Sunday, March 27, 2016

Our Saturdays- An Easter Message

Though I have always loved it, the meaning of Easter just never hit home for me until the Easter of 2014, just a month and a half after they died. I remember being in church, listening to all the lessons and testimonies of the Savior and his Atonement, tears streaming down my eyes, trying to hide my sniffles and still my shoulders. I was broken. I was still in pieces. But those testimonies lifted my soul that day, reminding me that there was still a hope to come.

That day I realized Easter is my new favorite holiday, because it is more than just a holiday. It is what I believe to be the most important event that ever happened in the history of the world; when every bad thing that had ever happened or ever would happen was made up for, when every mistake became forgivable, when every soul had the ability to hope.

Like everyone else, I’ve been reflecting a lot about the Atonement this week. Last night, I could not sleep. My mind was running, I was tossing and turning, walking about the house, trying to make myself tired. It wasn’t working, so I decided to listen to the scriptures. I read in Matthew and read about the institution of the first sacrament, the suffering in Gethsemane, the mocking and scourging, the crown of thorns on his head, the purple robe upon his shoulders, the whipping scars on his back, the nails in his wrists, hands, and feet, his final utterance. Friday.

I read about the women at the sepulcher, the angels guarding it, the apostles seeing Christ, His last few days on Earth before he ascended to Heaven. Sunday.

But what about Saturday? What happened Saturday?

I searched and read. I read all the 4 gospels. I couldn’t find anything about Saturday except for the fact that the chief priest demanded that guards be set about the tomb to ensure that nobody steal Christ’s body and claim he was risen. Nothing much is said about the disciples, what they did or what they thought.

I think when we think about the Atonement, it’s easy to remember the Friday because things that needed to happen were still so awful. We think about all the Savior went through for us. We are in awe that he would suffer so much for us because he loves us so much. Sunday is easy to talk about because that’s when the glorious resurrection happened, when He overcame death and His work was finished, and we know that we will also resurrect.

But what about Saturday??

My parents, Keegan, and Liam were all buried on a Friday. It was one of the hardest things I have ever experience, and I daresay ever will experience. Friday was packed with so many events, so many people, and though it is nothing compared to Christ’s last Friday, it was my own “last Friday,” the hardest Friday I ever had to live through. From closing their caskets for the final time, to the military gunshot blown at the cemetery, my body was there but my mind was elsewhere. It was all surreal.

The following Saturday was the strangest Saturday. I did not know why things happened, where I was going to go, what we as a family were going to do. Saturday, I realized that the hard part was over, and there were no more schedules, no more things to do. Now, I had to start getting on my feet. Once again, I felt I was in limbo.

I can only speak for myself, but I wonder if it was similar for Christ’s disciples; those thoughts of “What do we do now?” “Where do we go?” “How do we go on?”

I heard someone say recently something that really stuck my heart. It was a woman at a conference that I was blessed to speak at and be a part of. She quoted her son, “Everyone has a 10 to overcome.” Sometimes, we get hit with a “Friday,” where we hit a 10 on our level of hardship and the trial is unbearable, when the struggle is so unreal it becomes an out-of-body- experience. And then, when the event is over, our life transition into a “Saturday.”

I am still in the “Saturday” of my life.

Life is more often than not like those “Saturdays.” When something hard happens, after we have reached our 10, and we can’t go on, and we don’t know how to go on even though we know we are supposed to. Sometimes, between the trial and the triumph, we are in limbo, and it is during those “Saturdays” that is where our true nature is put to the test; do we doubt, or do we go forward with faith? Some days are more hopeful than other days, and some are more doubtful. Sometimes we go along our way fine, and sometimes we fall and cry.

But the beautiful things about Fridays and Saturdays is that they are always followed by Sundays. Christ appeared to those who loved him most as a glorious being that following Sunday. He showed them that “[he had] overcome the world” (John 16:33). He showed he completed his work, and that this Sunday was the reason he had to experience his Friday and Saturday. “Sundays” are meant to overcome the hardships and mistakes of “Fridays” and “Saturdays.” We get to start over. We get to look forward to a new beginning.  

I quote Jeffery R. Holland, a leader of the LDS church, where he says, “Easter Sunday always come after crucifixion Friday, never the other way around… Good things happen even after very, very difficult hours. You are evidence that happiness happens. The answer is through some suffering and some tears, but finally a victorious ending.”

Our “Fridays” will be hard, and our “Saturdays” may be filled with questions. And the beautiful thing about our “Sundays” is that everything will make sense. We will understand why everything happened the way they did, and the “Sundays” will make up for everything terrible that ever happened.  


Easter is more than a holiday. It’s a life changing event. It is the reason we can get through our hard “Fridays,” our limbo “Saturdays,” and the reason to look forward to our blessed “Sundays.” 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Through the Deaf's Eyes

Question: What does it mean to be deaf or hard-of-hearing?

Answer: Simple. It means you can’t hear.

Question: What it is like being deaf or hard-of-hearing?


Answer: Simple. It’s like being a goldfish. It’s like being a goldfish in a bowl. It’s watching everything and feeling like being in a different dimension, always having to watch, always needing to be aware. It’s knowing that lips are moving, and hearing gibberish. It’s tired eyes and headaches. It’s being denied repeated answers with “Neverminds” and “Don’t worry about its.” It’s being on an island among foreigners. It’s laughing at the old jokes with a five to ten second delay. It’s wondering if they are whispering about you. It’s when the first thing you notice about a person is their lips, then the crookedness of their teeth. It’s training your brain to recognize the shape of the lips and the placement of the tongue. It’s a strategy. It’s repetition. It’s keeping your eyes closely engaged in the conversation, watching back and forth between people, like a tennis ball in the court, the words being tossed from mouth to mouth, then laughter. It’s forcing a laugh when you realize they are laughing. It’s nodding as if you understand what is going on when nothing makes sense. It’s feeling like a fool when you nod at the wrong thing. It’s shaking your head quickly when you realize you nodded at the wrong thing. It’s preferring quiet to loud, light to dark, simple to complex. It’s finding contentment within your own realm. It’s normal. It’s simple, really.   

Monday, February 15, 2016

Logged-In

Dear Social Media,

I was caught into your trap before I realized it. In fact, my mind was sucked into your world back when I was young. I won't forget.

It started with a movie. "The Parent Trap," the one with Lindsey Lohan. I remember thinking the evil woman who wanted to marry the dad for his money was beautiful.

Ironic, right? But it was true. She had blonde hair and deep blue eyes. She was tall, and had a perfect figure. I looked at her, then I looked at myself. I was brown-all-around: brown eyes, brown hair, brown skin. For some reason, seeing this movie caused me to notice myself more. It was just a start. It didn't consume my mind, but it opened my eyes.

In middle school, self-consciousness became more apparent. Braces+new glasses= double whammy. My best friend wore cute flats and fun tops and short skirts. I wore T-shirts and jeans and tennis shoes. Her hair was long and straight. My hair was above the shoulders and tight curly. She had blue-green eyes. I had brown eyes. She had boyfriends. I did not.
My best friend introduced me to the world known as SHOPPING. That's when I discovered the magazines. I flipped pages. I noticed clothes. I noticed advertisements. I noticed the "Ins" and the "Outs." I was introduced to mascara and foundation.
You made me feel like I needed these things to be beautiful.
I bought into it.

High School came along. Technology began to develop more efficiently, and with that, your influence. Now there was more texting, and more online entertainment. Facebook developed to keep in contact with people. YouTube developed for entertainment and learning. I was hooked to both.
I got on because you convinced me.

Then, it was pictures. So many pictures. So many perfections. So many things to catch up on, so many things to become equal to.
Pictures.
Challenges.
Quizzes.
Advertisements.
Selfies.
Haircuts.
Weight loss.
Weight gain.
Makeup.
Sexiness.
Beauty.
Ins.
Outs.
Development.
Memes.
Politics.
Comparisons.
So many comparisons.

And the more I looked, the more I wanted. The more I wanted, the less I loved what I had. The less I loved what I had, the less I lived in my world. The less I lived in my world, the more I was sucked into your world of unrealistic, un-achievable, perfect world. The more I was sucked into your world, the less I loved my own world. My real world. My beautiful world.
I was never enough. Not tall enough. Not shaped-up enough. Not angular enough. Not bold enough. Not quiet enough. Not white enough. Not brown enough. Not talented enough. Not brave enough. Not enough.
It consumed me.

Dear Social Media,

No matter where I am at or who I am with, I suppose I'm supposed to take a picture.
No. I'm not expected to. I just feel inclined to.
I snap a selfie and expose myself to millions of people all around the world, where anyone and everyone can judge me.
I take pictures of my husband, and say #besthusbandever as if the world needs to know, as if the world is the source of approval, as if a LIKE is code for "I APPROVE OF THIS PICTURE." And if no one LIKES my picture, there is something wrong.
I take a picture, and you say, "Let everyone know your location!" No privacy anymore. And I became okay with that.
I take picture of food now. FOOD!
For approval??  


Dear Social Media,

The first thing I do when I wake up is get on my phone and log myself into your world. My husband lay next to me, waiting for me to get off, and checks his own phone.
Throughout the day, when I am tired of my world, I log into an unrealistic world to make sure I haven't missed anything.
I am on autopilot. I am logged in before I realize that I am logging in.
My husband is talking to me, and my eyes on looking at your world. My ears hear him, but my mind is on you.
I am talking to my husband, and his eyes are on his phone. While he's doing that, I decide I might as well log-in again.
I'm with my best friends, and we sit on the couch next to each other, individual screens up close in our faces, texting friends who are not with us, checking Facebook statuses of friends who are not with us, not fully allowing us to enjoy the company that is in the same room.
I'm with family members. We watch YouTube videos for fun and entertainment, instead of going outside to enjoy the sun and converse with each other.
You are everywhere.

And it's ridiculous.
I don't want to keep up with it anymore. I don't want to be logged-in.

It was never about me, about how I feel, about making me feel good. It was about your growth and expansion, all the while tearing into me, changing me, adjusting me to what you believe is good, what you believe in appropriate, what you believe is perfect.

You're always changing, and becoming so far from realism that it is impossible for me to catch up.

 
Dear Social Media,

It's time for a break. I will not waste my time anymore.

You'll keep growing and progressing rapidly. You'll continue to be updated.

I'll keep growing and progressing at my own pace. I'll discover my own life and beauty.

Sincerely,
Jens  

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Experimentation of my New Normal

It was kind of insane when I realized that what was once "my new normal" is now, honestly, is my "normal."

The things that used to throw me in for a loop are expected and habitual now; family gatherings aren't as hard as they used to be. I enjoy being with the in-laws. Being married is great, and Jacob and I are figuring out our own lives and our own traditions and what-nots. I don't dwell on the past nearly as much. I'm looking forward, and the future is honestly quite bright.

Which is why now, when I feel sad or frustrated, it kind of throws me off.

I realized this was happening a lot recently; I'd would randomly experience feelings of sadness, or numbness, or even anger, irritation, and frustration. The strange part was, I had no reason to. It always happened when things were ok, or when things were going smoothly. Suddenly, I couldn't stand the idea of being around people, so I'd hide in the back room when people came over and make myself busy, or take a nap. My husband would be so great and ask what was wrong and if I wanted to talk, but I couldn't talk because there wasn't anything for me to really talk about!

This began to bother me, and so I started analyzing myself. Why was I becoming angry? I thought, "Perhaps I'm in the anger phase of grief?" But after thinking about it, I realized that wasn't it. My parents and brothers are gone, but I know that I have come to terms with it. I don't miss them any less, but I don't dwell on it like I used to. Sure, there are moments when I let myself have a little cry, stand up, brush my shoulders and go on with my day, but those don't last as long as they used to.

No, this was something different. This was something that was trying to take away my happiness, take away my joy. And I was letting it.

I especially realized this on a Saturday a couple of weeks ago, when my husband and I decided it was time to deep clean our home. The extra bedroom has been a storage space for months, the living room was still festive from Christmas, and the dishes where piling.
We got to work.
So, I must confess. I inherited a trait from my mother: the "Do Not Tell Me How To Clean My House Trait Because I Want It Done My Way Because My Way Is The Cleanest Way And Get It Done Quickly And That's Just How It Is" trait. (Which, in her defense, it really was the cleanest way, which is why our house was almost always immaculate when people came over. They were always impressed. A lot of work went into the cleaning, so it's a good thing right?) This trait is something that I did not want to inherit, but I am a lot more like my mother than I realized.
As we cleaned, I felt more and more anxious and frustrated, because I wanted to hurry. My husband, on the other hand, is more like my dad, who likes to take his time to get the job done. Which is also a good thing, I know.
But the frustration began when we started working on the backroom. I wanted to get rid of things. He thought it would be wise to go through things.  (Which, turns out, he was right, but I would never admit that.)
Long story short, (too late) I became crabby. There was more to do, and I didn't want to clean and if we would just do it my way, things would get done! I was not pleasant to be around, and my husband kept being patient. He gave me my space, and I went about the back room, putting away the stuff that I felt belonged and getting rid of the things that I felt should be tossed. My irritation started boiling over to anger, and I let it build.
Until I decided to put away some item into a drawer that I never look into, and as I opened it, I saw something that wasn't supposed to be there: my birthday present.

My birthday is next week.

I stopped and stared at it. It was a game. One of the only games I really like. And he had ordered it for me. He came up and saw what I was looking at. He simply smiled a little and said, "Happy Birthday."

You could say my guilt exceeded my frustration.

I realized that I had been childish, and I felt so mad at myself. So I fell into a shut-down mode. I sat in the corner of the back room, on a bean-bag chair, pouting to myself, feeling so bad. I knew that he was so excited to give me this present on my birthday. (I know this because when it came in the Amazon box a week earlier, he told me, "I just want to give it to you RIGHT NOW! But... I can't. You will have to wait." Then, with a mischievous look in his eyes, he said, "What could it be?")

I told him that I needed to go for a drive, and I did, allowing all my thoughts to come back together.
As I thought, I realized that there was a pattern. Something would irk me, which led to irritation, which led to boiling over to anger, which led to irrational actions, (yelling, punching the table, storming away to the bedroom and shutting the door) which led to pride, which led to guilt for such irrational actions, which led to sadness.  

Two problems with this:
1. Joy and happiness is not included in this chain of events.
2. It was starting to become A New Normal.

And I didn't want it to become a normal.

Thus the experiment began: The Experimentation of My New Normal.

I started to pay attention to the thoughts that formed in my head during various times, whether they were happy thoughts, or sad thoughts, mad thoughts, or even anxious ones. I watched for where I was, what I was doing, who I was with. I did this for a couple of weeks.

I then had yet another realization.

I was no longer dwelling on the past. I wasn't dwelling on my hurt. I was trying to move forward. And because of that, the adversary was attacking my present. I felt that he was attacking me through my emotions and my thoughts.

Perhaps it is different for everyone, but I feel like there are plenty of people who may experience thoughts such as:

"I will never be as pretty as so-and-so..."
"I can't teach the same as this person..."
"I'll never be as smart as..."
"Clearly there is something wrong with me..."
"I wish I was as skinny as this person..."
"I wish I could gain weight..."
"This person is so much more talented..."
"I will never be as successful as so-and-so..."

But the interesting question is, how do these thoughts come into our heads?
I think it's not always us, but rather, we are influenced.

Why on earth would we think this way about ourselves? Why would we think negatively, or belittle ourselves?
What right do we have?
We owe it to ourselves to reach our potential.

And there is always going to be an opposing side trying to get us not to.

The Experimentation of My New Normal is still going on. I made a list for myself of things to do when I feel attacked by myself.
1. Breathe. Clear my mind.
2. Think. Is this really going to matter tomorrow?
3. If the answer to #2 is yes, how can I fix it?
4. Talk. Don't bottle up.

I'm still figuring out things. But hey, who am I to tell myself I can't accomplish what I want?



Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Readiest

I almost went to the cemetery today. It's Christmas, it's cold, and I miss them.

I don't know why, but I thought going to the cemetery would be... I don't know, therapeutic? Give me some closure? I haven't been there since well before I got married. Maybe staring at the headstones would make me feel better? Make me feel close to them? Make me feel like I'm with them?
I left school.

I got in the car, waited for the cars to pass, moving slowly so as to not slide on the slush. It was sunny today, so some of the snow was beginning to melt. Cars were going slightly slower. I followed them. I had to go around the block because of the way the car was parked, so the drive was taking longer than anticipated. I was alone.

I drove mindlessly, barely listening to the Christmas music that blared  "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year." My mind wasn't really on Christmas. Just family.

As I drove, my thinking relying more on my emotions, thinking about how I miss them, my rational side kicked in; the Bill Parrish part of me, I call it. My mind suddenly stopped thinking, "Maybe I'll feel better seeing their headstones." Instead it thought, "Will going to the cemetery really make you feel any better?" I realized it wouldn't, not really. It would just make it worse.

I turned the car around.
***

They aren't at the cemetery. Sure, their bodies may be. But they aren't there.
Why are we sad when people die? Physically, they are here. The bodies are here. But the spirit is not. The personality is not. The souls that we connect with, the hearts that we grow to love, the spirits that we are knit together with... they are not there, and that is what we miss. That is what we long for.

And when that spirit is called home, the person isn't here.

***

Humans are so interesting. Humans are conflicting. We say one thing, and mean the next. We want one thing, then we want the next thing. We want evidence. We want proof. We want to see.

And when someone that we love die, and they are placed into the ground, no longer physically in our lives, no longer physically in our sight, we become sad, depressed, angry, confused, irritated, irrational, conflicted, hurt. We experience so many emotions.
But why?
Because it's not just the person we miss. It's the soul.

We want that soul with us. We want to see them, touch them, hear them, smell them, experience life with them by our side. We want them here, holding our hands, wiping our tears, kissing our cheeks, squeezing us in their embrace.
And when the spirit leaves, there is only the body. And therefore, the soul is temporarily parted. The body is here, the spirit is there, and the soul is waiting.

I don't know how it all works, but when I think of those who pass on, I wonder if those spirits watch over us; that spirits of loved ones who pass through into another life watch us, perhaps like watching through another dimension that we are unable to see with our mortal eyes. I wouldn't be surprised if they walk besides us sometimes. Maybe not all the time, but when they can. I wonder if they watch us during our hardest moments, and our happiest moments.

I wonder if they miss us. I wonder if it's harder for them than it is for us. I wonder if they see us, wanting to comfort us, wanting to tell us, "Hey, it's ok! Really, if you could just see and understand what I see and understand, you wouldn't be so sad. You wouldn't be so hurt." I wonder if they cry when we cry, yearn to hold us in their arms, and hurt even more when they realize that because of the separation, we can't feel them. I wonder if it hurts for them to realize that due to mortality, we can't feel them, knowing full well that we only can comprehend and understand such physical contact. I wonder...

All the better reason to prepare. All the more reason to be that soul that is ready.

I can't see them today. Or tomorrow. Or for however long. But I know they were ready, some of the readiest people that I know. They are just waiting to be reunited.
I want my soul to be as lovely as theirs.

 “His soul sat up. It met me. Those kinds of souls always do - the best ones. The ones who rise up and say "I know who you are and I am ready. Not that I want to go, of course, but I will come." Those souls are always light because more of them have been put out."  - The Book Thief 

   

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Good Life

My Great Grandpa "Grape" is 99 years old. He has lived almost an entire century. And wow, a century is a long, long time. My Grandpa Grape is someone that I love and respect.

I remember being really little, and my family going over to Grandpa Grape's and Nonny's house. I remember having sleepovers there when I just wanted Nonny-Grandpa-Jensen time. The thing about Nonny and Grandpa Grape is, they always made you feel like you were the favorite grandchild. (I'm pretty sure every single one of us feel like we are the favorite.) Whenever I went over, Nonny made sure that she had a can of Dinty Moore stew for me to have for lunch, because she knew it was my favorite. That, and Minute Maid fruit punch. They had squirrels that lived in the trees of their yard, and they would take me out, peanuts in my little hands, and Grandpa would pick me up to place the peanuts along the gate for the squirrels to get later. Then, Grandpa Grape would take me out to have Grandpa Grape-Jensen time while Nonny did her business around the house. Grandpa would take me on a walk around the block, or the park down the street, or every once in a special while, miniature golfing.

Years pass. Aging happens. Nonny fell down the stairs one day, and she was never the same. At first, it was just an infection. Eventually, it turned into dementia. Nonny and Grandpa Grape moved out of there home they have always lived in since they moved to Pocatello, and moved into a little apartment with no stairs. Nonny became worse, and had to be moved to the retirement home. Grandpa Grape lived with his daughter, my grandmother, Granna. For the next couple of years, everyday, without fail, the first thing Grandpa Grape would do in the morning would get himself ready for the day and drive down to be with Nonny, and there he would stay all day in his chair, to be with his love, while she laid in a bed. We would come and visit weekly, and there was never a time when my family would go that Grandpa was not there.

Nonny died February 22, 2012.

Grandpa "Grape" is 99 years old. That's almost a century of living. That's three years without his love. When I go over to visit him, I like to ask him what his life was like. He still has a witty mind. I asked him what made him love Nonny. He smiled and said, "She was the prettiest girl in the dancing hall."

Grandpa Grape had to go the hospital last week. My husband and I went over to visit him with Granna and her husband, Bill Al. A young nurse came in to help him with some therapy. She was a sweet thing, asking him questions while they worked with his arms. She asked him about Nonny, referring to her as "his wife." He smiled and told her briefly about their marriage, and that she passed away about three years ago. The nurse responded, "I just got engaged. Do you have any good advice for me?"

I think the rest of us in the room were slightly curious what he was going to say. I was at least. He was married a majority of his life. He gave up athletic scholarships to marry her. He and she went through the Great Depression together. They moved several times together. What was the secret.

His answer was simple. "Oh, just live a good life."

...

Just live a good life. A good life? It struck into my heart, and for the rest of the day, and really the week, it was on my mind. What is a good life?

Perhaps the good life is simply to live and love and sacrifice. Perhaps living a good life is putting others' needs before your own. We live in a world of defenses and offenses, a time of "If it doesn't fit my needs, or satisfies my desires, it's bad." We live in a world of "Good Guy vs. Bad Guy."

But what if we stopped? What if we changed?

What if we stopped worrying about ourselves and started being more concerned about others? On a personal level? What if instead of pointing fingers, we opened our arms? What if we accepted? I'm not saying always agree. There is a huge difference between accepting someone and agreeing with someone.

What if we sacrificed something we want for something better? What if we sacrificed ourselves for someone else? That may not mean your mortal life, but something of value, like time?

I think that it is in our spiritual nature to want to help others. If we were to look into the very depths of ourselves, and find the hidden treasure that is our gift for others, we would make a difference in the world. When we are honest with ourselves, understanding that not everything makes sense, and not everything may seem fair, but there is a purpose in life. That purpose is to live, and to do good.

With everything that have been happening in the world, Paris, Kenya... it's easy to be afraid. It's easy to be hurt. It's easy to think, "This isn't fair. This isn't right." We change our profiles pictures to show the flag. We share Facebook posts of the various news. We try to show our support.

I think that's great. But maybe we could do more.

Living the good life is living with love, compassion. Living the good life is to be the change you want to see in the world, especially during times like these. Being the good in this world is by starting small, and improving, not being stagnant.

We all have the power to change things. We have been given that gift.

Start small. Do something to make a change.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Daily Affirmation

I still vividly remember the night that I found out. I can tell you where I was, what I was doing, what I was wearing.
(New apartment, on the living room couch, old EFY T-shirt and pink cotton pants. I had just finished saying a prayer.)

I vividly remember the looks on my "mission parents'" faces. When I think about President's tight hug, I remember how crushing it felt, him not wanting to let me go, not wanting to be the one to tell me that my parents and brothers were gone. I remember it took him a little while to say it, and how it crushed him, and his wife. I remember my companion and the Hermanas were also in the living room sitting on the floor in their pajamas, shocked, speechless, not knowing if they should say anything. I remember that the only light in the room was the bright light coming from the open kitchen.

I remember saying, "Give me a minute," and running into my room, falling on my knees at my bed, crying, saying "Why, God? What did I do wrong?" My companion came into my room, knelt beside me, and called me by my real name.

Jensen, you didn't do anything wrong. 

Everything after that is a blur to me. I have flashbulb memories, like how the next morning, the other two ASL sisters, one of which is my best friend, came to the mission home and hugged me so tight, I couldn't breathe. I remember my mission "baby" (who I trained) bought my a pillow pet to have and to hold and to cuddle, because she didn't know what else she could do.

I still have that pillow, by the way. It's a brown puppy. I cuddled and held that pillow for months afterwards.

I remember FaceBook had photos and images of my parents and brothers messages galore, FaceBook posts galore, emails galore.

One email was from Mom from the week before. I had missed it before I signed off.
That hurt the most.

I remember seeing Ian at the airport, for the first time in 18 months. I remember sitting on the plane, and all the eyes that glanced at us, some of them knowing exactly who we were, some of them thinking that they knew. The woman sitting behind us asked, "Are you the missionaries who..." then started to cry and couldn't finish. Some people looked at us from time to time all the way back to Pocatello.

And when I say all the way back, it was only 45 minutes; the longest 45 minutes of my life.

I remember landing. I remember my brother putting his arm around me. No words were needed. We stood up, arm around each other, and walked side by side off the plane. I remember seeing my extended family, all who were close. I remember seeing my bishop, my stake president. And tears.

Not Mom, or Dad, or Keegan or Liam.

I remember.
But most of all, I remember feeling
Overwhelmed.
Unprepared.
So small.
So scared.
Strong.
Weak.
Numb.
Unsure.

I remember thinking...
I can't do this. 
I just can't.

It's been 20 months.

Overtime, I've learned a truth.  Seeing them when I got home is not the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. Shutting the caskets is not the hardest thing I've done in my life. Even burying them is not the hardest thing I've done in my life.

The hardest thing I've ever had to do even up until now, and quite possibly will be for the rest of my life is living without them. That is the hard part.
The hardest part isn't necessarily that I don't see them everyday. Even if they were still here, I probably wouldn't. The hardest part is that I can't see them here, and oh, how I want to see them.
The hardest part is not knowing. Even if I could have a time frame, like Heavenly Father saying, "Hey Jens, I need them now, I have a work for them to do. But when you are 83 years old, your time will come and it will all be ok." Even that would be better than not knowing.
The hardest part is learning to accept things exactly as they are. The hardest part is still feeling even slightly out of place at family "get togethers." The hardest part is dealing with the anxiety and nervous breakdowns, and retraining my brain to be happy. The hardest part... is subconscious mourning.

I'm not talking about just mourning as in wearing black all the time and crying out loud and publicly. I think mourning is deeper than that.
Mourning is hurting.
Mourning is feeling.

To all of you that are fighting your battles, whatever they are...
To all of you hurting...
To all of you struggling, not knowing what to do, where to go, who to trust...

You are strong. You are created to do hard things. And you strengthen me everyday.
Look how far you've come. You're still here, aren't you? You're still breathing, aren't you? You're still standing, aren't you? You're still trying, aren't you?
You are a fighter. A conqueror. No matter how low you feel or how insecure you are.
You conquer by being a mother, a father, a friend, a teacher. You conquer mourning by loving, accepting, trying. You conquer by standing along with someone, anyone.
Just by stepping forward, you conquer.

Keep going. Don't quit.

I remember thinking I can't do this. I just can't.
But I did, and I'm still doing it. Still learning, still growing. And there has been help along the way.

I'm absolutely am not perfect. I hope this doesn't come across that way. I have days when I am just plain mad, or sad, or lazy, or forgetful, or ignorant.
And then, sometimes I become overwhelmed, wanting to be progressing, comparing myself to others, wishing I was as patient, or caring, or selfless as them.

But I'm stepping forward.
During my mission, one of my leaders once said, "I may not be perfect, and I may not know exactly where I stand, but I'm moving up. And that's all that really matters."
It's so true.
Keep it up.