Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Celebrating the new year with a colonoscopy!

A couple of weeks ago I decided to schedule myself for a couple of dreaded tests, a mammogram and a colonoscopy.  I was long overdue for both of them but kept putting them off for a myriad of reasons.  I hate medical procedures of all kinds, and I dislike taking the time for appointments.  This is not a good reason for avoiding these procedures!  Too many of my friends are cancer survivors, and my own father died of colon cancer at the young age of 56.  My son Ben, who is only 29 years old, had a colonoscopy last year where they found polyps but his repeat colonoscopy showed none this year, thank goodness!!!

   My father, Thiel Johnson, was just about the best person you could ever know.  When he died, people came from all walks of life to pay their respects to a man who was kind, honest and giving. At his funeral, President Harris said, "Thiel Johnson was a man without guile" and he was....
He often claimed, "he was a jack of all trades, master of none."  He could build, wire, plumb and cement just about anything you wanted done.   I always lament the fact that he probably could have helped me do just about anything around the house I needed fixed or built, but that is not why I miss him.  He was so funny, so smart and so very loving.  When I think of him, I remember his huge smile, and his talent for whistling just about any song. He would also dance a little jig in front of my friends to embarrass me.  It looked a little like a strange type of  clogging, but it was the Thiel Johnson quickstep.

 At night I would lay in my bed and listen to him play his mouth organ as he called it (harmonica).  I grew up loving the hymns because I heard them played by ear on that harmonica.   He loved the  'old' country music, and I grew up listening to the verses of songs like "down in the west Texas town of Laredo" and "Don't you listen to him, Dan, he's a devil, not a man, and he's searched the burning sand for water".  I have no idea who sang these songs, it has been much too long.  Dad died September 10, 1979 from colon cancer, and I miss him still so much. The dead seem to grow more perfect with years, and although in my mind's eye now, I see him as such...he was as human as the rest of us.  His language could be a little salty when he got mad, but he always quickly apologized and when illness took him to his bed, he became so humble and contrite.  As he grew sicker, he would take to walking the floor above my bedroom at night,  pacing back and forth with the pain, playing the hymns while I listened in bed... tears filling my eyes.

He was a very spiritual man, and the gospel of Jesus Christ was everything to him.  I grew up watching him read his scriptures, and talk to us of the Plan of Salvation.  He knew the Savior intimately because he was a true disciple of Christ. He helped just about everyone, and was the neighborhood handyman.

 Mom met Dad at Utah University and their first date was getting ice cream.  Dad had just gotten his cone, and turned around to speak to my mom, and a bird flying overhead deposited a little something right on his cone.  They always got a good laugh over that!

Dad was very tidy, a quality that I did not inherit.  I am my mother's daughter, always cooking , reading, preparing and trying vainly to organize  without cleaning up the previous mess.  The shed he built in our backyard was a beautiful thing to behold though it was tiny and humble.  Every tool, gadget, or piece of equipment to build or fix something was stored in an orderly fashion.  He kept lemon drops there in a drawer, and I would sneak in and sit on his stool, and hide out from the problems of my adolescent world.  It was a little sanctuary to me where I could spend a few minutes away from the outside world.  I was a recluse in Junior High, hated it in fact, and just wanted to be home with my books and my cats.

He went to the doctor because of some rectal bleeding, and had a colonoscopy.  He had stage 4 cancer at that point, and he had some surgery to remove what they could at the time.  He then had chemotherapy that seemed to go on for months.  At the time of his death the tumors were shrinking, but we all thought that the chemotherapy had taken its toll.  He lay in his bed in our guest bedroom , and his wife and his daughters were his hospice nurses.  Liz would lay on the floor some nights by his bedside, and I would administer the  morphine shots.  He was so skinny that he wore his wrist watch around the top of his arm, and I would have to hunt for any fat deposits on his wasted body to inject him. I remember once tripping and spilling some soup on him, and feeling so bad.  He took my hand and kissed it, saying, "you're my angel, Jane". We would hand him a plastic urinal, and he spilled it once.  I , at the tender age of 21, undressed him, and changed his bedding while he sat and cried, shivering on the chair.  "I hate you to see your  Dad like this, Jane" he wept.  "Oh, Dad" , I replied, "you changed me all the time when I was little, it's my turn now".  Then I was the one who cried all the way to college classes.

 Mom was teaching school, and we needed all the help we could get with Dad's care.
 When we were not there, the Craythornes next door came and sat with Dad.  It was all quite horrible keeping the death watch, and not knowing when it would happen.  Thank goodness we were all there when it did, and I knew the time was close when I saw Dad holding up his hand to someone unseen, yet  very near and whispering, "help me".  He searched the room just as my mother did when she died, and I know that the veil is very thin between this world and the spirit world.  I entered the room to see how he was doing, and found him motionless on the bed with his eyes open, unseeing.  I called to mom, and I remember her saying, "Oh ,Thiel, have you gone?"  We gently closed his eyes and called the mortuary, and I watched my mom weep as she said goodbye for a season to her companion of thirty years.  Just a few weeks earlier Dad had crawled from his bed adjacent to their bedroom to her bedside.  She woke to find him crying as he cradled her in her arms.  He said, "Fay, you have and always will be the most beautiful woman to me, thank you for being my wife and the mother of our children."  What a tender moment that memory holds for me, and such an example of true devotion.

I had a beautiful dream sometime later where I saw my dad enter the kitchen where I sat, and talked with me face to face as in mortality.  I had prayed that I might remember the robust, funny guy I knew as my father and not the shrunken, sick shell of a man he became.  He looked so good!  The dream was startingly vivid, and I remember seeing the scars on his forehead, and his finger.  He was dressed in snowy white clothes, and he laughed and made references to all of us, and said how happy he was.  He mentioned our neighbors, the Somervilles, and I did not want him to go when he said he must leave.
I awoke from this dream so very grateful for the knowledge I have that I will see him again, and all others who have departed this earth.  Elder Russell M. Nelson said that" death is a gift from God because death allows your body to return home to Him.  From an eternal prospective, death is only premature for those who are not prepared to meet God."

I searched for pictures of Dad as I wanted to post them, and cannot put my finger on them (big surprise).  I found this not so good one of when I graduated from high school about three years before he died, and where he looked like the man I remember.

 And so, as I stayed up all last night, "making bathroom trips" in preparation for my colonoscopy....I thought about Dad and how he might have been with us a few more years if he had had the procedure done at age fifty.  I fixed myself up two icy pitchers of crystal light and added a little Mountain Dew for good measure.  Just saying I will probably not drink either one of those for a good long time!   The prep is horrible, but the results don't last forever (although in my case it was a very long night) ... I think I  may have overdone it with the powder!

All went well, and there were no polyps, so I am good for another three years!  I hope my siblings are falling suit with their colonscopies as colon cancer is certainly preventable these days.  I can at least say that I accomplished a couple of things this Christmas holiday.

I am hoping the new year brings much joy to you all along with the trials that are part of life.  I am not even going to embarrass myself by claiming resolutions to lose weight and exercise this year....(I have to try a little) because for thirty five years my journal entries are all the same thing!  "I need to lose weight, exercise, and get healthy, clean my house, get organized, yada, yada, yada...."   For right now, I don't have cancer, and I am happy to spend another year being with the people I love, writing others whom I love, and just being "me".

That "me" was raised by two wonderful parents,  who while certainly not perfect, tried their best to love their kids and teach them.   I am so grateful to Thiel and Fay Johnson.  Love you, Mom and Dad!!!!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Skyping

Alex and Dakota laughing with Rachel
Carly and me talking with Sister Bethany Taylor
Matthew can't believe how big Ruby is getting!
       This Christmas season was crazy in so many ways!  I thought it would be less hectic having four kids in the mission field, but getting those packages out, and letters written was a big project for me.  I am a procrastinator by nature, but those missionary packages needed to be out by a certain date, and I , being the Mom, was the one to do it.  Now I must admit that Bethany got "two" copies of the Carpenter's CD and Rachel is good for pens the rest of her mission.  It reminds me of when I was little, and my mom would put the wrong thing or  quantity in our Christmas stockings.  It's all good!!
We really had a nice Christmas and I enjoyed some peace and quiet until two days before Christmas.

 My niece Heather and her husband, Bob, plus four daughters came for Christmas Eve.  I warned Anne that she better "forget" herself and enjoy her grandkids and children, and she was actually pretty good.  For those of you who do not know my sister....I am not being mean, just practical.  Her son Jonathan, his significant other, Cassie, and their sweet baby, Zayla,  came and ate soup and rolls with us.

   Then it was time to cook up three breakfast casseroles, sticky buns, chop up fruit, and clean up the mess from the peanut brittle and fudge.  As I cook like a maniac, I remember the words of one of my ESL students, Eduardo, who upon hearing that I cook a lot at Christmas...said, "no wonder you're fat, Mrs. Taylor!"  Those words still pierce my heart as I furiously whip up way too much food.  My mother showed love that way, and I am afraid that I am much the same way.  Unfortunately, little Eduardo is probably wiser than his years!!

   Christmas morning was wonderful because we had the anticipation of FOUR phone calls/skyping from our missionaries.  Mark called about 11:00 a.m.  Bethany skyped with us at noon, Rachel followed at 1:00 p.m. and Matthew skyped with us at three o'clock.  It was so much fun to see their faces that I must admit to feeling a little gypped when it came to Mark.  His mission does not skype, but we had a good conversation.
  They all looked so good, and sounded wonderful.  It was so good to see their faces, and to hear that they are doing well, and enjoying their missions for the most part.  I am so proud of their diligence in keeping the commandments and can certainly see their progress in so many areas.

  The missionary moms of our ward were asked to speak in Sacrament meeting today.  Alisa got out of it because she was in St. George, but Melodee, Vickie and I spoke about Mitchell , Paige and my four. Drake is in Russia, where Alisa just reported that a bomb went off in Volgograd, not too far from him.  He is so positive and doing so well despite the problems there.  The support for our missionaries from our ward has been phenomenal, and we are so blessed!!  It is my fervent hope that they are all safe and happy in the next year and that that the desires of their hearts are fulfilled.  Paige and Rachel will be home this next year, and the boys and Bethany will soon follow.  Best wishes for a Happy New Year!!!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

"tis the season to be jolly" even if you only have nine forks

My last post was sort of whiny, so I wanted to wait and  write when I was not feeling cold and anxous.  Hmmm...that will not happen until Spring, so I decided to write about my gratitude for my life, for things cold and dark, and for things sunny and warm. I am listening to Adam play the piano,  and I think about the reason my kids are on missions.  He  stopped in to have some dinner after working late at the Hospital, and now he is playing the piano.  It happened to be "O Holy Night", a song which has always been the epitomy of what Christmas is all about.  I feel such reverence for the Savior when I hear this song, and it never fails to bring me to tears.  Adam was always one of my kids who loved to play, and I am grateful he still enjoys it.  I am so fortunate to have about 42 kids make their way into my house weekly to have piano lessons.  It is hard at times when I am tired from a day at school, but I am so lucky to have had music in my home.  It elevates my mood and makes me so happy.
   I got a call from Sister Vallinga, who is Matthew's mission mom.  She related a story where they recently had a zone conference where Matthew was to play a solo on his violin for the musical number.  A visiting general authority was there, and Matthew was pretty nervous.  As he drew his bow to commence playing, an audible "PING' resounded in the room.  His G string had broken, and he looked helplessly at the men sitting on the stand.  His mission president arose, and said, "Elder Taylor, if you can continue to play, we would love to hear it, but if you cannot make it work, that is okay!"  Matthew  said a silent prayer and pulled  his bow across the violin and begin to play very gently the hymn  "Be still My Soul".  He made it through the number and everyone exclaimed that it was beautiful.  Matthew later wrote me that he had a "little" help and also that the number had very few notes played on the now-absent string.  

  I could not help but muse about the many times that I  cannot accomplish something, but that lack thereof is often made up by the Savior.  At this time of year, we think of Christ, we rejoice in His birth and in his ministry.   He can make up the difference, and I am so thankful for the Atonement.

    I am pretty much inept at a lot of things and it causes feelings of inadequacy and self pity.  I have always been able to put together a meal, however, but tonight it went south.  We were having the missionaries, and I was having chicken parmesian, (thanks Megan Eborn) .  It usually is quite delicious, and I was going to put together some garlic bread with cheese (usually yummy, a nice green salad, jello salad, peas and carrots with chocolate chip cookies for desert.  Ben and Jess, Layne and Emily, Alex and Daniel and Elders Chalk and Holman were coming.  At the last minute, I forgot the bread in the oven---burned the edges---couldn't find the rest of the spaghetti---killed the peas and carrots---and put the croutons in the salad too early (mushy).  Ben ran around trying to clean up after me as I sawed burnt edges from the garlic bread, dripped some sauce on the chicken  and tried to find the missing spaghetti noodles.  Ben is a neat freak, and it pains him greatly to see spaghetti sauce everywhere, and pans and pots piled as I tried to rescue dinner.  I start feeling anxous, and then the missionaries arrive.  I throw up my hands, and tell everyone to sit, whispering to Jerry, "don't eat any spaghetti".  We sat down to dinner, and I felt like we were ready to partake of the "five loaves and fishes" because of the small quantity of spaghetti.  I did find the noodles after searching one more drawer, and Ben had them on to cook.  Now, for the most embarrassing part of the dinner.  Unbeknownst to me, a knife thief has entered our home and we have none save nine forks!!!!  Seriously folks, who only has nine forks?   Jerry was the one assigned  to set the table, and I guess he thought we could make do with a spoon and a knife.  When I saw Daniel trying to eat balance spaghetti on his knife, I washed mine and gave it to him.  How pathetic is that?  
    Then, as we sat and talked with our missionaries and listened to their message, it occured to me that we were in a very warm place with people that we loved and that we had food to eat.  So many people
  cannot say that, and I feel blessed that I am comfortable when it is cold outside.   I have friends, family and a testimony of Jesus Christ.  I don't think the fact that I don't have enough forks can alter that fact.  Things often disappear from our house, and I don't have an answer for it.  I have no talent for organization, but I can keep trying.  In the meantime I will try to remember what I have to be grateful for and not berate myself for the things I am not....and they are many!! 
 I will listen to my kids play Christmas songs, rejoice in the season and continue to find the things in life that make me happy.   I know that there are people  who are suffering right now, and I will try to remember that while they have trials, I have minor annoyances.  I hope to focus more on what is right with my life, and to let the little things go.  I am so grateful for a loving Savior who knows us , and that someday all will be made right.  I believe it was President Gordon B. Hinckley who said, "have patience for the small trials in your life, and courage for the big ones, and when you go to bed at night, remember that God is in charge."

Adam Michael Taylor