Friday, October 30, 2015

Sunshine and Shadows

I knew this past week was going to be a pretty tough week with Stacey's funeral coming up and I wasn't sure how I was going to survive it.  Monday started out the week with my birthday and for the first time in over 35 years, I wasn't able to talk to Stacey.  That was tough, knowing all day that I wouldn't be hearing from her.
On Wednesday I went to see my therapist because I knew I was going to need help surviving this week.  She asked me what is was that I needed.  I told her that with Stacey I was always happy to be in her shadow, to be in the background and just watch as the rest of the world noticed her and not me.  I realized that for once, I wanted to be noticed, I wanted people to realize that I was important to her.  I wasn't sure how something like that would happen as I really didn't think most of the people in her life had ever really noticed me.  Then at the Visitation when Stacey's sister-in-law, Laurie, noticed us and spent time talking with us, as well as Stacey's two brothers, that made me feel recognized as a part of Stacey's life.  Stacey's daughter, Taylor, went out of her way to make sure I knew about the funeral which meant so much to me!  But, it was when I saw Stacey's mom (she called me "my Renae"), that it hit me, that the important people in Stacey's life already knew that I was important to her (and them as well, I realized) and that was all the acknowledgement that I needed.
My therapist had suggested that I take something with me to focus on, that would help me remember to feel and not close up.  I chose a simple elastic bracelet that has a bead that says "breathe" on it (as you know, that is my word).  When I first put it on before flying to Utah, it was snug and tight on my wrist.  By the end of the weekend it was crazy loose as I had rubbed and twisted it so much that I pretty much destroyed it.  But it served its purpose!
Jenny, Brooke, me & my sister, Corinne
I really have to thank a few people that really helped me survive Stacey's funeral.  My cousin Karen, who let me stay with her and is truly a balm to my soul.  My friend Jenny, who drove me to the visitation and funeral.  I did my best to feel my feelings, to let them flow, but at the end, the sadness was coming faster and harder than I could control and I was trying to hold most of my feelings in when suddenly I found myself unable to breathe.  Jenny got me out of the church where I could cry freely and pull myself back together.  Her support was immeasurable.  My sister Corinne, who showed up to the funeral without my even asking her to be there for me, took care of me the rest of the day.  I had always been the caretaker in our family, but I haven't been strong enough to do it for years and I definitely wasn't strong enough to take care of myself during this funeral and she was really there for me.  I will always be so grateful for her loving care that day!
As we were at the cemetery, I was watching everyone after the ceremony talking and hugging.  The sun was shining on Stacey's coffin (they did say during her funeral that her color was sunshine, which, to me, was proof right there) and I was standing in the shade of a big tree.  I thought, here I am, in her shadow again, and I am okay with that.  I stood by myself for a long time, just feeling the cool breeze, watching all the people that loved her stay near her, unwilling to leave her.  Her mom came up and hugged me and I told her how I was just standing in the background, in her shadow again and how okay I was with that.  She said, "weren't we all," which made us both smile.  How you can feel peace in a moment like that I will never understand, but I did.  I knew I had to say goodbye and leave, but I didn't want to.  I cried as my sister finally took my hand and lead me away.
I felt like I was saying goodbye, but Stacey knew otherwise.  She showed me that she cared in a very simple way.  During the funeral her parents spoke about when she was 3 and how they had used a hair dryer on her.  This was one of the old style with the head piece that had a hose coming out of the side and connected to the hair dryer machine.  It was such a cute story and made everyone smile!  During the luncheon afterwards, I brought out some pictures and notes from Stacey that I took to Utah with me.  I was sitting with her sisters-in-law and we were looking through everything when we saw a card that she had sent to me on my 35th birthday (27 years ago) with a picture on it that stopped us in our tracks.  On this card was a picture of one of those old hair dryers just like what her parents had talked about during the funeral.  We couldn't believe it.  Her sister-in-law showed it to her parents as well as the rest of her family and they too were surprised (the picture above is me with her mom and that card).  Her parents hadn't planned on sharing that story, but they did.  I had wanted to bring something of Stacey with me and for whatever reason I grabbed the bag of our notes to each other.  Only Stacey would have known the connection of the story and the card.  Her simple message was beyond simple, I felt like she was telling me that I was still important to her, it also brought joy, peace, love and the knowledge that she is still nearby to all of us. 
I'm not sure that I found "closure" as people like to say, but I did share several days with those who love Stacey.  We shared her silliness together and felt the pain of her loss together.  Her family showed their strength and commitment to the knowledge of the Plan of Salvation and of being with her again.  They were all exhausted, but still genuinely loving and comforting to those who attended the celebrations of Stacey's life with them.  To them I wish to thank for sharing her and their lives with me, I will ever be so grateful that they were willing to let me be the tag-a-long in her life!  And to Stacey, most of all, thank you so much for letting me be your shadow, you will always be my sunshine!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Dust Off Your Faith

I love this, I had put it in my "Speaks to My Soul" file and just felt like this was a good day to remember this:

Focus an eternal light on your struggles by making time to use the tools he gave you.  Dust off your faith and move it to the top of your priority list.  Actively exercise it.  Doing so will bring you an inner peace and strength.  The positive power of the Atonement will buoy you up despite the turmoil, challenges and ravaged surroundings you find yourself in.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Just Be Happy

My best friend since high school was killed on October 3rd by a distracted driver while she and her husband were riding their bicycles.  They were just a few blocks from their home and though these pictures represent what happened to her, they are not what I want to remember.

I've had a hard time being able to face it and actually write about her being gone.  I couldn't stop the tears at all, my heart was broken and I didn't know what to do about it.  Her husband was in critical condition for quite awhile too which was tough for her children and the rest of her family and friends.  Gratefully, he is doing better.  After more than a week of complete sadness, I woke up Monday morning with Stacey in my head saying, "just be happy."  Which is something she has often said to me.

Stacey is just one of those joyful, happy people and she had a knack for sharing that joy and happiness.  So, I took her words in my head to heart so now every time I think of her, I am choosing to see her happy face (this picture with her husband that her sister-in-law shared is a perfect example) and hear her say, "Renae, just be happy."  I do know with all my heart that she IS happy where she is, I don't doubt that one bit.  I was just sad for those of us left behind, not to mention the shock of her leaving us at such a young age.

There have been some beautiful things shared and done on Stacey's behalf that I wanted to share too.  The local bike store created this beautiful "ghost bike" and left it where she was hit.  They also put a sign out at their store and organized a memorial bike ride.  Then the hospital where she worked for many, many years left beautiful ribbons on the trees on their grounds in remembrance of her.  There has been a Go Fund created to help pay for the costs and so much more.  

One of my friends expressed concerns of not being deserving to feel this devastated over Stacey's death as she wasn't as close to her as she used to be.  I told her that anyone who was touched by Stacey's life deserves to feel devastated.  If she shared her beautiful smile with you, you should feel the loss of not being able to see it again.  But, also feel blessed to have been on the receiving end of that smile, I know that I am.  Until I see you again Stacey, I will do my very best to just be happy, I love you!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Dear Stacey

How do you write about something you desperately don't want to be true?  I guess you pretend it isn't and write as if it isn't.  So I'm choosing to do just that . . .

Dear Stacey,

Remember when we were talking about me becoming a grandma and you were jealous that I was going to be one first?  Well, here I am a grandma now, it is so weird to think that we could be old enough to become grandparents!  Doesn't it just seem like yesterday that we were cruising in the green valiant by SK's house when the car died and we were so embarrassed!

When I think about our friendship I wonder sometimes what it is that you saw in me as a friend.  I know what I saw in you, I have never laughed in my life like I laugh when I am with you.  I just laugh thinking about our sleepovers and how you would laugh in your sleep and in the morning would have the funniest dreams to tell me about!

I started singing a silly song to my new grandson the other day, by the way, he looks so much like Adam it is just crazy, anyway, I was making up words as I went along which made me laugh thinking about all those songs we would make up and sing, how about singing "taking the long way home" when we were taking the shortcut home through the tennis courts from high school.  I can't even sing the eight apples and bananas song without thinking of you and just laughing!

We had the most gorgeous foggy morning the other day.  Oh gosh, remember how much we loved to drive around in the fog!  We even came up with our own analogy about life and how we can only see a little at a time like you can only see one line in the road at a time, but that you move forward on faith that the next line will be there and that it is ok to not see everything ahead of you all at once.  Of course, there was that one day after a basketball game when we were driving in the fog and a bunch of guys from school drove past us honking and waving only for us to come across them further down the road with them pulled over and all in a line mooning us, oh my gosh, we laughed so hard!

Speaking of driving, not too long ago I saw a Bronco which reminded me of your Conorb.  We had so much fun in that thing!  I was laughing and thinking about how when we would drop Jenny off at her house and you would back up into someone else's driveway, then pull forward into someone else's and so on and so on until you were just driving us in circles.  We would be laughing so hard, so dumb, but we thought it was hilarious!  Oh my gosh us and cars, so funny, besides the bronco later you had the red bug.  Do you remember the day when we were driving around and a spider on a web dropped down between us in the middle of your car.  You couldn't stop fast enough and we both flew out of the car.  I got it out before you would even consider getting close to the car again.  Then there were my cars, the green valiant that seemed to die on us almost every time we turned left, the dark green valiant that had a "three in a tree" but that would jam in gear and we'd have to open the hood and smack it into the next gear, then that crazy Javelin that I drove for the first time around the corner to your house in first gear so you could teach me how to change the gears because I didn't know how, and finally the Fart, yes it was a Fiat, but we called it the Fart.  I'm pretty sure you named it that, I think after the first time we drove it around with someone in the back seat because it kept bouncing under the extra weight and making farting noises.  Way too funny, right?!

 Now speaking of names, you know how serious I am and how it is hard for me to be silly, but I wanted to come up with a fun, ridiculous name for a user name for a new game app I got.  It was so stupid that it was hard for me to come up with something, then I thought about how you always called me "Raw Nae Cros Bay" and I used that to come up with a variation of my own for the game, you should be so proud of me.  You do inspire me to reach out for my silliness and joy.  I know before I was diagnosed with depression you had a hard time understanding why I was so down, I guess I didn't really understand either.  You said, "just be happy."  It has always been easier for you to choose joy and I love that about you!

Oh my gosh, do you remember that trip to Lake Powell that your parents let me go on with you?  I got so burnt and your mom made me stand in the water while the rest of you were eating.  She kept yelling at me to stay there and let the water take the heat out of the burn.  I did tan out of that though, I think the first time ever in my life that I was tan.  Remember how we pretended that your dad was Clint Eastwood when were at the docks getting gas, we ran up to him asking for his autograph, he wasn't too happy about that one, but, of course, we thought it was hilarious.  Then there was our trek out to the bushes with the port-a-potty, enough said about that one!

Speaking of your dad, remember that day that we were all in the kitchen talking about something and he said, "I guess I should have that talk with you about the birds and the bees."  And you said, "you don't have too, Renae told me everything."  I thought he was going to kill me!  I was taking human biology and we always did our homework together and, well, there you are.  No really, I love your dad.  I love your mom too, I loved it when we could get her laughing because she would laugh so hard she would cry and that was the best!  Like when we were all sitting in your basement watching your silly cross-eyed cat running around and crashing into the walls, couch, etc., that was so funny!

Did I ever tell you that my daughter reminds me of you.  She has the same happy, joyous and silly personality as you.  You know how you would always beep Tuffy's nose and then how you started beeping mine too, drove me crazy.  Then one day, my daughter beeped my nose and seriously I thought, "how did I have Stacey's baby?"  Thank you for being good to her and Adam every time we came to visit, they love being at your house too!

I don't think I told you, but I started working at the temple pretty cool right?!  Remember how much we loved to be on the grounds at the Provo Temple.  I always tell everyone that that is my temple, not only because my dad helped build it, or because I saw the beautiful bride room before it was dedicated and I promised myself I would be back, but also because we spent so much time up there.  We just felt so peaceful and loved when we were there, didn't we.  Maybe we couldn't go inside yet, but we just loved being on the grounds.  Except remember that time we were in our sweats and were barefoot and we were sitting on the grass that was kind of behind the bushes on the hill in the back of the temple.  I think we talked for hours, then we realized that it was getting dark and it was really quiet.  We found ourselves locked inside the gates and no one around, yikes!  We finally found a guard to let us out, but that look he gave us with our attire, oh my gosh, what were we thinking?!

My kids were talking about their computer classes they had in high school recently, I had to laugh, no such thing for us, was there.  But I did tell them about our typing class and how when we had free time at the end we would type notes to each other, they laughed.  I know you know that I still have all those notes, they are so funny to read, we were so weird!  Some of our made up words, poems, songs, etc. are written in those silly notes, there's no way I could ever throw them away!

Will you do one thing for me, will you thank Kevin for letting me be such a big part of your lives.  I laugh now and think, poor Kevin, I don't think he realized when he married you that he was getting both of us.  I didn't think about it until years later when I got married and moved away at how dumb I was in not realizing you guys needed your time together.  You know me, if you asked, I was there and loved every minute of it.  Like our trip to Vegas together, so funny now when I think about it.  I just loved hanging out with you and Kevin was so nice to always let me be there.  I don't think he will ever realize how much his kindness meant to me.

Stace, you know you saved my life once, I think you remember it, when I had that really bad roommate and you, well, let's just say, sternly, reminded me of my worth and what I had to live for.  Thank you for that!  I will always be your biggest fan!  I loved going to your pageants, meets and more.  Attending events with you, definitely one of my most favorite things to do.  I'm not even sure other people in your life knew that I was there, because I was always so happy to just be there, stand back while you were in the limelight.  You know me, I'm happier in the background.  But, I think it is just in your nature to encourage others to step forward in their lives and claim the good things.  I think you always want more for me than I do myself.  So, another thing to thank you for! 

I could probably go on forever, but I'll stop for now, just remember that you promised to come visit me for a change and  I'm going to hold you to that.  I love you with all my heart!  See you soon!  Renae