Monday, May 29, 2017

The Gift of Life

Today I want to tell you a story about how my daughter's life was saved this week.  My 23-year-old daughter Heidi gets allergy shots on a weekly basis and has for about six months now.  Last Wednesday after receiving her weekly injection she started feeling sick as she was going out to her car.  Once in her car she turned the air on in hopes that it would help her feel better.  It didn't.  She realized that she was going to throw up so she turned her car off and got out just in time.  After she threw up she was having trouble breathing and passed out.  Though she did not realize it, she was having an anaphylactic reaction--the most severe of allergic reactions which can lead to death within minutes.  Luckily a woman had just pulled into a parking stall next to my daughter as all of this was happening.  She called 911 and ran to the nearest office for help.  By the time the paramedics got there my daughter was blue and having severe difficulty breathing.  After an epi-pen given by the doctor's office and three more given by the paramedics they were finally able to stabilize her and rush her to the hospital.  Two hours later she was able to go home.  Today, five days later she is fine.

What if that woman had not been there?  What if no one had seen her before it was too late?  This Memorial Day weekend would have been very different for my family.  This beautiful daughter has been married for 10 months to a wonderful young man that we adore.  They are set to close on the house they just build this next week.  What "could have been" is almost too painful to think about.  Our lives were very nearly turned completely upside down.

Once again I am given new perspective.  Last week I wrote about how I nearly lost my husband a few years ago and how I have tried never to take his presence in my life for granted since then.  Just one week later I have again been given new perspective of the gift of having this daughter in my life.  I cannot quit wanting to hug her.

I also have questions.  I have a sweet friend whose son was killed in a head-on collision this month.  He was only 21 years old.  Why was my child spared and hers was not?  I do not know the answer.  I only know that we need to cherish the ones we care about while we have got them.  Over the years I have had brushes with death and almost lost a small son (twice, the same child) my husband, and now this daughter.  My new goal is to love and appreciate the people around me more fully.  I don't want to look back with regrets at not having appreciated my time with someone I love while I had the chance.  It reminded me of the song "Live Like You Were Dying" by Tim McGraw.  In part, the song says:

He said
"I was in my early forties with a lot of life before me
And a moment came tat stopped me on a dime.
I spent most of the next days looking at the x-rays
Talkin' bout the options and talkin' 'bout sweet time."

I asked him, "When it sank in that this might really be the real end
How'd it hit you when you get that kind of news, man, what'd you do?"

He said
"I went skydiving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu,
And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying"
And he said, "Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying."

He said
"I was finally the husband that most the time I wasn't
And I became a friend a friend would like to have,
And all of a sudden going fishin' wasn't such an imposition
And I went three time that year I lost my dad.
I finally read the Good Book, and I took a good long hard look
At what I'd do if I could do it all again.

...Like tomorrow was a gift and you've got eternity
To think about what you'd do with it,
What could you do with it?
What did you do with it?
What would I do with it?

In the United States we celebrate Memorial Day in honor of those who have died serving our country.  It has also become a day to remember other loved ones who have died.  Today as we remember those we have lost, let us also appreciate those still with us, and give our very best to them while we have the chance.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Being Present and Aware

Have you ever had the experience of eating a food you really enjoyed and suddenly wondered where that last bite went?  Did you finish it or was it sitting somewhere still waiting to be eaten?  You realize that you must have eaten it without noticing, but you are not satisfied since you didn't remember eating it and didn't get to enjoy it, and so you get some more?  This has happened to me multiple times.  When I get distracted I find that I miss out on getting the full enjoyment out of whatever it is that I am experiencing.

This week I was sitting on the couch with my sweet three-year-old granddaughter watching a movie.  She crawled over and cuddled up on my lap.  I was talking to someone at the time, and though I was somewhat aware that she was there, I was not truly present and aware of her.  A few minutes later my conversation ended, allowing me to stop being distracted.  As I sat there with my sweet little one I noticed the connection between us.  I felt how safe and comfortable she was with me, and I with her.  I noticed how fresh and sweet she smelled, and how much I enjoyed this precious moment with her. How easily that time together could have slipped by unnoticed and unappreciated if I had continued talking or been engrossed in the movie. (As it happens I have seen this particular movie over, and over, and over at her request, so it was easy to not pay attention to it.)  All too soon she will be past the cuddling stage with grandma forever.  Our positive experiences here should be treasured. I was so glad I took the time to be present and aware and to enjoy her.

I used to take having my husband with me for granted.  Then unexpectedly one day he had a life-threatening situation and survived.  It happened so quickly.  He could have been gone in the blink of an eye.  It woke me up.  I felt that somehow I had been given a second chance to have him in my life.  Ever since then I try not take him for granted.  I have learned to appreciate his very presence in my world.  When I lay down at night I lay on his chest and listen to his heart beat, and I think about how glad that he is still with me.  I never did that before the accident.  I was not present and aware, but now I am, and my life feels richer and more fulfilled because of my awareness.

The art of truly becoming present and aware brings balance, and adds a richness and fulfillment to life that is very valuable.  In the Balance class that I teach I give each participant a chocolate Hershey's Kiss to eat while I tell them a story.  Because they are focused on my story they are distracted from focusing on what they are eating.  When the story ends I then give them a second chocolate Kiss and have them close their eyes and focus on the taste and how it feels in their mouth while they are eating it.  Without fail, my participants consistently report that the second Hershey's Kiss is much more enjoyable than the first.  Why is this?  They are present and aware of what they are experiencing.

Each of our lives can be more enriched and fulfilled by being more present and aware of our experiences.  It doesn't take any more time to do this in your day, and it makes life so much more enjoyable.  Don't gulp down your day without noticing.  Be present and enjoy all the good that surrounds you.

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Series of Miracles

It all started 18 years ago with a lady named Wendy.  Wendy was in the antiques business.  She would buy and sell antiques, and as part of her job she attended many estate sales.  Occasionally she would run across old photos or other family memorabilia.  She would always ask, “Is there no family for this?”  Usually the people holding the sale would agree that the family had overlooked the item(s) and they would be taken down from the sale.  One day Wendy attended an estate sale where she ran across a very old, very meticulous and detailed book of remembrance.  It was thickly loaded with pictures, names, stories, certificates and documents of many kinds.  The problem was it was in Dutch and Wendy could not read it.  “Is there no family for this?” she asked.  The people hosting the sale told her that the family had taken what they wanted and has instructed the rest to be sold.  Because Wendy could not bear to see such a family treasure be thrown away she bought the book and took it home.  She did not know anyone who spoke Dutch, but she had good intentions of finding someone connected to it.  The book was eventually put on the shelf where it stayed for the next ten years.

When Wendy’s family moved the book again resurfaced.  Wendy still could not part with it, and so she put it on a shelf in her new house and again forgot about it.  Eight or so years later as she was cleaning out her house she ran across the book again.  This time as she thumbed through its pictures, names and unknown stories she realized that there was a woman in her neighborhood who was from the Netherlands and spoke Dutch.  She took the book to this woman, whose name was Noortje.  Noortje could read the book very easily, and quickly found the names of a couple who had emigrated from the Netherlands to the United States many years ago.  Noortje took the names of the couple to her daughter who was familiar with the website FamilySearch to see if she could find this old couple anywhere on the website that would offer a connection to where this book belonged.  With the help of a young missionary at an LDS Family History Center this daughter was able to locate not only the names of this old couple on the website, but found an email in the Netherlands connected to their names.  This daughter had emailed people in her own line many times, and had only occasionally gotten a response, so although both she and her mother were very excited at having found the right family that the book belonged to, they were not overly hopeful of receiving a response from a living family member. 

To their complete surprise they received an email back within two days from a man named Rik.  He lived in the Netherlands.  He explained that his grandparents had immigrated to the United States in 1949 after World War II.  They had two daughters.  One came with them and one stayed in the Netherlands.  Sadly, his grandmother had died just three years after coming to the United States, followed by her husband 8 years after that.  All of their possessions fell to their daughter who had come to the United States with them.  She married and had children of her own.  She had been dead for 18 years, and what her children did not want had been sold at that very estate sale where Wendy had found the book. Because the family in the Netherlands and the family in the United States did not have much contact, they eventually lost track of each other.  Rik was one of 6 children born to the sister who stayed in the Netherlands.  He had few photos of his maternal grandparents, and knew little of their history, having been born after they came to the United States.  Rik was also the only member of his family who was actively interested in doing family history.  He was absolutely thrilled to hear from Noortje and her daughter, and was anxious to have the book they had described. 

Arrangements were made and the book shipped to Rik in the Netherlands as quickly as possible.  He was so excited that he sent pictures back to Noortje and her daughter of him opening the box and holding the precious book.  The book of remembrance had made it home at last to a place where it would be treasured.

As for the miracles surrounding this story, it was miraculous that the book was found by someone who would be willing to buy it and hold onto it for so many years. 

It was a miracle that Wendy happened to move into the neighborhood where Noortje lived who was fluent in both old Dutch and English and who had the interest and time to help with such a project. 

It was a miracle that Noortje’s daughter just happened to be very familiar with the very same family history program that Rik was using to document his family history. 

It is a miracle that the email address was posted, found and responded to. 

It was a miracle that Rik was able to receive such a priceless book back into his own family.  In his own words he said, “It was an emotional moment for me to hold the box in my hands and to open it and see all these photo's, letters and records. Most of the photo's I had never seen; I didn’t even know they existed, so you can imagine my excitement and happiness. We had some in our possession, but apparently my grandparents had almost all the pictures with their belongings when they emigrated. Everything, the pictures as well as the records are a great and invaluable completion of what we have over here.

For all intents and purposes this story ends here with a happy ending.  But one added miracle came when Noortje, who had immigrated to the U.S. in 1949 and had never been back to the Netherlands, decided to take a trip with her daughters to see the place where she had grown up, lived through World War II, and to meet her cousins that still lived in the Netherlands.  She had not been back in 67 years.  The timing of this once-in-a-lifetime trip just happened to take place 10 months after the book had been returned to Rik.  Because of Rik’s deep appreciation for the efforts exerted to find and return the book to him he traveled 3 hours on the train and on foot to meet Noortje and her daughters.  They spent a memorable afternoon together, and then he traveled the 3 hours home again. 


Daughter Shiree, Rik, Noortje