Saturday, June 20, 2009

Like Two Utensils In A Cupboard...

Everybody thinks they are unique - a snowflake of singularity. Truthfully, most people are just like so many, many others. Let's face it, if you've met one Canadian you've met them all.

But Anna and I are truly one of a kind. Each an individual yet a perfect compliment to the pairing and also unique as a couple. I've blogged earlier about some examples here, here, here and here.

Last night a further example came to light. Like most younger couples as they go to sleep, we hold each other close. Most would think of this as "spooning" like two spoons in a cupboard. That requires both to be in a half fetal position creating the spoon shape.

Where we differ is that we are less concave, almost flat. As we lay there talking Anna noted that we don't "spoon." I realized that we couldn't spoon. After all, she is Asian, so instead we "chopstick."

Now honestly, can you think of another pair that "chopsticks" nightly? I don't think we should stop there either. Every week we'll look through our kitchen shelves and pick new utensils to try on. The "egg beater" might be awkward but I am not looking forward to "cheese gradering."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cradle to Grave...

As I mentioned in my last post, I had been working on funeral arrangements for a member of my branch. As of now, it is finally all over.

In the days leading up to the funeral of John N, the family who had lost an infant had a quiet and private funeral. Meanwhile, I was keeping busy with other members who were struggling with health. I visited two members in the hospital. One was hit by a car and still on a respirator when a missionary and myself gave him a blessing. The other was dealing with heart issues, a recent stroke, the loss of a limb due to diabetes and a failing liver. Luckily, as bad as these issues sound, I don't think there will be funerals for them.

After visiting these members I got an email from my mom. While on a vacation to Canada my dad got the balance on his medication wrong and coupled with the high elevation, he lost consciousness at the top of a mountain ski slope. It was a bit of a scare. My mom even tried mouth-to-mouth to keep my dad breathing.

My sister and I emailed back and forth about this to each other:

LaDawn: "That must have been a fun day for mom."
Jared: "Yeah. I think the worst part would have been the mouth to mouth..."
LaDawn: "I have a feeling she's used to it."
Jared: "Could you ever get used to that?"
LaDawn: "I meant her mouth on his."
Jared: "Yeah, so did I."

We were able to joke about this since my dad is ok now. As long as he takes it easy and watches his meds, he'll be fine.

Of course, in the midst of all of this, I was still planning the funeral for John N. I met with his daughter to show her my tentative rundown. Hymns were picked, speakers were chosen and details hashed out.

The morning of the funeral I got a call from the branch clerk, the one man left in the branch presidency who was helping me out. He was to play the CD (the funeral home didn't have a piano), act as chorister, and say the closing prayer at the funeral. His wife had gone into labor at 3am and was now possibly in need of a blood transfusion. Understandably, I excused him from the funeral.

I asked a few people in attendance to assist with the duties I had previously assigned to the clerk. After a few rejections I found enough willing people. Then I was made aware that the person I had speaking on the plan of salvation at the funeral was watching the other kids of the clerk while he was at the hospital with his wife. I feverishly typed away on my BlackBerry browser looking through to find some good material. Just as I was about to announce myself as the next speaker, to my astonishment, the salvation speaker came in, thus saving me.

The funeral home was supposed to make arrangements to have a police escort for the funeral procession to the grave. I'm not sure if it was the funeral home or the police, but someone dropped the ball and we had no escort. Only 6 cars were in the procession after the first intersection. We had lost more than 2/3 of the line by the time we got to the burial plot. On the way, we passed another funeral procession that did have a police escort and a few members of our group ended up at someone else's burial.

Before long, and thanks to cell phones, we got the majority of the group together under a canopy and the casket out of the hearse. The funeral director then handed me a microphone. We have to actually be at the grave to dedicate it, so I had to think fast on what to do as I was not expecting all eyes on me once again. I opted to have a moment of silence. Most everybody there was not LDS so it made for a nice moment to those of any faith. Then the poll bearers took the casket to the grave where I dedicated a grave for the first time.

On the way back from the funeral Anna and I stopped by the hospital to visit the clerk and his wife. She was then doing better. There was something surreal about leaving a funeral and winding up at the hospital to visit a newborn and his mother.

Anna and I got home long enough to eat dinner and clean up before we went to the chapel for a baptism. I was planing on merely presiding as our Branch Mission Leader was conducting. I got a call five minutes before the baptism was to start informing me he would not be able to make it. I was now to conduct.

The baptism went smoothly and the Spirit was strong. When I made my closing remarks and welcomed the newly baptized into our branch I made note of what an unusual day it had been for me. A funeral, a birth and now, a baptism which symbolized the death and resurrection of Christ. His old life died in the water and he was born again before our eyes. Sometimes I can't stop welling up with tears when I bear my testimony and this was one of those times.

By the time I made it home that night I was physically and emotionally drained. In the back of my mind was the thought that I would also be the only member of the presidency in church the next day and would likely have an equally busy day.

Next week the branch president returns to island and in two weeks I leave for my super vacation to the U.S. and Costa Rica. The lows of the funeral and the highs of the baptism and child birth will fade. Life will roll on and everything will return to normal. But somehow, I know that no matter what happens now, the events of this past week will, even if subconsciously, forever affect my personal journey from cradle to grave.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Dealing With Death...

"I have a testimony that divorce is worse than death."
- John Ngringertrang

In my life I've been to only 3 funerals. The first was when I was very young. It was the funeral of my Grandfather on my Father's side. I don't remember a thing about it. I only know I went to it because we have a long standing story in my family about how my mom lost me at the funeral home and I wandered into the morgue. When they found me I was crying and shaking a dead body because I couldn't get them to wake up.

My second was the death of a good friend of mine. We were both 16 at the time. He developed brain cancer and it took him quickly.

The third was on my mission. A widow with no family passed away in a Ward I was serving in. We attend to act as Poll Bearers since she had no family present.

So, as you can tell, I've had limited experience with death. That is why I have felt quite inadequate this last week.

I have been the first councilor in my Branch Presidency for about 18 months now. I am fortunate to serve with a great branch president. But, he has been off island for the last month and has therefore left much of the care of the branch in my hands. The second councilor is also great, but he is also off island for a month. The branch is essentially under my care. If any of you know me, you know how scary of a thought that is.

Last week I got an email notifying me that a member of our branch, John Ngringertrang, had passed away. The family would like the branch presidency to arrange an LDS funeral service and grave dedication. *Gulp* I am currently trying to figure out exactly what an LDS funeral service consists of before the funeral this Saturday.

Two days after the initial email I get another about the death of an infant in our branch. This death comes as a result of a difficult labor. Again, I am in the position to be of council. The most difficult thing I've done in this calling was to visit the family. I have never lost a very close family member and I don't have any children. Empathy is hard to produce without having been in a similar situation. I prayed that I could find some way to comfort and assist them as I drove to their house.

I visited with them, offered my condolences, offered assistance and support, and left with a prayer. It sounds easy reading it back, but it was emotionally very straining. I understand more now than ever before what it means to "morn with those that morn."

There is nothing like dealing with death to make you aware of your own mortality.