about what hurts

write hard and clear

There is a part of me that is sad most all of the time. It doesn’t always physically hurt, and it doesn’t always make me cry, but that part of my heart is always, always sad.

I think about my dad 450 times a day, and depending on the moment, I can’t decide if heaven is a happy or sad place. I believe it’s beautiful and perfect in almost every way except for the separation between those who are there, and those who are here. I was brought up believing that the person we are on earth is the same person we are when we die, so even if our spirit is perfected, we no longer feel physical pain, and we are with God and surrounded by golden flowers and pink, sparkling trees, the warmest of suns with the most vibrant sunsets in colors we can’t even imagine, I think there would be a part of us that is sad there, too, because we’d miss the people we love.

Two nights ago, Travis and I sat on one end of an hour and a half phone call with my family and one of the men who was with my dad when he died. We listened via speaker as he told all the details from the beginning when they met at a mall to drive to Logan, to the end, when he found himself waking up the next morning having one of the hardest days of his life.

The middle part of the conversation – the part that detailed the tragedy – was obviously the hardest to hear. There were images I could never imagine before. It was good for me to hear them, but it was also tragic. I ended up not sleeping that night, and was tossing and turning as this nightmare we’re in seemed fresh again. It’s really hard to understand how or why, but if I keep asking myself that, I’m bound to go crazy.

The truth is, though, I don’t ask myself the hows or whys very often. At some level I understand that life can just be really horrible sometimes and everyone has their struggles – this just happens to be mine and my family’s. It’s one of those things you think happens to other people until it happens to you, and then you realize you’re just as vulnerable. For me, that scares me the most. I wonder what’s next. It seems like if this can happen, anything can happen.

That’s not to say I haven’t felt blessed in many ways since the tragedy. There are actually countless ways. I will never, ever know how many people have prayed for my family. I will never know everyone who came to the funeral. Following those first few days, we all survived Christmas somehow, and it was actually fun and lovely at times. I have a really good family – that is the biggest blessing – and I have countless friends who love me. I try to feel my dad in nature, and I can tell you I’ve seen some pretty amazing sunsets since then, and tonight, there was this giant star that I swear was begging me to make a wish. I didn’t make a wish at that moment, but I did think of my dad.

I’m also very lucky to know my dad was with really good people when he died. When I think of all the possibilities, it’s reassuring to know there was a man who held my dad’s head in his lap during those final moments, gave him a blessing, prayed for him, told him to breathe, and to stay laying down. My dad was able to hold on to his shoulder, while one of his other friends held his hand. Then emergency crews arrived quickly, and they did they best they could.  He died before they reached the hospital, and there’s nothing anyone could have done differently.

Since then, a lot of people have told me it must have been his time, and that God needed my dad for something. I know they say that to comfort me, and probably themselves, too, and I know their intentions are true. But every time I hear those sentences, they don’t sink in with me. I’m not sure there is a specific “time” for everyone to die. I think this might be the case with some people, but I have a hard time thinking if that were the case for my dad, God would have allowed for him to be taken the way he was. It just seems like too horrible of a punishment for his friend, and my dad never would have asked for that. I don’t think God would do that to someone, or plan for such a tragedy. More so, I believe accidents happen, horrible things happen and life happens, and God finds us in the aftermath when we’re picking up the pieces.

My dad had this certain way of saying “Oh no,” about a variety of things. It didn’t have to be something too serious; it could have been during a football game following an interception. Sometimes he would say it during serious times, too, though. When I picture the moment he left this life, I hear him saying that. I see him just as shocked as we all were. I see him wanting to come back, and I see him crying. Perhaps this is me just projecting, but even though I believe he’s in heaven, I see him being taken care of by God in those first few moments instead of being at peace. Am I crazy to think he’s healing with us? That maybe sometimes he still has hard moments? That maybe he wishes he could be here instead of there, even though he’d know what he’s missing now that he’s seen heaven?

Something my cousin told me has comforted me more than she probably knew it would. Her father died a year before mine, and she said in the days following my dad’s death that while she always knew there was a heaven, she never knew how close it is. I think this is true. I know there’s a heaven. I just know it, but all of the other things I feel are confusing and painful, and sometimes I’m just numb – but I keep on moving because that is what you have to do.

I know I’m not alone both physically and spiritually, and for that I am grateful. From here, I just want this to shape me in a way I can be proud of, but I’m still working through the murky part.

laughter life love

beginnings, endings

Ogden Half Marathon in May 2012

“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”
— T.S. Eliot

Normally at the end of the year, I reflect on the previous 12 months and try to recognize all the wonderful things that happened. I like to think about the vacations taken and the new, beautiful places I got to see. I like going through my photos and seeing normal, every day adventures. I like replaying holidays and hikes and birthdays. Then I like thinking about what I accomplished at work and and my favorite stories, and after all that, I usually like to make new goals and plan on doing things I’ve never done before.

Well, we all know the end of the last year was really different for me and I didn’t really reflect on the the things I normally do. The last couple weeks of December were all about simply making it through those tough days. Sure, there was a lot of reflection, but sometimes I was reflecting over my whole life, not just the last 12 months, and thinking of new goals wasn’t exactly in the forefront of my mind.

I thought about a lot lasts with my dad. There was our last conversation. The last time I saw him in person, and the last time we went for a hike and watched a movie, and went to a concert together.

The day before he died, we’d talked via speaker phone with my mom and the discussion went something like this: Disneyland plans and … poop.

Yes, poop.

Travis and I had just hosted an ugly sweater party the weekend before and when we exchanged white elephant gifts, I ended up with a book called “Poophemisms: Over 1,737 Fun Ways to Talk About Taking a Poop.” The book is basically a list of all the ways you can say poop and I knew my dad would get a kick out of it. So, I told him a few phrases like “Gone With the Wind,” “bake brownies,” “Do the Deed.”

He took me up on this right away and started asking if more phrases were in the book. I can’t remember for the life of me what his suggestions were, but none of them were in the book, and he named at least five. So then my mom said it sounded like he could write his own poop book and we all laughed.

While it might be nice to say the last conversation we had was philosophical or that I learned something really profound from him that night, I honestly can’t think of a better last conversation. It was funny and so us.

One of my favorite quotes about beginnings and endings comes from the movie “Hope Floats,” when little Birdie Pruitt says, “She says that beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s the middle that counts the most. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up. And it will, too …”

My last conversation with my dad was still in “the middle” – in the part that counts the most. It was before everything turned sad and scary. While I can’t say every interaction with my dad was positive (I don’t think anyone can say that about their family), I’m so grateful that the majority of our “middle” was good, fun and inspiring.

There were so many beginnings and endings my dad was part of. He and my mom got me in piano lessons at age 8 and they bought my clarinet when it was decided I would take band classes in junior high. They were there for my first and last performances, and came to voice recitals in college when I decided to take on lessons.

He was there to give me advice and hope every year I started a new grade, and he read my stories when they first started printing in the local newspaper in high school. In college, he was the person I wanted to call after one of my first interviews for a college newspaper story because it had to do with mounting animals.

I was pretty miserable at sports, but he would come to my games when I tried something new  like softball, or basketball or soccer. And when I started running races in college, I believe he was at every finish line with a camera, and a couple of times, he drove with me and my mom so we could run in Bryce Canyon or St. George. One of the last half marathons I completed was in Ogden almost three years ago, and he showed up to cheer us on wearing an Angry Birds shirt and a bell around his neck. I don’t know how else he could have better said “I’ll be there with bells on.”

He was there at my college graduation with a rose, camera and plans to pay for everyone’s lunch at Firehouse after. And when I ended my years of part-time work and started my first full-time job, he was happy for me and proud of my decision to stay in Logan.

Every time I needed help moving apartments because a school year ended or my life situation changed, he’d show up with his truck to help pack me up for the next adventure. The most notable of these moves was when he helped me close some chapters in Utah and move to New Mexico, even though I know he was nervous for me, and probably wasn’t sure I’d made the right decision.

He was there at the beginning of my marriage – I mean, he actually pronounced me and Travis married  – and he gave me hope that we could have something as special as he and my mom.

More recently, he was here the weekend Travis and I made an offer on our first home. I often think about the day he came with us to look at this house and how he sat on the patio furniture in the backyard and made himself comfortable. It was like if my dad liked this house, then it was going to be OK.

Now we’re almost three weeks in this new year – this new beginning – and he’s not here like he used to be. I don’t have all my goals set up, so I’m not sure what I’d tell him I’m planning to do if he were here. Well, I do know of a couple things. I want to start a business, ski in Telluride, see Seattle, and go to a Garth Brooks concert. Other than the business, these are things that just kind of came up recently, but I know he’d be happy for me to tell him the stories and see my new work.

Today I went for a bike ride for the first time in 2015 and it was haaaaarrrrddddd, and I told myself I should make the goal to do that ride without any stops. I couldn’t help but ask for his help a couple times as I felt that bike ride everywhere – in my Jell-O legs, to my gasping-for-air lungs, to my heart that was beating wildly. I think he would have been proud of me because he was always excited to hear I’d tried something – from biking to hiking to climbing. I think he’d be glad to hear I want to get so much better.

There are still so many more beginnings, middles and endings to come because life is that way, and it changes often. There will be many more firsts and lasts.

To end this post, I want to share the last video I took of him. It was filmed Thanksgiving Day, and I found it unexpectedly a couple weeks after he passed away. I’d forgotten all about it. To give you some context, we were talking about the Live Long and Prosper sign from “Star Trek” for some reason, and my mom said she couldn’t get her fingers to move that way. So, my dad started helping her and I caught the end of it. We all laughed, and then my dad signed off with his signature peace sign and “bye bye.”

Oh, how I miss him. Live Long and Prosper in our dreams and somewhere close, Dad. Cheer us on and help us through the beginnings, middles and endings the rest of our lives.


one month

I wish I could tell you every day is getting better and that I’m on my way back to feeling normal again – that the pain has lessened and that my family is healing. The truth is, it really just depends on the day and the moment.

The first couple weeks after my dad passed away were busy and blurry and it didn’t feel like real life. Then the next couple weeks real life creeped in and I didn’t like it because work and all those things I normally did don’t feel quite normal.

I am forgetful and cluttered. I get distracted easily and have a hard time staying on task. The first week I went back to work, I came home each day and stayed up every night because I felt overwhelmed and needed to work on things but couldn’t seem too. So, even though I was awake, I’d get lost in my thoughts, fall asleep on the couch, then start over on another disorganized day a few hours later.

The second week I went back to work, I wanted to sleep all the time. I could make it through eight hours at the office, then I’d come home to fall apart and make it go away by going to sleep for hours.

The last few days have been more positive, but I don’t know how long that will last. I’m hopeful, but I also know after one month, there’s no way I could have already felt everything I’m going to feel. I don’t even know if the emotions have scratched the surface of the pain. Maybe they have, maybe they haven’t. I just don’t know.

My friends have been kind. We don’t talk about it much, and they keep planning things with me so I have things to look forward to.

I talk to my mom every day now, and my sister-in-law text back and forth when we’re feeling worthless. Travis listens to every word in my brain and has been so supportive of just allowing me to feel and take it all one day at a time.

There are a few things that sooth my soul. One of them is the following song which I listen to every day now. It’s so beautiful, and the lyrics “It is Well” are comforting, even if I don’t feel like everything is well.

I also like finding good quotes and song lyrics that remind me of my dad or beauty in the world like this one:

Red River Valley
By Marty Robbins

From this valley they say you are leaving
We shall miss your bright eyes and sweet smile
For you take with you all of the sunshine
That has brightened our pathway a while

Then come sit by my side if you love me
Do not hasten to bid me adieu
Just remember the Red River Valley
And the cowboy that’s loved you so true

For a long time, my darlin’, I’ve waited
For the sweet words you never would say
Now at last all my fond hopes have vanished
For they say that you’re going away

Then come sit by my side if you love me
Do not hasten to bid me adieu
Just remember the Red River Valley
And the cowboy that’s loved you so true



And that’s all I’ve got right now. Goodnight, world.

life love

disneyland with dad


“Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.”
– Walt Disney

On vacations to see the Mouse, my brothers and I were raised to get up with the sun, arrive at the Disneyland gates before the park opened and play until the dragon and fire debuted in Fantasmic,  the Electrical Parade floats had made their way down Main Street and cast members were ready to put all pirates, ghosts, tiki birds and Small World dolls to bed for the night.

We knew the expectations. We had to see and do it all  – and if time allowed, we had to see and do some things two, three maybe four times. There would be little time to even eat because we would all be too excited for rides and shows, but we’d make sure to get salty popcorn, sugary churros, pink cotton candy and frozen pineapple ice cream along the way, often as we were heading from one attraction to another.

My brothers and I were Disney kids from the beginning because our parents loved it so much. Every few years we’d make our way to southern California, buy multiple-day passes and take part in everything the Happiest Place on Earth had to offer – from chili fries at the Golden Horseshoe, to a giant yeti scaring around Matterhorn corners, to being whipped around on “the wildest ride in the wilderness.”

In most of my Disneyland memories, my dad has a strong presence. It’s actually one of the last things we talked about over the phone the day before he died. A child at heart in some ways, my dad loved everything about that place. If there was anyone who didn’t want to waste a moment while we were there, it was him. It didn’t matter if we were in line for a child’s ride like Peter Pan, or something more adventurous like Indiana Jones, he was always enthusiastic about each experience – even if he’d done it many times before.

If the line wasn’t too long, he didn’t mind if I wanted a picture with Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh or some other character, and he always took the opportunity to dress up like a character himself at the Mad Hatter in Fantasyland. He liked doing pretty much everything at Disneyland, from getting into submarines to see Nemo, to wearing 3-D glasses for “It’s Tough to be a Bug,” to screaming on the Tower of Terror as it dropped us over and over. And if a ride threatened to make him sick – like California Screamin’ or Space Mountain – he even liked waiting and watching us ride it for him.

He had his favorite shows and Billy Hill and the Hillbillies was on the top of the list. I remember being at the park on a hot day and taking a break at the Golden Horseshoe for some food, ice cream and that show of hillbillies playing instruments, singing and cracking jokes. Every time Billy Hill pulled out those fake costume teeth and made faces at the audience, my dad laughed as hard as the first time he’d seen the show.

He loved looking for new hats and hoodies in the Main Street shops, along with various Disney decorations for the house. And it wasn’t a Disneyland vacation without at least one breakfast at Carnation Cafe, where we’d order Mickey-shaped waffles and talk to waiters who’d been employed there for decades, and Oscar the chef who started working at Disneyland a year after the park opened.

About a year ago, my parents began planning a Disneyland trip that would get our whole family together for a vacation for the first time since 2007. We had all been so excited, and then tragedy struck. During that first week after my dad passed away, we weren’t sure we wanted to go, but with some guidance from others who know and love us, we decided going to Disneyland would be what my dad wanted.

Before we left for California, I told myself it didn’t matter if I got to do everything at Disneyland, but that I should do the things that reminded me of my dad. It turned out he was everywhere. He was close on our first ride – Indiana Jones – because I could hear him laughing and whooping in my heart.  It was the one ride where I had to fight back tears because I know how much he loved the way the jeep takes you around corners by fire, over that rickety bridge, near bugs and rats and beneath a giant, falling ball.

My dad was also in the holiday firework display when they played Silent Night, and he was in the Aladdin show when the genie said, “Wazzzzz uuuuup?” I really hope he got to see that we had front row seats to the holiday World of Color show in California Adventure, and that a kind Disney manager who found out he passed away got us in front of a 1.5-hour line to meet Olaf, and subsequently gave us fast passes to any ride of our choice. Other times, it’s like I could hear him saying how impressed he was with the holiday versions of It’s a Small World and the Haunted Mansion.

After my 3-year-old nephew Owen survived Space Mountain, I was wishing my dad could have seen his face. None of us were sure whether or not Owen liked it, or if he was just in pure shock after riding a roller coaster in the dark with laser stars all around him. Maybe somehow my dad did see his face, and if so, I bet he was laughing and proud at the same time.

My dad was in my mom’s eyes and in all her memories, and she told me she thought about him every second. I could see it one time specifically as she looked out over the water surrounding Tom Sawyer’s Island with Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion across from us. Her eyes were filling up with tears and I could see her picturing their happy moments from several trips before.

My dad could never hold back spoiling us and the grandkids when it came to holidays and Disneyland, so when you combine the two, you can only imagine he’d do a few extra things for everyone. A few weeks before Christmas, my mom said he found Disney watches for all the grandkids and picked them out specifically for each one – Mickey for Zachary, Cars for Owen, Frozen for Macie and Madison, and princesses for Chloe. I hope that somehow he saw how excited about them they were, and how Macie and Madison kept looking down at Elsa and Anna on their wrists and telling us what time it was.

It’s interesting how a person can be everywhere and no where at the same time. My dad was definitely everywhere on this trip. He was there from the moment we entered the park. He was in all the Christmas decorations – in the giant tree they had set up on Main Street. Every ride reminded me of him, along with so many signs and buildings and shows. It’s interesting how such a place – an amusement park – could hold so much of him.

But even though the memories surrounded us every moment, we were all a little lost without him. Did he see how we could have benefitted from his direction? Was he there every time it took the 12 of us a half hour to decide what to do next? Did he see how much we missed his guidance, even though that sometimes meant he walked away and expected us to follow?

I wish so bad he could have been there with us in person for one last Disney trip, but I guess my family knows now that if we want to feel his spirit somewhere other than home or close, familiar places, Disneyland is one more place we can go.

I love you, Dad. Keep watching over us. Help us laugh and feel you close as we heal.

“A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you’re fast asleep
In dreams you will lose your heartache
Whatever you wish for you keep

Have faith in your dreams and someday
Your rainbow will come smiling through
No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing
the dream that you wish will come true”