When someone dies, especially in your immediate family, there is a reorganization of sorts of your identity and how you explain who you are and your family. This is a really hard process and it is one of the most asked questions of the families that I work with at the hospital, how do you answer the questions. How many kids do you have, how old are your kids, how many boys or girls do you have, etc.? They are forever hard questions. Over the past 19 years that I have dealt with it I have a lot of funny and uncomfortable stories.
My favorite funny story was when I was pregnant with Holden I was working at the Church cannery. You go there and volunteer with other people that you usually don't know. Which was the case. So as we were sweeping and cleaning I was talking with a lady. Naturally she asked how many kids I had. I said that I this baby would make 5. She asked their ages. I told her Heidi was almost 3, Hayden was almost 6, Halea was 7 and Trevin I think would have been 9. She then asked what school my kids went to. I told her Freedom Elementary. She giggled and said mine too. Then followed up with a harder question, what grade are your kids in. Then I had to think. I said that Hayden was in kindergarten, Halea was in 2nd grade and that Trevin was in 5th grade. I wasn't even sure if that was the grade he would be in! Then my heart really started beating when she gasped and said, I have a 5th grader too. Who is your sons teacher? Then began the confessional. She was super sweet about it. I explained to her that I was trying to avoid making her feel uncomfortable by telling her that our oldest son had died when he was 18 months old because people usually feel bad to make me talk about it. I followed up by telling her that it didn't bother me to talk about him. As we continued talking (surprised that she continued to talk to me after such a huge lie!) she shared her experience with infertility and adoption. It turned out to be a really fun experience, and one I will never forget.
This past week several of us have had experiences with telling Tatum's story. Halea had a scholarship interview that was based on facing hardships in your life. She said that she only cried a little bit, but it went well. She is usually so poised and controlled in her responses and she has a very deep spiritual understanding and that really comes through when she talks about her love for Tates.
Then Lance was at work giving a satellite presentation to a group in Salt Lake city and his group in Orem. His screen save is his favorite picture of Tatum. As he was trying to present his powerpoint, for some reason his screen saver came on. Everyone ooed and awwed and he quickly fixed it. The next day one of the guys that is new to the company since Tatum died came over to his desk and commented again on how pretty Tatum was. Lance told him that it was a picture of his youngest daughter that died last year. The man asked him what had happened and so he got to share her story. Not bad for two guys!
Heidi came home from school yesterday with a "funny" story. She has a little friend at school who is one of those girls that has her volume control to the max and there is no turning it down or adjusting it. She is just LOUD. She has always been a really sweet girl, but for the past year or so they haven't been quite as close of friends. So when Tates died she hadn't been around much. When Heidi returned to school in September there was an uncomfortable incident with this girl where she really embarrassed Heidi by asking her how Tatum was doing. Heidi then had to tell her that Tatum had died. All of this while this girl is literally yelling the questions and answers in the lunchroom, not meaning to but it is just the volume that her voice is at. So yesterday they were all at lunch and this girl yells across the table to Heidi, "how's Tatum?" Heidi just looked at her and then the girl gasped and proceeded to tell her table about Tatum. Poor Heidi. She was a little embarrassed. Luckily one of the virtues that Heidi has chosen to work on for the past few weeks for one of her Young Women projects is "patience"! What a blessing. Heidi smiled as she was telling me the story and said that it was the perfect opportunity to really practice patience. Adorable.
This is such a good memory for me. This was one of Tatum's happier days after she got sick. She was able to get outside and she loved the bubbles. What great sisters.
Me. I always have a story about talking about Tatum and embracing my different self. The first experience was running into a neighbor from our old Lehi neighborhood. Luckily she had heard about Tates, but we haven't seen each other since. She has taken our family pictures before, and is really a sweet friend. I ran into her in Costco, my home away from home. She came right up and asked how we were doing. I was so grateful that she didn't avoid the elephant in the room. It is nice when people ask and ask about the kids and ask about Tatum. We miss her sooooo much, it is nice to say her name and think about her and talk about her. We had a nice visit and got caught up. We talked about our kids and other struggles. We all have trials and hard things in differing degrees. It was so fun to catch up with her. My second experience was calling a lady who was my visiting teacher in our old Provo ward over 20 years ago! We have always exchanged cards and kept in touch somewhat. When she got our Christmas letter she called and left a message. I finally got back to calling her on Tuesday. It was so fun to catch up with her and share a little about Tatum and our family. Her youngest daughter and her family were living with this friend when we lived in Provo and so they were both my Visiting teachers when Trevin died. My friend was telling me that her daughters husband had filed for divorce about 2 weeks before Christmas. They have 8 kids and have been married for 25 years!! What in the world. Not in a million years would I have guessed. Ever. So we had a long talk and I am going to visit with her on Monday. Crazy.
I have had a lot of thoughts this week about my testimony and the things that I have had witnessed to me in the past year. I am so grateful for the things that I know. I am grateful that I know that we will see Tatum and Trevin again. It would crush me to not know that. I am so grateful that I have the gift of the Holy Ghost to help me navigate this crazy world. I am grateful that I am able to use that gift to help me prioritize my time and to try and make good choices. Forever grateful for the sacrifices that Tatum and Trevin made so that our family could learn the really hard lessons that we did. They are priceless gifts that will help us throughout all of our lives. I am grateful for the love that I feel from my Heavenly Father and my Savior Jesus Christ. I am a better person for it.
I miss terribly my daily interactions with my sweet Tatum and Trevin. I would give anything to have them back, taking care of them and basking in the spirit that they brought into our lives. My heart is still so broken, but these little interactions with other people in some weird way help me to feel them near. I hope that I can live a life that honors them and their memory every day.