Dealing with Death

I am learning to deal with death for really the first time in my life. Somehow, I’ve made it for 30 years without really having lost anyone close to me. When I was really young, maybe 5 or 6, my great-grandmother died. I know I was there for the funeral, but I don’t really have any memories of her before then. Other than that, I’ve only had to deal with pets and farm animals dying. (Of note, I did not react particularly well to the time they took the sheep to the butcher.)

Now my grandmother is dying. Her time is short for this world, and I love her with all of my heart. We lived in the same town when I was growing up, and she was a very important part of my life. For possibly the first time, I will consciously and actively miss someone from my life. This has been particularly hard for me, especially since I know that I probably won’t be able to get to Utah where she is being cared for before she goes.

I find myself tearing up in the oddest places: during the opening prayer of a ward FHE activity, driving to work, reading on an airplane. I don’t cry well, and so far have only made it to sobs once (about 15 minutes ago). I’ve worried that I’d have to call off dates and races, and I’m constantly making contingency plans. I’m distracted easily at work (more so than usual). I’ve visited the temple and prayed continually for her pain to be eased and for the Lord’s will to be done. I’ve had trouble blogging and writing in other forms too, because apparently when I write, I actually have to acknowledge my feelings. It’s been hard.

I have been keeping it kind of quiet, but I’ve been a little muted from my normal self over the last few weeks. Those of you with frequent contact with me might have noticed. That’s just me, trying to deal. Some days are better than others. I think my grandma would want me to be out and about. (I do know that she has commented in the past few weeks about how much she would love it if I (and the rest of my unmarried male cousins) would get married, so that’s incentive enough to do the social things.)

If you read my blog and know her and haven’t yet, you can visit her CaringBridge page and sign her guestbook. My aunt and uncle are printing off the messages people leave for her and reading them to her.

For the rest of you who have lost loved ones, how did you learn to deal with death?

Why I love geocaching

Tonight for Family Home Evening in my ward, we had several spotlights featuring the hobbies and talents of several people in the ward. I was asked to talk about geocaching, one of my unhealthy obsessions.  I made a quick video slide show of some of my favorite geocaching moments.   I figured it would make good blog fodder, but then I realized it was 7 minutes long and silent, so it probably wouldn’t go over well.  So I shortened it and added music,  which makes it infinitely cooler, right?

Here’s some of what I had to say:

When I was a kid, I loved exploring my great-grandfather’s farm. I was convinced that somewhere on the farm was a buried treasure. I hunted all over the place for a clue that would lead me to another clue that would eventually lead me to the place where all the gold was buried. It was great fun, but it wasn’t until years later that I realized that farmers rarely had enough gold to bother burying it and that pirates rarely stopped in Wyoming.

When I first heard of geocaching, I was immediately intrigued. I remembered back to my treasure hunting days on the farm. Here was a real sport where people hid treasures (ok, boxes with treasure (ok, McDonalds toys) inside) all over the world, and then gave you the GPS coordinates to them and sent you off to find them. How cool was that? Grownup high-tech treasure hunting! Awesome.

I couldn’t afford a GPS when I first heard about it, but I tucked it away in the “I’ll do that later” file. By the time I graduated from grad school, I had had my first taste of geocaching with a friend’s GPS and now could afford one. I was still looking for a job, and had quite a bit of spare time on my hands. So I got my GPS and enjoyed finding and hiding caches all over Salt Lake City. 

When I moved to Michigan, geocaching helped me get to know the area and the people. It took me places I probably wouldn’t have gone to by myself. I would have never found Hines Drive or the Metroparks or Belle Isle without geocaching. I would have missed some of the most beautiful places in Michigan.

For me, it’s really about the places and the people that you encounter while geocaching.

I have geocached in three countries, seven US states, and about 1/3 of Michigan’s counties. Other places I’ve cached:

  • The Huron River from a kayak
  • The Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan Mexico
  • The tops of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes 
  • Cache County Utah
  • Downtown Toronto
  • Maybury State Park (a Michigan state park that used to be a Tuberculosis Sanatorium)
  • Multiple Pioneer Cemeteries
  • Henry Ford’s house
  • The campuses of the University of Wyoming, the University of Utah, the University of Michigan, and Eastern Michigan University.
Geocaching is a lot of fun for many types of people.  One of the things that surprised me was the number of retirees that participate.  There is really something for everyone.  If you’re interested in a long hike to a beautiful waterfall, you’ve got that.  If you want to try out scuba diving, there are caches set for you.  If you want to solve a puzzle, if you’re just bored and want to explore your neighborhood, if you’re out running errands and you need to kill a few minutes, there’s a cache for you.
I’ve cached with many different people.  Among the highlights:
  • My two and four year old nephews
  • Both of my grandfathers
  • Many of the people on my blog-roll
  • A hilarious nurse from Chelsea Michigan
  • Several dates, one of which I showed off for by falling (gracefully) into the Huron River in late March.
One of the rules of geocaching is that when you find the cache, you have to sign the logbook.  Imagine how surprised I’ve been to be caching in Utah on visits to see my family, and to open a cache and see that it has been signed just before me by someone I know from Michigan. It’s happened twice!  
Another rule is that if you want to take something from the cache, you should leave something else for the next finder.  I love to trade out signature items, little cards and trinkets that identify the person.  Many times its just a laminated business card or something like that but I once found a Smiley face stamp from someone called “S5280ft.”  Geocachers are pretty clever.

I once heard a statistic that made me sad: the average American spends only 6 minutes outside per day and that is usually spent walking to or from a car.  I have no idea if that is true or not, but Geocaching is one way to get past that 6 minute barrier.  I found a sport that has lots of variety, that takes me places I’ve never been with great people.  I highly recommend it.

Here’s that video that I was telling you about:

Top 10 Moments in 2008

I’m going to try to do this in as few words as possible

10- Voting for Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney for President

The fact that I had a choice to vote for a Mormon for President. Awesome!

9- Convincing my nephew in less than half an hour that we could be friends

That was quicker than my dad won him over.

8- Geocache #600

A walk in the woods, in the snow, with friends. Priceless.

7- Ceder Point

Proof that when I am dead, I will be buried in an amusement park. (I actually had fun at the amusement park that day!)

6- Hiking in the Big Horns

The view from the top. The real top.

5- The Regency Ball

Who knew that English Country Dancing was so much fun?

4- Tweleve Reunion

You probably wouldn’t understand… But it was awesome.

3- Kayaking the Huron

Ever heard “Peace like a River”? Well, that, except, with a river.

2- Thanksgiving Turkey

It tasted just as good as it looked.

1- Turkey Trot

A goal completed!

It’s a wonderful Wii.

I thought I should jump on the bandwagon of posts about grandmothers. Actually, I just wanted to post a picture that I took today of my grandma playing the Wii. I brought my Wii home for Christmas, because I knew my family would enjoy playing it. I just had no idea how much.

Here’s Grandma playing the Wii. I think they got her to try Beach Vollyball and Bowling. She was doing pretty good with Bowling, but was having some problems getting the controls to cooperate. A pretty good sport, I thought.

My parents have been enjoying Boom Blox and some of the Wii Sports. My mother managed to beat us all at Golf on her first go.

And then there’s my nephews. I spent a few days visiting them, and they really had fun with playing the Wii too. I wasn’t sure if they were sad because I was leaving or because I was taking my Wii with me. I think probably both.

I think that it is pretty awesome that my Wii has now been played by four generations of my family. I’d say this birthday present to myself was well worth it!

Ten Years Ago

I was reading my daily news sites, and when I got to the Wyoming section of my reading list, I realized that today was the ten year anniversary of an event that had an important impact on my life.

Ten years ago, during my freshman year at the University of Wyoming, Matthew Shepard was tied to a fence post outside of Laramie, beaten, and left to die. He was discovered the next day, still alive, but tragically he did not survive his injuries and died in a coma a few days later.

The reason most commonly given for the attack was the fact that Shepard was gay. His kidnappers/attackers had offered him a ride home from a local bar, and then turned on him, pistol whipped him, stole his shoes, and abandoned him.

In Laramie, the reaction to the killing was generally outrage. I remember a newcast where a hardened old cowboy took off his hat, shook his head, and said “That’s not the way we do things in Wyoming.”

One month into my education at UW, the quiet town of Laramie was turned on its head. Several opposition groups (some representing activist churches) protested loudly and spread messages of hate. One of my honors classes took time to discuss the events, to try to see what had happened from several points of view. Many in the community, including myself, wore yellow cloth armbands with three green circles on them to show that we supported tolerance, not hate.

It was a chance for me to reflect on what it meant to be Mormon. The saints had been victims of hate and violence a century and a half before. Christ spread the message of tolerance, love for all, and hope. I had seen outpourings of hope and love, but had also seen the dangers of taking religious beliefs too far.

The events of a decade ago have moved me to be more tolerant… to take a moment to remember that Jesus said love everyone, to treat them kindly too. Even if I don’t share belief or value systems, even if I find those beliefs and values repugnant, I try to remember there is a person underneath and that they have value.

Matthew Shepard changed me. I hope that we all can all be changed for the better by the tragedy of Matthew Shepard.