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.


Sarah said...

I am SO glad you shared your talk. I loved it. I was so sad when I couldn't make it to the funeral (my son was being baptized at the same time). I did come to the viewing, but I was talking to Sue the whole time and when I was done you were busy talking to someone else. I would have liked to meet you, you remind me of my husband so much and when Lisa came to visit me in Virginia (about 5 years ago) we laughed at our husband's similarities and the funny things they said while we were chatting at breakfast. Anyway, your family will always be in my heart! I just adored Lisa and can't wait to see her again someday.

Laurel said...

Beautiful Cody, thanks for sharing with those of us who were not at the service.