Sunday, November 11, 2018

Beautiful things

The past couple of days have been quite the bouquet of emotions. Our front door has been a revolving door with people coming and going all day long, staying only for a brief hug or to drop off a meal, or staying to chat for hours and clean our microwave. It's been exhausting (especially so for Reid) to tell the story over and over again but at the same time it's been healing (she said sagely after two days of grieving (I'm sure more grief is coming)).

We probably had a hundred people stop by yesterday (and that's no exaggeration).

My favourite vignettes from the past couple of days are:

1) Richard (Andrew's cousin) and Diana drove here all the way from Washington with all their kids. They were hoping to arrive in time to say goodbye to Karen, but didn't make it in time. It was so great to have them come out, though. Rachel has been enjoying playing video games and board games with Michael and Benjamin has been paling around with James. Diana is so wonderful about jumping in and getting to work. She's helped put dishes away, loaded the dishwasher, cleaned our microwave, and did so many other things to just help take care of things.

2) Diana's local siblings all stopped in yesterday as well. The Gillespie clan and the Heiss clan go way back. The kids grew up running between those two houses. The families did so many things together: Disneyland once and Grover several times. It was on one of those Grover trips that Sister Gillespie passed away suddenly, so the Gillespie children were in a unique position to help the Heiss children work through the complicated emotions of losing a parent at a (relatively) young age. They had us laughing and crying and it was just so great to experience that dichotomy of emotions as we remembered both mothers.

3) That evening a neighbour came by with dinner for us—she'd prepared Hawaiian haystacks. Just before she rang the doorbell to deliver the meal, Reid got a message from one of the kids from his BYU ward. It was a post about how Karen was so wonderful about remembering everyone (and their birthday and their favourite things) and how she (the student) "made Hawaiian Haystacks [for dinner], my favorite dish that Sis. Heiss made. She made it frequently, so I think it was one of her favorites as well." It was kind of special to have Hawaiian haystacks dropped off for our dinner as well so I wrote to Sister Walton to tell her thank you and to share that post with her.

She said that on Thursday the school she works at served Hawaiian haystacks, which she hadn't really had before (she's from France), but she was curious about the dish and after talking with her family about it she decided they would try to make it on Friday so she just looked up a highly rated recipe and made her first attempt. She was nervous to drop by an untested dish and almost prepared one of her tried-and-true recipe for us instead "but something inside me was adamant that was what was going to be for dinner for everybody. I really think it is a tender mercy of the Lord reminding us that he is there and that he knows what you and your family are going through."

4) I was sitting on the couch nursing Alexander when there was a knock at the door. "Would you get that?" I asked Diana, thinking it would be my friend Gulnaz bringing dinner by. Diana gladly hopped up and answered the door and I heard a very familiar voice ask, "Is Nancy here?"

"CRYSTAL!?!" I said in shock. "Don't tell me you drove all the way down here just to see us!"

"I did," she said, bustling through the door laden with presents for the big kids and hand-me-downs for Alexander. "Jason doesn't have to work this weekend, so..."

She lives in Boise. That's a six hour drive!

I don't know what I did to deserve a friend like Crystal but I really hit the jackpot when I met her. She has carried me through crisis after crisis—she brought us a blanket when Rachel was born (and which hasn't ever been put away (I tucked Zoë in with it tonight)), she was my sounding board while Benjamin was in the NICU (she'd just gone through a more traumatic NICU experience with Cheetah six months before), she would send me packages in Durham when she thought I needed cheering up, and now here she was standing in my doorway, having travelled 400 miles, just to give me a hug and cry with me.

I'm not sure that I've ever quite been able to reciprocate her friendship, but she has taught me a lot about how to be a good friend (so hopefully some day I will be as good of a friend to her as she is to me).

We've had many wonderful experiences the past few days, assuring us that we'll be well cared for and that this was the Lord's will. It's been very a peaceful—sometimes joyful—couple of days.

That's not to say that there isn't sadness in our home (because I definitely started blubbering just talking to the hospice people about returning the supplies we didn't use) but it isn't what I thought it was going to be like.

I was walking down the street one day this week (I think after walking Benjamin to school (on a day when one sister had to be to school early and the other sister was sick and staying home, which meant he had no one else to accompany him to school)) and I passed the home of a family in our ward that lost their mother last year. I've passed that house several times since her passing and each time I felt a twinge of sadness. I didn't know her well, but we did what we could to serve their family. I signed up to bring them dinner one of our very first Sundays in the ward and we dropped off a gingerbread kit for their family to build last Thanksgiving, shortly before she died (they had asked the ward to help them think of family memories they could make while housebound). And then she died and her funeral was packed and I've had to pass their house every time I go to the school and I've always felt pity for them just thinking about the pain they had to go through.

So as I was walking by their house this week I thought, "Oh, dear. Now it's going to be our house that people walk by and pity. I don't want to be that house," and I started to build a little This is the House that Jack Built rhyme in my mind as I walked...

This is the house where death visited.

This is the person who used to live
Here in the house where death visited.

These are all the people who mourn 
The person who used to live
Here in the house where death visited.

But although I think it's probably going to get harder when things quiet down (because that's when it's hardest now—when things are quiet), we're still here and the earth is still spinning and it hasn't been so awful being the house where death visited.

We got "heart attacked" the other night and found our front door and garage door plastered with paper hearts, along with having dozens of paper hearts staked to our front lawn. This happened at the other house where death visited. I remember. And I wondered if it made a difference or if it was just a silly thing, but I can now report that it's a wonderful expression of love.

I guess that's part of the reason I'm not a very good friend sometimes. I worry too much about whether a nice thing I want to do will be well-received and then chicken out and do nothing at all.

I really need to remember to "never suppress a generous thought."

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Your friend Crystal inspires me. And I like your final thoughts about whether a generous gesture will be well received and how it hinders me too