I am a fairly structured person. Every night, I make a "To do" list for the next day. If my brain were a locomotive, my "to do" lists would be the track that keeps my train of thought going in the right direction.
A week and a half ago, however, my train was abruptly derailed.
My brother called me at 5:30 PM a week ago Saturday. By 7:15 AM the next day, my son and I were on the road to SLC. The drive that normally takes us upwards of 12 1/2 hours, took me 11. Did I speed, you ask? ... of course I did.
You see, life looks a lot different through the bug-splattered windshield of a mini-van when you know someone you love may be departing this life in a matter of hours and you don't know if you'll get there in time to say good bye.
All of the sudden, you realize that it doesn't matter if your daughter's pants got pressed before she went to school yesterday. Instead you start to realize that maybe you were too hard on her at dinner last night for not being more careful with the ketchup, and that ketchup washes off walls just fine.
I arrived in SLC sooner than I thought possible and was able to spend about a half an hour with my Grandpa, talking to him, crying on his shoulder, giving him hugs and kisses, before it was evident that he needed to sleep. Had I known that it was a sleep from which he would never wake, I would have stayed beside him all night.
He passed away less than 12 hours after my arrival.
In the week that followed, I was so grateful to be surrounded by my extended family who loved Grandpa as much as I did. Grandpa passed away early in the morning and throughout that day, as we all walked around in a daze, I became more and more aware that that is why we have families. Whenever one of us was overcome with grief there was always someone to share in it. But it wasn't pitiful. We were strengthening each other by sharing the load.
How grateful I am for families and the blessed realization that indeed, families are everything. Our family relationships matter more than anything in this life. Loving, strengthening and caring for each other should be our number one priority. Of course it begins with our immediate families, but it should also encompass our extended families, our ward families and God's family.
I have now returned home and will likely make a "to do" list for tomorrow before I go to bed. But I hope that as I check things off, I will take my eyes off the track for a moment every now and then and enjoy the beauty of the life that is mine; that I remember that loving and serving my family is not something that can or ought to be on a checklist, but rather that it should be the steel I use to make the tracks.
PS - a note about the pictures: The top one was taken over a mountain pass called Tin Cup in southeastern Idaho. I took it from inside the car as we drove from Star Valley over to Grace, Idaho, where my Grandpa was buried. The next one is of my Aunt Kris on the phone with my cousin Brady who is on his mission in Peru. She was calling to tell him of my Grandpa's passing. My brother, Matthew is sitting next to her for moral support. The next one is of me and 3 of my cousins - one from each of my mom's siblings families. Josh Johnson, me, Lauren Bearnson and Lindsey Hansen. The last one is also of my cousin Lindsey and I LOVE it! She's so beautiful, and I love the idea of the circle of life that is represented in this picture. Lindsey is in a place where people's lives on this earth have ended, but she carries a life that is about to begin. Love it.
5 weeks ago