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Day 12

February 13, 2018

Day 12 comes from my friend Lisa, although I’m pretty sure she will always be Sista Toone to me. Training her as a missionary was one of the best and most beautiful experiences of my life – and I mean it when I say, she actually trained me. I have never known a more loyal, pure, angelic friend. She is hilarious, oh so talented, and probably the best person in the world. From do-rag-wearing to creating dangerous fire hazards, we’ve done it all. I can’t even put into words my love for her. Just can’t even do it. I love her thoughts on grief and love and the safety of expression. You will, too!

“I’ve learned a few things about love recently through looking at how I have chosen to handle grief in the past.

I didn’t talk about it when my Papa passed away. It was March almost four years ago and I was at a computer in a public library in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota when I found out his bright star had winked out in the mountains of Arizona the night before. The more my eyes blurred and my chest heaved, the more stiffly I held myself. I had a black nametag clipped on my sweater, and a library full of strangers around me that would certainly notice and remember if a Mormon missionary had a breakdown. At my side was a new, oblivious companion who I didn’t know well then and in whom I wasn’t ready to confide the eggshell pieces of my heart. I replied to my mother’s email with reassurances that I was fine, I only wished I could comfort her, she shouldn’t worry about me. Her father had died, and my broken pieces were less important.

When I saw the missed call from my mission president and his wife on the phone, I calmly suggested that we return the call in the car. Listening silently to her reassurances and his encouragement to use this occasion of losing a grandparent to teach God’s plan for eternal families with greater power, I stiffened my spine and pushed down the rising tide of suffocating memories and mourning and stayed silent. I put it in a drawer somewhere inside to be faced and dealt with in a explosion of crying over a dead cat a couple years later. My companion patted my shoulder and expressed her sympathy, and we went back to our hardly interrupted schedule without speaking.

Fast forward almost four years later. I was married and living in a cute little apartment while we finished up school. It was just after New Years and a few days before the start of a new semester. I was sitting in my sun-drenched bedroom flopped on pillows and a fluffy white comforter, enjoying the last of my holiday with lazy, mindless relaxation, scrolling through my Facebook feed. Amid the baby pictures and politics, my eyes were arrested by one post. It announced a death. My old neighbor smiled up at me from the attached pictures.

The bottom fell out of my soul and all the chicken noodle soup leaked out.

The Durrs had lived next door for most of my childhood. They were an older couple with grown children and grandkids, but they happily accepted us as if we were theirs too. I had been devastated when they turned permanent snow birds and moved south to the warm red sands of St. George.

In a sort of shock, I texted the news to my parents and sister then read and reread the words of admiration, love and sadness on the screen. Something began to bubble up on my insides and I walked out to the living room. Josh, my husband, was distracted and, as I had been, eking out the hours of his break, but a word from me and a glance at my face and he was all there and all mine.

“My Grandpa Durr passed away.”

As he pulled me in and held me close, the bubbling thing boiled over. Sobs, memories described in muffled words pressed into his shoulder, broken bits of a childhood foundation, and a life-long love, pushed up through my lungs and filled the lazy holiday morning air. Josh listened and held me and my trembling eggshell heart together in gentle arms. And as the expressions of grief steamed up and poured out of me, the bitterness of my grief subsided. My sobs slowed and laughter at silly memories replaced them. Grief took on the golden sheen of commemoration.

Grief is love. We do not grieve what we do not care deeply about. Mourning with those that mourn is love. We do not care for tears where we do not care for the one crying. But something more that I’ve learned is that language is an essential medium of love. Shakespeare gave us the excellent truth that “They do not love that do not show their love.” But I would argue too that they do not fully realize their love that do not speak it.”

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