Life Goes On

I lost my little nephew on Sunday morning. He was a perfectly healthy baby boy and it all happened so fast and was completely unexpected. The last few days have been a series of ups and downs. Some days are easier than others.

The world doesn’t really stop for grief though. I took Monday off of work (which wasn’t a big deal since I was just on call anyway), but I had classes to attend on Tuesday, the funeral services were on Wednesday, I was back at classes on Thursday, and then I went to work today.  It has felt strange to be caught in the middle of the world standing still and everything moving way too fast.

Today was a hard day. Work was okay, but as the day wore on, I knew I needed something to be okay. I needed to get out and do something or see someone or anything to get out of my head. There is a balance between moving on with life and giving yourself time to grieve. I have been stuck the last few days in the reality of our situation. I live with my brother and his family so I felt like I had to be strong for them and help as much as I could because of how hard this has been for them, but in the process, I completely neglected myself and my own needs.

I need people. I need to see people all the time. I need to talk to people and spend time with them and even just be around people having fun. I usually go to activities on Wednesday nights, and I felt like I needed to go this Wednesday, but things were complicated and I didn’t feel like I could abandon my family to go have fun. Then on Thursday, I felt again like I needed human interaction, but I decided to forgo attending a scripture study night to do other things instead. Anyway, I have just been putting off doing things I enjoy because I felt like there were more important things.

Tonight though, I broke. I shattered. I was crying so much that I didn’t trust myself to get out of bed because I was afraid of what I might do if I did get up.

I feel like there is a strange dichotomy to grieving. You have to reconcile the feelings of wanting to be sad because something tragic occurred, and needing to be happy because life is still going on around you. It feels almost like a betrayal to be happy when you lose someone. Does that mean you don’t miss them as much as you should? Is it even okay to have fun this soon? I think that little Gabriel would want me to have fun. That’s what I have always thought when someone passes away- they would want you to be happy and to live and love and do all the things they would have wanted to do. When it happens to you though, it is more difficult to sort out the thoughts and come to this conclusion. I was made for joy, and no amount of tragedy or difficult circumstances should take that away from me.

So, yes, in the end, life does go on. But that is probably what makes it most beautiful. It is beautiful that we can move on with our lives, that we can laugh again, that we can have fun, that we can be ourselves. I am learning through this that it is okay to be both happy and sad. It is okay to find happiness in a sad situation and it is okay to be sad in a happy situation. It is okay to feel. And even though it is hard, life is meant to go on.


Deserving Love

I used to think that if you were loved, you must deserve it. I thought that in order for someone to love you, you had to have done something worthy of love. Love wasn’t just given freely, it came with a price. I wasn’t sure what that price was, but I thought that only truly good people could be loved.

I heard people say to “love the sinner and hate the sin.” I knew that people in church expressed their love. I heard the words, I love you. I just didn’t see it. I didn’t see where love lasted past someone doing something wrong.

Last night, I kind of understood what love really means. I was at my brother in law’s family’s house. I have always loved being in their house. It just feels good. It feels like love. Up until this point, I thought that everyone in his family just deserved to be loved because they were so good. Last night though, it struck me that it wasn’t what they did that made them loved. They are simply loved because of who they are.

They have this tradition on someone’s birthday where they go around the room and say things they love about that person. I have been there for a few of their family members’ birthdays. I am always amazed at how loved each of them is. As I sat there listening to the things they were saying, I finally understood that love isn’t a one way path.

There is no one thing you can do to deserve love. Each person is different and unique and has different things about them to love, but each person deserves love simply because they are. It is not the deeds that qualify a person for love, their simple being means that they are worthy of love. You just have to look for the part of them that you can love and then love them because of that.

I haven’t felt loved for a lot of my life. That wasn’t because I was not loved, it was because I didn’t understand love. I thought that anger meant hate. I thought that I could never be loved because I would mess it up. I felt love and affection at times, but other times, I felt unlovable. It seems strange, but I sometimes even thought that I was too unworthy to even deserve to be punished. When I did something wrong and didn’t get the treatment that one of my siblings received, I felt like I was so far gone that I wasn’t even worth correcting.

My friends don’t understand. They tell me they love me and wonder why I doubt it or why I seem to think that changes. I thought that was how love worked. I thought you loved someone until they did something to make you stop loving them. I was never sure what makes people stop loving you. So anytime I made a mistake or hurt someone in the smallest way, I worried that their love would be taken from me.

I don’t know how long this feeling will last. I don’t know if I have really internalized that love is simply given, not earned. I can’t say that I’m going to stop asking my friends if they still love me. I do know that I have been changed though. I know that I’m a little closer to understanding what love really means. Someday I hope to understand a little more. Someday I hope that I can know that I deserve to be loved, not hurt, and that I realize that love isn’t a reward; it’s a gift.

Dear Best Friend

This letter is partly for my family because they have always been my best friends, but also for my non-relative friends who have been there for me in big and small ways over the years.

Dear best friend,
I want you to know how much I love you. I want you to know how much I appreciate you. I want you to know how much you mean to me.

Dear best friend,
I want you to know that it’s not your fault when I’m not okay. I want you to know that I don’t expect you to cure me. I want you to know that you do help more than you know.

Dear best friend,
I want you to know that you have saved my life more times than I can count. I want you to know that the dark loses its fight against me every day because of you. I want you to know that you make me a stronger and better person.

Dear best friend,
I want you to know that I would do anything for you. I want you to know that I recognize the things you have done for me. I want you to know that my life is brighter because you are in it.

Dear best friend,
I wish I could tell you how I really feel about you. I wish I could communicate how much I love you. I wish I could tell you how much you help me.

Dear best friend,

I wish I could be okay for you. I wish all my problems could just go away because I’m friends with you. I wish I could be the person you want me to be.

Dear best friend,

Thank you for loving me anyway. Thank you for being there for me over and over.

Dear best friend,
Thank you for being my friend.

Using Love Words

To some people loving others just seems to come naturally. They use words like I love you and honey and sweetie all the time and with just about anybody. For me, it’s hard to use these words unless I feel them strongly within my heart. I’ve gotten better at saying I love you, but that’s the only phrase I use. I have never said honey or sweetie and I’ve only ever thought those words toward someone once.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never had a significant other, but I just don’t use or think of pet names or nicknames for people. I just don’t feel the desire to call people anything other than their name or title. My best friend and I play around with nicknames every once in a while, but we don’t call each other by those names on a regular basis. I call her fireball when she gets upset and she calls me by a family nickname which is so familiar that it’s practically my name.

There was one time though that I felt love toward someone so strongly that I used the word honey. It was someone that I had never met before and was talking to online for the first time. I met them through an online support group where I helped people going through depression and other psychological disorders. Anyway, she asked me if I would keep talking to her so she wouldn’t have to die alone. And I just felt an overwhelming love for this person I had never met. She didn’t end up dying that night, but I talked to her until she went to sleep and just let her know that I loved her even though that conversation was the only thing I knew about her.

So even though I may not use the love words very often, I feel love. I feel it so deeply sometimes that it feels like it will spill out of me like a waterfall. And even if love doesn’t always feel like that, I know that I love and I am loved. And I just think, maybe the words will come eventually, but right now it is enough.

To Mothers

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I didn’t remember how much I miss my mom until I really stopped to remember the reason for mothers day and how grateful I am for my mom. So I just wanted to say to all mothers, if you haven’t heard your child say I love you or if you haven’t heard it in a while, just know that we do. We love you for all that you do and all that you are.

We may not be able to hug you or have conversations with you or effectively interact with you, but we love you. We love you more than you understand and more than we understand. We love just being around you even if it’s sitting in silence. We love hearing your voice and seeing you and spending time with you. We love knowing that you love us. We love having a mother and we love having you as our mother. We don’t know what we’d do without you.

Although I mostly write this to mothers of kids with autism, I think it applies to almost everyone that we don’t express our love for our mother as much as we really do love her. I personally have a hard time saying the words “I love you” because they never mean as much coming out of my mouth as they do in my heart. But maybe in writing my words will mean something close to how they feel within me.

I love you mom and I am so grateful you’re my mom.

We All Want Love

I love the beginning of the song “Long Time Coming” by Oliver James where it says, “Everybody wants to be loved every once in a while.” It’s true that we all want to feel loved, but we also want to know how much we are loved. Even though most of us know we are loved, many of us don’t know how much we are loved. And usually we think we are loved a lot less than we really are.

I am really horrible at saying “I love you.” Part of it is because of autism and part of it is because my family just isn’t very vocal about that sort of thing. We all love each other, but to show love we’ll usually do something nice for each other rather than say “I love you.” So I never really said “I love you” until a couple years ago. And it was hard for me to get comfortable with saying it out loud.

Because it’s so hard for me to express how I feel about someone, I usually write letters instead. I write letters for pretty much anything. If I’m feeling sad or lonely or depressed or left out or happy or ecstatic or loving or grateful, I usually express it through writing.

I have felt extremely foolish before for my letter writing.When I was in college I would write letters to my roommates all the time. I just couldn’t talk to them because they were at a completely different level than I was and I couldn’t figure out how to connect with them. So I would write notes and put them up hoping they would see them. Communicating like that in a college setting made me feel like less of a person. I felt mediocre for not being able to express myself like everyone else seemed to be able to do.

But other experiences have made me glad that I write letters. Last week I gave a letter to an amazing lady who always comes to the temple where I serve. I didn’t know she needed it, but I knew I could never tell her in person and I wanted her to know how grateful I am for her. Well, I saw her again last night and she just couldn’t stop hugging me. She told me how much she needed that letter and that she read it over and over and would cherish it always.

So my point with all of this is just to let people know how you feel about them. Let them know you are grateful for them and that you love them and that you admire them. It doesn’t matter if you do it in a letter or if you do it in person or over the phone or through social media. Just let them know, because we all want love and we all want to know we are loved.

A Little Christmas

This year we had the biggest Christmas I have ever had in my entire life. Well, biggest in terms of presents. We had a ton of presents this year. So many presents in fact that we were tired of opening presents by the time we had gotten to the end. We have never had a Christmas like this before. And to be honest, I hope we never do again.

I have decided that I like a little Christmas. Just a few presents and some genuine quality time. I’d rather have one gift that I can cherish and appreciate than 10 gifts that I won’t remember a year from now. Don’t get me wrong, I love gifts and I love giving gifts, but gifts mean more when there are less of them.

In my family, we have always opened our gifts one by one. Each person gets to see what each other person is opening and we get excited for the presents that we give and that others have given. It’s never been about the presents. It’s been about us. And I really missed that this year.

I miss getting excited when I see what other people have received, being happy for them because I know it is something they will enjoy. I miss each gift being unwrapped carefully because we treasure the time and thought that went into it. But mostly I miss the feeling I have when my family comes together to celebrate each other.

Yes, we celebrate the birth of our Savior at Christmas. But by giving each other carefully planned and picked out gifts, we celebrate our brothers and sisters. And I think that’s how Christ would want it to be.

I think if Christ were at our Christmas celebration, He would give us a carefully wrapped gift that reminded Him of us. He wouldn’t flood us with presents or try to get us the most expensive thing he could afford. He would give us something we hadn’t even realized we wanted that would remind us that He loves us and knows us and was thinking about us.

So next year, I’m committing to one gift and only one gift. It may be multiple items that tie into one, but it will be something that I’ve planned and picked out because I love who I am giving it to. And I will wrap that gift carefully and unwrap my gifts carefully because it will be our hearts wrapped in shiny paper to share with each other for that sacred day.