Of Life and Death

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I generally like to keep this blog a rather light and happy place to be. This is mainly because I think life should be light and happy whenever possible, hence my penchant for perpetual party planning. Nothing brings me greater joy than to see the face of a loved one light up from a welcome surprise. But sadly life has some heavy moments, too. I’m always uncertain how much of these I should share here. But I have lots of light and fun posts coming up in the next couple of weeks, and it just feels false to proceed with these, without acknowledging the sweet and sad moments going on behind the scenes here.

 

Of Life…

First the sweet.

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My little man turned 3 months old this week. He is growing and getting stronger all of the time.  He is very smiley and has a lot to tell us…if he only knew the words.

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He is learning to use his hands and fingers and how to roll over and recently has developed a taste for stuffed giraffe.

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We have made some huge strides in working on his breastfeeding difficulties, but still have a few issues to work out before I feel like I can write my tell-all post about “when breast-feeding sucks” and all of the lessons I’ve learned from working through it. This will be a novel, but I’m not quite sure about how it ends yet. While I am super-happy about the progress we have made, feeding him has still been my main occupation. We have not fallen into a predictable routine or schedule, yet. I’m hopeful that now that he is a big 3 month old, we can figure this out and I will be able to be a bit more productive as the busy holiday season approaches.

He’s been a lot of work–inside the womb and since he has been out–but every snuggle and smile make it all so worth it.

 

Of Death…

Now the sad.

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Do you have a favorite cousin? One that you may not keep in touch with all of the time, but when you are together you pick-up right where you left off and you feel like you’ve never been apart?

This was my relationship with my cousin, Camille. We never lived near each other, but every summer our family would visit the tiny Utah town where my Grandma and cousins lived. Camille, our other cousin, Jean, and I would roam the town freely, causing moderate amounts of mischief and overly-abundant amounts of contagious laughter. We’d buy and consume junk food until we were sick, rent and watch movies like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (fighting over which one of us would marry Benjamin), giggle about boys, and talk about life.

As young adults the three of us embarked on a cross-country road trip in my first (and only new car). We had hours upon hours of laughter–often Camille’s laughter while Jean and I debated important topics, such as whether corn is considered to be a grain or a vegetable (I was right, by the way!). Camille had served an LDS mission in Italy and introduced us to Andrea Bocelli–blasting his tenor voice in the car. As her mom would later say “She had a gift for happiness.” She drew people to her wherever she went.


It has been harder to make as many memories since we have become mothers and busy in those responsibilities. I did go spend a day with her a couple of summers ago. Her health had taken a serious downward turn since the birth of her youngest child and she had been to lots of doctors and tried lots of treatments without much success or even a concrete diagnosis. But still she expressed great optimism and faith.

I last saw her in April at her sister’s wedding reception. I almost didn’t go to Utah as I was largely pregnant and had really been struggling with this pregnancy but between the blogging conference and a reunion with my siblings, I decided it was worth the effort. I found her at the wedding reception and we quickly settled into a table and began talking over wedding cake. She seemed good. Her three children ran around dancing and playing with their cousins. We both wished we had more time to talk.

*****

I got the call from Jean last Wednesday morning. Between caring for my baby and finishing a sponsored blog post that was due that day, I had literally not gone to bed the night before and was trying to calculate how I was going to make it through the responsibilities of a busy day on no sleep. Jean sounded bad on the other end of the line. I asked her if she was ok. She said “no” and told me that Camille had died. I sat there in emotionless disbelief as she sobbed on the other end of the line. Was she sure? There had to be a mistake. What happened?

It took a series of texts and phone calls over the next couple of days to piece it together. She had gone hiking alone at one of her favorite spots and had fallen to her death. Investigators determined it was a tragic accident.

Barry and I made arrangements to leave the older children with his parents and he and I and the baby made the long journey to Utah to be with our family and mourn together.

I am surprised by the grief cycle. Sometimes I am ok and other times it hits me like a ton of bricks. Sometimes it feels almost natural–she often spoke about death very matter-of-factly, like she knew she wouldn’t live a long life and it was ok. Most times it just feels wrong. She was too young, vivacious and funny. Shouldn’t only serious people die? It is such a serious thing to do. And mothers should never leave such young children to grow up without them. Sometimes I’m a little angry with her. What was she thinking attempting to hike so soon after a surgery that would have left her weak and possibly off-balance. Did she see the rain clouds rolling in? Shouldn’t that have dissuaded her? But death is one of those things you can’t take back. No do-overs. During quiet moments of reflection, I like to think that she was just answering her next mission call and there is a great purpose in her death that we will understand one day.

I watched her husband and children say good-bye to her and leave her body in a casket in a cemetery on a hill. He chose a beautiful place for her grave. Not only does it look out on the Great Salt Lake and the valley below, but rising just to the north of the cemetery is the Bountiful LDS temple–a physical symbol of our most precious and comforting belief that this life is not the end and that families and be together eternally.

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It is time for me to get back to the business of everyday life, but I couldn’t resume my regular posting schedule on here without acknowledging what has happened and that my heart is heavy. But Camille loved holidays and parties! She wanted people to be happy and enjoy life. So I will move forward and try to make the most of each day I have on Earth.

If you are the praying kind, I hope you will remember her husband and children in your prayers. I know they will have many difficult days ahead. And I believe there is great power in prayer. I am grateful for God’s tender mercies to me, that made it so that I could gather with my family at the funeral and that Barry was available to be there for me to lean on. I am grateful for my little man who’s daily snuggles feel like hugs from my Heavenly Father. And I am grateful for a faith that gives me glimpses into life beyond death and the greater purposes behind grief and the confidence that we will be reunited again one day. I wouldn’t be surprised if Camille isn’t already planning that party.

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I was reminded again of that great love when after my personal flood of tears and emotion at the funeral he sent me a rainbow on our drive home. The most beautiful and vibrant rainbow I have seen in a long time, created from streaming rays of light streaming forth from behind the clouds.

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Comments

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss. I will pray for her family and for you. Many blessings and peace.

  2. This was a lovely, touching post, Kendra. You are in our prayers!

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  1. […] advanced maternal age, and emotional stress and eating brought on by many factors including the death of a beloved cousin, the weight kept coming. I weighed 10lbs. more than I had at the time of delivery and nothing in my […]

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