Tuesday, January 3, 2012

For Her

It has been 15 years since my mom passed away. Yet, not one day goes by that she fails to be in my life. I have never written about her or the role that she plays for me personally, so I have a feeling of excitement and a small fear of how to appropriately express myself. Yes, I was a little girl when she died and don't have as many clear memories of her as I wish I did, but she has been the number one biggest influence in my life. I will try to explain the power of this, and hopefully not completely fail. When I was younger and didn't understand or see things as I do now, I held a grudge against nature and the course of life. Now I look at death as a commencement, or a beginning of things as they should be. There is no reason to fear the inevitable. I used to look at the future and be sad that she would miss all the big events in my life. I had wished that she would have seen me play sports, and been to my graduation. I hated the idea that she would not be there for my wedding or be able to love on my babies. It was not until a few years ago that I realized how truly blessed I am that it is not the end, and that she is still 100% in my life. Her death has impacted my choices, thoughts, and desires as I am sure that it has my siblings as well. when someone dies that is close to you, I believe your mind is opened and you are able to think about things that previously did not matter. Heaven and the plan of happiness become a little more real. The choices I make today, are so that I can be with her tomorrow. When you think about life after death, and the things that become important then, it makes this life become a little more clear. I often think to myself, what work is my mom doing? Of course she is serving, she is teaching, and knowing how she was during this life, i'd like to bet she is laughing and making many new friends. For me, it puts this life into perspective. Why would I not be doing those things now? She may not be where I can see her but we can still work together. I can help her work be a little lighter, and feel closer to her as I am serving in the ways that I know she is. I am so grateful for the example that my mom was and continues to be for me today. The lessons that she has taught me are priceless. I will stop my personal writing because there are some other passages I would like to include. These are memories of my mom from my aunt, sister, and one of my mom's friends. I thought that these captured who my mom was and who she is today the best.

My Aunt Kim wrote:

Monica was my parents first child to be born…but also the first to die. She died on January 3rd, 1997 of lung cancer. She was 37 ½. Today she would be 50. She would probably do something crazy like run down the street in the rain (if there was any) rain, trip and fall, trash her leg (she did all this once) and then have a fit over the need for first aid.

Oldest of 4 girls and two boys. She was an energetic, full of spunk, kind of kid. To me she was the one with the boyfriends. The one that lived to be social. She loved to dance. She loved to sing. She loved the young women in her ward. But most of all…she loved her man and her children! She thought her kids were the only kids that were in the room. She would sew and sew and make all kinds of things for her babies. She loved to be crafty. She would make stuff to sell and make extra money for Christmas. She saved and saved so she could buy herself a ticket to see Phantom of the Opera. She would start to tell you a funny story-usually about Stan and before she would get to the end she would be laughing so hard you couldn’t understand what she was saying…but you would be laughing equally as hard because she had a way of getting you involved in the story. She would tell equally funny stories on herself as well. One thing is for sure, where ever she was, that is where the laughter was.

As an adult Monica had numerous friends. In fact everyone she met-she considered a friend, whether they were 20 or 82-age didn't matter. She didn't waste time on others shortcomings, life was to short for that, she just loved people and they loved her back. If you were her friend you were her friend for life. Her funeral was standing room only at the stake center. I think every person she had ever known from grade school on up, was there, people we had long forgotten but had somehow learned of her passing and wanted to be there because she had touched their life in some way.

I think of Monica often, but today I think of her especially. I wonder what she would think of her daughters? I wonder what she would think of her only son-Joseph? I wonder what she would think of her grandbabies? And then I know!!! She would be amazed at the beauty of her girls! She would be thrilled with their life choices. She would remind them they were daughters of God who loves them by how she felt about herself. She would be in awe. And Joseph-she would think...this is Stan in miniature. This kid is so funny and goofy and smart and so reminds me of why I married his dad!

But....we cannot just give a sentence in a paragraph to what she would think of her grandbabies!!! She would eat them alive! She would start talking in their voices-like she did when her kids were little people! She would be sewing them dresses, making them things for their rooms, she would be spending her summers with them-nothing stopped her from going on a road trip. She would load up whoever was going in the car that was functioning the best and off they would go.

Oh there are many stories of Monica, and really you can't post about someone and give them justice in just a few short paragraphs...but this I know. She was my older sister, my friend, my confidante, my favorite comedian, life of the party, my teacher by example. Thinking of her does not bring sadness, only the fondest of memories, I love her and I miss her!

Brittanie wrote:

*Does anyone remember the tan van? =) It was a beauty. We drove it up to Utah one summer and the ac broke. She spent the trip rubbing cold water on our arms and our legs. It's just a little memory but I love it. I don't know if it was on that same trip but one time as we were driving she saw wheat (I think) growing wild and we pulled over so that she could pick some to use in her wall decor. I always want to pull over and do cool spontaneous things but I never do! I need to be more like her.
* When my mom was pregnant with Joseph she went into the hospital a couple times at the end and they sent her home. Well - she really wanted to have him so we went on a walk one night and when we got to the corner she had an attack of IPC's as she called it. Involuntary poop contractions! She was walking around on her tippie toes in circles trying to hold it in and I about died because I was laughing so hard!
* My mom saw The God's Must Be Crazy 2 at the dollar theater over and over. She thought it was hilarious!
* When I turned 12 there was a special night at our church and all the parents got a turn to get up and talk about their daughter. She cried the whole time she talked about me.! I don't remember if she cried on my first day of kindergarten but I do know that she cried when she sent me off to girl's camp for my first time. Now I know why she was crying because I get like that when I talk/think about my kids!
* She could laugh with anyone. One time we were driving along and there were some teenage boys next to us. The kid driving stalled big time and my mom died laughing. The boys looked at her and started laughing and we were all laughing and then she waved at them and we all went our separate ways. She could make friends with anyone anywhere!
*Watching her line dance to Neal McCoy's GIVE ME THAT WINK and her saying how much she loved his tight cowboy jeans and boots.
* mopping the floor with her and Kelyn. This was on our hands and knees and we each picked a corner and met in the middle. I'm SO glad she taught me how to work!!!!
* One time I came home from school and said the word "freakin" and she had told me that if I said that again she would put soap in my mouth so I took off running and she started chasing me around and around and by the end we were both laughing so hard - it was the best.
* Coming home from school with my friend Renee and turning the corner in the kitchen to find her NAKED and leaning against the counter just chatting away on the phone. HAHA! Renee and I still laugh about that!
*She was always such a good sport and drove the UGLIEST cars. One time Kelyn and I were playing around the block and she drove up in her "new" white car and leaned her head out the window and asked if we wanted to go cruising with her. The funny thing is I think that she really was excited about this new car and it was so ugly-VERY LONG, VERY WIDE. One time we had to get out in the middle of the intersection and push it into a gas station. NICE!
* Her reaction to me starting my period. CLASSIC.
* If she ever got after me she would come in to talk to me later and apologize and help me understand why I had gotten in trouble.
* The way she loved dad. When I was a teenager she told me that she still got butterflies when he held her hand.
*Her whistle that could be heard 4 blocks away!
* The way she took care of me when I was sick. I had a bell that I could ring for her and she always held my hair back when I threw up. I wish I had taken better care of her when she was sick.
*Making Valentines Day cookies. We got to miss school the day before V-day to help make them. We always had stacks and stacks of heart-shaped cookies on the table and once we were done decorating them we would go around to people's houses and leave them on the doorstep and knock and run.
* Her teaching us girl's camp songs and singing in the car on all of our vacations.

and last but not least Lisa wrote:

I sure appreciate the opportunity to write down some feelings about Monica. She had a huge impact on my life, in the short time that I knew her. I met Monica the summer of 1993, when my husband and our young family moved here to Mesa from California. I was 27 years old. I could tell immediately that everyone loved her, and I wanted so bad to get to know her too, but was not outgoing enough to do anything about it. It was Monica that first introduced me to the phrase “Girls Night Out”. (I know how old fashioned that sounds, but my mom never went out with just girlfriends, so I was following the same pattern). In fact, the first time she called me and asked me to join her and some friends for a movie night, I told her I’d think about it, having no intention of going. It was my husband who talked me into going, knowing full well that it would be good for me to get out of the house for a few hours without the kids. My world began to open up for me at that time.

In February of 1994, I was called to be Young Women’s president of 16th ward, and I was feeling pretty inadequate and “unqualified”. When Stan, our new bishop-and Monica’s husband- asked me who I would like to have in there as the Laurel Advisor, I mentioned how I would LOVE to have Monica, but that I knew I probably wouldn’t get her because of Stan’s new calling. I was so grateful when he said, “I think we can make that work.” So began my friendship with Monica.

She was the light and laughter of young women’s! The girls were drawn to her naturally, and so was I. I can think of countless activities where we just laughed and laughed and laughed! One night, we had a video scavenger hunt, and we dropped the girls off at the library, and had to make a U-turn. Monica didn’t realize that I had the video camera running, and she began talking about the hotel up the street, where she and Stan had spent their wedding night. Although she didn’t go into any kind of detail, she started to make a few remarks about that night, when I told her to look over at me. When she looked over and saw the camera on her, she screamed like you wouldn’t believe, and we just laughed and laughed that she’d been caught on camera. I still have that video somewhere.

Another funny memory was when I got home from running an errand one night, and as I got to the front door, Monica walked out of my house. I was surprised to see her, because her big brown van wasn’t parked in front. “Guess what Lisa?! My van was just stolen a few minutes ago!!” She had come over to drop something off, and as she came inside to wait for me, she heard her van start up and drive away. I think she was shocked that someone would steal the van…she LOVED that van. Luckily for her (and maybe not for Stan, because I don’t think he liked it very much)- the van was found a day or so later in Chandler. She was SO happy to have it back.

Monica was known for calling people on their birthdays, and singing a very sultry Marilyn Monroe version of “Happy Birthday”. I had no idea she did this, until she sang to me on my birthday for the first time. I laughed and laughed and laughed. No present could ever beat her singing to me!
One of my fondest memories was taking the young women to Utah for a few days. She and I were both pregnant, I was pregnant with Jeri, she with Joseph. We were both due about the same time, and so we enjoyed having that in common. Here we were, two leaders, 7 months pregnant, taking a long road trip. It was on this trip that I saw Monica laugh so hard, that her veins were literally popping out of her neck, she was beat red, and she just couldn’t stop! It was one of the highlights of the trip, and I’m sure the girls still remember it.

Towards the end of our pregnancies, Monica talked me into taking Castor Oil. We finally agreed to both take it the same night, right after her baby shower. The next morning she called first thing, and we both shared our stories of how it was one of the most miserable nights of our lives! And of course, it didn’t send either one of us into labor. I finally had Jeri on June 27, 1995, our fourth child. I can still vividly remember laying in my bed several hours after she was born, and the door opened, and Monica’s head popped in. I was so happy to see her! She laughed as she told me how she couldn’t find any parking, so she parked in the “expectant mother” parking spot (the space where mom’s who are in labor can park), and just wobbled into the hospital, no questions asked. We had a great visit, and then 3 days later, she had Joseph. We joked how Jeri and Joseph were going to grow up and get married someday, and that we’d be the best in-laws!

I loved those next few weeks, when we would talk on the phone, and just complain about how our bodies would hurt. One day in particular, we both just complained and complained to each other, laughing, and sometimes not laughing about all the ailments our post partum bodies were going through. The next day, Monica came over with a little wooden sign she had made saying “No Whining”. I guess we’d both been complaining just a little too much! I still have that sign, and I think of her every time I look at it.

Two weeks after I had Jeri, I got Bells Palsy, which caused the left side of my face to go completely paralyzed. It was disfiguring for the next 6 months, and I instinctively became sort of a hermit that first month. I remember one day when the ward was going on a ward activity, ice blocking I think, and I just didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to see anyone yet. Monica called, and asked me to come over and hang out with her instead. So my family went on the activity, so did hers, and I went over and we spent the afternoon hanging out with our newborns. She understood how hard it was for me, and was so compassionate about it.

During the next few months several things happened that just put me under a lot of stress, and I shared these things with Monica. One day she called me, and said “Out of all the things that have been happening to you lately, all the stress…what is the one thing that would send you over the edge right now?” I answered, “If I found out I was pregnant”. Without skipping a beat, she said proudly “Bingo!” Monica was pregnant. We laughed, we cried…and we laughed some more.

I was so sad to learn the Kivetts would be moving to North Carolina soon after Hannah was born. We promised we’d stay in touch, and I cried the day they moved. It was then that I decided that we needed to get the Internet, so I could email her. But what only seemed like a few weeks later I got from Jeannie Reynolds, one of Monica’s best friends. I will never forget the pit in my stomach. “Monica has cancer”. I called our Bishop, Dave Shumway, and the word spread quickly. Our temple night was that night, and so her name was put on the rolls. That night in the temple, as I entered the Celestial Room, I sat down in a corner, away from anyone who would or could see me, and I wept for a very long time. I prayed harder than I had in a long time too, and in my heart, I knew she could beat this. I just knew it.

The next day, Monica called. I broke down again. I feel bad about that now, because here she was, the one with cancer, and she had to comfort ME over the phone. We spoke several times in the next few weeks, and one conversation in particular, really stood out to me. She spoke of her children, and of the deep love she had for them. She told me that she didn’t want to die, and that she wasn’t ready to go yet. She explained to me how no one would ever love her children the way she loves them. I agreed with her. She was ready to do whatever it took to live, so that she could raise her kids.

As she began her treatments, it seemed that they were successful, and I felt so much hope for her. Her lungs were clearing up, it seemed. But then Jeannie called, and broke the second bad news, that the cancer had gone into her brain. She only had a few months left. I was devastated. Jeannie came over that day, sat at my kitchen table with me, and we cried together. It was the first time I’d ever really felt any kind of connection with Jeannie. She expressed to me that afternoon, how Monica had brought us together as friends. Our friendship has grown tremendously throughout the years, and she is one of my dearest friends today.

When I learned that the Kivetts had decided to move back to Mesa, I was initially nervous to see Monica. I knew she’d lost her hair, and had lost weight. I didn’t know how I would react, and wanted so badly to act normal. Jeannie brought her over, and we just cried and hugged, and actually laughed. But I could see in her eyes, something different. Although she didn’t want to be, she was so afraid of what was ahead. She fiercely didn’t want to leave her family behind, and it was hard to see her so vulnerable.

I went to see her at her parent’s home several times, and I tried so hard to just have small talk, but it was a new experience for me, and Monica was still so comforting to me in a time when I should have been comforting her. We had many great conversations, and I was so impressed with her faith, as it continued to grow. She really taught me a lot about trusting Heavenly Father.

One day in late November, while I was visiting, Stan came in to the room, and Monica expressed to him how she had a strong need to get to the temple. She was so week at this point, though, that she couldn’t go alone. She would need assistance even walking. Stan wanted to take her, but he couldn’t that day, so I asked if I could take her. She was so relieved that she was going to be able to go back to “Her Temple” as she called it that day. Even as ill as she was, after we finished our session and came back into the dressing room, she looked in the mirror and just started to laugh. I asked her what she was laughing at. “Look at me, Lisa. I look like a nun!” Because she had lost her hair, she wore a white scarf, and with her temple clothes on, she actually did look like a nun, all dressed in white. It was a very fun and light moment. As often as I’d gone to the temple, it meant something entirely different to me that day, and although I KNEW Monica could beat this cancer, I guess in hindsight, I also knew deep down, that she would be on the other side of the veil very soon. It was one of the most spiritual experiences I’ve ever had in the temple, and one of the most difficult experiences. I wonder now, if she knew it then too.

A few weeks later, about a month before she died, Monica called me. “Lisa”, she said, “Remember that day, when I told you that I didn’t want to die, because no one would ever love my children the way I did?” I told her yes, that I remembered. Then she said something so profound. “Lisa, I was wrong. I have had the rare opportunity, of watching the people around me have to take care of my children, because I can’t. And as I’ve watched my family and friends rally around, and care for my children, and serve them, I’ve realized something. You serve those you love, and you love those you serve. Lisa, my children will be ok.” I knew she was speaking truth, and we cried again on the phone that day. I knew then, that Monica was going to die. And my heart broke.

The last time I saw her, was the Sunday before she died. I’d gone over to visit, and she was so sick. She could barely speak, and was on oxygen. It took all her energy to even speak. There were other people there, and I almost felt like I was invading on some very precious time left with her family. I don’t remember specifically what I said to her as I left, but it was something like “I’ll see you next week, ok?” Stan called about 2 days later, and asked if I could take a day the following week and help Monica bathe, and take care of her. He was going to have to go back to work, and felt terrible that he couldn’t be there to care for her. I was so honored that he would ask me, and was grateful for the opportunity to serve her. But Jeannie called me that following Friday, I believe it was, and told me that Monica was going. Jeannie asked me if I wanted to come and see her, but I declined. Not that I was afraid. Just the opposite…I wanted so bad to see Monica one more time, but my gut said I should let her be with those she was closest to, and so I stayed home that night. I was lying on the couch, just watching TV, but not really, when I felt this powerful feeling overcome me, and I began to cry uncontrollably. I was overwhelmed with grief. A short time later, Jeannie called to say she was gone. I already knew.

I loved Monica. So much. But I wasn’t the only one…she had so many friends, good friends, and each one of us felt so special to her. As I said, she really taught me some things about life. I looked forward to any conversation I’d had with her, any time she would come over…I was lifted up by her. Her funeral was one of the most beautiful ones I’d ever been to, and still…it is today. I remember that it was mentioned at her funeral, either by Darryl Reynolds or Stan, I can’t remember….that this woman, a stay-at-home mom, who didn’t hold any big callings in or out of the church….just a stay-at-home mom…had the chapel and Cultural Hall and Stage packed for her funeral. Everyone loved her…everyone. And I felt so special, and so honored to have been able to be one of her friends, even if it was for such a short time on this earth.

To this day, Jeannie Reynolds will call me on my birthday, Oct 27, and sing a Marilyn Monroe version of “Happy Birthday” to me, and then on Oct 28, Jeannie’s birthday, I will call and sing back to her the same rendition. I guess it’s our way of always remembering Monica. She is unforgettable.

Thanks mom for continuing to influence my life, and especially for helping me know what is truly important. :)