Monday, January 27, 2014

Link's Angelversary - "Linking" families together

When I pulled up my computer yesterday, this picture was on the desktop.

It took my breath away. 

He was so beautiful. So perfect. So handsome. So ALIVE. 

I love every detail of his perfect little face - his tiny ears, his expressive eyes, his little nose, his tufts of hair, his precious smile, his perfect cheeks. My favorite. I could sit and stare at this picture all day long. 

Yesterday marked 10 months since he left our earthly home & returned to his heavenly one. In two months, on March 26th, we will ______ (recognize, honor, celebrate?) his one year angelversary. As I mentioned when I blogged about his birthday, we have felt some ideas about how to do this. 

You might also remember when I blogged about The Message, how this paragraph struck my heart: 

Randy looked at me with a smile. "In most cases, Lance, when you pray to God for help, it is your dead relatives and loved ones who are sent by God to help you in answer to your prayers. Thus we weld links and bonds of love within the family forever. The family is the central and eternal unit of our society...And so, those relatives of yours who have lived righteous lives can be used as ministering servants, by God, to assist His children who are still in mortality. We serve you, and you serve us. It is the mode of heaven." (underlines added)

This touched me powerfully (and still does). I felt the spirit witnessing the truth of it - and I felt Link telling me, in a sense, "Mom - this is it! This was my mission on earth and it is now my mission on the other side. I am here to help Link our family together with an eternal chain. Please help me do this."  

And, so... I began to wonder... it says that our dead relatives serve us. I know this is true and I think it will amaze us when we die and find out just how much they help us - every day - in every conceivable way. Through thoughts, feelings, impressions, protection, and direction. I am so thankful for their help - for Link's help - every day. Now... how can we serve them? How can I serve Link? That was my question. 

So - I have thought about it & prayed about it & have come up with some ideas. We would love if you would help us serve & honor our loved ones (and Link) in the next couple months. Here's how: 

1. LINK our families together. This is the first & foremost thing that helps our deceased relatives & the #1 thing that I feel like Link is telling us to do. How do we do this? Temple work! If you have questions about temples, go here. The bottom line is that we believe that families can be together forever & this happens through ordinances and sealings here on earth, in our holy temples.  So - the first goal is to go to the temple for yourself. I was able to witness this blessing & miracle for my mother-in-law this past year & it was absolutely wonderful. I know Link was SO proud of his grandma for taking this step and many of us felt him close. 

Second, our deceased relatives have work to be done & this is how we can serve them! I will admit that the words "family history" have always kind of brought on a yawn for me. In addition, I wasn't sure how to start & I knew my grandma had done so much already that I really didn't think it was necessary for me to get involved. I was wrong on so many levels! Family history is EXCITING! Talk to anyone who has done it & they will tell you the same! There is a true energy when you start looking back and seeing the names of your ancestors & especially finding out their stories. I LOVE the stories! And now, it's sooooo easy to do. Here's where you go to get started - Once you log in with your church membership info, it's SO easy to see your family tree, and when you click on "Temple" & see what work still needs to be done. Then you reserve it, print it and GO! I've always loved going to the temple, but taking a family name through is honestly a whole new experience - a whole new level. A couple weeks ago, I took my great aunt's name through the temple. Awesome. Amazing. Wonderful.  A month or so before that I witnessed the sealing work for Jason's grandparents. Tears fell as I could almost hear the "links" coming together in this eternal family chain. It This is how I know I am helping & honoring my son.

SO - for the past 8 months or so, we've gotten more into family history & taken names through the temple. I have been keeping track of the names. We are going to go as much as possible from now until March 26th.  If you would like to help honor Link on his angelversary, PLEASE send me the family name that you took through the temple. On March 26th, we are planning on going through the temple and then bringing all the names to his bench at the cemetery to show how we have helped "Link" families together. This, even more than supporting the Ronald McDonald House, makes me feel like I am helping Link. Serving him. Honoring him. Expressing my love for him. 

2. Mend any "broken Links" in your existing family. I can only imagine how sorrowful it makes our deceased ancestors when they see family chains being broken. Divorce. Estrangement. Pride. Call that brother or sister you've had an argument with. Write your parents a letter. Work on strengthening the relationship with your spouse and your children. I know it's hard sometimes, but just as it brings our dead loved ones sorrow when they see the broken links, imagine their joy when disagreements and pride are overcome and the links come back together. 

3. Link pictures and stories to I mentioned that I thought all the family history work on my mom's side was pretty much done. I've since realized that family history work is NEVER done! In fact, we decided the first Family Home Evening of every month is going to be dedicated to family history- and it will never be done! On the family search website, you can post pictures of loved ones that have died. You can share memories and stories. You can look at pictures and read stories that others have posted. It's awesome! The stories and pictures are priceless. I found out as I looked at my family history that my Grandpa's brother died as a toddler - before he was born. I looked at the picture of this boy that had died and couldn't stop the tears. I have felt this mother (my great-grandmother's) pain at losing her young son. I have shared that with her. Maybe she has sent me specific comfort that I have needed to get through this time. I wouldn't doubt it. I am so thankful for her and all the relatives & their sacrifices and their amazing stories. I am hoping to post Link's story & some more pictures as well as add some memories of my grandmas. 

4. QR code headstones. My sweet friend, Molly, who lost her daughter almost six years ago, wrote a post about adding QR codes to headstones. It's great! I still need to get one for Link - I'd also like to find a way to get one for my dad's parents, my aunt, and my Grandpa Tew. You just scan the QR on the headstone & it takesyou right to a page all about that person. So - instead of just seeing a name cut in stone, you get to see lots of pictures, stories, etc about that person. Awesome, right? 

5. Write a letter to a loved one - dead or living. Strengthen those links. Mend those links. If you write a letter to a deceased family member, I promise you they will know. They will feel your words and you will feel more connected to them. 

6. Family History Book for kids! My mom gave my children the most amazing gift a couple years ago. I blogged about it here. She asked us to get the life stories from Jason's side of the family - him, his mom & dad, his grandparents & great-grandparents & then she compiled his side and my side into one book for each child. It is AWESOME! We read it for FHE sometimes. And not only have my children learned a lot about their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, I have learned a lot, too! And some of these life stories are the first time they've actually written them down, so it's pretty awesome. Sharing these stories with my children strengthens those links between the past and future and it warms my heart every time. 

7. Hang pictures of dead loved ones. Of course, I have pictures of Link in every room, but I also have pictures of my grandmas that have died that my girls are named after. I would love to eventually do something like this, but in the mean time, I will print & display what I have. I will mention them often. I will tell their stories. And I will remember them.  

8. Share your memories. Not just on familysearch, but you have a friend or family member that died, write down some memories and send it to their closest living relative. I PROMISE they will love you for it. I am so thankful for every person that has sent me a memory of Link. It is an absolute treasure. After Link died, I thought a lot about a friend in high school that had died. I was with him the day he died. We were hiking. He fell. It was obviously a traumatic experience. I remember going to see his family afterwards. We raised some money to help with the funeral costs. But that was it. I was a teenager and I didn't feel his family's grief as I should have. I was not as compassionate as I should have been. I did always remember the date of his death, though, and sent his parents a letter around the anniversary  last year. I apologized for being insensitive. I shared memories. They wrote back and were so sweet. They appreciated me sharing memories and gave me some wonderful advice. It's never too late to write to someone & share memories. 

9. Visit the hometown of your ancestors. We can't wait to take our trip to Ireland/Scotland and walk the streets our grandparents walked. But there are some areas closer to home that connect us with our ancestors, too. We've read some of Jason's ancestor's journals & one of them helped settle the Park City area. He talked about helping Mr. Snyder. We lived in Park City at the time and the name "Snyder" was everywhere. We would think of him and remember his stories everywhere we went.  

Me & Grandma Potts
10. Record the histories of your relatives. You never know when someone will die, but my parents have done a wonderful job of making sure their parents' histories are documented. I love to read the stories, but my favorite is to sit down and watch the video of my Grandma Potts as she tells her life story. It's not just words on a page, but to watch her little movements, hear her Irish accent, and see her classic dress (she only wore pants one day of her life), apron, and fallen "stockings" (nylons) is so much more precious. It's HER telling her story. I love it. If only I could have found a way to get the smell to come through :) You will NEVER regret taking the time to do this. 

PLEASE let me know if you do any of these things for his angelversary. It will mean the world to me. In the next 2 months, we are going to try to take as many names as possible through the temple.  I am going to tell him all about it. I appreciate your help SO much & I know he does, too! And I hope that as you do this, you will feel the "Links" in your family chain get stronger, and as they do, amazing things happen! THANK YOU! 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

December Newsletter & Slideshow

Sorry so late! Had a little adventure with McKinley in the hospital. Hopefully I will get around to blogging about that, but in the mean time...

FAMILY: We are glad to have made it through 2013 and looking forward to 2014! December was filled with Christmas activities, including putting up decorations (it was the first year we put up Christmas decorations in this home because we were in Philadelphia last year, so it took a while to figure out where to put everything), gingerbread house-making, seeing Santa at daddy’s work, the ward Christmas sing-along party (the “Hamilton girls” were called up to the front to sing some songs J, going to see ELF at the theater with daddy’s work, ice skating, playing games & drinking hot chocolate, and doing service projects to put in Link’s stocking (see Link’s section). Grandma and Grandpa Devenish stayed overnight after a concert they went to – it was fun to eat dinner & visit with them. Also – we got to hang out with Grandma and Grandpa Potts as well. They stayed for a couple days on their way to Vegas & grandpa took Heidi and then the girls to the movies and out to eat. Grandpa also took the girls ice skating which has become a new favorite for them! On the 21st, we headed up to Salt Lake for the holiday. That evening, we went to the Ronald McDonald house to sing Christmas songs, then Jason & Heidi went to the Salt Lake Temple & afterwards, walked around for a bit to see the beautiful lights. The big Tew Christmas Eve Party was at the Simons this year & it was great to see lots of family, eat yummy food, and watch the white elephant game. Jason fixed some yummy egg casserole in the slow cooker & we had it for breakfast on Christmas morning (yum!) before we headed downstairs to see what Santa had left us. He was very good to us this year and we stayed downstairs for quite a while enjoying our new presents. The Simons came for a bit in the morning & brought their gifts for us, the sweetest of which were two huge signs for our home – one that reads “FAMILY: A Link to the past, a bridge to the future”, and the other reads “Because someone we love is in heaven, there is a little bit of heaven in our home” – with a picture of Link and his dates. They are beautiful & Trisha really was very thoughtful in all of her gift-giving (as always). She also made all us girls homemade, glitter-monogrammed aprons – they are so cute J Uncle Richard & The Edwards came and opened our gifts to them. It was a very laid-back, wonderful day to appreciate gifts and loved ones and Jesus’ birth. We made our way south on the 27th & we stopped at the Bensons & ate lunch with them and had fun watching the kids run around together. Then we headed to Richfield & stayed there for a couple nights. We enjoyed our time with them and on Saturday, we tried out the bowling alley & the arcades & had a lot of fun. On New Years’ Eve, McKinley had strep, so she & mom stayed home and played Headbandz, Battleship, and her new snap circuit game while Daddy, Ireland & Kezia went to the Bealers for some fun. They came back home & we all played Spot It & then celebrated the New York New Year before the girls headed to bed for some sleep. There was some bad news this month: 2 of our friends had to take their kids to Primary Children’s Hospital - & Katelyn Bealer still has heart issues that they are trying to solve. Also – a good man in our ward passed away – Roland Brown, from cancer. We attended his memorial here in Cedar and feel blessed to have known him for a short while. With all the bad news, we are grateful for the chance to start a new year. Happy 2014 everyone!

JASON: A funny Christmas tree story – Jason & the girls had gone to Panguitch Lake to pick out a Christmas tree and when we got home to put it up, realized it was about a foot too tall for where we wanted to put it. So – instead of the hassle of having to drag the tree outside to chop it up, he decides to bring the chainsaw to the tree – INSIDE. We proceeds to chop the bottom of the tree off as chainsaw smoke is pouring out and every alarm in the house is going off & there is a huge mess on the floor. We had to open up all the windows and doors to the freezing December temps to get the alarms to stop. We are thankful no neighbors assumed that our house was burning down J  Jason enjoyed taking some time off work at the end of the year and spending some time with family. While in Salt Lake, he got to go see The Hobbit – which he’s been itching to see.
 HEIDI:  Heidi had a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year and  had a bit of a meltdown right before we left for Salt Lake. Grief really took her to a dark place and it was difficult to function for a few days. A big part of her wanted to simply call off Christmas altogether. It was so hard to face without Link here. And with all the memories of last years’ miracle Christmas. Thankfully, by the time they made it to Salt Lake, she was able to find a little more perspective and she truly enjoyed seeing the girls open their gifts. Heidi was able to get together with some Cheerleader friends while she was in town and enjoyed catching up. It was great to see them. Heidi read 2 great books over the holidays – Divergent and Cinder.

-We were going outside in the cold and mom told McKinley & Kezia to get some hats on. They both came back with their Disneyland Mickey Mouse Ears hats on J
-One morning McKinley decided that daddy deserved breakfast in bed, so she brought him some! J
-One of McKinley’s favorite sayings lately: “I know, right?”
-McKinley has consistently been scoring 100%+ on her spelling tests & she brought home a math test, too – over 100%! Great job McKinley!
-One day mom said something about a “lunatic.” McKinley said “Is that someone who studies the moon? Cuz – luna means moon in Spanish.”
-Mom & Kezia came into Mrs. Hardin’s class to help with their Christmas party. Mom had fun meeting McKinley’s friends and helping them make gingerbread men.
-McKinley  was really excited to GIVE gifts this year! She helped a lot with our service projects (see Link’s section), and made a list of ideas for her cousins. The cutest was the lego picture frame she made for Michael and a lego bracelet that she made for him. She also wrote out Link’s story to give out, and she bought barbies for her sisters’ gifts.
-McKinley worked hard on memorizing and singing “Jingle Bell Rock” for the Ronald McDonald House. She did great!
-McKinley must have been good last year because she got a sewing machine for Christmas! Aunt Cindy & Grandma have helped her set it up and taught her some basics – she has done some sewing mazes, hemmed some pants and started a pillow! Other fun gifts for McKinley this year: A snap circuit set – learning about electricity, a yummy science kitchen set, some dresses, a cover for her tablet, some cash register money,  and Aunt Trisha gave her the most awesome craft set – about 12 gallon sized zip-locks with print-outs and materials for craft projects. It is great & will definitely keep her busy!
-After much questioning and badgering from McKinley, mom and dad finally talked to McKinley and she is aware of Santa’s role in Christmas.

-Ireland’s favorite saying lately – “I tell you!” as in, “It looks fabulous, I tell you!”
-Ireland got to make gingerbread houses AND go to the movie theater for school one day!
-Ireland still HATES getting her hair brushed in the morning. It’s a morning ritual for mom to brush and for her to scream and whine and complain. One morning mom said “why don’t you try singing a song?” and Ireland said “I can’t when you’re hurting on me!”
-Ireland also got lots of fun gifts for Christmas: Santa gave her some VERY nice, expensive clippety-cloppety, REAL cowgirl boots J She tried them on immediately to test out the clippety-cloppety-ness of them and was very satisfied. She also got a cowgirl hat from mom and dad. She would just watch herself in the mirror to see how cute she was J She also got a Barbie movie, a sparkly sweater, a pretend makeup/nail kit, and a spirograph kit. She also got a sparkly jump rope & she is up to 50 jumps in a row!  Aunt Trisha made rocks with pictures on them so she can make a story!

-Rainbow truck was missing one day. We all searched & searched for probably an hour & couldn’t find him. We thought maybe he had gotten outside somehow & we wouldn’t see him again. Mom suggested we say a prayer, so we knelt down and Kezia said the prayer. Unfortunately… she forgot to actually pray to find Rainbow Truck. So – she said another prayer & prayed specifically to find him. Within 10 minutes, daddy found him downstairs. We’re so thankful!
-It was Kezia’s turn to go on a lunch date & she decided to go to IHOP, so she & mom headed over there. She was determined to get the smiley face chocolate pancake. When it finally came, mom didn’t think she’d be able to eat all of it. It was huge! So – mom asked for a little bite, but it wasn’t the bite that Kezia wanted her to take & she was VERY upset. She cried for a little while & told mom that she was going to tell “that girl” (waitress) on her, but finally she calmed down and she actually finished the whole thing!
-One day Kezia was playing with her ponies while mom was working. Mom asked her what was going on. Kezia said “Well, Rainbow Dash has to go in the ambulance because she bumped her head when she got baptized.”
-Kezia has LOTS of Christmas dresses to choose from being the third girl. She loved to wear them. But when mom vetoed her wearing it to preschool, she yelled “But it’s BORING when I don’t get to wear my Christmas dress!”
-Kezia got to go to Anna Strand’s 4th birthday party at 5 Little Monkeys. She had a great time!
-Kezia has become quite a horder of candy. When she’s given candy, she doesn’t eat it. She saves it and puts it in the fridge. Her sisters will come home with candy & she will beg them for some, but she won’t eat her own candy. One day, mom gave her ½ of a candy bar when we were done grocery shopping & she saved it. Mom asked why she does that. Kezia said “I realized that when I don’t have candy, then I’m sad.”
-Kezia’s current  favorite colors are purple and pink!
-One day at lunch, Kezia said “I’m FOR SURE going to marry Luke, mom!” (Beacham)
-One day, Kezia brought mom part of her candy and said “Give this to Noelle!”
-The girls were all talking together at once & Kezia said “Girls, Girls! Calm down.”
-One day Sydney jumped up on Kezia and she was crying. Ireland said “she doesn’t know any better Kezia.” Kezia said “Yes she does! She’s ten!”
-Kezia wanted My Little Pony things for Christmas & Santa brought her 6 ponies and a shirt, so she was happy! She also got a VeggieTales movie, an outfit, a roll of butcher paper and a bunch of paints, and a little shopping cart with pretend food. Aunt Trisha made her a tiny mouse in an altoid box. It was so cute. She also got a Hello Kitty airplane for the Tew white elephant gift exchange, so she was a happy girl.

Link was definitely not forgotten this Christmas season. We decided to do service projects in his name to put in his stockings. Here are some things we did: brought treats to the PD and FD, sang Christmas songs at the Ronald McDonald House, gave out toys for people who needed them, shoveled someone’s driveway, left quarters on the machines at Walmart with a note saying “take one! Merry Christmas!”, went through the drive through & paid for the car behind us, donated food to the local food bank, & donated to a refugee in Utah. Aunt Trisha also made glass ornaments with “NICU – December 2013” & tiny footprints etched on them. She donated them to the local NICU with a sweet poem in honor of Link.
-Our tree was filled with reminders of our sweet baby boy: The lady that made our Link bears also sent heart ornaments made from his clothing & we put them on the tree. For FHE we made a color chain for the tree & on each Link there was a memory of him. We loved remembering all those moments! We also had 3 glass ornaments on the tree – remembrance ornaments. On one was Link & Tundra, another one had Richardson grandparents on one side & Potts grandparents on the other, and then the last one had Grandpa Tew and Uncle Bart. It was so neat to see all these things that remind us of our loved ones!
-Mom ordered a stocking for Link this year & we loved seeing it & knowing he will always be a part of our family.
-Mom had a really rough time missing Link this month – right before Christmas. She spent a few days just watching videos and missing him. We know he would have been trying to get into the decorations and gifts – but also mesmerized by the lights and feeling the excitement of the season. We missed him a lot L
-Someone that Grandma Devenish knew had to come to the hospital here in Cedar & stayed at the Jubilee House. She was so touched to get one of the bags that we donated for Link’s birthday that she sent Grandma a card. So very sweet & heartwarming to know they are being loved.
-For Christmas this year, Heidi made “Link” earrings as well as printed pictures for each family with Link’s picture and a quote from The Message, along with a copy of McKinley’s handwritten story of Link’s life.

-The BEST gift for Link this year was his bench! It’s FINALLY done!! We got to see it on our way back to Cedar and we are so happy to have it finished!