "For Good."  The lyrics really struck me...

It well may be  
That we will never meet again 
In this lifetime  
So let me say before we part  
So much of me 
Is made from what I learned from you  
You'll be with me 
Like a handprint on my heart

I couldn't help but think about Jonah.  About how his short life has shaped me and changed me for good.  I know that I am better because I had the opportunity to be his mother. I am also better because I have experienced the excruciating pain of losing him.  There was so much that was good, and true, and beautiful in that song.  I left feeling so grateful that I have been changed for the better by the unique life of my sweet Jonah.

And...I was grateful that it was better than Johnny Guitar!  Thanks to Sara K., Sara S., Melanie, Mike and Dave, and Logan and Linda for giving me so many opportunities to cry this summer.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Black-eyed Susan

Ten months without Jonah came and went without a single written word from me.  The pace of my mind has slowed dramatically.  I used to have so much to say, and now my mind seems to be resting and recuperating.  I hope that is normal and natural.  Sometimes I wonder if I'm repressing something; if I have created some sort of impenetrable emotional dam.  I once described grief as a river, full of rapids and eddies.  Now it feels like I have reached a vast reservoir, an expanse of flat water where I can drift for awhile.  Honestly, it is a nice change.

I have noticed this month that I am considerably less philosophical and much more nostalgic. The subtle changes of fall are reminding me of my final weeks with Jonah. 

This time last year Jonah had mastered the art of walking...and running.  He was always a busy boy and curious beyond belief.  But when he started walking he was unstoppable.  I felt so content (and exhausted) as I spent my days chasing him, and climbing to the highest parts of the playground. 

One day in particular keeps coming to my mind. My parents have a sinuous walkway that leads to mustardy-yellow front door.  I sat at the top of the winding cement ramp and watched Jonah tip and toddle down the path through a forest of Black-eyed Susans.  He loved to turn and look at me.  The pride of his accomplishment radiated from him.  He would pause every once and awhile and wait for me to chase him the rest of the way.  I remember his sweet giggle; his blue eyes;  his curious smile and adorable dimples.  My arms can almost feel the motion of catching his little body, and twirling him in the air.  I remember the soft warm light of a fall afternoon, and how grateful I felt. 

My parents Black-eyed Susans are in full bloom right now.  They have infiltrated every available inch of soil.  When I walk up that winding walkway, through the maze of yellow flowers, I am reminded of my beautiful boy, his rambunctious spirit, and how blessed I was to spend my days with him.