Tuesday, June 25, 2013

[June 25, 2013]

June 25, 2013
22 weeks - or - 5 months, 3 days

Good morning Handsome!

I love you LOVE YOU!

You've been quite busy up there lately!  Stories keep rolling in about your influence on people that knew you and loved you in your 12 1/2 short years, but also stories about your influence on people that have never met you.  You're pretty much amazing.  Not sure what I did right along the way to have this little forever family that I do, but I'm so grateful!

I taught RS on Sunday.  It was from President Packer's Talk "These Things I Know" from April General Conference.  I'm sure you were surprised that I didn't cry through the entire lesson.  ;)  I know I was.  Pretty sure you were standing right there giving me strength to give the lesson.  I thought a lot about you while I was preparing and delivering the lesson.

I thought about your strength.  
Your courage.  
Your faith. 
 Your understanding.  
Your testimony of a loving Father in Heaven and His eternal plan of happiness.  

As I read through President Packer's talk, my mind was taken back to that one night as we were listening to music in your hospital room, the comforting strains of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing primary songs, the song "I Know That My Savior Loves Me" started playing.  

You immediately asked that the volume be increased.  
You sang along with tears on your cheeks.  
You knew.  

A long time ago in a beautiful place,
Children were gathered ’round Jesus.
He blessed and taught as they felt of His love.
Each saw the tears on His face.
The love that He felt for His little ones
I know He feels for me.
I did not touch Him or sit on His knee,
Yet, Jesus is real to me.
I know He lives!
I will follow faithfully.
My heart I give to Him.
I know that my Savior loves me.
Now I am here in a beautiful place,
Learning the teachings of Jesus.
Parents and teachers will help guide the way,
Lighting my path ev’ry day.
Wrapped in the arms of my Savior’s love,
I feel His gentle touch.
Living each day, I will follow His way,
Home to my Father above.
I know He lives!
I will follow faithfully.
My heart I give to Him.
I know that my Savior loves me.
I KNOW that my Savior loves me.
Tami Jeppson Creamer and Derena Bell, 

Just as I now know...I KNOW that my Savior loves me.

The end lines of President Packer's poem could have been written about you.
I now can say with all certainty
That I know and love the Lord.
I can testify with them of old
As I preach His holy word.
I know what He felt in Gethsemane
Is too much to comprehend.
I know He did it all for us;
We have no greater Friend.
I know that He will come anew
With power and in glory.
I know I will see Him once again
At the end of my life’s story.
I’ll kneel before His wounded feet;
I’ll feel His Spirit glow.
My whispering, quivering voice will say,
“My Lord, my God, I know.”

Thank you for your example, son.  
For always choosing to do what was right.
For being the best kind of friend.
The kind of friend that knew and appreciated each individual.
Thank you for your testimony.
For your strength.
For your courage.
For your love.

I miss you.
I love you.
I'm so grateful to be your mom.

Have a great week!

Love you, LOVE YOU!


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

[June 18, 2013]

June 18, 2013
21 weeks

Dear Kenton,

Good morning, son!  I just found out that earlier this morning, our sweet friend Millie joined the Heavenly ranks after her brave, valiant fight with cancer.  Take care of our little Millie friend.  

This morning as I was talking to you (I do that a lot, especially right in the middle of my prayers when I'm asking Heavenly Father to take care of you - I feel you standing there and get just a few brief moments to talk to you almost as if we were chatting online like we used to every day at lunch time and every night before bed - sounds crazy and logically makes no sense, but it happens!) you asked me again (as you had last night) if I was ready to help you with something big.  I'm not sure what you have in mind, but I can guess it's something pretty amazing.  I told you both times, and I'll tell you again, "I'll do my best."

We keep hearing stories of you being close and helping others.  Dear friends that have read the entire Book of Mormon, started on your challenge.  Another dear friend has had temple work completed for her husband.  Friends hearts have been softened and friendships renewed.  You have always had a great influence on those around you and you continue to bless us with your giving heart, your faith, your courage, and your love. I realize that until the eternities, we'll never know all of the ways that you've touched the lives of those that follow your story.  Our greatest challenge is to continue to live in a way that keeps you close and will allow us to be our forever family.

Last week, your friend Caleb and his family stopped by with a CD - Face to Face, Kenneth Cope Collection.  As we were visiting, Cathy shared the impression she'd had that she needed to bring me this CD.  Once purchased, she was trying to figure out how to get it to our house.  She found a paper on which you had written your name and address.  That paper has to be at least 4 years old!  Coincidence that she found it on the exact day she needed it?  Not even close.  

After they left, I immediately put the CD in and listened to it as I was cleaning.  What a blessing and strength that CD has been over the past week!  I listen to it when I clean, when I scrapbook, when I edit photos, when I cook.  The first song is written by Chris Rice - Come to Jesus.  Verses 2,4, and 6 are most meaningful to me right now...verses 2 and 6 as they relate to you, and 4 as that is sometimes the life we're living right now.

(2) Now your burden's lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain
So sing to Jesus - sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live

(4) Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain
Then cry to Jesus - cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live

(6) And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace and laugh on glory's side
And fly to Jesus - fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live

Yet as I listen to these lyrics, I am reminded that verse 2 is also very specific to the life I'm living right now.  Many times, I have felt my burden be lifted.  Sometimes through ways I could never describe, and other times through the kind and simple actions of others.

How grateful I am for friends that listen and act.  That's what I'm working on also.  That's what we pray for every night...opportunities to recognize a need, listen to a prompting, and then to move forward with love and give service in the ways most needed.  I think sometimes we forget that we don't have to do grand and amazing things to bless those around us.

Sunday after church, a mother in our ward, another dear friend that has been struggling with immense burdens and challenges within her own family, stopped in the hall, looked me right in the eye, put her arms around me and hugged me tight, and walked away without a single word.  No words were needed.  The strength and love I felt from that simple service is exactly what I needed just then.

You, my boy, were always so good at these things.  A hug, a smile, a note, a word of encouragement.  Those were your trademark attributes.  You didn't care what others might think, you just went about doing good, sharing the love of our Savior through your actions and the way you lived.  

I remember one time, you must have been about 5...we were at the Black and White Days parade.  There were a couple of elderly gentlemen seated next to where we were standing.  You immediately made friends with them (they were loving your cowboy hat and boots!) and chatted with them until the parade started. As the parade progressed, you made sure that as candy was thrown, you had 4 pieces of each kind - one for McKayslin, one for each of the grandpas, and one for yourself.  But if you only had 3, no big deal, you gave one to McKayslin, and one to each of the grandpas. That's always been one of my favorite memories of you.  Thanks for teaching us how to love so freely.

Over the past week, several interesting (for lack of a better word) things have happened.  I'm not one to ask for "signs" (especially after reading Alma 30 - the story of Korihor, lol).  Nor do I need signs to know that you're okay.  That being said, there are a few things that have happened that point directly to your closeness and the awareness you have of our struggles.

Friday marked the one year anniversary (uugggh, there needs to be a better word for that!) of diagnosis.  Heather Mom coined the phrase MISSION CALL DAY which I will forever use instead of "anniversary of diagnosis."  There is so much peace wrapped in the phrase MISSION CALL DAY.  (And one day, when we finally get to hear your mission report, you're going to have the coolest stories to tell!!).  Anyway, on the anniversary of your mission call day, feeling just a little sadder than normal, I stepped outside to get the mail, and was greeted by this:
This is the little yellow snappy-dragon [:)] that we bought for your grave a while ago.  It bloomed really pretty for a while and then stopped.  We brought it home the week after Memorial Day and it's been sitting on the steps looking sad and done for ever since.  No sign of new growth at all.  Friday morning I walk out and see one bright yellow blossom.  Just one.  Right above your smiley caterpillar from Mama Locco.  Pretty incredible.

Also since Friday (I haven't been able to get a picture!), there has been a HUGE Monarch butterfly living in our tree.  When we're outside (mostly when Dad and McKayslin are out there) it flies down and flits around them.  I'm sure you're remembering last spring, the week before diagnosis, when that caterpillar that you and McKayslin had caught that had spent all winter in a cocoon in a bucket in our garage, finally emerged as a beautiful Monarch butterfly.  Butterflies don't hang around our yard.  Ever.  Until this week.  And it's only that one.

Then last night...we put McKayslin to bed and switched on her lava lamp...
That is your silhouette.  Super awesome!  All three of us looked at each other and just chuckled.  We love and miss you so much!  And while we won't ask for, or expect things like this to happen, we sure do love when they do.  ;)

Before I go, I want to share the photo of you I found the other day.  Nancy said it's her favorite of you because it is so exactly you.  One thing I'll never regret is taking so many pictures.  I know you guys often were sick of me and my camera, but you rarely complained.  I do wish I had handed the camera over to Dad sometimes, so I was more present in the pictures.  But I won't regret taking a bazillion photos.  Ever.
Love you, my boy!  And, yes, I'm ready to help you with something big.  You just let me know what it is when you're ready.  Keep being awesome.  Keep working hard.  We'll do the same here.

Sending you a big mom hug and a big mom kiss...

Love you LOVE YOU!


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

[June 11, 2013]

June 11, 2013
20 weeks

Good morning, Handsome!

I woke this morning with tears already flowing.  This week is going to be a really hard one.  One year ago today (the day not the date) you last set foot on the baseball diamond.  You played your last ever (earthly) game of baseball.  You didn't actually play much that last game because you hurt so badly.  Yet you cheered the entire game for your team.  Two days from today (the day not the date - the date would put it three days from today) is the day our reality was altered as you were confirmed with a diagnosis of AML.

We had a really good weekend.  Friday night we drove to Grammy's house and spent the weekend with her.  It's always good to be there - the place you loved nearly as much as you loved your own home.

Dad and I went through an endowment session Saturday afternoon at the Idaho Falls Temple as Aunt LaRue received her endowment.  We also attended the sealing of Aunt LaRue to Grandpa and Grandma Justesen and to her husband.  I love being in the temple.  You're so close there.  McKayslin played at Uncle Chaddy's house while we were at the temple.  She had a great time with the little girls.  I loved snuggling baby Acadia while we were visiting with Chad before and after the temple.

Sunday we attended church with Braydon as he shared experiences from his mission.  On the way to Ammon, we were listening to the radio and the song "Consider the Lilies" played.  I've heard it before and really liked it.  But Sunday I actually listened to the lyrics.  

The opening hymn was Hymn 85 - How Firm a Foundation.
  1. 1. How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord,
    Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
    What more can he say than to you he hath said,
    Who unto the Savior, who unto the Savior,
    Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?
  2. 2. In ev'ry condition--in sickness, in health,
    In poverty's vale or abounding in wealth,
    At home or abroad, on the land or the sea--
    As thy days may demand, as thy days may demand,
    As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.
  3. 3. Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
    For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
    I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
    Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous,
    Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
  4. 4. When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
    The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o'erflow,
    For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
    And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
    And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
  5. 5. When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
    My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
    The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
    Thy dross to consume, thy dross to consume,
    Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
  6. 7. The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
    I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
    That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
    I'll never, no never, I'll never, no never,
    I'll never, no never, no never forsake!
  7. Music: Attr. to J. Ellis, ca. 1889
    Text: Attr. to Robert Keen, ca. 1787. Included in the first LDS hymnbook, 1835.7. 
My whole life I've loved music.  Most especially Hymns and music that represents teachings of the Gospel.  Because of this, lately, more often than not, the message that our Heavenly Father keeps trying to give me comes through music - whether it be what I choose to play when we're at home or in the car, or the hymns and special musical numbers chosen for our church meetings.

Imagine my surprise when the first musical number during sacrament meeting was a piano/violin duet of "Consider the Lilies."  I think that was direction for me to spend some time learning the lyrics and taking them to heart.

Consider the lilies of the field,
How they grow, how they grow.
Consider the birds in the sky,
How they fly, how they fly.

He clothes the lilies of the field.
He feeds the birds in the sky.
And He will feed those who trust Him,
And guide them with His eye.

Consider the sheep of His fold,
How they follow where He leads.
Though the path may wind across the mountains,
He knows the meadows where they feed.

He clothes the lilies of the field.
He feeds the birds in the sky,
And He will feed those who trust Him,
And guide them with His eye.

Consider the sweet, tender children
Who must suffer on this earth.
The pains of all of them He carried
From the day of His birth.

He clothes the lilies of the field,
He feeds the lambs in His fold,
And He will heal those who trust Him,
And make their hearts as gold.

He clothes the lilies of the field,
He feeds the lambs in His fold,
And He will heal those who trust Him,
And make their hearts as gold.

The past 20 weeks have been anything but easy.  They've been painful.  Sad.  Lonely.  And exhausting.  Yet through the past 20 weeks (I could even say through the past 7 months starting back in December when you were diagnosed with "preliminary relapse" - or even through the past 12 months) I have been able to develop a deeper understanding and knowledge of, and gratitude for The Atonement.  

What a blessing to know that when we pray for peace, asking our Savior to take our burdens, our sadness, our heartache, our pain, our brokenness, He will.  That peace will come.  It doesn't mean that the trial will go away.  I means that we will have the courage, faith, and strength to face that trial.  

In December, those words preliminary relapse were such a shock.  President Acevedo stopped the night we found out to give McKayslin and I each a Priesthood Blessing.  In that blessing, he asked specifically that I would have a sure understanding of The Atonement.  Later that night, after putting McKayslin to bed, I sat on the stairs sobbing.  I was scared.  Angry.  And so sad.  You were supposed to be getting better!  As I sat with my head in my hands, heart aching, tears streaming down my cheeks, questioning everything that I knew, I felt prompted to simply pray, "Heavenly Father, please send me peace."  I'll never be able to explain how my soul was quieted, my tears ceased, and I was calmed.

In January, when our loving Bishopric came to PCMC to give each of us a Priesthood Blessing, I remember hearing that we needed to have faith in The Atonement and to turn to our Savior.  And again, the night that your spirit took flight, your earthly mission complete, President Acevedo gave each of us a Priesthood Blessing reminding us of our Savior's Atoning Sacrifice - that He took not only our sins, but our pain, our sadness, our hurt, and our heartache.

The other night, McKayslin was really struggling.  She was missing you more than usual.  She couldn't stop crying.  And then I realized I hadn't taught her, reminded her, to pray for peace.  Through my own tears, I told her that if she could just have faith, and pray for peace, that she WOULD feel peace.  Her simple prayer, "Heavenly Father, please let me feel peace and please let me feel Kenton's arms tight around me as I go to sleep, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen" was answered.  Her tears slowed, then stopped, and she drifted off into a deep sleep.  The next morning she affirmed that she felt your arms come around her before she even said amen.  

There is so much gratitude in my heart for The Atonement, for an all knowing Father who allowed His Son to suffer for us, that we may have that peace and that comforting strength.

I caught myself wondering this morning why it takes a fiery trial to turn our hearts and our souls in longing for that peace that comes only through The Atonement.  

Each of us have fiery trials that are different.  You and I spoke often of the trials faced by those we know.  You said, "Sometimes when we see other people, we might think that their trials are no big deal but we don't know everything that goes with that trial, and to them, that might be the hardest thing they've ever faced."

As we go through this week, my challenge to myself (and to anyone else that is willing to take it) is to turn, with a heart ready to listen, learn, and understand, to my Savior with everything - the joys, the sadness, the anger, the guilt, the frustration, the challenges, the successes.  You did that instinctively from the time you were very young, always living close to our Heavenly Father, with a sure knowledge of The Atonement.

I miss you, my boy.  All the time.  Sometimes I find myself at the store putting things in the cart that are your favorites, only to have to return them to the shelf.  Or starting to cook a meal that was your favorite.  Learning to live without you here is a huge adjustment.  There will always be an empty spot at our table, in our car, in our family, and in our hearts.  Thanks for 12 1/2 incredible years of unconditional love, teaching, patience, forgiveness, and awesome memories.  I love you LOVE YOU.  


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

[June 4, 2013]

June 4, 2013
19 weeks

Good morning, my boy.

Here we go again.  Me trying to take these thoughts crashing together in my head like a storm on the ocean and put them on paper.  I'm not a writer.  My words don't flow freely.  Half the time I don't think they even make sense.  Yet, for some reason, I keep getting the answer that my Tuesday letters are necessary, important.  So I write.

We're on our 2nd day of summer vacation and the house seems so still and quiet without you here giggling, pestering McKayslin, and running in and out playing.  We are having a bit of a tough time adjusting to that.  I'm not the "play" type Mom.  I'm going to have to work on that.  You spoiled McKayslin, you know, with all of the time, love, and attention you gave her.  You two are so lucky to be siblings.  You both are incredibly amazing kids with so much strength, so much faith, so much love.

Last night Sister Andersen came over and brought McKayslin the cutest little set of monsters.  McKayslin immediately named them Bubba and Goose... I think you're the pink and purple stripey monster.  :)


She hasn't let them out of her sight since.  Your sister misses you so much.  

It's hard to know how to help her because I don't understand her grief.
Or her grieving process.  

I don't understand Dad's either.  

Who am I kidding?
Most days I don't even understand my own.

Some days I'm actually almost okay.  I can smile.  I can talk to people.  I don't cry.

But other days, days like today, the tears are just so close to the surface and I know that I'll be crying more often than not.  How grateful I am for friends that understand and accept that.  It must be hard to be my friend, never knowing when I'm going to be happy and smiling and when I'm going to burst into tears.  

Every night my pillow becomes soaked with tears.  Sometimes the tears come silently, slipping down my cheeks as I lie awake while Dad and McKayslin sleep.  Other times the tears fall faster and I find myself fighting to stay quiet.  And other times, the tears come so strong that sobs tear through my body and I gasp for breath.  Sometimes the tears only last a few minutes.  Other times the tears go on and on until I fall into an exhausted sleep. Every night there are tears.  And I don't know what kind of tears they'll be until they come.

Katherine and I were talking last night about this new, strange, uncomfortable place we find ourselves living in.  Her grief mirrors mine in so many ways but is so unlike mine in that same amount.  We actually had moments of conversation that weren't laced with tears.  There's a certain element of comfort for me knowing that Nick was there to greet you home.  I hate that Kat has to live without her Nick.  That the kids have to live without their Dad.  I hate that we have to live without you.  We both know that you're close, yet, as Katherine put it, "Sometimes it's just not close enough!"  I'm in agreement with that statement.  It hurts.  It's lonely.  It's sad.  It's hard.  

Pretty sure you guys have set up the Nick and Kenton Ultimate Heavenly Scout Camp!  Oh what an adventure you must be having!  I have a picture from last June of your big pack we had just purchased sitting in front of the couch with your sleeping pad, your water pack, your new sleeping bag, and all of the other stuff you needed for scout camp.  There it sat.  Neglected because you were in the hospital.  Every time I look at that pack or that picture, I feel sad and angry all at the same time.

I'm angry for you, sad for you that you didn't get to go to camp with Nick and Bob.  That you didn't get to go to the BIG scout camp in Island Park.  You were so excited about both of those camps.

Yet, I have this unwavering feeling that had you gone to the Island Park camp, instead of being checked into PCMC, you would have been gone a lot sooner because your body was way more sick than we realized.  I have to remind myself of that often.

Sometimes I catch glimpses of what it must be like there in Heaven for you.  You're doing amazing things there, just as you always did here, my boy.  I'm so proud of you!  

Saturday and Sunday we went up to take everything off of your grave.  The cemetery starts clean-up today and everything we wanted to keep needed to be taken off.  There was a lot of love left there for you.

We'll take things back next week when clean-up is over.  The cemetery caretakers said that was appropriate.  So today, we'll come up and scrub that crazy tree sap off of your headstone.  I think I need to make some sort of canopy covering thingie to protect your headstone from all that sap!

Friday, the last day of school, was so different without you here.  I kept watching for you to burst through my classroom door to help with all of the littles.  I think Liam kept half expecting you to show up also.  He's so cute in missing you.  When we ask where you are he tells us, "Kenton is walking with Jesus."  I love that image.  I know it's true.  Doesn't make me miss you any less though.

Remember last year when you came to "help" with the Minute to Win It last day craziness? And then you and Cha-Cha drew this picture on my white board easel?

It's still there.  I can't bear to erase it.  

And then there was the traditional "we survived the school year" dinner and ice cream.  These first pictures are from August.  You'll never be here physically to do these things with us again.  My heart breaks a little more each time we carry through with a tradition. You made us PROMISE to keep doing them.  It's important, I know, but oh how it hurts.

Tippets came with us this year.  It wasn't quite the same without you there, that's for sure.  
Having them there (Kylie and Tev are great distractions, lol) did make it easier if that makes sense?!

Last night we went for a bike ride on our "old" bike route.  The long one.  And my heart broke even more as I remembered back to last year, June 13, when we went for our last bike ride as a family of 4.  I was so frustrated with your because you couldn't keep up with us.  I thought you were just being lazy.  I asked how you were going to keep up with your friends at scout camp if you couldn't even do this bike ride with us.  Uuuuuggghh.  I don't know when I'll be able to remember that last bike ride without feeling like the worst mother ever.  

The next day you were diagnosed with AML.  Your red count was super low and your white count was super high.  You didn't have enough "red" to run your body - you genuinely could NOT have been able to keep up.  Why was I so mean about that last bike ride?  Why didn't I know that something was really wrong?  Why didn't I choose to be kinder to you?  To encourage you?  To stay with you as you pedaled slowly along?  I hate this memory so much because it hurts.  

And now, we find ourselves at Tuesday again.  Our first Tuesday of summer vacation.  The day stretching before us silent and long.  

Thank you for loving me.  For forgiving me.  For teaching me how to be a better person.  I love you son.  And miss you way more than I can even explain.

Keep being amazing.
Love you, love you!