auntie n

By His Light, I Walked Through Darkness – Job 29:3


I wanted to write something amazing about Natalie because she has always been amazing to me. I am incredibly blessed to have had such a close relationship with her, even though it means that losing her is difficult. Yesterday, after I finished writing up my blog post about my last visit with her, I read it over. It felt lacking to me. I was sure I didn’t get across what I really wanted to. But I decided to post it anyway.

I’m so glad that I did.

People’s comments and notes to me have been comforting.

Yesterday, I was sad when I received a text from Annabel that Natalie was quickly slipping away. Sad wasn’t the word, really. I felt my nose start to sting immediately and my heart filled my chest. The problem was that I was currently sitting in a meeting in the middle of a serious conversation with a department supervisor.

I quickly put my hand up to my face, pressing my knuckle against my philtrum (looked that up: the space between your nose and upper lip and also I’ve learned, a pressure point to help you keep from crying). My eyes began to tear up and as I mentioned, my nose was stinging as I, for a moment, thought I would lose my composure. But I held on.

Until I started talking. I then had to explain to everyone in the meeting why I was getting emotional (since our discussion about company priorities wouldn’t typically lead to tears). Explaining the situation makes it real, of course.

Later that evening, I saw my mother. I didn’t know that she was going to stop by. Dominic was in his jumper and Nathan was not yet home. There was a knock on the door. I looked out the peephole and saw Mom. I opened the door and she was already crying.

That’s when it really hit me. I held it in mostly so that I wouldn’t make Mom more upset, but knowing that my Mother was losing her baby sister was so incredibly sad.

I don’t think that we are sad for Natalie. She’s been in so much pain from the tumors. Her body looks… almost shriveled, for lack of a better description. When I did see her last, her eyes were empty. I absolutely believe that we have eternal spirits and one way we get a glmpse of them is through our eyes. I couldn’t see her spirit in her eyes. Her body was still going through the motions of living, but her spirit was no longer taking an active role in that.

But this makes me sad because I DON’T WANT HER TO DIE. I don’t want my Aunt Natalie to be gone. I don’t want my Mother’s little sister to be gone. I want her to come and play with Dominic, to play fetch with Pogi, to help me figure out how to organize my life. I want her to meet Dominic’s sibling(s) one day. I want the happy, healthy Natalie to still be here. I want my Grandma DeeDee to still have her daughter around. The 95-year old matriarch of our family shouldn’t have to watch her child suffer and pass away.

But that last paragraph is very full of negative emotions (sadness, complaining, even a little anger). We signed up for this life.

We were told that this would be difficult, that it would be a “test”. I don’t think we really knew how hard it would be, but I also don’t think I understand how truly RESILIENT our spirits are. When I have been in the depths of despair in past times of my life, I couldn’t imagine that things could ever get worse. And yet, today, I am so humbled by those trials that became blessings. I am not trying to be overly optimistic. The darkest days became blessings because I was able to appreciate the light SO MUCH MORE.

Because of the struggles over my emotions I had throughout high school and college, I am so thankful for the peace that I have learned to find.

Because of the anger I experienced one difficult night in Pennsylvania, I can smile so much bigger today than I ever could before.

Because of how sad and tired I was when Dominic was first born, I am frequently overcome with strong feelings of gratitude for this amazing child I am blessed to take care of and for the incredible husband I have helping me do it.

Because of the darkness, there is light.

The last thing that I heard Natalie say was a plea: she wanted the blinds opened. It was gloomy in her bedroom, her sheets tossed to one side and a small blanket twisted around her exhausted body. I kept looking at her feet. She used to tell me that when she was in heaven, she didn’t get in the husband line, but got in the line for beautiful, little feet. Even though her hair was gone, her face was full of pain, her body was quitting on her, and her eyes were empty, her feet still looked beautiful. I know that sounds like an odd thing to notice, but it was the last thing I looked at that evening that will likely be the last time I saw her alive.

I opened up the blinds for her and the sun filled the room. Somehow, the angle that it streamed in through the windows was just right to fall on her and her bed. She pushed her body over and lay facing the light. Then she closed her eyes. Dominic and I stood in the room for a few more minutes and I told him to say goodbye and we love you, Natalie.

Even near the very end for her, she knew that she wanted to turn towards the light. I cherish that my last memory of her alive will be of her resting in the sunlight.

“And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding was my pain!” Alma 36:20

A Visit With Auntie N


Yesterday evening, Nathan was at class until a little after 9:00 p.m. so Dominic and I were on our own. We went on an outing together. We went to visit Aunt Natalie, our Auntie N.

The problem, though, was that she wasn’t really there. When we first arrived, a friend of hers was just inside the door and told us that she was sleeping. We talked with this friend (sorry, I forgot her name) for a while and then went in to see Nat before we left. As we went in, she opened her eyes. She was staring somewhere, but it wasn’t anywhere in the room. It seemed that her spirit wasn’t really there. I looked into her eyes and didn’t see my Aunt Natalie. She wasn’t smiling so clearly, it wasn’t really her.

She mumbled a few things that I couldn’t understand and neither could her friend. Then her friend asked her, “Did you see the baby?”

She turned to the side, looked at Dominic and said, “Hi, Dom.” Then she stared off again. Eventually, she asked for something. After having her repeat it a couple of times, I understood that she wanted the blinds opened, so I pulled them open and the sun brightened her room. She rolled to her side, facing the windows, and closed her eyes again.

I knew that I already missed Nat. I knew that wasn’t really her in that body anymore. I wondered what it was like to already by in limbo because tumors have taken away the desire to be physically connected to her body and because the medicine must numb things as well.

I also knew that I would forever be glad that Dom and I could make that visit last night. He won’t remember it, but I will. He won’t remember her, but I will.

So I will teach him about her and how she always looked out for me and took care of me.

I will tell him about what happened when he wasn’t even a month old yet. I was at home on a Sunday evening waiting for Nathan so that we could go to dinner at my parents. We would be late and I didn’t know how late because I didn’t know when Nathan would come home from church meetings. And then I talked to Natalie on the phone. She was at my parents for dinner as well. She didn’t usually go to Sunday dinners, but I suppose that she wanted to this time because she had just found out that she had cancer. I couldn’t even imagine what she was dealing with emotionally, but she was more worried about me.

I didn’t want to admit it to anybody (let alone put it on the blog, even now after I’ve already been through it), but I was in a dark place and had post-partum depression. I had this beautiful little boy and I was so very sad so much of the time. And she knew. We were only talking on the phone, but she instantly heard it in my voice and knew exactly what to do. She told me to get in the car and come over. Nathan could come later. She knew that being home with just a newborn, watching the clock, and waiting, was not where I should be. That instead, I should be surrounded by family. She knew.

The next week, she called to check on me. She was dealing with doctor’s appointments and finding out that there was so much cancer in her body that they would tell her she had six months left. And yet she was checking on me. She had also told my cousin, Laura, and my Aunt Annabel because she knew my sister and Mom were already checking on me, but wanted plenty of support. Because of her, I was able to admit that I should call up my doctor. I had an appointment. We could take care of this depression and I could better take care of Dom and be a happier wife for Nathan. Nat helped me be happier for my family.

I will tell Dom about how Nat has always taken care of me like that. About how she knew I was struggling with money in college and so she came up with “work” for me by having me help her with computer issues. She kept track of the time I spent helping her and paid me for it. I tried to refuse, but she wouldn’t let me. She made her living as a violinist so I knew she wasn’t rich, but she was still more concerned about her “starving-student” niece than her own cash flow.

I will tell Dom about how she would commiserate with me about the times when I couldn’t stand living in a condo with so much neighbor noise. About how she spent hours with me on several occasions organizing my life to fit into a small home. About how she was always there to talk to about dating and the single life. About how she was very straightforward with me about depression and other emotional struggles for both her and us, her family members.

I will definitely tell Dom about when she lived in Palo Alto and invited Maren, Laura and I to visit her for New Year’s. Maren and Laura were freshmen in college and I was a sophomore. We borrowed the Suburban from my Dad (because none of us really owned a reliable car back then) and drove out to San Francisco. We slept on the floor in her living room on air mattresses she’d purchased just for our visit. Somehow, we were locked out once and she had me break in through her kitchen window (which I don’t remember very well now how I quite managed, but it worked). We experienced “the coldest day of our lives” as she warned us when we went out on the ocean in a ski boat to look for whales early one morning. We put on all the layers that we had packed and eventually Laura and Maren were sweating buckets and had to take off five or six layers. We didn’t see any whales, but we did see porpoises and man o’ wars. We celebrated New Years at some friend of hers from her ward and forgot to countdown until midnight. She was too concerned that if we went into the city to celebrate, it wouldn’t be safe. We did ride the train into San Francisco on our own one day while she was working. We met interesting friends. We rode the trolley; we took pictures; we spent a little money; we laughed the whole time. Then we went back to her condo and told her our stories. We still laugh about things from that trip, especially the coldest day of our lives.

And I will tell Dom that I always knew that Natalie loved me. She didn’t marry nor have her own children. She didn’t feel like another Mom to me though, but more like the big sister I didn’t actually have.

When we visited her yesterday, my big sister didn’t look or act like my big sister. It seemed that her spirit may have already started moving on. And I already miss that spirit, but when I saw the body it was leaving, I knew that this would be a release for her. Cancer is awful.

And I’m glad that I have this picture of Natalie and Dominic from an afternoon sitting on the backporch at Maren’s. Grandma DeeDee also joined us while Campbell played in the sandbox, making Dominic giggle and giggle. Nat took a video of his giggling on her cell phone. I didn’t get a copy so I will have to count on my memory to recall it. We were all very happy. We were all smiling. Natalie has a beautiful smile.

My Aunt Natalie


natOur relationship began the year that I was born. Aunt Natalie was on her mission in Germany and my parents sent her pictures of their new, little girl. Nat told me she loved my baby pics with all of the hair I had and my “rosebud lips.” My parents were excited to add a girl to their family of three rambunctious boys. At least I’m assuming that they were!

Anyway, growing up, I’ve been blessed to have some fabulous aunts and uncles and good relationships with all of them, but my relationship with Nat has been different. I feel like she’s looked out for me. Perhaps she does this for all of her nieces and nephews, but she definitely made me feel like I was the main object of her love and support. That is a gift. And I loved feeling that way.

She often joined us for Christmas mornings. Once we got up, we knew that we had to wait for her to come, for Grumma to come, for Dad to shower and for the camcorder to charge (because there wasn’t the foresight to actually charge it on Christmas Eve instead). Then, we raced down the stairs to the chaos of Santa’s deliveries. My parents always had something special under the tree for Natalie, but I distinctly remember one year hearing that Nat was coming and thinking she doesn’t have a gift. I opened up my white desk drawer, pulled out the remainder of my green and black modeling clay and try to make her a gift. In the end, it was a very small violin case (green) with a tiny black kitten curled up inside of it. I baked it in the oven, placed it in a small box and wrapped it up. I probably had to explain what it was when it was opened, but I just remember thinking that I didn’t want her coming to see all of our gifts and she didn’t have anything. Turns out, there were some other gifts under the tree for her that year, too.

Another Christmas, we had a huge snow storm that day and Nat’s little Honda was buried. And I’m serious, too. It was buried. So she cozied up with us in our home and stayed the night. It seemed extra special. Dad, at one point, ventured out somewhere to get a bunch of food and we also spent the day eating all of the sugary treats from neighbors. That was the year that some of those neighbors that lived further down the street lost their power. We were happy to still have ours and curl up around the fire in a warm home, snowed in.

auntie_n_and_girls2

To ring in the new year of 2001, Maren (sister), Laura (cousin) and I planned a big trip to San Francisco because Nat had moved out there, living in Palo Alto. The entire trip was EPIC. I can’t even do it justice in a short paragraph. It could fill a novella. We had a blast taking tons of pictures and all of the grand activities that we did with our fabulous aunt. We didn’t know before hand, but on that trip we would experience “the coldest day of our lives,” when we left early, early in the morning, bundled in all of the clothes we had packed, to ride out on the ocean in a friend’s boat to see whales. It was cold that morning but soon warmed up, especially for a bunch of Utah girls, and we laughed and laughed at all of the layers Maren and Laura had to take off before they sweat to death. We didn’t see any whales, but we did see a bunch of porpoises and a big wave crashed over the front of the boat. Superb adventure!

auntie_n_and_meNat has helped me out in so many more ways, from giving me some little jobs when I was in college to help with earning a little money, to coming over and helping me organize my tiny condo. She’s always willing to share her talents, like mad organizational skills, and her incredible gift as a violinist. I love listening to her and my Mom play together.

Tonight, there is a concert, but she won’t be playing in it. Instead, the concert is FOR her. Just before Christmas, we found out that she was sick—very sick. She’s been diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer, two types, that have spread throughout her body. It’s something that I truly haven’t grasped because to me, she is still the incredibly happy, laughing Aunt Natalie, not the sick Aunt Natalie riddled with cancer. So this concert tonight is a benefit for her and many musicians are donating their time so that all of the money from ticket sales go to help her pay for her fight. Nathan and I will take little Dom so that we can support her because it’s a little something that we can do. I wish we could do so much more than this little bit and to pray for her constantly. I love my Auntie N.

Notably Natalie Benefit Concert

Our dear friend and fellow musician, Natalie Reed, was recently diagnosed with a very agressive stage four cancer. We announce an all-star benefit concert in her honor. 100% of the proceeds will go towards bringing her help and hope. Please come with generous hearts and enjoy one of the greatest evenings of entertainment you could ever imagine.

PERFORMERS: (in alphabetical order) Aaron Ashton Band, Kurt Bestor, Alex Boye, Peter Breinholt, Kenneth Cope, Lex D’Azevedo, Michael Dowdle, Jenny Jordan Frogley, Jesse Clark Funk, Sue Krupa Gray, and The Piano Guys ( Jon Schmidt, Steven Nelson)

AND: Hillary Alleman, Andrea Ashdown, Brant Bayless, Daron Bradford, Meredith Campbell, Jasmine Campbell, Richard Elliott, Will Hagen, Ben Henderson, Becca Moench, Jed Moss, Kelly Parkinson, David Porter, and Kevin Shumway

SOUND: Bob Abeyta

Only $20 a seat at the door (or much much more if you feel you can.)

Doors will open at 6:45.

Donations also accepted here: https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/bPd7c?psid

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I think I’ll Write in Ross Perot in November


I wrote an entire blog entry about personal, political misgivings. I didn’t post it.

I considered going through McCain’s speech like Obama’s (with help from factcheck.org), but to be honest, it’s all the same: no candidate tells the truth entirely. Both parties say they’re going to bring change to Washington, but come on. They’re still politicians bending the numbers to look good for them and to be honest: Bush and Clinton both promised to bring change to Washington, too.

It’s good to know that some things in life are consistent. You can always count on politicians to tell partial lies, make promises they wont’ keep, tear down their opponents through ad campaigns and speeches, use the race/sex/age/experience/trump card, and make for humorous commentary on Jon Stewart’s and Colbert’s shows.

Also, you can always count on me to NOT go to bed at a reasonable hour, despite my promise to myself that I would try this weekend. Friday night I thought for sure I would get to bed early as my plans to St. George never quite materialized so I went to dinner with my parents and cousin, Adam. Then I stopped by Auntie N’s condo (which I love and wish were MINE) to help her with her PC. She had a mean little Trojan that took a mighty long time to fix, but we finally prevailed and I found my way home shortly after two a.m. Saturday night, I went to a movie with Pepe instead of bed, but neither of us would recommend Babylon A.D. Oh well. So then Sunday night rolled around and for sure I’d get to bed early. Ha. Instead, I wanted to help poor little Claire with the splinter in her foot. Sadly, even with my parents, Maren and Jennie helping, she went home with half a splinter still in her foot. I got to bed around 12:30 a.m.

Maybe tonight…

Happy Birthday Sir Pee-a-Lot!


Welcome to this week’s installment of Therapy Thursdays where Larrie (LRE) meets with her imaginary therapist (DOC) and they discuss the deep, dark and dusty corners of Larrie’s mind. Yes, it gets scary sometimes.

DOC: You look tired.

LRE: Is that how we have to begin every session? Maybe it will improve though because I’ve got me some ‘natural’ remedies.

DOC: Oh yeah? Such as…

LRE: Pantothenic acid, melatonin, Allerplex and Oregon Grape Root.

DOC: What’s the root one for?

LRE: Sleep.

DOC: Well, yeah, but you don’t know more specifically?

LRE: Not really… let me google it…

Waiting while she types.

LRE: Wikipedia tells me that it “works to decrease bacterial resistance to antibiotics and antibacterial agents… used in the treatment of infection.”

DOC: Ok, so whatever it is you have, don’t give it to me; I like sleeping at night.

LRE: I bet.

DOC: So any lists for this week? Or would you like to talk about frustrations, dating, family, dreams?

LRE: Family.

DOC: Great. How are things with your parents?

LRE: Fine; let’s talk about my cousin.

DOC: Your cousin?

LRE: Yes, Sir Pee-a-Lot.

DOC: You have a cousin named that?

LRE: Sure do; and today is HER BIRTHDAY!!!

DOC: So your birthday present to her is to talk about her with your imaginary therapist?

LRE: Mm-hmm. Isn’t that a thoughtful present? Not many people can offer THAT.

DOC: No, I suppose not. So how’d she get the name? (Which, by the way, doesn’t quite work for a girl since ‘Sir’ is a male salutation. Duh.)

LRE: From our San Francisco trip where we seemed to have to stop frequently driving out so Sir Pee-a-Lot could go pee, of course. And so we could take pictures. Lots of them. Because she’s my photographer hero.

DOC: It’s good to have heroes.

LRE: Yep, especially heroes who manage to survive the coldest day of our lives.

DOC: Coldest? In San Francisco?

LRE: Right. According to my aunt, whom we were visiting.

DOC: And was it?

LRE: Not quite; before long, Sir Pee-a-Lot and Maren were both stripping off layers and layers of clothes; I couldn’t believe they had even packed all those layers. Even Martin, who was driving the speedboat was flabbergasted.

DOC: You just used the word flabbergasted.

LRE: Seriously.

DOC: So mind explaining how layers of clothing, speedboats and the coldest day of your lives all came together?

LRE: Sure; I can handle that. We wanted to go whale watching out in the ocean one morning, being that it was January in San Fran and the whales are in the hood around then. So we got up early (I hated that part) and started putting on loads of clothes because Auntie N warned us about this being the coldest day of our lives. I was a bit worried because I ALWAYS under packed so I hadn’t brought thermal underwear, enough sweaters to re-clothe a herd of sheep, or even multiple pairs of socks. Oh well.

DOC: And you’re always cold, aren’t you?

LRE: Basically. But we climbed into the car, went over to Martin’s and drove out to the Marina. Before long, we were smacking up and down through waves as big as the boat, looking for whales. Nothing out here; let’s try over there; nothing. Until finally we found porpoises playing in the waves so we drove over to join them. By this time, Maren and Sir Pee-a-Lot had removed several closets full of layers and offered a few extra sweaters to the smaller porpoises that didn’t have as much blubber on them.

DOC: That’s kind.

LRE: Sure. So we never saw any whales, but the porpoises were cool and then we saw a whole ton of Man O’ Wars. Nobody offered them ANY sweaters.

DOC: Sounds like a pretty adventurous vacation.

LRE: Sure was. Along with drying my pants out the window, eating at The Cheesecake Factory, the Not Well Posse, riding the ‘trorrey’ past ‘rrombard street,’ taking a picture of our Asian friend at Ghiradelli Square, hanging out at Pier 39, getting our tickets punched to smitherings by the conductor on the BART, breaking into my Aunt’s apartment, and missing the countdown to midnight for the start of the new year, 2001.

DOC: You could probably use some more vacations like that.

LRE: Seriously. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, COUS!