Tuesday, April 24, 2012

For Nyssa-- The Turning Point Continued

We arrived at the entrance to the Spirit World in no time at all… that’s partly because the Spirit World is literally all around you.  The other reason is because Benjamin and I were late.  Tardiness was never acceptable.  Luckily my Boss was a merciful Man.   And those who had Veil assignments were exceptionally patient people.  “The Veil” is our nickname for the separation between the living and the dead.  In order to get through the veil to the Spirit World you have to be accompanied by one of us.  They have a key that will unlock the gate.  In order to find one of us on veil assignment, however, you have to go to a central location.  It’s called “The Room.”  My Boss loves order.  So imagine a giant white room.  There is no furniture in this room.  There aren’t really any walls in this room, not that you can tell, just white tiles for miles and misty clouds for a ceiling.  Then fill this room with about a gazillion dead people in a variety of outfits.  Cut that number by 75%, and you’ll have about how many Workers there are to assist with the crossing.  That’s The Room.

It’s the original melting pot.

Amazingly, even with the innumerable masses that are always present, the noise doesn’t get much louder than a soft hum.  I don’t know how He did it, but He did.  The effect is very calming and peaceful.  Even the most resistant spirits seem to slowly wind down from their previously distressed state.  I have come to be very grateful for this room.  And when I arrived with Benjamin, I knew I would once again send a letter of thanks to my Boss for the brilliance of its design.

Benjamin, however, gave the powers of this room a run for its money.  He hadn’t had two seconds to process the news that he and his wife were expecting, so I’m not really surprised by his outrage.

“What does that mean, ‘your baby’?” he yelled in my ear.  I shouldn’t have held him so close to me, I swear his mouth was right in my eardrum.  “That can’t be my baby!  How can that be my baby?”

I sighed.  My professional patience was coming to an end.  If he had just followed protocol and said goodbye without touching her, this wouldn’t have happened.  He wouldn’t have seen the baby’s Essence, and he wouldn’t have made us late, which means I wouldn’t be scanning The Room like crazy looking for a disposed veil worker.  My sass was going to rear its ugly head soon.  It was one of my greatest weaknesses and I frequently got written up for it. 

“I wasn’t briefed on your personal life, so I can’t really explain anything to you except the fact that we’ve got to find you a veil worker ASAP.”

“You act like this is some death factory and you just stamped my TOD on my forehead as I floated by on the conveyer belt!” he sassed back at me.

Grr.  “If it only it were that simple.”

 “Oh, so now I’m bothering you!  I’m sorry, did you just find out you have a possible fetus with your genes out there in the world?” 

Count to ten, Lina, count to ten.  One… two… three…

“I feel like I’ve been very calm and compliant throughout this whole processes, which is more than I can say about you,” he continued, pushing every one of my patience buttons.  “You’ve been evasive, bossy, and outright mean!”

Screw it, those patience things never work for me.

I turned away from my search for a veil worker and faced my ward.  “I’m sorry this has turned into an unpleasant experience for you, but I have done the best I can.”  That was my last ditch effort at keeping my sassy personality in reign. 

“You can’t explain why my wife is pregnant?”  His tone implied a deep incompetence on my part.

I was done.

“Well, Benji, when a mommy and a daddy really love each other, they want to share that love--”

“Don’t call me Benji.  My name is Benjamin.”  He shook his head slightly, like a little kid trying to fight off sleep.  His shoulders lowered from their stress filled position of around his ears down to their normal place below his neck.  His eyes still held a spark of fight in him, but… yes, it was starting to happen.  The calming effect of The Room was working.  I wouldn’t lose my cool.

“I’m sorry.  Benjamin.  All I can tell you is what you would learn in an 8th grade sex ed class.  You did the deed, you made a baby.”   My comment seemed to have no effect on him.  The spark in his eyes was replaced by deep, but calm, confusion.

“That’s not possible…” he muttered. 

“Sometimes birth control doesn’t work, home-boy,” I informed him.  “The best way to avoid getting pregnant is to not have sex.”

He shook his head again, but not to shake fatigue—to show misunderstanding.  His gaze was glued to the white marble tiles of The Room.  Something was definitely not clicking in his head.

“But… just trust me.  This isn’t possible.”  He was so insistent, and the fight was leaving so quickly, that I decided to play along and agree. 

“Okay.  I don’t know how it happened.  And maybe I was wrong in thinking it was a baby,” I said calmly, lying through my teeth.  I know it was a baby.  The pure Essence of a newly conceived person is distinctive and I’d had enough pregnant teen cases that I knew that glow well.  No amount of post-demise conviction will persuade me otherwise.  I was picking my battles though, and this one wasn’t worth the fight.  He was getting more and more at ease, however stubborn he was on this point.

“I wish someone would explain it to me…” he said, his voice trailing off.  At this point I was certain he was calm enough to resume my search.  I quickly spotted an old friend, Mark, who was on veil duty.  I caught his attention and hailed him like a cab.

“Benjamin, this is Mark.  Mark is going to help you get through to what many call ‘the other side.’  He’s your new best friend.”  I put my arm around his shoulders and turned him to face Mark.  He was still preoccupied, and Mark noticed.  He did the best he could to console Benjamin about his loss.

“Yeah, yeah…” Benjamin replied distractedly.  However upset he was, he had once again become compliant, and followed Mark willingly to the Veil.  As soon as they were twenty feet away, I let out a breath of relief.

That was a roller coaster…

After working one more case, I went home to my home in Yosemite.  It was a remote location, and since commute wasn’t really an issue, it suited us well.  We were tired of being in big cities; well, I was anyway.  Hall could live anywhere, he was such a chameleon.  He had the ability to hide his true self and blend in when necessary.  I only semi possessed that skill which rendered me a little more than useless for surveillance cases.  That’s okay.  I wasn’t a big fan of surveillance.  Hall, however, thrived on them.  He loved the opportunity to put on a new character and slip around unnoticed.  It was a sport for him.  Ugh.  I found it to be a hassle.  That’s why I don’t get surveillance cases unless the ward is specifically for me, or my Boss has run out of other options.  Hooray.  Anyway, Hall had let me choose the lease for the next few years and accepted the compromise of Yosemite.  We lived close enough to the Fresno/ Madera area that neither of us received too many international assignments; the Central Valley will keep you hoppin’!

The first thing I did every night upon my return from work was to promptly drop my coat on the floor.  I then proceeded to toss my purse on top of it and kick my shoes off my feet.  I love shoes.  They hate my feet, however.  It’s a sick twisted relationship shoes and I have.  After all that, I liked to have a tall drink of cold water.  I imagined the liquid flushing my system of the day’s stress.  But, like I mentioned earlier, I tend to keep my thoughts on my tougher cases.  Luckily today I only had one Death assignment and two Interventions, all of which went fairly easily.  Interventions had the tendency to go very badly, but these two were easy enough; get the one girl to start taking school seriously, and inform the man that if he touched his wife again there would be hell to pay.  The abusive husband was after my “tryst” with Benjamin, so I was in no mood to play subtle.  I got right in his grill and informed him of all the nasty horrible things that happen to wife beaters and I promised to personally afflict him with each one if I ever saw him go near his wife again.  He then promptly signed the divorce papers I put in front of his face then promised to be ready for our next meeting in a week’s time.  Good.  My abrasive personality did have its advantages.

Still distracted by my final case, I didn’t notice the presence in my home until I stepped into my bedroom.  It wasn’t like I felt like someone was there.  Something was just… amiss.  I visually checked everything out from my spot in the doorway: the curtains were closed, my bed was unmade (as usual), and the bathroom door was half open, just how I left it.  I took a step forward to glance into my closet, but… rien.  Nada.  Nothin’.  The feeling didn’t leave me, so I stepped into my closet and started rifling through my clothes.  Actually, “clothes” is an optimistic word.  I am the kind of person that tries on fifty outfits every morning, discarding the rejects onto my bed.  Then, instead of hanging them back up when I got home from work, I shoved them to other side of the bed.  Once the pile got large enough, I took care of it.  I pushed them onto the floor.  So by saying I was rifling through my clothes is nearly a lie; I was rifling through my hangers with sparse items randomly placed. 

Huh.  Anyway.  It was while I shuffled through my closet that I focused in on the presence: it was right behind me.  I felt the spirit grow stronger every second.  I wasn’t afraid of a spirit; I’m just cautious.  That being said, you should know I took about a minute of fake “searching” for my PJ’s (which are NEVER in my closet, what a laugh) before I turned to face my invader.  When I finally did, I was overcome by surprise.  
Then irritation.


See what I meant about work following me home?

“How in the WORLD did you get here?” I yelled at him.  He wasn’t my ward, I assessed immediately, so I had no obligation to treat him with professionalism.  He flinched at the sheer volume my voice reached with no effort.

“They gave me your address…” he replied matter almost apologetically.

“WhatEVER!  I don’t buy that for a second!”  Anger rushed from my gut all the way to my face in less than three seconds.  “How did you get out of The Room?  Mark is MORE than reliable!”  I hoped my frustration masked my confusion.  I had no idea how Benjamin got away from the veil and to my room.  Sure, spirits could travel anywhere anytime, no address necessary.  But to leave The Room required a different power.

“I don’t know… I told someone at the counter that I needed your help with something before I, erm, crossed over.  And they gave me a type of hall pass thingy,” was his pathetic response.  Upon informing me of this unlikely story, he waved a yellow slip of paper in front of my face.  I snatched my hand out to grab it.  Unfortunately I was so caught off guard by all this that I only tore a corner off.  Benjamin saw my failure and smiled slightly, which of course ticked me off even more.  I grabbed for the slip again, but this time I succeeded in taking it from him.  I scanned the note and sighed.

“I’ve heard about these,” I announced.  “But I’ve never actually seen one.”

“What does it mean?”

I looked up, confused for a second.  Then I remembered: the note was written in The Original Tongue.  Benjamin doesn’t know that language.

“It means your crossing has been temporarily delayed.”

He perked up.

“I’m not dead anymore?”

“I said ‘crossing,’ not ‘passing.’  Two different things.”

“What’s the difference?”

“Passing is death.  You have passed out of this life.  Sucks for you, but that’s that.”  I folded up the pass and slipped it between my belt and the back of my skirt for safe keeping.  You better believe Headquarters was getting a nasty phone call from me.  I wanted the evidence to refer two when I got ahold of Iam.  “Crossing,” I resumed, “is when your spirit goes from limbo into the spirit world.  You haven’t crossed.  You were supposed to do that in The Room.”

“So… what do I have to do to cross?” he wondered aloud.  I sighed.  He obviously couldn’t read the memo, but I figured he’d know how he got permission to defer.

“It only says that YOU have a special job to do before you can.  Do you have any idea what that might be?”  I was exasperated and showed it through my “I’m not really in the mood stance,” aka, hands on hips and eyebrows raised in frustration.  His gaze fell to the ground as I’m sure he reflected on what this job could be.  Suddenly he looked up at me, making the most intense eye contact of the day.

“Yes.  I know exactly what needs to be done.”

“Really?”  I was surprised.  “What?”

He hesitated, looking to the left for a brief second.  Then, like a dog afraid to ask for the table scraps he really wants, he dragged his eyes to meet mine.

“I need to find her a new husband.”

Monday, April 23, 2012

Maybe this isn't original, but I wanted to share quand meme...

I heard this song on my way down to Ridgcrest, and it made me think of me these past few months.  Not like this actually happened.  But the similies and emotions described here are... exact.

Thank you The Civil Wars!!!


Haven't you seen me sleep walking?
'Cause I've been holding your hand
Haven't you noticed me drifting?
Oh, let me tell you, I am

Tell me it's nothing
Try to convince me
That I'm not drowning
Oh let me tell you, I am

Please, please tell me you know
I've got to let you go
I can't help falling
Out of love with you

Why am I feeling so guilty?
Why am I holding my breath?
Worry 'bout everyone but me
I just keep losing myself

Tell me it's nothing
Try to convince me
That I'm not drowning
Oh let me tell you, I am

Please, please tell me you know
I've got to let you go
I can't help falling
Out of love with you

Won't you read my mind?
Don't you let me lie here
And die here

Please, please tell me you know
I've got to let you go
I can't help falling
Out of love with you

Haven't you noticed?
I'm sleepwalking

C'est la vie.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Love me tender...

Me: Have you ever been to a redneck wedding?
Ben: No. :(
Me: Your life is incomplete.
Ben: Oh man. I had a feeling...

It's true.  If you haven't been to a redneck wedding, then your life is incomplete.  Tonight my uncle got married... for the third time.  But this one... this one seems very different.  To quote a family friend tonight, "I've never seen him smile so much in my life as he does since he met her."  It's true!  What a nice change!  And to say the honest truth, their wedding is indicative of their relationship.  Let me tell you about it...

My wedding prep started the moment I woke up.  I got up bright and early at 6:30 a.m. (that mission thing screwed up my ability to sleep in), and had to get a gazillion things done before the wedding today.  That's partly due to the fact that I am teaching Relief Society tomorrow AND I'm driving down to Ridgecrest to see ma famille.  So, yeah.  I was busy.  Plus I had to finish altering this BOMB skirt that I bought at Goodwill like two months ago.  It was ginormous on me, but I really liked it, so my mom helped me alter it.  And I did the last parts ALL BY MYSELF.  Like a BOSS!

Anyway.  Back to humility.

Anne (my new aunt) warned us that the wedding was "beyond casual".  My other aunt Becky informed us that she was going to wear jeans and a t-shirt to the wedding.  Really?  Well, I still wore a skirt.  It was an outdoor wedding at a barn and it was 96 degrees in the Valley today.  So yeah-- I learned in France that skirts keep a girl cooler than jeans.  We showed up at 5:01 p.m. (the wedding started at 5:00), but the laissez-faire attitude of the bride and groom allowed for ten minutes of socialization even after we arrived.  The number of guests was around 65, a perfectly low key and intimate group.

The ceremony was short and sweet.  Anne wore a lovely navy blue dress and Bryon wore a classy white shirt and black jeans.  Oh it made me smile how true to themselves they were.  They stood on a small green stage while the rest of us placed our chairs somewhat haphazardly on the lawn around them.  The barn was between us and the sun by the time the show got a rollin' and a weak breeze bustled through occasionally, satiating our desire for relief from the heat.  We all chatted for half an hour while pictures were taken around the ranch.  During this "social hour" the tiny bit of drama that occurred took place and then was over.  How nice to get the drama out of the way early on, eh?  I was grateful, that's for sure.

Ribs and tri tip were on the menu, and we gorged ourselves with good meat and good company.  I got to see people I hadn't seen in a long time, and with so many of us there, there was never a lull in the conversation.  At one point I just got to sit back and listen, learning little tidbits of lives that I never knew.  Champagne and Sparkling cider were served (by the bride and groom) and we all toasted to the happiness of the newlyweds.  Then the dancing began.

I'm not going to lie, at first I avoided it.  You have to understand that dancing for me is a joy.  It makes my heart sing on so many levels.  I really wish I had actual talent in that area, but I've learned to just enjoy it and embrace my mediocrity.  IT WAS JUST SO HOT!  I didn't want to go dance in an extremely lovely but nowhere near cool barn.  But when Bryon asked me to dance, how could I refuse?  I mean, he was the groom!  I asked him all about how he and Anne met and fell in love (I was on my mission during their whole courtship), and it was like listening to a teenager talk about his first love.  I loved it.  Then my dad came in and asked me for a dance.  The tune was upbeat and catchy, so we danced around the hall.  I had no idea my dad had such moves!  He spun me around, twirled my arms, and turned in circles to the twangy swing dance.  He, having forgotten that I used to ballroom dance in college, was surprised at my ability to follow and perform all the moves.  I was really starting to have a blast.

My mom came in and my dad blew me off for her.  Go figure, teehee.  I took some video of my parents and grandparents dancing.  When I looked closer into my camera, however, I saw my little 13 year old brother snickering in the corner.  Oh ho! I thought.  I think this needs to change!  I walked over to Joe and said, "You're going to dance with me."

"Uh, no I'm not."

"Yes you are.  In seven months when you turn 14, you will thank me, I promise."

I forced him to dance with me and ask me questions like he would at a youth dance.  He told me to stop my 14 year old giggle because it was creeping him out and because "girls don't really do that."  Oh yeah?  Just wait, home-boy, you'll see.  Remember, I once was a 14 year old.  I know what they do.  And the nervous giggle is totally something a teen girl does.  I taught him how to spin me and how to lead, where to put his hands, and how to keep a conversation.  I must say: watch out young women!  In February a dashing young man will enter the dance scene!  And I'm not nice... I'm sincere.  I think his confidence was really boosted because during the next dance, after he cut in and stole Mom away from Dad, he asked me to dance again.  I thought, how wonderful!  We're having bonding time, and he's learning skills!  Hahahaha.  That was not his sole motive.  We rammed repeatedly into my parents; on purpose, of course.  Dad calls it "Dancing Derby."  I called it "If we hadn't stopped soon I was going to beat someone because I had bruises."  All in good fun, of course.

After Grandpa danced with me, I rejoined the socialites at our table in the back lawn.  I listened some more and hear, funnily enough, my cousin bear her testimony of God's tender mercies.  That is NOT the phrasing she used.  She's not Mormon, and I had no idea she was such a believing Christian, but she told us how Heavenly Father had shut a door for her because He had opened a better one further along.  I love hearing testimony, even if it was an accident :).

Dusk fell, and we started to clean up.  Well, other people did.  I didn't get up till the sprinklers turned on.  Then I jumped up faster than I knew I could, hahahaha!  Serves me right, I guess.  I said my goodbyes to everyone present, and slowly walked to our car.  As I did, the overwhelming aroma of orange blossoms hit me. I LOVE orange blossoms probably more than any other scent.  To me it smells like HOME in the spring.  If you drive down avenue nine and roll down the windows, your car gets filled with the smell of citrus in bloom.  It's like... heaven.  And to have that sensations overcome me as I walked away from one of the most chill and happy weddings I've been to (EVER) was like a sign from God.  Maybe I'm crazy.  But when I was on my mission, there were times that I just FELT like I was home.  Sometimes it was a smell, or a sound, or a sight.  But a lot of the times it was just a feeling.  And whenever that happened, I took that as a little reminder from Heavenly Father to tell me that He loves me and thinks about me.  Is that stupid?  I don't think so.  I think the Lord speaks to each of us individually and He knows that I pay attention to things like that.  So yes, the timing of a wonderful evening finished with a wave of my favorite smell was a good omen.  Hearing the words "good things are in your future" spoken out loud by a disembodied voice would have been less impressive to me.

Good things are to come.  I can feel it in my bones.  I can feel it in the hot and humid summer air that hangs around me.  I can feel it in the rush of wind my ceiling fan makes as an effort to combat the chaleur.  I can taste it in the fresh strawberries we buy at the corner stand.  I can hear it in the baseball games that go on constantly in the park across the street.  I can smell it in the orange blossoms outside my bedroom window.  And I can feel it in my heart as the Spirit whispers simple truths that calm my troubled mind.

Good things are to come.

Stay tuned :)

(This is Anne's bouquet...)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Happy Place

When you close your eyes, what is the first thing that you see?  Is it a person you case about greatly?  Is it something that you wish you had?  For me, it's a place.  It's the place where many magical moments have happened.

I walked the rows of walnut trees nearly every Christmas of my life.  I wrote my life, sitting in the clover patches.  I was a boxcar child underneath the flume.  I sang to an imaginative audience atop an old ladder. I made friends with the man I almost married out there.  I shot my first pistol on the bank of that canal.  I fell in love over and over again.  I learned how to work.  I learned how to be tough.  I learned to love music.  I learned to love me.  I've discussed death in that orchard.  I've talked about creating life along the split rail fence.  My dreams erupted by the pasture, and the songs of my heart burst from my mouth for the first time as I walked by the turtle pen.  I became a fairy, a siren, a starlet, and a hero.  I fought battles of morals and of family.  I stood my ground sometimes, and ran for my life others.  Frogs turned into princes, lizards into dragons, and brothers into victims.  I ate from the tree of life, and tasted it's goodness.  Dresses were worn and ruined, stained with grease and pomegranates.  Old bicycles transformed into chariots worthy of use.  Voices rose and dropped; children flew.  Life was its best and its worst here.  Life stands still and keeps moving at the same tie in this special place.  This is my special place.  And if the wind is blowing around me, lifting the edges of my skirt, I can close my eyes and feel at home.  I feel the fog close in, and the sun set slowly  Trains pass in the background.  And life once again has many possibilities: anything can happen!  And once more... life makes sense.

The turning point

  I used to love this job.  Getting to be with someone as they slipped from this world to the next was a moment almost as sacred as birth.  Often I held their hand while the warmth of life seeped away and the cold of death snuck in.  I was the last person they saw.  I told them they weren't forgotten.  I was a reminder that this was not the end.
  I no longer love this job.
  Well... that's not true.  My appreciation for the post comes and goes in waves.  I understand the importance of it-- no one should die alone.  But people don't always get why we're there.  Some plead for more time.  Others cling to denial and refuse to accept that their body and spirit are no longer united.  I thank my Boss for the ones that accept readily the call to progress in the next life.  The accepting ones, however, seemed few and far between these days.  And the pleadings were taking their toll on me.  He always knew when it was getting to be too much before I did.  I only realized it when the assignments came less frequently.  I appreciated the breaks.  Hmmm... break isn't the right word.  Even if I wasn't handling any death assignments, I still had the cases on my mind.  I'm horrible at keeping work at work and bringing it home with me.  Some of those spirits just stick with you.  I could hear their final requests bouncing around my brain, some that I could fulfill, some that I couldn't.  Sometimes I would receive an assignment TO fulfill a request of one of my "dearly departed"s.  That was rare.  Usually I just thought about them on my time off.  Yes, like I said earlier, I tend to take work home with me.
  Or work follows me home.  Like Benjamin.
  Benjamin Holden was a fit young man with big green eyes and dirty blond hair.  The way he lived his life-- eating healthy, working out, voted at every election, great balance between work and home life-- would never have indicated  an early death.  he treated most people with blind kindness and strove to live what he declared to believe.  The biggest offenses he ever committed were paying too much for French suits (though they did compliment his slim figure so well) and pissing off his parents by marrying an American-born Chinese girl (named Alice) with crazy parents.  In all reality, Benjamin was an outstanding guy.  And a huge pain in my big round rear.
  I stopped asking why certain people had to die and when (especially children) years before I assigned Benjamin's case.  Luckily for me he had such faith in life that me showing up after he was mugged didn't make him plead for more time.  As blood steadily pumped out the fatal knife wound, his giant green eyes locked mine, full of compassion and acceptance.  Good, I said to myself. This one'll be easy.
  "I don't imagine you'll tell me why," were the first words he spoke to me in his soft baritone voice.
  "I don't think you really care at this point, do you?" I replied.
  He shook his head and a small smile creeped onto his generous mouth.  "No.  Not really."  He laughed softly which caused him to wince in pain.  As he moved his hand to the slice in his abdomen he spoke again. "Any suggestions for great last words?"
  His question caught me off guard.  I'd never thought about that.  I pondered the many final phrases uttered to me during the past centuries, but none seemed to fit.  I stalled my response by climbing over garbage sacks in my black pencil skirt and white stilettos to reach my ward.  The stench didn't bother me at all.  I knew at this point Benjamin was beyond noticing the rank smells of an obscure alley way.
  "You could recite the Gettysburg address," I suggested.  I don't know why I did that.  I just did.  "Or maybe another famous quote."
  "That seems rather unoriginal," he replied.  His voice was weaker this time.  yes-- his end approached.
  "A popular one is 'tell JoAnne I love her!' or something like that."
  He smiled.
  It was here.
  "Yes, that would be appropriate.  But I know there is not doubt in Alice's mind that I love her."  Wince.  Pain shoots through his eyes for a brief instant.  Quickly, peace replaces it.  "I made sure of that," he finishes.
  And just like that, his body dies.
  Every time I'm with a person when their body and spirit seperates I experience an instant where time stands still.  I take in every detail of the environment, making mental record the event.  Someone should remember this.  So I do.  I breathe in the air heavy with rot.  My eyes memorize every brick mortared into the surrounding walls.  And my skin... it dimples as the cold damp moisture of dusk sets in.  This is what it was like the moment Benjamin Holden died.
  "Well... that was fast, wasn't it?"
  I exit my trance and regard my ward.  He brushed off imaginary dust from his impeccable grey suit.  After straightening his jacket, he looked up at me brightly and smiled.
  "Yeah.  You're pretty lucky.  I've seen much worse."
  "Lord, I bet you have," he replied absentmindedly as he searched his pockets for an unknown object.  When a person dies, there is a bit of a limbo between death and passage in the spirit world.  During this limbo, a spirit version of their clothing and all the belongings on them are all they have.  So whatever Benjamin found would only last till we crossed the veil.  He looked with a purpose, cleaning out every pocket meticulously until he found what he was looking for.  "I wasn't expecting the attire to be business dress," he stated all while shoving his hands around his suit.
  "Excuse me?" I replied.
  "You know... I just figured the Angel of Death would wear, I dunno, a black robe.  Or maybe a white robe.  Obviously some kind of robe."  Stopping his search a moment to look up, his eyes ran up and down my figure.  "The silk shirt and pinstripe skirt just surprised me that's all."  He resumed his quest to find the unknown treasure.
  "Robes haven't been my thing for a while.  And I'm not the Angel of Death," I informed him.
  "Ahhh, there you are," he murmured, pulling a small paper clip out of his inside breast pocket.  Grasping it tightly between the thumb and index finger of his right hand, he looked up at me expectantly.  "Soooo.... now what?"
  I pulled a small slip of paper from my clutch.  Waving it in the air I said, "I'm supposed to take you to say goodbye to Alice.  Then we're off to the Spirit World."
  I sighed.  "Yes.  She's been assigned a case worker, so I think this goodbye is more for her than for you."
  He thought for a moment.  Shrugging, he smiled and said, "Okay!  I can't honestly say this bums me out!  What a cool gig you have, Not-Angel-of-Death."
  You don't realize how rare of an assignment this is, I thought.  And I'm not the Angel of Death.  I reached forward and grabbed Benjamin's hand.  It was slightly smaller than I expected, but I didn't give it too much thought.  "Hold on," I ordered.  "You're about to go for a bumpy ride."
  I reflected on my past few days as we travelled through time and space to Alice and Benjamin's Brooklyn apartment.  I say time because when an assignment is given to have a ward bid farewell to a loved one, the moment their spirit leaves the body, time slows to an imperceptibly sluggish rate.  This happens to allow a ward and his case worker to travel nearly instantaneously to the loved one.  I'm sure you've heard stories of people who wake up suddenly and feel a loss, long before they even know about the death.  Well, that's usually because one of us has taken a recently departed to say goodbye.  The ability travel at such a snail's pace makes this possible  As I was saying, I was reflecting on my past few days.  I had just wrapped up a child abuse case in which the mother had to be made aware of what was happening in her home.  Sometimes people just don't notice what's going on right under their noses, so my Boss assigns one of us to give them a little... hint, you could say.  Before the Mallory case, I was working on a group of hikers that got lost and needed support through the night until the rescuers came.  When I got home the morning after that, Hall told me he had an interesting assignment.  What was that assignment?  I can't remember what he was telling me, I was too preoccupied with the grocery list.  Goodness, I wish that man could learn how to restock a pantry... after thirty years you'd think he'd have figured out--
  We were there.
  The bedroom was small, but clean.  Impeccably well organized also.  The color scheme was monochromatic: black bedskirt, furnishings and window treatments, with white duvet covers and walls.  Alice was asleep under the crumpled comforter, curled up in the fetal position, holding a pillow to her chest. At first her positioning made me slightly nervous.  Then I noticed that Benjamin was smiling in a rueful way.
  "She used to wad the blankets up and pull them up to her chest like that.  I broke her of the habit by suggesting an overly large pillow," he informed me, stepping over to the bed then lightly sitting on the edge.  Gingerly he brushed her bangs from her forehead.
  "Got cold at night did you?"
  He laughed.  "Yeah.  I didn't appreciate the nightly theft."
  She shifted a little in her sleep when he laughed.  Her movement reminded me of the time constraint.
  "Benjamin, now is the time to tell her whatever you think she should hear."
  For the first time since I'd met him I saw fear cross his face.  It passed quickly of course; I'll never forget it was there, though.  It possessed him entirely.  Only fear for someone else could seize a person like that.
  You could tell he was thinking as hard and as fast as he could because his pupils raced back and forth between the walls.  As if the answer was written upon them.  No, Benjamin.  The answer is in your relationship, not on the walls.  I allowed him another thirty seconds (well, thirty of MY seconds) before I told him again that we soon needed to leave.  And then, as if by magic, the answer came.  He leaned close and whispered in her ear in a barely audible tone:
  "Don't stop living, Alice.  Don't let your life stop here and now."
  She stirred again.
  He continued.
  "Love again.  Find someone new to take care of you.  You should never be alone, my whirly-girl."
  Her eyelids started to flutter.  Time was starting to pick up its pace.
  "Benjamin, we need to leave.  Now."
  He looked up at me.  Another first happened: I saw sadness.
  "She'll want to die.  She doesn't do well with loss."  His intense and sincere concern pulled made my heart stop, just like every heartfelt comment made did.  But I knew better than to let him continue his conversation with her.  If she saw him when she woke up, it might make her cling to his spirit, constantly seeking ways to be in contact with him and avoiding her own progression.  I took two steps towards Benjamin and laid my hand softly on his arm.
  "It's time," I said much more calmly than I actually felt.  He nodded.
  "I just want to tuck her in."
  I knew I should have stopped him, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.  He'd been so compliant this whole time, I figured I could afford a little of my Boss's wrath and keep time moving slow enough for him to finish his goodbye.
  He pulled the white blankets up around her face, framing her olive skin and jet black hair like a heavenly cloud.  She did look beautifully peaceful in that moment.  His final act was to pull away the comfort pillow, and turn her onto her back.
  That's when I saw it.
  The tiniest hint of a glow coming from her core.
  No way.
  I grabbed Benjamin's arm again, this time my grip was much tighter.
  "Time's up," I told him.  I tried to pull him away from her, but he had also noticed the glow and had become fixated on it.
  "What is that?" he asked, staring at the pale blue light emanating from Alice's abdomen.  "Do you know what that is?"  Upon hearing his voice, Alice stirred again.  Dang it, she was going to wake up if he talked again!
  "Now, Benjamin!  We need to leave now!"  The urgency in my heart must have seeped out into my voice, because Benjamin looked at me with alarm.
  "Tell me what it is," he demanded.
  Her eyelids began to flutter.
  "It's your baby," I said.  "Let's go."
  And with that, I transported us out of that room, and to the entrance of the Spirit World.  But before I got us out of there, Benjamin whispered, "It is?"

  I hadn't lied to him.  I just didn't have the time to explain that not only was it a baby, but that faint glow meant that THAT bun had just been put in the oven.  As in, within the last 48 hours.  Right before Benjamin John Holden died, he created a body for a new spirit.  For a daughter.
  Her name was going to be Michayla.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Have you missed my writing? I know I have!!

Remember how I used to post some of my creative writing?  Well, I've decided to start doing it again.  I miss writing, and there 's no harm in sharing little bits.

Plus I've had some of these stories in my head since Caen... so they need to be written down... finally.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Demain, dès l’aube

Demain, dès l’aube, á l’heure où blanchit la campagne,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m’attends.
J’irai par la forêt, j’irai par la montagne.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longetmps.

Je marcherai les yeux fixes sur mes pensées.
Sans rien voi au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.

Je ne regarderai ni l’or du soir qui tombe,
Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
Et quand j’arricerai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.

I love that poem.  SOOOOO much.  Victor Hugo wrote it.  I studied it in my French Lit class like seventy years ago.  But I still remember the first time I understood it.  Rereading now with the mastery I have of the language gives an even deeper meaning to it. I feel like it embodies loss in a loving and mournful way.  Ooooooh, Vicky, how your words pierce my soul.

Anyway.  Tangent over.

Is it a tangent if you start with it?  Or does my commencement make my actual post a tangent?  Hmmmmm... les questions que je me pose...

Today was a day for nostalgia.  For one, I went to the dentist.  Ahhh, Scott is my chum.  He just smiled when he saw me in the chair, his eyes dancing with mirth that said "Did you miss me?"  Nope.  I didn't.  We see each other far too often.  People are going to start to talk.

As if they don't already.  You see, my dad told a member of my bishopric that I was going to visit a friend up north.  Since I got home from my mission, I've been telling people that I'm moving AWAY from Fresno in May.  Well, may is in two weeks.  My trip is in two weeks.  So, this man using the logic and information he has, put two and two together.  And told the entire ward council that I'm moving.  To Washington.  In two weeks.  EVERYONE, this is not true.  I am not.  I am going to visit a friend.  But I'm not moving to Washington.  I'm not moving ANYWHERE until at least June.  Hopefully in June.  But yeah...  not moving.  I had like a gazillion people approach me yesterday and ask me why Washington, and why so short notice?  Was I trying to avoid people?  Was I trying to run TO something?  Is this friend a boy?

Oh boy.  Fielding those questions was a hoot yesterday.  What a funny thing.

I was tempted to say something sassy like I met a man online and I was moving up to WA to marry him.  But lying is bad.  Or at least that's what they tell me.... :)  Also, people would believe me, then that would get back to my dad and the shiz would REALLY hit the fan then.  HAHAHAHAHAHA!

I amuse myself.  Far too much.

So today was my first day in a long time that I got to stop and breathe.  What did I do?  I read a book really quickly (because it was horrible and portrayed all adolescent males as sex-crazed hormonally driven social doofuses-- which I don't believe to be true, grrr society).  And I cleaned carpets.  I love cleaning carpets.  It allows me time to think.  Et whew!  Did I think!  I pondered you could say.  I felt a little bit of anxiety.  Okay, for a minute a lot a bit.  But it helped me understand something.  That the Lord has been preparing me for this time in my life.  Not only prepared, but prepared by all the annoying, scary, sad and difficult things I've been complaining about these past few months.  Honestly, my biggest irritations are being SO useful right now.  I can think of... hmmm, three?  Yes, three really big bad and scary experiences I had since I got home from my mission.  Oh how I complained!  And cried!  And begged the Lord to solve these things for me!  Yet today-- this very day-- I thanked the Lord.  Because of those experiences, I feel secure in what I'm doing now.  I can determine better what are my own personal fears and thoughts as opposed to what my Heavenly Father is trying to tell me.  He let me figure certain things out all on my own because that was the ONLY way for me to discern my will from His.  My fears versus His directions.  My love versus His charity.

I often feel like these posts make little sense to you guys.  I hope that last part made some sense.  And I know I'm being beyond vague right now, but that's because I'm trying to "protect the innocent" (as well as the not so innocent).  So, let me see if I can resumer ca in a sensible way:

I complained a lot about certain trials these last six months.  I was honestly having a hard time with it.  I couldn't figure out why the Lord was putting me in a position that allowed me to feel so confused.  However,  I now find great purpose and practicality in those experiences.  I can now more easily discern my own voice versus the Spirit's.  And I feel more secure in the choices I make now.  All because of the difficult, and sometimes heartbreaking, experiences I've lived.

Funny.  I get to be Joseph.

That's my favorite analogy.  Remember in the Old Testament Joseph and the multi colored coat?  How much HELL he was put through?  That man was nothing but RIGHTEOUS and constantly searching the will of God!  But his brothers betrayed him, his boss's wife went nuts on him, and he was forgotten by those he helped.  Eventually his repentant brothers, the ones who started it all, showed up and needed help.  And what did he say in the end?   "Don't worry, guys.  God sent me through all that so that I'd be able to help save a gazillion lives.  So t'inquiete!"  I might be paraphrasing a bit, but you get the point.  After all his trials he had the "I get it!" moment.  So whenever I see the use of a past trial, I say "Oh look!  Now I'm like Joseph!"

I like Joseph.  I like being like him.

Anyway.  That was the little insight I wanted to share.  We can all be Joseph.  We can all see the point of our trials.  Maybe not while we're in the midst of the storm... but later.  And that moment, that "I get it!" moment, is more than worth the Hell we'll go through.

I promise :)

Anyway.  Let me finish off with some random notes from my Abnormal Psychology class:

(This is what you call a REAL tangent (:)

-Projective tests are based on the belief that people project their own psychological needs, desires, and drives onto ambiguous stimuli.

-Be careful about neurological imaging studies and the CONCLUSIONS they draw.

-In a projective test it doesn't really matter what the responses are, it's how the responses are given. (That's for all my Saturday Night house/ tree/ person kiddo's...)

-Anterograde amnesia is the inability or difficulty forming or storing new memories.

Et, c'est tout folks!!!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hands touch, eyes meet...

Sudden silence, sudden heat.

I played that song for the first time in a long time today.  I forgot how much I luuurrrrveeee it.

Again, feeling pensive and ... grateful.  Tonight my friend Cathy gave the lesson at FHE.  And though she tore it from her daily scripture study, on a whim you could say, it hit me down to the core.  I was so grateful that she followed a quiet prompting, because it made my day so much better.  Not that my day was going poorly.  But I was getting so tired and only a little confused by some of the people in my life.  I didn't want my day to end badly.  I wanted to keep my good attitude going.  I didn't want to get lost in my hopeless anxiety (anxiety has been plaguing me a lot these last few weeks).  I don't even remember saying a conscious prayer.  But there I was, sitting in a white plastic lawn chair in the Hibdon backyard, and I hear the voice of the Lord tell me to ne t'inquiete pas.  Don't sweat the small stuff.  "What is a drop of water in the ocean?"  Little things that happen in your life don't determine your happiness.  You can look with an eternal perspective and find joy and hope in all things.  That was nice to hear.

My life is a little in flux right now.  I've been asked how long I plan to stay in Madera.  I can't give them an answer beyond "Indefinitely."  I don't know when I'll move.  I went to visit Michayla in Utah.  And, interestingly enough, I found that I'd lost the desire to move to Utah.  I didn't need to be there with my mission friends anymore.  That phase has passed.  I'm moved on to... satisfying myself.  Trying to figure out what I want.  Well, in all honesty, I KNOW what I want.  But there is only a limited amount of control I have over that situation.  And I know that... well, that I can't make all the decisions.  Other people are involved.  And such is life.  I guess I've become a little bit of a "eat my cake and have it too" person.  I just don't want to settle for less than what I COULD have.  Or what I want to have.

I can be too stubborn for my own good, you know?

So I continue in my search for direction.  I'm not too pressee, mais... je doit apprendre comment etre satisfee avec la vie que j'ai maintenant.  And I am.  I'm just reaching impatience again.  Bad.  Bad.

I will say, though, that being humble helps you hear the Spirit.  I was really upset yesterday at church and realized that I was being proud.  So I prayed for humility, missing the comfort that that Christ like attribute brings.  So later that day I realized that I had been very proud and distant with one of my few friends in the ward.  I called her up and begged her forgiveness.  I thought that prompting to apologize was for me.  But, believe it or not, I think the timing of that was more for her.  She told me that just before I called something bad had happened and she thought, "I need a friend right now."  So I got to listen to her.  I got the chance to help her.  Reminded me of the MTC when I apologized to Elder Smith and then got a chance to serve him.  I love when the Lord gives me a chance to help those whom I've hurt.  He truly is a Great God.  I love it.

Well.... I'm off to sleep.  Prayer first.  Need to discuss things with the only Person who REALLY knows what's going on.  Maybe He'll help me figure out what to do.

Hmmmm..  Life is good. :)