Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tina's Dream

A few weeks ago, Tina shared a dream she had dreamed about Peter.  In the dream, Peter appeared very much like he did before he became ill, and he was sitting on my lap being very snugly (I liked that part!).  She came over to us and began telling him how much we missed him each day and how hard it was not having him around all of the time.  He looked up at his mom with a smile and said with a hint of exasperation, "What do you mean?  I'm here ALL THE TIME.  You guys just can't see me!"  It's those kinds of dreams that make each of us smile; sure we miss Peter and we wish we could talk with him and hear him laugh, but we know that he is with us in some way every day. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"Winds-In-His-Hair" Therapy

Several weeks ago, I found myself driving toward Greenville, TX on I-30 coming home from a very productive day of making sales calls along roads less traveled.  My little silver convertible sported a brand new set of tires, the top was down, the sun was shining, and I the stereo belted out the tunes from one of my "Top Hits" music compilations courtesy of our digital music age.  All seemed right with the world, and then I heard the first chords of Cold Play's "Speed of Sound" begin echoing in my once tranquil brain.  This is the song playing in the background of Peter's YouTube video when we went skiing in Montana, and its lyrics are nothing less than haunting to me.  Like mental whiplash, I went from singing at the top of lungs to tears welling up in my eyes in less than thirty seconds, and I found myself experiencing once again the heartache and sadness I felt when Peter passed away.  Grief bursts like these happen every once in a while, but driving down the freeway is not the opportune moment to let my emotions get the best of me, so I began searching for a way to work through the emotion without stuffing it down and pretending it didn't exist.  Suddenly, I remembered a scene from the movie "Dances With Wolves" where, toward the end of the film, Kevin Costner's character is saying goodbye to the tribe he has grown to love, but he can't find his close friend Winds-In-His-Hair anywhere.  I remembered thinking how sad it would be to not be able to say goodbye to a man who saved my life or who showed me a new way to look at the world.  Right as Dances-With-Wolves is riding out of camp with his wife, Winds-In-His-Hair appears suddenly on the cliff overlooking the camp astride his horse with his spear raised to the heavens.  He boldly and emotionally cries out to his friend in a voice that echoes along every canyon wall, "DANCES-WITH-WOLVES!  CAN YOU SEE ME?  I AM WINDS-IN-HIS-HAIR!  CAN YOU SEE THAT I AM AND ALWAYS WILL BE YOUR FRIEND!  DANCES-WITH-WOLVES!  I WILL ALWAYS BE YOUR FRIEND!"  The raw emotion of that scene always stayed with me, and I remembered thinking how great it would be to live in a culture where a man could show his grief and heartache with such power and feeling and not be ashamed.  Well, here I was, barreling down the freeway doing about eighty with semi-trucks ahead of me and beside me, and I thought to myself, now is the perfect time to shout out my feelings to Peter.  With the song still ringing in my ears and my son's sweet face fresh in my mind, I cried out as loud as I could, "PETER!  CAN YOU SEE ME?  CAN YOU SEE THAT I LOVE YOU SON!  CAN YOU SEE THAT I MISS YOU EVERY DAY!  CAN YOU SEE HOW MUCH YOUR FAMILY MISSES YOU!"  I yelled until I couldn't yell any more, and you know what?  Winds-In-His-Hair had it figured out.  I imagine that man never suffered from ulcers, stress headaches or high blood pressure because I felt 1000-times better after my "therapy" session.  Everyone needs an outlet for their emotions, and I'm glad that I found mine on that sunny day in April while driving down the freeway.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pete's Apple Tree

I walked out in the back yard today, and Peter's apple tree is completely blooming!  Upon closer examination, I saw three to five busy little bees greedily buzzing from blossom to blossom preparing our tree for a nice harvest later this year.  It's cool to see the little memorial doing so well; even the live oaks we planted along Gillespie outside of our fence are getting ready to burst with spring color, although they need a little string action to straighten their crooked ways.  Beauty is a great way to remember Peter, and we see plenty of it this time of year.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Oklahoma City National Memorial

Last Thursday, March 11th, I needed to travel to Oklahoma City for business, and it marked the first time I'd traveled to OKC for almost five years.  My appointment was set to conclude at 4 p.m., but due to cutbacks in flights between OKC and Dallas, my return flight would not take off until 7:30 p.m.  I decided that as soon as my business concluded, I would take a walk from the Oklahoma County Administration Building to the Oklahoma City National Memorial which was only a few blocks to the north.  I had visited this memeorial several years earlier, and I found it very moving even before I had experienced the grief of losing Tina's father or Peter.  In my heart, I thought that this would be an appropriate place to reflect on the anniversary of Peter's passing.

The streets were fairly deserted at that hour with rush hour only an hour away, so my walk up Harvey Avenue to the memorial felt peaceful and brisk; it had rained earlier in the day, and the clouds still blocked the majority of the sun's direct rays.  When I arrived at the western end of the city block that makes up the memorial, I found the entrance through one of the Gates of Time blocked by maintenance signs, but I was allowed to enter the memorial through the northern entrance close to the museum.  I strolled along a well-groomed path past the still-dormant trees of the Rescuer's Orchard toward the Reflecting Pool and slowly walked eastward toward the other Gate of Time at the monument's eastern border.  The Gates of Time are meant to capture forever the two minutes between 9:01 a.m. and 9:03 a.m. of April 19th with the times engraven at the tops of each gate.  9:01 represents the end of the city's innocence, or the time before the attack, while 9:03 marks the beginning of the city's healing.  Everything withing the two gates symbolizes what took place on that grim day and the people who lost their lives when the Murrah Building became the target of domestic terrorism.  Overlooking the Reflecting Pool on a prominent point in the park stands a raised circular gathering area that surrounds the Survivor Tree, an American Elm that stood in the middle of a parking lot across the street from the Murrah Building before the bombing took place and miraculously survived the blast.  A group of high school students were singing and playing musical selections on their band instruments when I arrived, and their music gave my visit a very enjoyable atmosphere as I continued my stroll around the Reflecting Pool to face the Field of Empty Chairs.  The chairs occupy a grassy area where the Murrah Building once stood, and each of the 168 chairs represents one of the victims of the attack as well as their location within the building when the attack occurred.  I couldn't help but notice that along the second row, most of the chairs were child-sized; the day-care facility for the Murrah Building resided on the second floor, and nineteen little chairs stand as sad reminders that even small children can become victims of senseless violence.  At night, the bases of the chairs glow brightly so that all 168 chairs become beacons of hope.  I spoke briefly to one of the park rangers before moving once again to the northern side of the reflecting pool.  It was nearing 4:30, and I decided that I would stay until 4:38, the time of Peter's passing, yet I didn't want to be among inquisitive eyes when that moment arrived in case my emotions began to surface.  I eventually made my way to the southern end of the memorial where the Murrah Building's plaza still stood very much like it had when people walked past its concrete planters and benches en route to the building's entrance.  A low glass wall now stands in place of the Murrah Building's entrance, overlooking the Field of Empty Chairs, the Refelecting Pool, the Gates of Time, the Survivor Tree and the remainder of the memorial.  I thought about my brave little man and his empty bed at home, his blossoming apple tree in the back yard, and the gaping hole he left in my heart two years ago.  As expected, my tears came and went, and after drying my eyes and talking to Tina on the phone, I pulled my suit coat a little closer around me and walked back down Harvey Avenue toward a downtown parking garage and from there drove to the airport for my flight home.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Few Things I've Learned

  1. The Holy Ghost is called "The Comforter" for a reason
  2. Just because I've experienced tragedy in my life doesn't mean I'm exempt from other trials
  3. There's a big difference between crying and weeping
  4. Families can pull immeasurably closer after experiencing a member's death
  5. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but rather of humility
  6. Memories are more than a sum total of photos and videos
  7. I need to continue to look for positive expressions of my negative emotions
  8. Christ knows and understands what we've been through as a family
  9. God answers prayers in remarkably cool ways
  10. Peter checks up on us occasionally

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Taking a Different Approach This Year

Many people have asked if we will be doing anything special to commemorate the 2nd anniversary of Peter's passing this week.  To be honest, we really haven't planned anything other than our own personal reflection when the 11th arrives.  For Peter's birthday, we celebrated as a family by having his favorite dinner (tacos), played his favorite game (Pokemon Master Trainer) and ate angel food cake for dessert.  Tina and I will more than likely take time this weekend to visit the cemetary this weekend, but other than that, we do not think that we will extend our observance of this anniversary to anything more than that.  Peter continues to be a part of each day of my life, and reminders of him live all around me in our home, church and neighborhood.  The memories bring less and less pain, however, and when I reflect on Peter, I spend more time thanking God that he was a part of my life for as long as he was rather than sinking into sadness.  Life is good, and I am grateful for the many blessings I receive every day.  I have a beautiful wife, three wonderful children who are still with me in this life, I have a great job, and God is helping us heal every day. 

Friday, February 19, 2010

Upcoming Study

Tina and I were approached last month by a representative of the Marc Apodeca Jr. Children's Glioma CancerFoundation to participate in a study.  The study is a joint venture between the foundation and Brigham Young University to examine the effects of a DIPG on the family as a whole, and Tina and I readily agreed to participate.  Phase I involves filling out a detailed intake sheet which will be followed by several lengthy interviews and ultimately sharing anything the facilitators believe will gauge how Peter's illness and death impacted us.  We plan on spending some time this weekend going over the intake sheet, and I'm sure that we will be referring frequently to the journal we kept so religiously over the course of his illness as well as in the aftermath of his death.  Exploring the feelings associated with the Peter's death took a great deal of "heavy lifting", yet together we did it time and time again; I don't anticipate that reviewing our feelings for this study will be as difficult as it was initially, but I'm sure we will relive some very poignant moments. 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Refiner's Fire

I've heard the analogy of the refiner's fire used consistently when people discuss life's afflictions and the trials we each endure.  The idea is that when the refiner of metal begins working with raw ore, he must do something extreme in order to change the ore from its current, worthless state into something useful, beautiful and precious.  The refiner must subject the ore to heat.  He must subject it to A LOT of heat!  For the refiner to do his work, the ore must be heated to a point where the solid, rock-like substance liquifies and begins to separate into its constituent components allowing the refiner to discard impurities, the granular slag that is good for little more than paving material.  If the process works correctly, the refiner retains nothing but the precious, refined metal in its super-heated liquified state.  In this state, the metal is now completely malleable and can be shaped into whatever the refiner desires it to become: a tool, a machine part, a decorative ornament, or perhaps something neutral, such as a sheet, a bar or an ingot, in which form it will remain until it is needed for a yet-to-be determined purpose.   From my own experience, I can testify that God works with his children in much the same way.   He sees the eternal potential in each of us and wants to make us into something better than we can make of ourselves; however, in order to do that, he too  needs to turn up the heat.  The challenges, losses, illnesses, and trials of our lives can serve to soften our hearts and open our minds allowing God to enter and begin to remake us into what he wants us to be.  The trick is trusting God during the refining process.  I need to believe that the end result is worth the sometimes painful process and that he has a plan for me and my family.  I find that when I submit myself to God's will, exercise faith and trust that he is making me into something better by having me pass through the crucible of this life, I can experience joy even when heat is on.