Sunday, July 10, 2011

Good Grief, It’s Memorial Day (Part 3)

This is the final part of the series of posts I started around Memorial Day.  I have tried to start it several times, but have not been sure what or how to share it, so here goes.

(The following paragraphs in green font were written a month ago after the Mingo Family Reunion.  The rest was written tonight)

Two years ago we finished up a very fun weekend at Bear Lake with Jodi’s immediate family. It was the end of the annual Mingo family reunion. Little did I know that when I said goodbye to Jodi’s dad and brother Jed, it would be the last time I would see them on this earth.

This weekend we had the annual Mingo family reunion.  Last night as a laid in bed, my thoughts drifted back to that reunion two years ago in Bear Lake.  Much has changed for this family since then, but I am certain, that over the last 3 days, the entire family was together even our angels.

As I laid in bed, I was well aware of my feelings. It is a feeling I have felt often when I reflect on them, and I was able to understand it more than I have in the past.

There is a scene in the movie The Other Side of Heaven, where the main character John, a young man who has chosen to sacrifice three years of his life to serve a mission in Hawaii for his church, is looking up at the stars.  He is thinking of the girl of his dreams that he left home in Idaho.  John is taking solace in the fact that at least his girlfriend is looking at the same stars he is.

While based on a true story, The Other Side of Heaven definitely romanticizes the account.  Like John, I too chose to sacrifice two years of my life while leaving the girl of my dreams at home in Idaho.  Perhaps I can understand the feelings that Elder John Groberg

While serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints you are asked to leave the worries and concerns of home at home and focus on the missionary work you are called to do.  I was diligent in my missionary efforts and can honestly say the concerns of home did not effect me while I served.  At night, after a long day of work, I would think of home as I laid down to sleep. I would then allow myself to think of those at home whom I loved and missed who were living their lives thousands of miles away from me.  I would feel a longing for them.  It was one of the hardest things I ever did.

As I laid in in bed after the reunion and reflected on Jodi’s dad and brothers, a similar filling filled my heart.  It is this feeling that has plagued me since their passing.

Jed was a remarkable young man.  My first memory of Jed could be considered one of my most embarrassing moments.  In high school I had driven to the middle of nowhere, where Jodi grew up to pick her up for a date.  There was a snow storm that had blown through.  In an attempt at chivalry, I decided to drive my parent’s mini van all the way up the drive way to Jodi’s front door so she would not have to walk the 300 yards through the drifting snow to the main road.  Needless to say, in my attempt to leave the drive way, the Ford Aerostar got stuck.

I took Jodi up to the house and asked to borrow a shovel.  A 14 year old Jed came out and spent the next 45 minutes helping me dig out.  Jodi and I then went to a movie as the storm continued.  When we returned to Jodi’s house I decided to not chance getting stuck again and we walked from the main road.  After returning to my car I proceeded back the Aerostar into the borrow pit as I backed onto the main road.  I probably dug with my hands for 30 minutes.  I did not want to go back up to the house at 12:30 in the morning.  Sheepishly I went back up to the house to borrow a shovel.  Again, Jed came out and dug with me for another 45 minutes to get me out of the ditch.

After I returned from my mission to Brazil, Jed was called to serve his mission.  He was also called to serve his mission in Brazil.  At the time I was teaching Portuguese in the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.  I had the opportunity to teach him before he departed on his two years of service in that wonderful country.  I always appreciated the special bond it created as we shared a common language and a common love for the people of Brazil.

Jed lived life.  He was a friend to all those he came in contact with. I miss him very much.

Ron was my father-in-law.  He was very kind and generous and helped Jodi and I often.  We were very different from each other.  I never felt really close to Ron, but I respected him for the kindness he always showed me.  It is silly looking back now how I allowed the stigma that sometime comes with the whole in-law dynamic effect our relationship.

Ron drove truck for as long as I have known the family.  Jodi and I started our friendship in 1990 when we were both 14.  He was always on the road providing for his family.  Until I was 21, I had probably only met Ron a handful of times.  I had gotten to know the rest of the family, but I did not know Ron well at all.

On one occasion, Jodi was talking to her dad and told him that our car had broken down the day before and that we would be taking it to the mechanic.  The next morning Ron showed up on our door with a truck ready to tow the car to his trusted mechanic.  I was mad. I went along with it and helped him load the car, but inside I was mad that he was involving himself in what I saw to be my business.  In reality, I read it as an indication of me not being the man of my own house and providing for my family.

How immature and petty I was.  That is the type of guy Ron was.  He just wanted to help other people.  I regret that I occasionally took his acts of kindness as indictments of the inadequacies I felt in my role as a provider for my family.  They say you live and learn.  Hopefully I will get a chance to tell him someday how appreciative I am for all of the things he has done for my family.

On one occasion, Jodi and I had arrived at the Mingo home for a weekend visit from school around 11 pm.  Ron was just getting ready to head out with a load that needed to be in Salt Lake City at 3 am.  Having never ridden with him on a haul, I saw this as a bonding opportunity.  Jodi and I both decided to go with him.  After we drove past the Idaho port of entry a few miles outside of Rupert, Ron looked at me and said, “Your going to learn how to drive a truck”.  I grew up on a farm and had driven my fair share of potato trucks, but I had never driven a semi.  To make it even more interesting the semi had a trailer followed by a pup trailer.

It was a fun experience, and one I remember fondly.  At one point on the journey as we came down a hill near Honeyville, Utah, the truck built up some speed.  At that  time there was some major construction going on in the area and the small bridge that crosses the Bear River quickly condensed into one very small lane.  My stomach was churning as it would if I were going off the tall drop of a roller coaster.  How we ever made it through that narrow lane without crashing I will never know.  Ron seemed calm and collected until after we made it through the hazard.  He then looked at me and said, “Whew, that was close”.  He must have thought I could do it as he let me drive back home as well.

Ron wanted everyone to hear about Jesus Christ.  I have heard many stories of him having a box full of Book of Mormons and Ensign magazines in his truck to share with those he met during his travels.  He enjoyed helping others and was one of the most charitable people I have known.  While we may have seen some things in different ways, he taught me a lot about helping people from all walks of life.

Today marks the 2nd anniversary of their death.  When you lose people you love, Memorial day becomes much more than just a holiday in may.  Memorial days come throughout the year on anniversaries, holidays, birthdays, and death dates.  A few years ago I wrote the following about Jed on another blog I maintained.  I would like to share it now.

May 7, 2010

I would translate that to English for you but I can't.  There isn't a word that explains it.  I lived in Brazil for 2 years, and while away from home for those two years, I truly understood the meaning of the Brazilian word saudades.  I have been home for 13 years now, and I have yet to find  a word in the English language that describes what saudades truly means.  There are words that come close, but none that truly signify what it means to have saudades.

miss - verb: to discover or feel the absence of

pine - verb: long for

long - verb: desire, crave

yearn - verb: desire strongly

Notice that these words are all verbs.  They are all something you do.  I miss him.  She pined for her husband that was away to war.  The child longs for the embrace of his mother.  Grandpa yearns for grandmother now that she has gone.  You get the point.  It is something you are actually doing. All of these examples would be much more precise if we had an equivalent to Saudades.  Saudades is a noun.  It takes no action to have saudades.  It is not something you do.  It is something you have.  You may learn to deal with it, but it becomes part of you as long as you are away from the one, or ones you love.

I had a conversation with my 6 year old the other night went something like this.

"Dad, if no one had to die, this life would be happy".  This was quite the insight from out of the blue.  I asked what she meant.  "Dad, I just miss them.  Sometimes I ask, 'Why did they have to die?"'.  I admitted that I had asked the same thing.  She then asked, "Why did we only get 2 hours with Austin?  Why did Grandpa, Jed, and Jordan have to leave us?".  Deep questions from my 6 year old.  We had a good discussion and went to sleep feeling as good as we could.

I have thought about that conversation since then.  I have thought a lot about saudades, and how almost like a medical condition you don't always have them on your terms.  The only cure, is to be reunited with those who are away from you.  The only treatment I have found, is to serve others, and always remember those you love.

Jed, Jordan, and Ron, as I think of you today on the anniversary of your deaths, and as I think of you often, Eu tehno saudades de voces.

A video interview with Jed – Link