I have been thinking about this little earthly life of ours so much lately. I can't seem to shake these thoughts. Not that I am trying to shake them. I think they have been good for me. I just mean that naturally my own little mind shuffles off whatever thoughts are there in favor of some other newer thoughts, but my mind has been here, with these thoughts, daily for some time.
A neighbor behind our cul-de-sac died of cancer about two weeks ago. I didn't really know her. I'd met her once at a neighborhood party. She was wearing a cute flowy skirt and a floppy sunhat. She had brought her four somewhat wild kids because she said she wanted to tire them out so they'd go to bed better for her that night (her husband was out of town). I didn't learn her name, only that she had a girl starting Kindergarten like Goldie and then three younger than that (one set of twins). I saw her at Wal-Mart another time. She didn't see me, but I noticed and related to her because we both had our shopping cart full of kids. Then, apparently, she found out she had some insanely spread cancer and was gone with in a month or so.
For some reason that had such a huge impact on me. I kept thinking of her little kids and how their mom was gone -- how they were sad, miserable, and she was gone -- she couldn't comfort them. I remember reading something President Kimball said about his mother's death. He had been five at the time. He described the utter misery and loneliness he felt and he said how even eighty years later he couldn't think back on that day with out crying. And now I am crying again because while I don't fear death for me, the thought of not being there to comfort my kids is one of the most painful thoughts I can imagine.
Beyond thinking of her husband and kids, I kept thinking of what it must have been like driving to the hospital (where she spent the last two weeks of her life). I pictured our neighborhood and driving along the side of our mountains towards the hospital -- the drive I've made mostly when I was about to give birth. I kept wondering what she was thinking as she made that last trip to the hospital. Was she thinking that it was the last time seeing her front door? The last time seeing her street?
I remember my last few nights in Jerusalem (after having lived there for nearly four months) trying to take everything in -- trying to somehow capture the view from our bedroom balcony, the streets on the way to The Old City, the chapel in the Jerusalem Center. I just wanted to somehow breath it in -- somehow make it a permanent and complete part of my memory. I couldn't, but I desperately wanted too. How I tried to cling to every minuscule image as we drove away from the city to the airport. I had the same feelings when I left WA. I remember running to the block behind ours to get my kids (my neighbor had been watching them while I packed the last things in the car). As we walked back, I felt overwhelmed by the thought that I wouldn't be walking around that corner and past that park again -- that even if I could clearly remember it, it wouldn't be mine -- part of my momentary existence anymore. And then I kept thinking of my neighbor -- I kept thinking of knowing I would be leaving this life and of how I would be trying to take everything in. I kept thinking how it would be the same thing - I'd try, but I'd know I was leaving it -- that it wouldn't be part of my daily life anymore.
I know, I know. It would be a total fallacy of thought to assume that this earth life is as good as it gets. And, I know, even, that somehow, things will be made up to us -- that the things we leave behind down here, the losses we seem to have, will be made up; but as I thought about these things, I kept feeling like the poor little boy in The Littlest Angel -- with his crooked little halo. All he wanted was one thing -- he just wanted the little box he kept hidden -- the one with things like a butterfly's wing and other small tiny treasures from his life down here.
As I decorated for Halloween with my kids the following day, I couldn't couldn't get rid of the thought that my neighbor wouldn't get to put up Halloween decorations with her kids this year -- or ever again. She wouldn't see the leaves on our mountains change to full fall colors. She wouldn't be taking her kids trick-or-treating, or picking her little girl up from Kindergarten like I pick Goldie up everyday. Who will pick her little girl up from Kindergarten? Who will sit with her after school and remind her to do at least two pages of her homework packet so it will be ready to turn in on Friday? She won't get to make sure her kids have all had their baths and have matching clothes on and their hair done.
I really do have faith in our Father's eternal plans. I know that my neighbor can see the end from the beginning now and knows that all our tears will be dried and no blessing will be lost. I believe it with all of my heart. I have even thought, in the past, about what would happen if I died. The thought has been painful, but I have even thought things like, "What if I knew that would happen before I came here? What if Mike did remarry and as much as the thought is painful now, what if I truly would owe this girl for loving my children -- and if she did truly love them, and comforted them -- I would thank her forever. What if it was all part of the plan? What if I knew her and loved her and worried about leaving, but had felt peace because she had agreed she would help take over with them? And now, with my little earthly perspective I kick against the idea." I am sure that when the life of my neighbor's husband and kids come to an end, it won't have seemed so awfully long with out their mother and they will all understand why.
At the same time, my thoughts kept going back to loving this world -- loving this life. I keep wondering, "How does that get made up? How does not getting to raise your own children get made up to you?" I just feel like ever since, I have been saying to myself -- partly to Heavenly Father, "I know that really this isn't our home -- that the place we left is where we were most 'at home' and happy. I know that when I get there, I might even think, 'Why did I want to stay on earth? This is so much better!' but I do want to stay. I want to stay so badly! Is that wrong of me? It can't be all wrong -- our Father did give us a beautiful world -- maybe not as beautiful as where we came from, but every time I look out my window and see our mountains, the red-leafed trees in my backyard, the sunset -- I think how this is beautiful. This is a gift, and we can love it and want to keep it for as long as possible can't we?"
I just keep thinking about every moment with my kids and how I get to be here -- living that moment with them. I keep thinking how I don't want to go anywhere. How, if possible, I really really want to stay here. I really want to be allowed to see my kids reach adulthood. I want to see them in happy marriages with sound and strong testimonies of the things I know will bring them joy. I want to be with Mike. I want to keep experiencing our struggles together. I want to keep feeling his arms around me. I want to keep having my head in the crook of his arm at night right where I can hear his living heart beating and beating. I even want to keep taking care of my home. I want to be the one to eventually get everything organized in it. I want to be around to get all my photos in a photo album. I want to read more books. I want to see my kids with their own babies. I want to keep going out running. I want to keep seeing Fall leaves. I am excited for the next phase of our existence. I am so excited to remember all of our existence before this and to see what is next for us, but I love this now. I want this for a long while yet.
Do you remember the story of Hezekiah in the Bible? He was a good and decent king, but the time had come for him to die. He was sick and the Lord sent the prophet Isaiah to tell him it was time for him to die -- to tell him to put his house in order, etc. But Hezekiah plead with the Lord that he could stay, and the Lord said, "OK." He really did. He said, alright, if you want to be here longer -- in this rough and messy earth life, I'll allow it. And he extended his life 15 years.
I know this life is the main testing/trial part of our existence. I also know that in the eternal scheme this life will seem like a tiny puny dot. We have been around for who knows how many millenia and we will continue learning and growing and doing. Still, small as this little dot of time is, it will be such a significant dot. It is the time we have been preparing for. A small moment in eternity that will decide so much. It makes me think that we will think on it often -- that we will want to remember things like our front door and the trees in our backyard and the view from our kitchen windows -- even if they weren't perfect. Even if our yard was constantly in need of weeding:). It makes me feel like I want to be allowed to experience as much of it as I can. Especially as much as I can with Mike and my kids. I know they will be with me eternally, but I want so much to be here for their now. I want to make sure their nails are trimmed and their homework is done. I want to watch them open their Christmas presents and talk to them in their beds at night when they are scared and can't sleep. The other day Daisy finally figured out how to ride her bike. Mike had been helping her and she called me out to watch once she'd gotten it. It was evening and cool and just like you picture fall. I was cheering and clapping for her (and wondering if it was too loud and disturbing the neighbors, but wanting to make sure she could hear). As she braved a turn in the cul-de-sac, it struck me again that right through that street was a family where the mom wouldn't get to stand on the sidewalk cheering for her daughter on a bike. Maybe she will see. Maybe she will be watching, but I just want to be able to keep being right here -- right next to them -- experiencing all of this.