Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A day for JOYce 2009

On September 28, 2007 my dear friend Joyce passed away. She and I had been friends since 2000 when we met our Freshman year at BYU-Idaho. We were neighbors our first year and roomates our second. Joyce and her twin sister Joan became great friends of mine and have stayed that way ever since.  In 2005 Joyce was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.  She faught her battle with cancer for a year and was blessed to have it go into remission. We were relieved. During that time, she was fortunate enough to become pregnant with a little boy. During her pregnancy her cancer came back and she resumed treatments throughout her pregnancy and delivered a beautiful healthy baby boy named Jacob on December 19, 2006.  It was 9 months later when the doctors realized that Joyce's cancer had taken over some of her major organs and there wasn't much they could do. Surrounded by her family and loved ones she passed away.

I think about Joyce alot.  Her death hit me hard, not only because she was my dear friend, but also because she was my same age and had a child 5 days older than my own.  I struggled with the fact that Jacob wouldn't grow up knowing the amazing person that is his mother. I know he is surrounded by a loving family who will not let him forget her, but as a mother I just wanted to hold him and tell him also.

I remember one experience about Joyce that I want to share. When we were roomates we had a goal to have apartment prayer and scripture study every morning. We would roll (literally) out of bed around 6am and congregate in the living room. We'd pray and read scriptures half awake half asleep and then be on our way either to the shower or back to bed.

I don't even remember what spawned this, maybe it was something she saw on a movie, (Joyce loved movies) but one day Joyce told me that when she woke up in the morning she was going to sit up and say as loud as she could, "I'M BACK!"--like "woohoo! I made it another day!". Of course the idea totally made me laugh and I completely forgot about it until the next morning when my alarm went off. A minute or two later I heard someone down the hall yell enthusiastically "I'M BACK!!!". I totally busted up laughing.

I don't want to forget Joyce. Her birthday is November 5th and I want to honor her life in some way so I invite you to join me in a day for JOYce. On this special day I invite you to celebrate the life you have been given. Wake up in the morning and yell out with gusto "I'M BACK!!!". Embrace every moment and savor the simple joys you get to experience everyday. Hold the people you love longer and tell them not only that you love them, but what you love about them. Let love flow and don't hold it back from anyone or anything. Hold your children. Squeeze them and tell them how much you love them and how proud you are of them.  Hold them a little longer and savor every second. Make a phone call or write a letter to someone you love. I challenge you to spread love like a wild fire this coming November 5th and simply love♥. Let the phone ring and the dishes sit in the sink and every other unimportant thing wait. If anything, do it for Joyce, and Jacob and Stu who will be together forever, but who may be missing the presence of their wife and mother a little bit more on that day.

♥♥For Joyce♥♥

Thursday, October 22, 2009


So one day several months back I was sitting in the McDonald’s Play Place in Bountiful happily eating my grilled chicken sandwich while I watched Lucy disappear and reappear from the gigantic play "thing". Not far from me was an older gentleman who was there with his brood of grand kids. I knew because while I was there he had a continuous stream of requests. "Grandpa can I get an ice cream cone?" as he would promptly pull out a one dollar bill and say "Sure. Here ya go", every time.

It wasn't long before we struck up a conversation which lasted about an hour. As long as the kids were happy we kept talking. His name was Art Nielsen and he had been a teacher and coach for over 40 years. He's currently in his 80's and substitute teaches 4 days a week in south Davis County and loves every second of it. It was so weird to me, but I felt such a connection with this 80 year old man. It was a little serendipitous and I couldn't help but feel at the right place at the right time.

The thing I learned about Art during our conversation was that the relationships in his life were the most important thing to him. And it wasn't just the relationship with his spouse or his children, but every relationship was important to him. He was full of stories about kids he'd been able to help over the years and I was amazed as I listened. What impressed me the most was that Art gave his complete trust to these kids he'd never met. He would work with them one on one, he would talk with their parents, he would listen, he would even loan them money if they asked for it. Art gave them something few teachers and adults ever give kids. He gave them trust. He told me that he couldn't control whether they trusted him, but he chose to place all the trust he had in them.

I recently read a book called Anatomy of Peace. The objective of the book is to teach us how to resolve conflict in our lives. One of the first lessons taught is how to identify whether we are seeing others as people or as objects. To put this in very basic terms, when we see someone as a person we acknowledge that that person has needs and feelings just like us. Where as when we see someone as an object, they don't have individual feelings or needs, but are just part of a group, social class or "type" of people. By labeling someone as an object, it strips them of any personal or individual feelings or characteristics. This can be applied on so many levels, but the lesson is always the same. We treat others differently when we see them as people instead of objects. The book goes on to explain how these views of others effect our relationships and teaches how to over come these challenges we all face.

I have to say, it feels like it's been a long time since I felt sadness about the end of my marriage. I felt I had come to accept that what was done was done and I needed to focus on the future. Reading that book brought back a pain I hadn't felt in a long time. It's that pain that comes when we realize that we have seen those we love as objects and not as human beings. I found myself wishing I could go back and change the past, that I could have reacted differently in certain situations or just been a better person over all. The problem with pain is that, as uncomfortable as it may be, I believe it's a catalyst for changes we must make.

I got to see Art recently. He spoke in a fireside and as I listened to his stories again, I was so impressed by him. It's so hard to explain, but when I look at Art, I see someone who sees no objects, but only the people he is surrounded by. He would give you his time, his money and his love if you asked for it, and probably the same even if you didn't ask for it. The love from this man flows like a river. Unrestrained. I want to be like that. I don't know how, because I'm hopelessly flawed and selfish, but I want to be like Art. God willing. Someday.