Monday, November 28, 2016

And A Little Child Shall Lead Them

Jace blows my mind every day. One day it's his attitude when warning Julie it's her last chance to pick up his Skittles for him; the next it's his vocabulary when he tells us something is "literally legit". Some days it's his amazing creativity and the conversations he has with himself and/or his toys after we put him to bed. Other days I find myself trying not to cry through my laughs while he belts every word of the Cougar Fight Song (in tune, I might add) at the top of his lungs from the back seat as we drive past the Y. He's the smartest, sweetest, most fun and energetic, sassiest, most relentless, most stubborn, most hilarious, most adorable little boy I could have ever asked for. With him, every day is a party; every day is an adventure; every day is a little slice of heaven (and sometimes hell) on earth. I never know what to expect from him, and I absolutely love it. I love every moment of it, especially the moments like the one we had the other night. The ones where I learn more from him than I could ever possibly hope to teach him.

"Daddy!"

Two- to three-second pause.

"Daddy?!"

Another two- to three-second pause.

I had just put Jace to bed. If you have kids, you get the picture. My little Jace is relentless, and he'll holler for Mama or Daddy every 2-3 seconds for 45 minutes straight if we let him. He's tricky, too. He's learned that if he tells us he needs to go poop (he NEVER poops), or that he's bleeding (he's NEVER bleeding), or that he needs us, or any number of other ruses, we'll let him out of his room. Well, I wasn't going to fall for it on this night. I had made up my mind. This night, I was going to win. A few minutes into the cadence, I was sticking to my guns when I heard...

"Daddy! You need to come see this!"

I knew better, but I figured I had better go check. So, more than slightly irritated, I walked upstairs to see what he needed. What I saw and heard when I opened his door was one of the most humbling, heartwarming experiences of my life.

Let me back up to a few days before this night. Jace and I were driving up to my in-laws' house for family dinner. Julie had gone to the Pinners' Conference with her sister and was meeting us at her parents', so Jace and I were alone in the car. It was a Saturday afternoon and Jace was rocking out to the Trolls soundtrack in his carseat after reminding me, again, "No, Daddy. You don't sing. Only I sing. Please stop singing." When his song finished, he asked me if we could go to the NickelCave (that's what he calls the nickel arcade, and if any of you tell him that's not what it's called we're going to have to have some words, ya hear?) after dinner.

"Not tonight, Bubba. I already have plans to get ready for my work's charity project."

"What's charity?" he asked.

I told him that charity is when you do something nice for someone else and that the following week, daddy's work was gathering money and packing meals for kids across the world who didn't have any food. I told him that Nathan (a dear friend and co-worker) and I were going out that night to raise some extra money to donate to the kids.

"Oh. Can I give some money to the kids?"

Fighting back tears, I answered, "Sure, Bubba. If that's what you'd like to use your money for, you can absolutely give some money to the kids."

"Daddy, I would LOVE to give those kids the money from my Money Bad Guy." (His Money Bad Guy is his Hulk piggy bank.)

And that's when I realized fighting back tears was a lost cause.

Fast-forward back to bedtime.

"Daddy! You need to come see this!"

I opened his door to find him holding his hand up to show me something. At first I thought he had cut his finger, but I quickly realized he was holding a penny.

"Look what I found, Daddy. You have to give it to the kids."

Now, cynics will say this was nothing more than a wily 3-year-old's trick to get me to come into his room so he didn't have to go to sleep for a few more minutes. And maybe they're right, at least partially. But if you know Jace, you know better. This sweet little man wanted to help feed the kids, and when he found a penny on his floor that had missed the donation box, his first thought was to get it to them as soon as possible.

I saved that penny, and here's a picture of him holding it. I don't know what I'm going to do with it yet, but what it represents makes it priceless. A lot of kids say they want to be like their daddy when they grow up. Well, I want to be like my little boy right now.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Angel Mail

The day Benson and Lincoln's obituary ran in the local newspapers, an angel named Heather reached out to Julie on Facebook. She was a complete stranger, but she saw the obituary and wanted to get in contact with Julie because she, too, had lost twins a few years prior. She lost her sweet Braxton and Brooklyn, a boy and a girl, on Christmas Day. Some Christmas present, right? The amazing thing about Heather was that she didn't tell Julie her story; she simply said she had lost twins and wanted to let Julie know she was praying for her and thinking about her and that she was there for her if she needed someone to talk to.

Those of you who know Julie know that she's not one to open up to people she doesn't know. Like, not even a little bit. But for some reason what Heather said struck a chord and they ended up talking quite a bit over email and finally had lunch together. They didn't end up becoming best friends or anything, but a friendship was most definitely forged. Heather was there for Julie when Julie needed someone, a woman, who could understand at least in some small part what she was going through. They were sorority sisters in the sorority that no one wants to join. But I'm so grateful for Heather and for her sensitivity and courage - for her being willing to reach out to Julie in her darkest hour. I know it's not an easy thing to reach out to a stranger, but I'm so glad Heather followed the promptings she received and took that leap of faith.


Heather and I have never talked, but I wanted her to know how grateful I was to her, so I sent her an email last Christmas to let her know how much I appreciate what she did. I told her that I had started writing her a poem - a poem in her babies' voices from their point of view - but that I had abandoned it because I didn't want to be presumptuous or offensive since I didn't know her or her situation. She responded with one of the most heartwarming emails I've ever received and told me she would love a poem about her babies.

Well, true to Jeffrey form, nine short months later I finally finished the poem and I wanted to share it with anyone who cares to take the time to read it. Hopefully it will help someone in some small way. It's called Angel Mail.

ANGEL MAIL

Your whole world filled with joy when you saw a girl and a boy, Mom
On the screen as tears welled in your eyes
Your mind started to race as a smile crossed your face, Mom
Overwhelmed by your Christmas surprise

Your load grew so heavy as you tried to get ready, Mom
To welcome your twins to this world
You were excited and scared as you frantically prepared, Mom
To make everything perfect for your new boy and girl

Only Christ knows your pain as plans suddenly changed, Mom
And once again tears welled in your eyes
Your mind continued to race and there was shock on your face, Mom
Overwhelmed again by your Christmas surprise

Losing a child is the hardest of trials, Mom
There may be no other pain that comes near it
But when you times it by two you wonder how you'll get through, Mom
And it breaks your heart right along with your spirit

The veil's so thin between you and your twins, Mom
So we'll send hellos signed Braxton and Brooklyn
Messages filled with love sent to you from above, Mom
We promise you'll see them if you're lookin'

The world wants to pretend that death is the end, Mom
But you know perfectly well that's not the case
Our death was far from the end and we'll see you again, Mom
And we'll kiss your cheeks as tears run down your face

Remember Christ is the stone so you're never alone, Mom
And we promise we'll get through this together
Please know that we miss you but we'll always be with you, Mom
Because death is only temporary - families are FOREVER

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"You're Crazy"

So I've been thinking about writing this post for a long time now, and a couple of weeks ago I got pretty bummed because I came to work and this article was one of the suggested posts on my LinkedIn account:

http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/the-5-saddest-words-you-can-say.html

I immediately got down on myself and bemoaned the fact that my procrastination had yet again caused me to miss the proverbial bus. I thought, "Awesome. Jeff Haden (he's a total stud, by the way - definitely worth checking out his stuff) just wrote my blog post." But then I got to thinking about it, and I realized that Jeff Haden wrote an awesome article, but not MY article. You see, his post was about the five saddest words you can say - I Could Never Do That. My post differs by one simple letter, but that one simple letter changes the entire scope of the message. My post is about the five greatest words I can hear - I Would Never Do That.

"You're crazy. I would never do that."

I wish I knew how many times I've heard that in my life. Let me be clear - I understand that most people mean it as a compliment, albeit a rather backhanded one. But if you analyze the meaning behind it, what they're pretty much saying is, "Wow, it really sucks to be you. I'm glad I don't have to do that, because I never would." Now, I realize I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to that phrase - I've said it my fair share of times. And I don't mean to be negative here. Not at all. I'm writing this post in a positive tone. The thing I realized a little while ago is that I absolutely LOVE to hear people say, "You're crazy. I would never do that."

I'm not going to turn this into a humblebragging manifesto by detailing what I've done in my life that has elicited this response; I'll just detail why I love hearing it. I love it because one doesn't become great by doing what everyone else is willing to do. One becomes great by learning to excel at what others aren't willing to attempt. So whether it's meant as a backhanded compliment or otherwise, I'll always take it as the greatest of compliments because it means I'm willing to undertake things others dare not try. I'm willing to go places others dare not venture. I'm willing to fail where others dare not even make an attempt. And while that doesn't equal greatness, at least it's a start.

So go ahead. Tell me I'm crazy. Tell me you would NEVER do that. I love it. I love every bit of it. Because I'm going to be great. I may not have arrived yet, but at least I'm on my way. And I'll get there. I promise I'll get there.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Reinforcements


Tonight after I got home from work, Julie was telling me about the nap she took with Penny and Jace this afternoon. She takes a nap with Penny and Jace every afternoon, and I’m always jealous, but today’s nap really got me thinking. Well, at least what happened right before the nap did. Julie said Penny was hiding under our comforter (like she almost always does when she sleeps), cuddled up deeply in her new favorite fleece blanket that Julie put on our bed the other day while I was sick and freezing cold with a fever. Jace decided he really wanted to see his puppy, so he started digging. Penny realized he was looking for her and she poked her face ever-so-slightly out of her little Penny cave to say hello, and Jace started squealing his little baby squeals of joy that are without exception my favorite noise in this world. Julie’s heart was melted, naturally, but what happened next brought her to tears and is what got me thinking about what this life is really all about.

Jace laid his head back on the pillow, then looked up at the ceiling and started waving and talking. Talking to someone. Now, you can think I’m crazy and I’m digging and that’s just what babies do. You can write this all off to coincidence or happenstance or whatever other word may come to your mind to dismiss it. But I know my son, and I know my God, and I know that even though most of the time he probably is just talking gibberish because that’s what babies do, but not this time. Julie asked him with tears in her eyes, “Are you talking to your brothers?” I’d like to think he was, and that thought really got me thinking.

A while ago, just a few months after we lost Benson and Lincoln, Julie came across a quote on a blog she follows. It said, “God doesn’t send replacements; He sends reinforcements.” It really struck me when she shared it with me, but to be honest, I haven’t really thought much about it since then. Until tonight, that is.


I got Penny as a surprise for Julie while we were up in Alaska for the summer because she was going to be coming home a few weeks before me to teach and I wanted her to have someone to cuddle with. I was hoping that Penny would help fill a void, but I had absolutely no idea how much we would grow to love her or how incredibly she would fill that void – for both of us. Penny was and is a reinforcement. It’s amazing to me how loving and how aware she is. She’s a reinforcement and she has healed our hearts, and I’m so grateful for her.

When Julie and I found out she was pregnant again, we struggled for a long time trying to decide what to name our son. We knew we wanted his name to be meaningful and we discussed literally hundreds of names, but nothing fit. We were starting to get really frustrated, especially after deciding on a few names only to realize that they weren’t right. I was pretty dead-set on Zachary, for a couple of reasons. First, it means “Yahweh remembers” (Yahweh is Hebrew for ‘God’), which I think is awesome. And second, I wanted to name him after one of my very close friends who I met while selling alarms in Canada the summer before we lost Benson and Lincoln. However, Julie kept telling me that his name wasn’t Zachary. So there we were, the two most stubborn people I know, with a son on the way and at an impasse regarding a name for him. I finally just gave up and told Julie I was sure that one day he would do some sort of Superman punch in her womb and his name would just come to her. I figured that he must be more stubborn than both of us and he was going to name himself.

Then one day my dear sister, Amy, sent me a text message saying we should name our son Jace because it’s Greek for ‘healer’. To be honest, it took me a little while to come around to the idea, and I actually fought tooth and nail for several weeks to name him Zachary Jace, but of course Julie won in the end and we named him Jace Zachary. We both thought it fit him perfectly because we knew he would heal our hearts and he’s a perfect representation of the fact that God does indeed remember us. 

And heal our hearts he did. Boy, did he ever. A lot of people told me that having a child would fill a void in a way they couldn’t describe, but I didn’t really believe them. I didn’t want to believe them, because I felt like moving on would mean that I was forgetting Benson and Lincoln in some way, and I hated that thought. Luckily, they were SO right, and I was SO wrong.

I still hate going to work every day because Jace is almost always still asleep when I leave and won’t go back to sleep if I wake him up to kiss him goodbye, and it breaks my heart to drive away without seeing him standing in his crib, bouncing up and down with an ear-to-ear smile, his little binky squeezed tightly in his toothless gums. Don’t tell Julie, but I purposely make a little extra noise every morning hoping that I’ll ‘accidentally’ wake him up so I can carry him in to her before I head out. Because the only thing I love more than seeing the way his face lights up when he sees me is seeing the way his face lights up when he sees her.

Yeah, Jace healed my heart. He heals it every day. I’ll never get over losing Benson and Lincoln. There’s no way. But I know where they are and I know I’ll be with them again. And that quote means more to me today than I ever imagined it could. “God doesn’t send replacements; He sends reinforcements.” My little Jace Zachary is most definitely a reinforcement. And I’m so grateful for reinforcements.



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What A Difference Two Years Makes


I’ve said it before – there’s nothing like the feeling you get when you realize that what only happens to other people is happening to you. I had been reliving that feeling for almost a week at this point and I was exhausted. Exhausted in a way I can’t even begin to explain and in a way I hope none of you ever have the opportunity to even begin to understand.
The experience was so primal. It was so painful. It was so gut-wrenching. It was deeply disturbing. And it was so final. To be honest, the only thing I had done throughout the whole process that was more difficult was taking Benson and Lincoln from Julie’s arms as she sobbed and shuddered with pain – physical, emotional and probably most of all, spiritual pain.

           “Just put them on the front seat.”

I almost did a double-take when he said it. Was he serious? He couldn't be serious. There’s no way the mortician was actually telling me to put my lifeless twin sons on the front seat of his car in nothing but a blanket. There was no receptacle of any sort, nothing to hold them in place, nothing to support them. Just the blanket they were wrapped in. So there was no way he was serious. I choked up all over again when I realized how serious he was. And I had no other choice, so I did it. I kissed their noses one last time and I “just put them on the front seat,” fighting with everything I had to stifle the sobs. I shut the door and took a step back before watching the dumpy, faded gold-colored, mid-2000's model Chrysler Pacifica drive away from the Emergency Room pull-through at American Fork Hospital.
That was October 25, 2010, and I don’t remember much of what happened after I watched that car drive away. I don’t remember what I did. I don’t remember where I went. I don’t even remember who I was with. What I do remember is feeling empty. And confused. And lost. And hopeless. Utterly hopeless. What were we supposed to do now? Julie and I had been trying to get pregnant for over two years when we found out Benson and Lincoln were coming. Ecstatic isn't even the word to describe our joy when Julie's test showed positive. And everything had been going so well with the pregnancy. But what now? Our boys were gone. GONE. I was completely lost.
Fast forward to November 2, 2012. I found myself back at that exact same spot – the Emergency Room pull-through at American Fork Hospital. And I found myself experiencing many of the same emotions I had gone through almost exactly two years before. I was SO exhausted. I was SO confused. I was completely lost. But this time, the emotions were SO different. I was exhausted because I had been up with a crying newborn baby for the past two nights. I was confused because I was a new father, and let’s be honest, what father is ever prepared to be a father, no matter if it’s their first child or their tenth? I was lost because I didn't know how to be a father. I was excited. I can’t even tell you how excited I was. And I was elated. Indescribably elated.
On October 31, 2012 at 2:48 p.m., Jace Zachary Noxon was born. From his first breath, he lived up to the meaning of his name. Jace is Greek for “Healer” and Zachary is Hebrew for “Yahweh Remembers” or “God Remembers.” And from his first breath, he most definitely healed our hearts and he most definitely proved to all of us that God does indeed remember. Not just Julie and me, but everyone. Everyone who shared in our pain. Every one of our friends and family members who cried with us and for us. Every person who reached out in any capacity. Every person who prayed in our behalf, not only that we would make it through our grief, but that we would get another chance to be parents in this life. So it made me SO happy to announce the following message to everyone (via Facebook, of course), because Julie had made me keep it a secret from pretty much everyone until Jace was here and healthy:

Trick or Treat!!! Jace Zachary Noxon was born today at 2:48 p.m. 6 pounds 10 ounces and 20 inches. Mom and baby are both doing great. Thank you all so much for your thoughts, support and prayers. Today is the best day of my life. The answer to your prayers is here, and he's beautiful.

As I clicked my beautiful baby into his carseat base and sat down in the driver’s seat, I couldn't help but think of the Will Smith song “Just the Two of Us.” You know, the line that says, “People drivin’ all fast got me kinda upset – Got you home safe placed you in your bassinet.” But that’s just because I’m an idiot. Immediately after that line played through in my mind, I couldn't help but think about what a difference two years makes. Instead of laying my lifeless twin boys on the front seat of a stranger’s dumpy, cluttered car with nothing to protect them but a blanket, then watching someone I knew I would never see again drive away with my sons, I was clicking my beautiful, healthy newborn son into the back seat of my own car, with my gorgeous wife by my side to drive home safe and sound with our newest family member. Exhausted? Yes. Confused? Check. And lost? You betcha. But beyond ecstatic and grateful and humbled and full of joy and love.

Yep, what a difference two years makes. :)

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Moment


The Moment
Julie's sweet aunt Kris made a quilt for the Festival of Trees to honor our twins and it auctioned for $1,025. Last year, Julie's neighbor, Linda, made a wreath in their memory and it auctioned for upwards of $500. It makes me smile to know that my boys are helping people on both sides of the veil. We miss you, Benson and Lincoln, and we love you 'til forever.
                That’s what my Facebook status says right now. I’ve written about this before, and those who know me best will attest that there has possibly never been anyone who was more excited to be a Dad than yours truly. The thing that sucks about losing a child is that it comes in waves. I was certain that it would never happen to me, but in my old age I’m learning that life doesn’t really care what we think.
As I was thinking about how happy it makes me that my sons are influencing people for good even though they’re not here with us, I started thinking back on a lot of the other a-ha moments I’ve had lately. It’s no secret that Julie and I desperately want children, and while we both have abiding testimonies that Benson and Lincoln are anxiously and impatiently waiting to hug us after this life, we ache to cradle our healthy baby/babies in our arms and have the opportunity to raise children in this life. Infertility has been a mammoth struggle in our life because we both want nothing more than to be parents. Over the past four years, and especially over the past 13 months, it has been extremely difficult to process and cope with all of the emotions that come with infertility and then being floored by the loss of a child, or children in our case. I won’t even attempt to dive into the spectrum of emotion I’ve endured during that time, especially because much of it is negative, and that’s not what this post is about. This post is about what I’ve learned through my trials. This post is about how my perspective has changed thanks to two little boys that never spoke a word to me. Not verbally, at least. This post is about overcoming. About finding happiness and peace in spite of every jab and curveball and setback this world can throw at me. It’s about how I’ve learned to keep my head up and fear nothing, no matter what. This post is about the moment.
                I learned in my Book of Mormon course this week that the word hope as we define it means something drastically different than the meaning it holds in the scriptures. Dr. Mark Wright (who is hilarious, by the way. Maybe later I’ll post my compilation of his funny quotes. It’s called “The Wright Stuff.”) explained that hope in our culture is defined as wishful thinking, as in I hope I get an Xbox Kinect for Christmas. In the scriptures, hope means anticipation based on testimony. That struck a real chord with me.
                When it comes to my boys, music is most often what brings me to tears these days. I miss them. I miss them immensely. I miss them in a way that no one who hasn’t endured the loss of a child could never, ever possibly understand. But when I cry over my boys, I don’t cry tears of sadness. Not anymore. I cry tears of hope. Tears of anticipation based on testimony. Tears of thinking of the moment. My hope, my goal is that just like my tears have become happy tears, my waves will become happy waves. I won’t let myself be bitter. I won’t cry over never being able to play catch with my boys. I won’t let myself be angry over all the things I’m missing with them. I’ll smile and cry tears of joy, tears of hope, tears of anticipation based on testimony. The testimony that I’ll see my boys again, and soon. And I’ll hug them. I’ll get to raise them. I’ll get to rock them to sleep on my chest in Grandpa’s rocking chair. I’ll cry tears of joy with them. I’ll wrestle with them. I’ll get to watch them date. I’ll get everything I’ve missed with them and more. I’ll get them forever.
So what is the moment? The moment is my motivation, my hope, my peace and my joy. The moment is where I will get to see my boys again and wait patiently for them to be done hugging their Mom before I get my turn. The best moment of my life.
The moment.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Safely

I just finished this poem after Amanda emailed us this week about Hermano Valenzuela. Here are her words:

"Right after I emailed last week we got news that our ward mission leader had an accident at work and he was in the hospital.  He wasn't doing okay.  He works in forestry, like every other person in Mulchèn, and someone cut down a tree and it fell on him and hit him in the back of the head.  He lost part of his brain and they were doing surgery to try and save him.  When we got to the hospital the family wasn't doing well and the surgeon told them Hermano Valenzuela´s chances of survival were not good.  We left the hospital not being able to do anything but wait and pray.

On Tuesday we went to district meeting in the morning and when we were there we received a call that Hermano Valenzuela had passed away.  We rushed to the hospital to be with his family and when we got there the first thing his daughter did was hug me and through her tears say, "I don´t have a dad and you don´t have a ward mission leader." . . .

We have been visiting the Valenzuela´s every day just to make sure they are doing okay and they are holding up pretty well.  Everything happened so quickly.  And the worst part is that their son is serving a mission in Colombia and doesn´t come home until April.  He was going to come home and then decided to finish because he knows that is what his dad would have wanted him to do.  That´s faith right there.  And I admire him."

I admire him, too. And I admire Amanda. I know her experience was very different than the Valenzuela's, but she likewise made the decision to stay out and finish her mission after losing not one, but two loved ones. As she said, "That's faith right there."

Anyway, I hope she can translate this poem into Spanish for him and his family. It's called "Safely."


A tear rolls down my cheek as I walk out the door
With you asleep in Mom’s arm so caring
My first day back to work since my little child’s birth
I’m thankful goodbye is only temporary

Another tear as I hang up the phone
I missed your first steps today
I’m away for a while and it breaks my heart
But goodbye doesn’t last so I’m okay

That tear on my cheek as I wave goodbye
Yet I’m so proud of you and I smile
Growing up so fast, your first day of school
I’m okay; goodbye only lasts a while

You grin ear to ear as you hold up your first fish
Another tear of cheer and nothing to say
My heart breaks a little as I silently wish
We’d never have to say goodbye to today

Familiar tear on my cheek as I get the news
Today you drove in the winning run
After yesterday’s goodbye for another short while
I wish you could know how proud I am, son

You grew up so fast, where did all the years go?
Today it’s your turn to say goodbye
Off to college, but no tear this time
Goodbye doesn’t last so there’s no need to cry

Ah, who was I kidding? I knew the tears would come
I’ve been missing you so much lately
I’m sure you felt the same all those times I said goodbye
I just pray you make it home safely

It hurt so much to see that tear
On your cheek as you hung up the phone
News of death is never easy to bear
But goodbye doesn’t last and you’re never alone

Son, I’m so sorry I had to leave you this way
You know how much I hate goodbyes
Oh my, how I wish I could have stayed
And though goodbye doesn’t last, it’s okay to cry

That familiar tear on my cheek as I watch from above
I’ve been missing you so much lately
I’m so glad that goodbye doesn’t last
Oh, how I pray more than ever that you make it home safely