Saturday, March 29, 2008

Happy Birthday, Aaron! / Four Months...

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Happy 31st Birthday, Aaron... 2008

Aaron, as we celebrate your birthday this year, I am so grateful for the MIRACLE of your birth 31 years ago, the MIRACLE of your life, the MIRACLE you will always be in my life and the MIRACLE of our son.

Aaron's birthday this year, the 29th of March, just happened to fall on the same day as four months. It has been four months today since he passed away. We wanted to make his birthday special this year since it is the first birthday since he passed away. So, we went to the zoo. A couple of days before Aaron passed away, we were talking about what we should do for Aaron Jr's birthday that weekend. We talked about going sledding, but wondered if it would be too cold since Aaron Jr had a cold. Aaron then talked about taking him to the zoo for his first time. We decided to play it by ear and see how Aaron Jr was feeling by the end of the week. Well, Aaron passed away two days before Aaron Jr's birthday, so we didn't get to celebrate it with Aaron. So, I figured going to the zoo on Aaron's birthday would be the best way to celebrate his birthday. That way, Aaron Jr's first time at the zoo would be on his Daddy's birthday. All week it was saying that Saturday was supposed to be rainy or snowy and really cold. We were talking about what we would do if the weather didn't cooperate. Nothing seemed like the right thing to do to celebrate Aaron's birthday... the zoo was the only thing that came to mind. So, we all prayed really hard that we would have good enough weather that would allow us to celebrate Aaron's birthday at the zoo with the Harkness Family. Even the morning of... the weather online was still saying that it was supposed to be very wet and very cold. Well, we decided to go ahead with the plans and see what happened. We went out to lunch at one of Aaron's favorite restaurants called 'Cafe Rio'. While we ate lunch the weather seemed to be getting warmer and warmer. It was not WARM, but it was getting bearable. The sun was even shining. So, after lunch, we headed to the zoo. We were all in jackets and coats, but the sun was nice and the weather wasn't as cold as it was supposed to be. It turned out to be a perfect day for us to go to the zoo. What a huge blessing. I am so grateful that our prayers were answered. It was a MIRACLE. We were blessed to be able to celebrate Aaron's birthday at Hogle Zoo. We had such a great time. The kids had a blast and us adults had a blast right along with them. The greatest part about the day was that even the times when I thought about Aaron and what he would be doing... what animals he would be the most excited to see... the things he would love to show Aaron Jr... ... ... the sorrow was there, but I felt like he was there with us. I think I felt him closer that day than I have for a while. This was another MIRACLE. We were all able to have a great day and truly celebrate Aaron's life. Here are some photos from the zoo...

Here is Aaron Jr in front of the sign for Hogle Zoo. I had this photo of Aaron with Aaron Jr put on this shirt so that Aaron Jr could wear it on his Daddy's birthday. I wanted there to be a way that Aaron could be in the photos on his own birthday... and it would help us to all be able to have him closer to us. And I did feel him closer. When I first put it on him that day, he couldn't stop staring down at it and saying 'Daddy'. It says 'My Daddy... ...always with me'. He wore it proudly all day long and slept in it that night. It is actually the same photo on the shirt as the one I have in the right column of our blog. The one with Aaron Jr. on Aaron's shoulders.

Some of the animals we saw...

More animals...

Some birds...

This was a very funny place that we stopped... we stopped to see the cougar. On the left is Steve's son, Isaac and Sadie's daughter, Grace. Isaac is wearing a little animal suit to keep him warm and he was crawling around on the ground while we were looking at the cougar. Well, the cougar was VERY interested in this little 'animal' crawling around outside of his cage. So, he kept pacing back and forth and once in a while putting his face right up to the cage to check out the little 'animal'. Isaac didn't realize that he was the center of attention of a cougar. We all thought it was quite funny. Good thing there was a fence between the two of them.

Me & Aaron Jr.

Sue & Malia ; Sue & Steve & Pearl
Grace... she wore a toilet paper tail all day long. It was so funny. She is quite a character.

Aaron Jr. with his cotton candy. Malia shared so nicely with all of the other kids. Thank you Malia.

Leslie & Christa & Isaac & Sadie & Sophia

Grace & Pearl & Sadie & Sophia & Leslie & Aaron Jr & Christa & Malia & Steve & Isaac
We really missed you Dave, April, & Suzie.

Sophia & Grandpa & Malia & Aaron Jr & Grace & Isaac & Grandma & Pearl

Aaron Jr with the alligators. This is actually the place where I thought Aaron would have spent the most time. He loved reptiles. He was always trying to catch lizards and snakes. I hope Aaron Jr does the same thing... but maybe stays away from the rattle snakes. Aaron would catch those as well, but I would be too worried for Aaron Jr to do it.

Me & Aaron Jr.

After the zoo, we all went to the cemetery. It was very sad. I had a hard time there, but couldn't think of another place I would rather be. As I knelt there by myself, I just couldn't hold back the tears. I miss him so much.

This is Aaron Jr & Ode at our house that night. We had such a great time there. My friend Liz came to visit us. Aaron Jr and I watched movies and had a sleepover in the family room. I took the couch and he took the love seat. It was so much fun. I would have usually been nervous sleeping there without Aaron, but I didn't feel nervous even once. That is proof to me that he was with us that day AND that night.

We went to church at our ward that next day and it made me realize how much I miss the people there. I hadn't been back to the ward there since Aaron passed away. My friend Kerianne brought her two kids down and went with me. Our bishop let me come up and speak to the congregation. I was nervous to share my feelings with them, but I felt like I should. I wanted to thank them all for the love and support they have given to us. I wanted to share with them how much I miss Aaron, but that how grateful I am that we are sealed together as a family. I know that we will see Aaron again. I told them of my love for Jesus Christ and our Father in Heaven. After the meeting was over, so many of the friends we have there waited to give me a hug and share their love for us. I am so grateful for them all. I miss them all and I am grateful that they are in my life.

Happy 30th Birthday, Aaron... 2007

For Aaron's 30th birthday, I planned a surprise weekend up in Park City. I wish I had taken more photos. But at least I got one of Aaron with Aaron Jr. Several of Aaron's friends and some family came up to help with the surprise. It was so much fun. We had a great time. The day that we left Park City, it was Easter, so the photos from that day are a couple of posts down in my Easter posting. If we had known this would be the last birthday we were able to celebrate Aaron's birthday with him, we would have done so much more...

Happy 29th Birthday, Aaron... 2006

The top photo here is of Aaron at his fourth annual surprise party I threw him. He is holding Aaron Jr. That was the first year we had Aaron Jr with us to celebrate Aaron's birthday. The bottom photo is ON Aaron's birthday. We went to visit his Grandma who passed away just a few shorts months later. After we visited her, we went out to eat, then...

The top photo is of him with 'his birthday cake'. The bottom photo is of Aaron when we went to his parents' house to celebrate his birthday. He fell asleep with a gift he had received on his finger. Steve & Christa... that is the gift you gave him, I believe. A component for his mountain bike.

Happy 28th Birthday, Aaron... 2005

This was Aaron's 3rd annual surprise party. The surprise took place at a restaurant called 'Cafe Alicia's'. Everyone was there when we got there, then we went to his parents' house after for some games and cake. It was a really great surprise and we had a lot of fun.
Left to right: Kristi, Angie, Nate, Chad, Rori, Joann, Justin, Dax, Rob, Kaily, April, Dave, Austin, Michelle, Aaron, Leslie, Spencer, Spencer Jr.

This was Aaron's party with his family at his parents' house.

Happy 27th Birthday, Aaron... 2004

This is a photo of all of the people who came to this 2nd annual surprise party for Aaron. Funny story about this year... Justin had taken Aaron pheasant hunting for the day while Joann and I got things ready at our house. People were going to show up and then Justin was supposed to have Aaron back shortly after and then have the surprise. Well... Justin called after they were already late and said that Ode (our dog) had gotten lost and they were trying to find him. Justin kept me posted throughout the evening, but people had to leave after being there for a few hours. It got too late and dark for them to continue looking for Ode, so they came home... well, probably about 1/3 of the guests had left, but we still had a good time. They didn't get there until about 10:30 or 11:00 pm. The friends who could stay... we talked until really late into the night. It was still fun. Aaron and I drove the 2 to 2 1/2 hour drive again the next day to continue looking for Ode. After looking for him for a few hours, a little boy came riding his bike up behind us and asked us if we were missing a black dog. He led us to his house where Ode had been for the night. We were very grateful to that little boy. We love Ode and are so happy he is still with us.
In the photo: Kaily, Rob, Spencer, Spencer, Kristi, Suzy, Mark, Dan, ?, Rori, Chad, Nate, Nate, Angie, Joann, Marianne, Justin, Dax, Charlie, Kerianne

This is Aaron & Me at that same surprise party. The top photo is of Aaron at his parents' home the day they celebrated his birthday.

Aaron's ACTUAL birthday was spent in Flagstaff, Arizona where we were visiting his brother Steve and wife Christa. These photos were taken in Sedona, Arizona. Left to right: Leslie, Aaron; Aaron, Steve

Happy 26th Birthday, Aaron... 2003

And last, but not least... Aaron's FIRST annual surprise party thrown up in Heber City at a cabin. Thanks Angie for getting the cabin for us. This surprise party, since it was the first party, was the best surprise of them all. The rest of them... I think Aaron just humored me. He didn't really love to be in the spotlight, but I loved throwing him parties. I loved planning them and especially planning the surprise part. This time around, we were supposed to go ice fishing with Rob and Kaily. Well, we were supposed to meet them up in Heber City and then drive up together to the lake and camp for the night. When we were on our way up there, I had Rob call and say that he and Kaily had been driving around while they waited for us and their car broke down. So they gave us the address where they were stranded and once we got there... as soon as Aaron made his way up to their car and poked his head under the hood... everyone jumped out from behind a bush and screamed 'surprise'. It was perfect. Then we told Aaron that we were parked in front of the cabin where we would be sleeping for the night and that ice fishing wasn't really happening. I think he was very disappointed that ice fishing was out, but he humored me that night as well since I had put the work into it for him. In the photo: Aaron, Leslie, April, Angie, Nate, the Larsons (I think), the Thomas's, Dan, Rob, Kaily, Dax

Once again, Aaron's ACTUAL birthday was spent visiting Aaron's brother Steve and wife Christa in Huntington Beach, California. The day of his birthday, Steve and Aaron went surfing, we all went kayaking, then we went out to dinner.

Left: after Kayaking... Aaron and Leslie
Right: Aaron at his parents' home celebrating with them.

Happy 25th Birthday, Aaron... 2002

This year, Aaron and I were only dating and on his birthday, he was in Brazil with his brother, Steve, and some friends. Unfortunately, this is the ONLY photo of just Aaron and Steve that I have from that trip. Aaron and I were supposed to go to Brazil in the next couple of years, but never got a chance. I am so glad he got to take his brother with him on his only return trip to Brazil after his mission.

To all of you who are still reading this...
Thank you for humoring me. I tried to pick just a few photos to share, but I had a hard time narrowing it down... and since I only got to spend FIVE short birthdays WITH Aaron
(6 if you count that first year)... I figured, why not show all of the years?

Today, I was driving in the car with Aaron Jr. and out of the blue, he said 'Happy Birthday' and he repeated it in his own way of saying it... over and over... when I finally said 'Happy Birthday?' He then said 'Happy Birthday... (pause) ...Daddy'. Then he said it again. It was so sweet.
When I really sit and think about how short of a time Aaron and I were together... it knocks the wind out of me. It is just not enough time. I really envy couples who get to spend any length of time together that is longer than that. Even one more day would have been a treasure. I am grateful for those years though. If I had known I would lose Aaron after only nearly 6 years together... I would still marry him. I would have still been willing to go through the heartache and pain if it meant being blessed with these years with him. I miss countless things about Aaron... if this post wasn't already so long, I would write some of them... but that will have to be another time.
I am so grateful he was and still is a part of our lives. He will live on through us and through the memories we created together. The sorrow of losing Aaron will continue to be carried within us, but the knowledge we have of eternal families... that also will continue to bring us joy.

Happy Birthday, Aaron! We love and miss you always...

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Lonely, but not Alone

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Today is difficult.
I can't even pinpoint why I am struggling so much today. I had a hard night last night and then I just woke up completely drained of any energy or emotion.
But emotion found me this afternoon. It is difficult to hold back the tears when there isn't anyone around. Today I drove around for quite some time with Aaron Jr. sleeping in the back seat. I didn't have any purpose or destination, I just drove around. I pondered, I cried, I felt so much emotion, but at the same time felt a little bit numb.
I feel very lonely. I am not alone very often, there is someone around most of the time wherever I am... but I still feel so lonely.
Today has been a more difficult day than I have had for a while. It is approaching four months and in some ways, things are harder... in other ways... I know that I have not yet accepted certain aspects of my life to be real. If there was EVER anything in my life that I wish I could escape... it would be this nightmare.
I miss Aaron so much. I never realized what it meant to be lonely until Aaron passed away... and even now, I feel more lonely than I ever have.
People have been so great... it doesn't have anything to do with people not doing enough for me... it has to do with the fact that Aaron is gone. That half of me is missing. I never realized just how 'one' you become as a married couple until I lost half of me. I don't feel complete. It is just so difficult to explain... it is just something you have to experience to know how incomplete you feel losing a spouse.
I feel bad writing such negative feelings today, but I am not having a good week at all.

I got something in the mail the other day from the Mortuary that handled Aaron's funeral services. The front cover had an article written by a lady named Elizabeth Cross McDonald. It is titled: 'Silence is not an answer in the time of grief'.
In this article, she talks about a loss she experienced and then talks about something that I felt like I should share so that others can know how to help someone who has lost someone close. I will type out a few excerpts. She says:
"Some people undoubtedly kept silent int he hopes that I would approach them to talk and they could then be duly supportive. This was a gross error of judgment. I needed to have friends [and family] voluntarily open their hearts in sympathy, as I was feeling vulnerable and afraid that those I turned to might turn me away.
"Still others made efforts to engage me in conversation, as long as I was able to be cheerful and not talk about Albert. To these people, my casual comment like, "Oh, I remember when Albert and I visited that person" was nervously ignored and met by an embarrassed silence. I needed to be able to remember my brother reflectively, without self-consciousness or shame. ...waves of grief, anger, and depression affected me in ways I myself could not understand. How I needed their patience and support, their faith that I was not angry at death, and not at them.
"My grief is now settling into the long depression that is a necessary step to healing. If someone you know, whether closely or just vaguely, is bereaved, please don't be shy or afraid. Take the initiative, walk up, look into his or her eyes and say, "I am so sorry to hear about the death."
"You need not give your philosophy on tragedy in life or your favorite remedy for depression. The bereaved person does not expect or want this. Listening -- not avoiding the bereaved's sadness or being afraid to have [them] cry to you -- is essential. And don't try to stop the tears -- they are also a step to healing and must flow freely. If the bereaved are surrounded by people who care, the grieving process is made less bitter and devastating. Yet caring and concern for [them] is meaningless unless you directly tell her that you do care."

This has been on my mind lately. I know that people care. I know that people are trying to do their best to help me get through this devastation. But I also know that it is difficult for people to know how to help me. So, that is why I wanted to share pieces of that article... so that people will know how to help me.
I am grateful for the love shown to me. And I am pleading with those who want to help me, please don't keep silent about my trial, it is real. I need support and love more so now than I ever have through this. I NEED to talk about Aaron. I love him.

Missing you always, Aaron...

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Happy Easter

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Leslie & Aaron... painting eggs on our first Easter together.

Leslie & Aaron Jr. & Aaron... our final Easter together as a family.

Aaron Jr. this year. He IS saying 'cheese'. :) He had a great time egg hunting and playing with his cousins. It was a nice day.

I am grateful for Easter. It helps us to remember the love of our Father in Heaven.
'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' -John 3:16

upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, ... , and certain others with them.
And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.
And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.
And it came to pass... behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:
And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?
e is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you... ,
Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. -Luke 24:1-7

I am grateful for the Savior. Because of Him, we can all live again. Because of Him, we can correct our wrongs. I am grateful that I can turn to Him when I need peace, comfort, and for my burden to be made light.
'He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death.' - Mosiah 16:9

Here is an Easter video that reminds us of the meaning of Easter. I am grateful for this precious gift that we have all been given... the gift of our Savior.
The Easter video is at the bottom of that page titled: The Bread of Life.

Easter was yet another 'first' for us without Aaron. It seems like there is a 'first' every day... some days the 'first' is just more noticeable than other days... that Aaron is not there with us. Last year, we LOVED watching Aaron Jr. walk around with a basket collecting eggs. Aaron held the video camera while I took the photos. It was a special day. We missed Aaron so much on Easter this year, but we are grateful that we were able to spend it with so much family.

We love you, Aaron...

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

"Rest & Relaxation" in Oregon

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Aaron Jr. and I flew up to Oregon (thanks to my brother letting us use some buddy passes) at the beginning of March. We came to visit my brother Spencer and his family. The plan was to stay as long as we didn't feel like we were getting in the way, but to for sure go home before Easter. There are loads of photos, so... sit back and hopefully enjoy.

Luke and Aaron Jr. Luke is the boy cousin closest in age to Aaron Jr. He is three. They have had a great time together. Luke had his tonsils and adenoids out two days after we got here and was miserable for several days, but is back to his old self now. He pretends constantly that he is one piece of tractor equipment or another. He uses his hands as the diggers and even makes the noises of lifting or backing up. It is so cute.

Here I am pushing Luke, a.k.a. the airplane.

All of the boys. Luke, Benjamin, Aaron Jr., Spencer

Aaron Jr., Spencer, Luke
Spencer loves to wear basketball uniforms, so he wore a uniform almost every day... not the same one every day, but a uniform nonetheless. They actually have to put his uniforms in time out sometimes to get their point across. It is so funny. Spencer loves those uniforms. It is so cute.

What a sweet face, Aaron Jr.

Kristi holding Benjamin, 'lil Spencer, Spencer holding Luke
Their boys are so adorable. We just love them.

Leslie holding Aaron Jr.

Aaron Jr., the messy faced mad scientist.

Spencer and Spencer - Yes, another day at the park.

Luke, Leslie, Aaron Jr.

Leslie & Aaron Jr. & the 'fagon' (as Aaron Jr. calls it... he really means dragon)

Kristi & Benjamin

Spencer's back flip off of the swing. Great landing!

Kristi showing her... well, I don't know what you call it, but I have seen gymnasts do it on the uneven bars in the olympics. It was cool. I tried and couldn't do it.

This is me showing off my 'cherry drop'. Spencer got this great shot of me looking like I am going to face plant. When will I begin to act my age?

Spencer, Luke, Aaron Jr., Benji working 'the excavator'. - Yep, another park.

Spencer, Aaron Jr., Benji, Luke on another 'fagon'.

Spencer holding Benji, Aaron Jr., Luke

Mark & Suzy flew in for a few days last weekend to visit. It was a lot of fun. Spencer, Mark, and I are the three youngest of the eleven children in our family. Thanks so much to them for making the trip. I am very grateful. Love you both.

Suzy holding Benji. - Uh huh... another park.

Aaron Jr., Spencer, Luke blowing their bubbles.

Spencer & Aaron Jr.

Kristi, Leslie, Suzy

Mark & Spencer

Luke, Aaron Jr., Benji, Spencer - It was so much fun watching them ride this. They had a blast on this one.

Luke & Aaron Jr.
Kristi's mom sent an Easter package and because we were here, she sent enough stuff for Aaron Jr. to be able to take part. So, Kristi hid the eggs to be hunted and we all headed over to the park. Luke and Aaron Jr. decided that their buckets were hats.

Luke, Benji, Spencer, Aaron Jr. - get ready, get set, GO!

Spencer, Luke, Benji, Aaron Jr.

Spencer helping Benji, Spencer, Kristi, Luke

Leslie & Aaron Jr.

Luke, Aaron Jr., Spencer, Benji - showing off the merchandise. We had to trick them into thinking there was an airplane to get them to stop looking down or around. (I've used that too often on Aaron Jr... he was skeptical). Thanks to Kristi's mom for sending extra Easter stuff for Aaron Jr. He loved it.

Aaron Jr. This is another one from the park where Mark and Suzy were with us.

Leslie & Aaron Jr. Lithia Park. In May this year, it will have been two years since we came as a family to visit Spencer and Kristi's family. I had fun this day, but thought about Aaron constantly while we were here because the only time I had ever been to this park... Aaron was there as well. The next photo is of our family in Lithia park in May of 2006.

Leslie, Aaron Jr., Aaron

The last two photos are of that same trip, but in different places here in Oregon.

Aaron Jr. & Aaron fishing in the Rogue River.

Aaron, Aaron Jr., Leslie - Our Family

Even in Oregon, things have been constantly reminding me of Aaron. It didn't even have to be places we had been together... in those times, I am reminded of him because of the lack of memories in what we were doing or where we were. Times when I want to be making memories WITH him. Aaron's absence is noticed every moment no matter what we are doing. We miss him.
I am so grateful to Spencer and Kristi and their boys. They have all been so great. They have gone out of their way to make sure we had what we needed. They have shared their home with us without making us feel the least bit like we were intruding. They were there when I felt like I needed to talk or unload, but were also willing to give me space when all I needed was to go and have a good cry. Although from these photos, it seems like we were always going to a park, we also got to have a lot of relaxing time. It has been so nice. We will miss them so much when it comes time to fly back to Utah. I look forward to seeing family there as well, but we will miss being here. It has felt nice being away from 'our new normal' that doesn't feel normal at all.
We have had such a great time up here and I am SO grateful for Spencer and Kristi. I don't know what to do to repay their kindness and generosity. But I guess that is a question I will be asking myself regarding everyone who has done anything for us in these last few months. There is no way I can think of to repay all of the kind acts from people. Thank you so much for everything.
Thank you again Spencer and Kristi. We loved being here. We love you guys.

We love you Aaron and we miss you every moment...

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