Sunday, May 22, 2016

Another clogging season in the books (also soccer is done).

Last night was the final performance this season for Blake and Aubrey with their clogging. It was Aubrey's third year performing and Blake's first. Blake loved it and Lisa was so happy to have a son who enjoyed clogging. Aubrey is Lisa's little clone when it comes to clogging. Aubrey is always practicing her dance moves wherever she is. Whether in her room, in the shower, at the store, everywhere.
They both did wonderful this year at their competitions and won many awards. Last weekend was the nationals competition at Lagoon. When Aubrey's team performed their dance it was wonderful how you could feel Lisa was there smiling down on Aubrey. It brought me to tears (along with many other clogging moms who recognized it as well).

We also finally finished another soccer season. I didn't get very many photos because we had all 4 kids playing and that often meant 3-4 kids playing at the same time, so I was bouncing around from field to field. A big thanks to my parents for making the trek up twice a week to help me out with those soccer nights.

For Aubrey's final game her teammates and their moms got some flowers and a stuffed bear for Aubrey to show her how much they loved her and were there for her. The kids missed their two previous games because of Lisa's funeral and then when we left for Lake Powell. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Lake Powell fishing trip

After Lisa's funeral last Saturday, I decided to take the kids on a fishing trip to Lake Powell that was focused on them in an effort to help them cope with the loss of their mom. I had been in contact with Wayne Gustaveson, the head of the Utah DWR at Lake Powell that manages the fisheries there. He offered to meet up with us on Monday and take us out on the lake and show us how to catch striped bass.

We pulled the boat down to Page, Arizona and went to Antelope Point marina where we were able to stay on the houseboat of a friend for a few days. We kept the houseboat at the marina the whole time but would go out on the lake in my little boat. 
We met up with Wayne at 11:00 on Monday to go do some fishing. He was incredibly generous to take time out of his day to teach us how to catch some stripers. I had never been striper fishing and was so confused as to where to even begin.  We first started out by the intake for the power plant. We were using anchovies on jig heads and were fishing at about 20-30 feet deep. Tucker caught one striper, but the action was really slow so we went up lake a little further to a little inlet. We caught a couple more, but still not much going on.

Then Wayne took us up Navajo canyon to try another spot. He had mentioned how that week at about 1:00 in the afternoon the fish started really biting, and that seemed to be the case again because right around 1:00 we started catching the stripers like crazy.

At one point Aubrey and Tucker caught a striper at the same time. I didn't have time to unhook each fish so I just netted them both. There were times that three of the kids would all have a fish on at the same time.

We kept drifting over the point just past the double islands. Each time we would drift past the point we would catch fish. It was fast action fishing. I never had the chance to fish because I was too busy baiting hooks, unhooking fish, untangling lines, etc. That's ok though because this trip was for the kids. And as you can see from the photos, they were in heaven.

In all we caught over 30 fish on Monday. Wayne even filleted up some of them for us to take home. We cooked them up for dinner tonight and they were pretty tasty.

On Tuesday morning I took the kids out to Horse Shoe bend for a little hike. The views there are pretty spectacular. They enjoyed the hike and the views.

After lunch I took the kids out fishing again and headed back to that same productive point up Navajo canyon.

The fishing was very good again. In about two hours time we caught around 20 more fish. Between the two days each kid caught at least 12 stripers.

I ended up calling it a day for fishing because I was tired of baiting so many hooks and untangling so many lines. I then took the kids down Navajo canyon to the big sand hill and let the kids run around and catch lizards.

Then I drove up lake to show them some of the spectacular scenery. It had been about 20 years since I had last gone down to the south end of the lake and I had forgotten how beautiful the mesas, buttes, and vistas are. It was also crazy how at 4:00 in the afternoon Padre Bay was smooth as could be. I was dying to water ski it, but I didn't have anyone with me that could drive the boat. Now my goal this summer is to teach Tucker how to drive the boat and pick me up while water skiing so that I can still water ski while out on the lake with the kids.

This picture is of Dominquez Butte.

This is Gunsight Butte.

And in the middle of this photo is the cookie jar.

It was a great trip for the kids. While I did have fun too, I think I need a solo trip away from everything where I can just relax and decompress.

The kids are still doing great at adjusting to life without mom. They are rock stars. I think there are three reasons why they are handling things so well. One is because of how open Lisa and I were with them throughout the entire process. We talked about death openly and discussed it in a way that it wasn't scary. Easter Sunday really helped us to be able to explain the resurrection to the kids as well. They now firmly understand that even though mom's body is buried at the cemetery, her spirit still lives on. And they are excited that she is in heaven and we will see her again someday. Another reason I think the kids are doing so well with everything is because of how long the whole ordeal took. They had ample time to process everything as it was unfolding. The third, and biggest, reason why they are doing so well is because we have been blessed with a very heavy dosage of the Spirit in our home. We have felt the peace and comfort that come from the Holy Ghost and this has helped to ease the pain.

I have my good days and my bad days. Some days I am heart broken that I no longer have Lisa by my side, I feel frustrated about being a single father of four young kids, I have a tendency to feel sorry for myself, and most of all I really miss talking with Lisa. It's hard to lose your confidant and companion. Thankfully the bad days are outnumbered by the good days though. I have some good days where I can distinctly feel that Lisa is very happy right now. It brings me peace to feel that she is happy. I also am relieved that she is out of pain and no longer battling that difficult fight with cancer. It was so exhausting and difficult to see her deteriorate so much over those final few months. I know she's in a better place and will still be allowed to help raise our kids from the other side of the vail.

I am mostly just trying to trust in the Lord that he won't abandon me, that he'll keep sustaining me and helping me go on, and all of this heartache will serve as a refiner's fire and help me become a much better individual. It reminds me of what Elder Hallstrom said at conference, "Recently, I was in a meeting with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. In teaching the principle that mortal life can be agonizing but our hardships have eternal purpose- even if we do not understand it at the time- Elder Holland said, 'You can have what you want, or you can have something better.'"

Whenever I start to feel sorry for myself and think of how unfair this all is, I find comfort in the words from Elder Renlund that he spoke at conference. "The sacrament truly helps us know our Savior. It reminds us of His innocent suffering. If life were truly fair, you and I would never be able to stand clean before God. In this respect, I am grateful that life is not fair.
"At the same time, I can emphatically state that because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, ultimately, in the eternal scheme of things, there will be no unfairness. All that is unfair about our life can be made right. Our present circumstances may not change, but through God's compassion, kindness, and love, we will all receive more than we deserve, more than we can ever earn, and more than we can ever hope for. We are promised that 'God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are all passed away."

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My talk at Lisa's funeral

I should have had Ken play after I gave my talk. It's going to be hard to follow that up. I didn't want to speak at Lisa's funeral because of what a daunting task it is, but she asked me to speak. A couple of months ago when I wrote my talk I thought I'd be ok, but now that I'm standing up here, I kind of wish Lisa hadn't asked me to speak. This is tough.

When Lisa was going through treatment for her first tumor, she came to a realization that the cancer was eventually going to take her life. When she accepted this reality she began to plan out her funeral and imagine how it would all go down. During her moments of reflection she realized that I didn't own a dress suit. I had worn out my previous suit some years before and hadn't ever gone to purchase a new one. Well, the thought of me showing up to her funeral without a suit really bothered Lisa. She told me, "I do not want you showing up to my funeral without a suit!" And she was very serious. I didn't care as much she did that I didn't have a suit. In fact, it reminded me of a favorite t-shirt my dad had when I was a kid. It said, "The only suit I own is a wetsuit".  Lisa wasn't about to let me show up in my wet suit, so I went and purchased a nice, new suit. So, here I am Lisa. I did as you wished and showed up to your funeral in a suit.

Lisa wanted her funeral to be a celebration of her life and not a somber event. We firmly believe that Lisa is in a better place, is happy, and that we will be together again, so I will try and contain my tears and the heartache I feel, and instead will focus on what I loved so much about her.  First of all, we shouldn't feel bad for Lisa, but rather we should be envious of her. We should all strive to endure to the end as she did so that we can say as the Apostle Paul did in 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” So I will try not to feel bad for Lisa’s passing, but instead will be envious of her graduating life with honors by keeping the faith. Because she did graduate with honors, and she did keep the faith right up through the end.

For those that aren’t familiar with how Lisa and I met, it was truly magical. There was definitely a whole lot of divine intervention involved that steered us towards each other. I often joke that she needed to be taken out of her comfort zone and needed to lower her standards for me to even have a shot at going on a date with her. Even though we grew up five minutes from each other in Sandy, Utah we met and fell in love in Chicago in the summer of 2002 while working summer jobs. It was such a fantastic place to date. I still remember the first moment I saw her. She was wearing a knee length black dress with a gold belt. Her gorgeous red hair seemed to glow. Needless to say I was smitten. We began dating and enjoying our time in Chicago, and then we continued  to date as we returned to school at BYU that fall and eventually got engaged and were sealed for time and all eternity in the Salt Lake temple on April 25th, 2003. We had an amazing life together. It was full of adventure, laughter, and fun. Even when we first got word in January of 2012 of her first brain tumor, we still pressed forward living life to the fullest.

A famous ESPN commentator Stuart Scott died last year after a long battle with cancer. When he received an award the year before, he said something in his speech that defined Lisa’s life after her first cancer diagnosis. Lisa loved this quote and lived it to the fullest. Stuart Scott said, “When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live. So live. Live. Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight, lay down and rest and let somebody else fight for you.”

I am here to say that Lisa absolutely beat cancer. She beat cancer in three ways. (hold up fingers) 1- by how she lived, 2- why she lived, and 3- the manner in which she lived. Let’s talk about how she lived first. Even in her worst moments of suffering as she was undergoing her chemo and radiation treatments, she fought. She always had a smile on her face. She always had kind words of hope and inspiration. Also, Lisa accomplished many more things after her first tumor diagnosis in 2012 than many people accomplish in a lifetime. She wasn’t going to let cancer stop her from completing her bucket list. Some items on that bucket list include:
Paragliding, running a full marathon, riding a 100 mile bike race, getting her concealed weapons permit, passing her hunter’s safety course with our son Tucker, she went elk hunting (even helped pack the elk out), visited Hawaii and climbed to the top of Diamond Head, went surfing, went to Aruba, went deep sea fishing in Cabo San Lucas and reeled in her own Amber Jacks, mountain biked the slick rock trail in Moab, maintained a nearly monthly attendance at the temple, competed with an adult clogging group, walked on a frozen lake, potty trained the last of our kids (yes, that was a huge milestone for her), climbed to the top of the Mayan temple in Coba, Mexico with our kids, took the kids to Disney World, and took our family to Lake Powell. Heck, Lisa even got up on her water ski and took a lap around the local lake while she was in the middle of chemotherapy last year. That is how you live and beat cancer.

The second way in which she beat cancer was why she lived. Lisa lived for her family and friends. She didn’t merely live for herself, but rather for those around her. She loved our four kids so much. She loved to be with them, teach them, laugh with them, and go on adventures with them.  Instead of giving up on life, she cherished her short time that was left. We always knew it was a matter of when her tumors returned, not if. Knowing this gave Lisa purpose in her final years. She knew that time was very precious, so rather than wallow in misery she took advantage of that precious time and lived for her family and friends. She was an amazing wife and mother.

The third way that she beat cancer was the manner in which she lived. Lisa had a deep love for the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. The teachings of Jesus Christ allowed her to maintain an eternal perspective throughout all of her trials. She lived a very Christ-like life of service and love and kept her eye on the eternities throughout all of it.  In Mormonism, we believe that this mortal life is just a mere blink of the eye in the eternities. We believe that this life is a time for growth and development, and as such should be cherished and taken advantage of. When you die, that is not the end. It is just the beginning of another phase where families can be together forever. Knowing this allowed her to avoid falling into the trap of asking “why me” or of feeling sorry for herself. She can hold her head high knowing that she endured to the end with a positive attitude and that she kept the faith.
Keeping that faith isn’t without its earthly rewards though. It’s not just the eternal rewards that we have been promised for being faithful, but there are ones we can enjoy here and now as well. Throughout her battle we would turn to God in search of peace and comfort. We yearned for strength to bare the burdens we had been given, and thankfully the Lord did give us that peace and strength that we asked for. I remember distinctly a temple visit in February of 2015 the night after we heard the diagnosis of her second brain tumor. She and I visited the Provo Temple the very next night seeking peace and comfort from the Holy Ghost. Walking out of the temple provided us with a beautiful view to the west of Utah Lake. The temple grounds were immaculate. As we walked back to our car hand in hand, we were overcome with a distinct sensation of peace and comfort that only comes from God. We had the feeling that everything was going to be alright. We didn’t know if that meant she would live or die, but we knew we were in the Lord’s hands and that He was in charge. And there is no better person to put your trust in.

I don’t want to end in tears, so let me share some incredibly funny stories about Lisa over her final weeks. For some inexplicable reason, around the middle of February Lisa began craving Taco Bell all the time. She talked about it several times every day. It was so strange because she had never been like that before, but suddenly it was all she could think about. She wanted Taco Bell for every meal.  I would get her the 99 cent cheesy nachos and she would smile from ear to ear like a little girl on Christmas morning. She was in love with it and it made her so happy. The Taco Bell corporate social media department got word of it and sent her a care package with some Taco Bell paraphernalia. It was an amazing gesture on their part and she absolutely loved it.

When her cravings first started, I put her to bed one evening and kissed her goodnight and told her I was about to go downstairs and exercise. She kissed me back and said, “ok, as long as you don’t go to Taco Bell without me.” Ok, I’ll try and refrain babe!

One day at dinner time she got really serious, looked me in the eye and said, “I don’t want to be buried at a Taco Bell. I still love their cheesy sauce, but I think I would rather be buried in a cemetery.” That was a big relief for me. Trying to figure out how I was going to sneak her coffin in to a Taco Bell without getting arrested was proving to be problematic.

Another evening we were alone in our room and I was catching her up with everything that had happened that day. She stopped me right in the middle of one of my sentences and said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear a word you just said. I was just thinking about Taco Bell.” Apparently her deep love for me took a back seat to her love for the gooey goodness from Taco Bell.

When my sister Kristin and her husband Chris announced the birth of their newly adopted daughter, Lisa was talking about her cheesy sauce from Taco Bell and said to me, “I guess now I’m going to have to start sharing it with the baby, dipping her binky in it.”

I am going to miss her dearly and wish this weren't the path we had to walk, but I trust in the Lord. I'm going to miss how incredibly funny Lisa was. I'm going to miss sharing all of my thoughts, worries, and dreams with her. She had a heart of gold and a huge desire for adventure. We had so much fun together. She was also incredibly selfless when it came to her family and she was a great ambassador of Christ. It is my testimony that our Savior Jesus Christ died and resurrected for us all, and that through his atoning sacrifice we can all overcome death and be together again. I love you Lisa and will see you again!

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.