Thursday, July 26, 2012

For Zach--Happy Birthday!

"Because our Savior died at Calvary, death has no hold upon any one of us."
(This and other quotes taken from "I Know that My Redeemer Lives" by Thomas S. Monson)

Tomorrow celebrates the 14th birthday of my sweet brother Zach.  I never thought we would have to celebrate this day without him.  But here it is.  I am determined that, even though Zach is no longer here, this day will always be special.  It will always be the day we welcomed him into the world.  The day he was born was special.  I was lucky enough to watch him come into the world.  It was an amazing experience that taught me at the age of 12, how miraculous life is.  I remember, as soon as he came, I burst into tears, with an emotion that was beyond my control.  I was so excited to be a part of everything that day--his first diaper change, his first bath, watching the nurses check his vitals.  I was a proud sister.  He was an adorable baby that grew into an adorable little boy.  Since I only lived at home until he was about 7, I remember him mostly as a cute little kid that I tried to keep from growing up.  Somewhere between that time and the last 6 years of his life, he grew into this hilarious teenager.  Now, as I think back on the last few months I had with him, I remember his endless random stories, his constant, contagious laughter, and his zest for life.  At my other brother's wedding, Zach really go into the dancing and took turns spinning me and Rachel around the floor.  At one point, he even dropped me.  He thought it was so funny, that he did it to Rachel too.  That is one of my most treasured memories with him, because we both just let go and enjoyed the moment.  My other special moment with him was last summer at the beach.  We went on a walk together, just the two of us.  He talked nonstop the entire time.  I seriously had a hard time following what he was talking about.  But he had his arm around me the whole time we were walking, and even then, I treasured that simple show of affection.  I have always felt that he and I shared a special bond, because I was there when he was born.  He always made sure to tell me that he loved me.  Well, I love you forever and always bud.
I try not to focus too much on the things that will never be in this life.  I suppose that's why I find so much comfort in the promise stated at the beginning of this post.  Our Savior overcame death for us all, and "this is the knowledge that sustains.  This is the truth that comforts.  This is the assurance that guides those who are bowed down with grief--out of the shadows and into the light."  Christ teaches: "I am the resurrection and the life."  "He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosever liveth and believeth in me shall never die."  Through the Savior, "There is assurance that life is everlasting."  I have experienced the incredible comforting and sustaining power of the Atonement of our Savior.  I am so grateful for this Gospel, through which I have been taught countless truths such as these, that have strengthened me, and helped me to find peace with the loss of my dear brother Zach.  Because I have felt the truth of these teachings in my heart, I have never really felt that Zach is totally gone.  Zach's presence continues to be felt by myself, and by many who know and love him.  I know that his journey continues on the other side.  I know that he was welcomed home by those who have gone before, including the Savior Himself.  I know that at this time, he is performing many miracles for people on both sides of the veil, and that he is one of Heavenly Father's special angels.  He is my special angel as well.

Happy Birthday Zach.  Thank you for the life you shared with us, and thank you for your continued love.  I hope you know how much you mean to me.  I will always love and miss you, and I look forward to our sweet reunion someday.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lessons and Memories

“When you figure out love is all that matters after all, it sure makes everything else seem so small.”
(by Carrie Underwood)

I decided I want to start writing a blog because I have a lot of feelings swimming around inside, and I need an outlet for expressing these feelings.  It seems like every time I go to church, I spend the entire 3 hours thinking about my little brother Zach, who left us just over 7 months ago.  Every talk, every lesson, every comment made in church seems to relate to Zach somehow in my mind.  I suppose it’s my own way of trying to find peace with it.  Yesterday was a particularly emotional day for me.  In Sunday school, we were discussing the Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s from the Book of Mormon, who made a covenant with the Lord that they would never again raise their swords to kill another man.  This act took an incredible amount of faith.  They trusted in the Lord so much that they basically did not fear death.  They knew they would be saved in Heaven if they stayed true to the covenant they made.  This discussion went in several directions, but the point that hit me the most was the fact that these men ultimately gave up their mortal lives to show their dedication to and love for the Lord, and because of what they did, their enemies, the men who were slaying these Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s, were converted to the Gospel.  The thought that resonated with me was the fact that they died young, and with their death, thousands were converted to the Lord. 
            Of course I thought of Zach.  He died so young, but with his death, dozens of lives have been changed for the better.  I look at my parents who continue to deal with the heartache of losing their child, and how they have dedicated themselves so completely to the Lord, fulfilling callings and spending hours in the temple, studying the teachings of our Latter-day prophets for greater understanding and peace, and so willingly helping others who are suffering.  They have definitely grown spiritually and learned things they never would have learned otherwise.  Of course, I had several spiritual experiences related to losing Zach, that I might share at a later date.  I also know several of his young friends now have a completely different outlook on life because of who he was while he was here on Earth, and what he has done for them since leaving this life.  The stories continue to pour in about how his presence is still felt, and he is still teaching those of us left here without him.
            Another thing I have been contemplating almost daily is how important it is to treasure those we love and make the most of the time we have with them.  I have also realized what is most important in life.  With Zach being gone, I constantly find myself grasping for any little memory of him.  Before this, I never really appreciated how much these can mean.  Of all the things we can accomplish and own in this life, I am convinced that nothing is more important than the legacy and memories we leave behind for our loved ones.  We need to take the time to create special moments with our children, our siblings, our parents, our dear friends.  You will never regret time spent with your loved ones—only the time you did not.  You will never regret telling someone you love them, but you will regret not taking the opportunity once it is lost to you.  As I have learned, we won’t always have tomorrow to create those special memories.  We have to do it today.  I know we have to continue living our daily lives and supporting ourselves, but we can’t let the unimportant things get in the way of making the most of our lives, of making the most of our time here to grow individually, and making the most of the time we have to spend with those we love.  Now that someone I love so much no longer has a “tomorrow” here on this Earth for me to look forward to, my biggest regrets are those opportunities lost to me, the ones I did not make the most of when he was here with me.  I don’t know that that pain will ever go away, but I hope that it is never repeated, that those same mistakes are never repeated.  It is something I will spend the rest of my life trying to do right with the family I have left, because, even though I do not have “today” or “tomorrow” with Zach, I do have today with them, and maybe if I can make it right with them, someday I will be able to forgive myself for not taking those opportunities with Zach in this life.  And I sure look forward to having them when I see him again on the other side.