Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, Linds

Say not in grief that she is no more
But say in thankfulness that she was

A death is not the extinguishing of a light,
but the putting out of the lamp
because the dawn has come.

-Rabindranath Tagore

On Saturday I visited my sister Lindsay's grave for the first time in at least three years. Jen and Marlise, former roommates of mine in Washington, DC, have been hearing about Lindsay for years, and since we all met up in Colorado last week, they got to come with me. I loved sharing something so special to me with dear friends; it was almost like I was finally introducing everyone.

I brought Lindsay some lilies -- my favorite flowers because of their strong, sweet smell. I took a moment to trace my finger over the image of the bleeding heart plant on her headstone and looked at the dates under her name: November 18, 1980 - December 28, 1997. She would have been 28 today.

We stood there watching a colorful sunset and I spouted a few memories; then we sat on her bench talking about life and made sure to sing her Happy Birthday before we left.

And I know it seems slightly irreverent to strike a silly pose in a cemetery, but trust me, Lindsay would appreciate it:

The next day, on my way home from church, I couldn't help stopping by the cemetery again. This time, I plopped down cross-legged in front of her headstone and stared at it for a long time. There were some bees crawling around on the flowers, and I watched them come and go, their legs heavy with pollen. I thought Lindsay would have been interested in them, and I wondered what she would be doing if she were still here. I felt the gaping Lindsay-shaped hole in my life, the one I don't think about very often, thought about the confusion and crossroads of my present life, and had a good hard cry for several minutes.

Today, Lindsay's actual birthday, I came home from work and found a candle burning in my room. Next to it was a white mug with blue snowflakes on it and a canister of Stephen's gourmet hot chocolate. And on the bed was a blanket with a yellow note and a yellow bow. It took me a moment to process (and to realize I wasn't being stalked or seduced), but I recognized the blanket as the afghan Lindsay started knitting, with stripes of different colors for each of her friends. It was a perfect, utter surprise, and some combination of a long day, the recent visit to the cemetery, and the unexpectedness of something so meaningful triggered a fresh set of tears. So, since I was already in the mood, I dug out the tape of Lindsay singing "Breath of Heaven" that she sent me just before she died, wrapped myself up in the blanket and listened to her sweet voice.

I don't often cry when I think of Lindsay, and her birthday isn't normally sad for me. In fact, we like to have fun with it. It's been almost eleven years, and it's gotten easier with time, but somehow this year, Linds, I miss you more than usual. Thanks for the blanket. I love it.

Death is not the end
Death can never be the end.

Death is the road.
Life is the traveller.
The Soul is the Guide


Our mind thinks of death.
Our heart thinks of life
Our soul thinks of Immortality.

-Sri Chinmoy


I didn't expect anything special when I walked into church on Sunday with Grammy. I hadn't been to the Littleton 5th Ward since my parents left Colorado several years ago, so I figured I'd probably see a few people I knew but mostly just look around and reminisce about my high school years.

It turned out to be so much more than that. Not only did I know everyone on the program (my dear laurel adviser spoke, a boy I used to babysit was reporting on his mission, and so on), but I was also just overwhelmed with the love I felt from and for so many people -- people I haven't seen in years. People who grabbed me and hugged me with tears in their eyes; people who sat and talked to me about my life and career decisions; people who were anxious for news about my family.

I have been thinking about this ever since Sunday, about how profoundly it affected me to remember that I have deep roots in a community. As a single person in a city of transients, I have grown accustomed to constant change, to getting new roommates and new jobs and new wards almost as often as new clothes. My family has always been a constant, but on Sunday it was like I visited my village. The ward where my dad was a bishop, where people rallied around our family when Lindsay passed away and Mom broke her neck, where Zach and I left on missions and came home again, where Emily got married. I didn't realize until I was there A) that I actually had roots like that, or B) how much it meant to me. I don't know when it will be, but I'm looking forward to the next chance I have to go back.

Back to my Roots.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Window on Wadi Musa

(Go ahead, click on it. That's right, there are 400 itty bitty trip photos in there. I'm not gonna lie, I'm kind of impressed with myself right now.)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Favorite Mideast memories, stream-of-consciousness
(aka, How I spent my stimulus check and tax refund)

  • The warm, gooey perfect falafel we bought just outside the Western Wall
  • Making a human pyramid at the pyramids
  • Referring to any food we didn't recognize as "wikipedia"
  • Singing hymns in the matchless acoustics of Saint Anne's church
  • Laughing, talking, sipping lemon tea and eating wikipedia crackers and white pomegranate at the hostel in Petra, afternoon sunlight streaming in through the perfect window
  • Matt's spirited rendition of the Lion King in the Petra monastery
  • Floating down the Nile talking with dear friends and watching a slow sunset
  • Wandering through the tunneled streets of Acco at night
  • Dumping piles of dust out of my shoes after a day in Petra
  • Falling asleep on a horse and buggy ride around Luxor from sheer exhaustion
  • Sinking in up to my knees in mud at the Dead Sea
  • Paging Andrea over the airport intercom in Amman
  • Praying in the church on the Mount of Beatitudes
  • Getting lost driving in the West Bank … I'm not sure where we are but there’s a sign to Ramallah … yikes ...
  • Rusty and Dave pelting each other with olives all along the Jerusalem city wall
  • Jewish men and boys singing and dancing their way to the Western Wall at sunset
  • Wading through knee-deep water in Hezekiah’s tunnel
  • Camels everywhere! I heart camels
  • Getting proposed to by my camel driver (he offered 1 million camels for me!)
  • Being told by my donkey driver that my donkey was slower because I was too fat
  • All the homos – I mean hummus – I could eat. I heart hummus
  • Being nearly accosted by Egyptians for money
  • Melt-in-your-mouth Egyptian pizza
  • Randomly meeting someone from the Cairo ministry of culture who got us reserved seating at the whirling dervish show
  • Matt reading us select verses at Biblical sites in and around Jerusalem
  • Walking smack into a wall in the Masada museum
  • Shekels!
  • Dinars!
  • Hearing the call to prayer virtually everywhere
  • Sprinting through the old city with a djembe and a backpack full of dishes and scarves
  • Losing half my body weight in sweat at the Valley of the Kings
  • Gaining it all back eating pita bread and every kind of salad imaginable

Salaam alaykum

This is how awesome/nerdy my family is: A week or so after I got home from Egypt, Jordan and Israel, we used freeconference.com to set up a conference call. It included a web feature where they could all see my desktop, and I walked them through roughly 400 (out of 1500 ... ) pictures I'd taken. And not only were they actually interested right up to the end, they were jumping in with additional wikipedia info on things I didn't know!

I won't put all of you through that, but I will post a few pics and highlights here (an even better album of the best pictures with soon-to-come captions is here here):

Long time, no posty

I'm back.

Just to reassure you, most things in my life are still just the same as ever.