Monday, April 16, 2012

One Step at A Time

So there I was, minding my own business, having a nice walk with a good friend when the phone call came. I answered my cell phone, then wished I hadn't. A relative was in a coma, near death, and one of his last requests had been to have me sing at his funeral. Nice.

If this sounds like a less than stellar attitude, let me explain: our family has been enduring a very challenging time. Though we're all trying to keep a positive frame of mind, sometimes the heartache of what a loved one is currently enduring creeps through. And in my case, I never know when the tears will surface. One minute I'm fine, then not so much. I find this annoying as I hate to cry in public.

Back to the phone call: as I've mentioned before, I grew up in a musical family. Music is part of my soul. Music touches me in ways I can't explain. It can propel me to spiritual heights, and pierce my heart like nothing else can. Singing at funerals is difficult for me, in part because of that, and also because of loved ones that I have lost--and the fact that I have sung at most of their funerals.

Despite all of this, I usually try to come through for people when this request is made. I understand how hard it is to pull a funeral together and how tender hearts are following the loss of a loved one. Singing at funerals is one way that I can serve those who are grieving. But there is one song I've haven't been able to perform since my husband's brother passed about 4 years ago. I was called upon to sing a song at his funeral that tore at my heartstrings. The emotions of that turbulent time collided with that particular song and I couldn't sing it alone. Fortunately, my kids came to the rescue and performed it with me that day. Things went well for us the day of the funeral, but since then, every time I hear that song, I tend to have leaky eyes. I can't stand to hear it, and I was convinced I would never sing it again.

This was the song I was being asked to sing at the dying man's funeral this past week. As I stood in shock, gripping my cell phone, the good friend who was with me reminded me to breathe. Wise advice, and sometimes all that we can do in these type of situations. As I agonized over what I was being asked to do, silently praying for guidance (it's not easy turning down a grieving almost-widow's request) a strong sense of peace filled my heart, and I agreed to perform the song. I reasoned that the coma could last for a while, and I would have time to get my act together before being called upon to sing. Wrong. He passed away that night.

Long story short, this past week has been a blur. But following promptings, I survived. I called upon a dear cousin of mine to help me pull this song together. With her help, and an outpouring of peaceful support from heaven, we were able to sing the song that was requested, and kept our emotions in check. Prayers were answered in a big time way, and we witnessed a mini-miracle with how well things went.
Once again I learned that when I place my trust in the Lord, despite how painful the path ahead might be, it can be walked with His help.

The day of the funeral as I nervously paced the floor of the room where my cousin and I were hiding before the program began, a dream came to mind. This was a dream that had surfaced for me during another challenging time years ago. The dream began with me trying to climb a set of golden stairs. It seemed like it took every bit of strength and courage that I could muster to take even one step forward. Then my eyes were opened. I could see that a dark force was trying to keep me stymied in place. But angels surrounded me, keeping that dark force at bay as long as I was willing to keep moving forward, one step at a time. How high I climbed was up to me--the angels couldn't make the journey for me. I had to do that for myself, but it was impressed upon me that I would never be alone.

I hope I will remember the lessons relearned this past week. I suspect I may need them in the days ahead as I continue trying to press forward, one golden step at a time.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Upon Life's Billows

A writer friend of mine recently wrote a blog post about song lyrics and since I've always loved music (I come from a  musically inclined family) I decided to share a lyric that has been going around in my head this past week. I won't lie--it has been a tough couple of weeks for our clan. We've been hit from all sides (or so it seems) and it's tempting to sit in a daze and wonder what it was we did to deserve all of this. Among other things, a much loved family member is facing a serious health battle. To her credit, she is doing so with courage, spunk, and humor. In the middle of all of that, our basement (which was finished) flooded while we were out of town. We returned home to quite the mess and spent several days trying to salvage what we could. Since the water (spring run-off that filtered through our septic tank into our basement) was tainted, we had to discard most of what it touched. This included numerous irreplaceable family photos, 121 books, and other family treasures like our sons' yearbooks, mission letters, musical instruments, most of the furniture, etc.

Later on as we were returning home from Salt Lake City where we had spent an anxious few days at a  hospital as Kennon's sister faced a scary surgery, we were involved in a car accident. Fortunately, no one was hurt seriously, including the nice young man who ran into the back of our car with his motorcycle. We limped home with a loose bumper and a deep gouge in the back of our small hybrid, something we'll eventually fix.

I'll admit . . . when I walked back inside my home later that night . . . a home that is filled with boxes of items we were able to save from our basement adventure . . . I started feeling just a little bit sad about everything. Why was all of this happening to us--and all at the same time? Somehow it seemed a bit unfair.

Then I remembered the motto that Kennon's sister and I had come up with a few days ago as I faced an unthinkable mess in my basement, and she was facing imminent risky surgery: "Sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves and dive in the crap." Words to live by . . . at least for us right now.

Yesterday was also a soothing balm as inspired Church leaders shared comforting Conference talks that hit spot on, as an English friend of mine would say. There were so many good things said about dealing with trials, and the music was also a source of calming peace.

This morning, a favorite hymn keeps going around in my head (I suspect Someone wants me to pay attention). The words are as follows:

When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings; ev'ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.

So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all.
Count your many blessings; angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.

(Count Your Blessings--Lyrics by: Johnson Oatman Jr.)

These are indeed words to live by. So while I continue to sort through basement items now stored in the garage that we still may have to throw away, I will strive to focus on the countless blessings that have been granted this past week. Kennon's sister survived  a complicated surgery. She is doing amazingly well and is gearing up for a couple of weeks of physical therapy to restore the use of one leg. No one was seriously hurt in the accident we were involved in. We all walked away injury free. And despite the fact that I had to throw away 121 books, I probably saved close to 400. Almost every item lost in our flood can eventually be replaced, and if not--they are just things. What matters most are the items that we can take with us into the next realm, like family relationships, memories, knowledge, and testimonies that are often strengthened when we are tested and tried.

This difficult time will pass. I've survived enough of them to know that is true. The turbulent seas will calm. Life will go on, and the sun will eventually shine again after the storm. Hope exists and blessings do, too, despite the billows life sometimes brings our way.