Monday, May 9, 2011

Learning at Women's Conference

This year I was blessed to go to the Women's Conference at BYU.

We lost our youngest 16 year old son Jesse this last July 7th.  It was a healing and needed break to go to the conference this year.  There were many wonderful classes but I will mention only two that impacted me the most.

The first class I will share was entitled "Choosing Joy : Lift Up Thy Heart and Rejoice" was a young woman Meg Johnson who at the age of 22, in 2004, had an accident that left her paralyzed.  Her fall broke both legs, both arms, her collar bone and her neck at c 7 leaving her a paraplegic - paralyzed from the chest down.  She is a beautiful young woman, exuberant in her love for life.  I cried and I laughed as she shared her story and her spirit.  We all laughed,  she has the funniest sense of humor and an amazing faith.

She shared how her 17 yr old brother went and prayed earnestly that he might take her trail, he didn't want to she his sister suffer so.  He was chastised and told by the spirit  "What gives you the right to take her challenge?"

Meg told of a dream/ vision where she saw herself in the preexistence sitting at a table with a man who was telling her what it was like to be paralyzed and she was so excited she could hardly wait to get to experience being paralyzed, and to learn all the lessons involved with that experience.

Meg sees the humor in her life and the challenges she faces as she lives with her rag doll body, as she describes it.  She had us all laughing as she described trying to get into her car during a rain storm and how she fell, her wheel chair rolled away and she feel into a puddle on the ground.  It was hilarious to her tell of a tiny little old lady coming to her rescue.   What a beautiful and delightful young woman.

She talked about having tubes coming out of every part of her body .. two coming out of her lungs draining the liquid that had accumulated in her lungs due to her injuries.   They thought she had brain injury and so they had tied down her hands -- the only thing she could move.  As she lie there suffering and crying she started to pray -- she prayed to love the ceiling, and then the window, and the car outside the window ... etc etc. everything she could see, and her tears turned to tears of love and gratitude.  She said that gratitude from your heart is "I love you".

It was very humbling to hear her. She has such a funny sense of humor she could be a comedian -- she had the whole room laughing.

She talked about how serving is what keeps her going and happy.  Meg has married and serves once a week at least.  She drives a car and lives an amazing life despite her challenges.  Meg says "Service has healed me in a way the hospital can't."

The other class I want to share was by Dennis and Joyce Ashton -- Facing Grief and Disappointment  "In the Quiet Heart is Hidden"  (hymn # 220)

I was going to share the website they gave us .. but it doesn't seem to work.   I'll share it anyway -- maybe it's temporarily down -- .  Shar tole me about the Ashtons, their work and their books.  I got their book "Jesus Wept".  I was so happy when I saw their class at the Women's Conference -- it took me a bit to make the connection.  I wish I'd realized before I would have taken their book the first day for them to sign.  I had hoped that there would be a class at Education week on grief but there wasn't and so I was happy to find the Ashton's class.

A lot of what they shared was not new rather a reaffirmation -- but so good to hear.  There were things that touched my heart deeply.  I sat there and cried and cried.  You know how it is when there's understanding. I'll put my thoughts in quotation marks.)

I heard some things that really stood out to me.  It was Dennis Ashton that talked about the things that made me cry

We don't grieve less with time -- We grieve less often with time.   ( Now my words and interpretation -- we will never miss them less -- and the pain of missing them will never go away,  but times lessens the amount of time we spend grieving)

Grieving is not a lack of faith.

The pain is directly related to the amount of love ... (just like Kahlil Gibran says ... and the scriptures.)

Shakespeare said -- "Everyone can master a grief ... but he who has it."

Spiritual Injuries happen when life's realities contradict and /or conflict with previously held spiritual assumptions.  Dennis talked about a woman who refused to get help .. for fear that if others who thought she was so faithful and strong found out that she struggled and needed help it would shatter their faith.
He quotes some scriptures from Job that are excellent -- Job 21:34   Job 16:2    Job 16: 4-5

Here's Job 16: 2-5  (1-5)  Then Job answered and said,  2)I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all. (this one made me laugh :)) 3)Shall vain words have an end? or what emboldeneth thee that thou answereth?  4) I also could speak as ye do: if your soul were in my soul's stead, I could heap up words against you, and shake my head at you. 5) But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the moving of my lips should asswage your grief.

Dennis talked about the many things that people say because they don't know better.  Well meaning but how they can hurt.

He talked about how our trials refine us.  The refiner's fire.

Listen to understand .... not to be understood.  :)

He talked about our baptismal covenants and how we are to bear one another's burdens. .... mourn with those that mourn.  I'm sure we could each talk about the perfect cards we received ... or those times that someone said the perfect thing to us -- that touched our heart and brought tears to our eyes because of the compassion and love we felt.

He talked about Victor Frankel ..  I love his writings -- What is the name of his book?  He talks about finding meaning in life and suffering.

The last experience that Dennis related brought me to tears.  He was walking his dog and his friend came over  and the reminisced about experiences they'd had with his 14 year old son who'd died.   As they were finishing up he said  "Dennis I want you to know I'll never get tired of hearing you talk about Cameron."

I sat there with tears running down my face remembering that first email I got from Sharlen -- her telling me that she'd never get tired of hearing me talk about my boy -- my Jesse .... and even now as I write this it brings me to tears ... it did the first time I read/ heard those words and it will every time I suppose.  I think about what Sharlen shared with me just recently --  A dear friend who had someone ask her if she was over the death of her dear son.  The pain of the comment hurt so deeply she went to our Heavenly Father with her pain and asked if she was wrong for wanting to remember and talk about her dear son.  The answer that came to her was "Now you know how I feel -- I want my son to be remembered and talked about."  May we all remember not only our earthly sons and daughters but our Savior who gave his life for us.  Who gives us hope of eternal life, and reunion with our sons who have gone on before us through the Atonement and Resurrection. 


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Donation -- The gift of sight ....

When we were at the hospital with Jesse's body they asked us if we wanted to have Jesse be a donor.  The question caught me off guard because I didn't realized that one could be a donor after they were already dead. The questions hit like a punch in the gut.  The shock of being with his lifeless body was enough without the thought of the invasive and seemingly irreverent procedures that donation would involve.  We asked for a little time to think about it. We had never thought about it,  let alone discussed it.  

We had to stop and ask ourselves the question "What would Jesse want us to do?  What would Jesse want done with his body?"  We felt that he would want to help another.  So ... as hard as it already was we decided that we'd let Jesse be a donor.  I guess there's a lot that can be donated even after someone has passed away.  They can't "harvest" the organs, but there's a lot that they can use.  The corneas,  the skin, and other tissues.  My dear friend Ranelle Wallace who had a near death experience and wrote the Book "The Burning Within" (amazing book by the way) told me that they can make a large graft from just one inch of skin.  They can also use the long bones and other tissues.  

One of the most difficult conversations I ever had was talking about what was to be taken or not, and harvested.  I don't know if there's a way to prepare for such a experience, maybe to be more informed before hand.  To understand how it works, and also how it blesses lives.  The people who worked with us were helpful and kind. 

I wasn't prepared for just how invasive the process would be on Jesse's body.  He had over 16 feet of incisions on his body.  They also did an autopsy, as his death was unattended by a medical Dr, so there were those incisions as well.  The incisions were leaking and so the put cotton bandaging over then and wrapped his body in plastic.  I hate the whole embalming process.  The body feels like plastic to me after it is embalmed. 

Here's a poem I wrote for Jesse and those who have donated or been the recipient of a donor, and for all the families who are touched by this process. 

Angel Eyes

Your beautiful eyes, 

Laughing ~ Shinning Bright

With Joy and life,

Suddenly --

Too quickly, too soon,

Your physical eyes -- forever closed. 


The question stings. 

We don't know .... 

What would you want?

You'd want to help another. 

Yes, ... as hard as it is ~

We honor you -- your life,

what we feel your wishes are. 

Your beautiful eyes ~ 

a short life of glorious sight,

Now .... 

can go on, blessing the lives of two, 

that were blind,

who now can see. 

Tears of grief and joy are shed

for the gift of sight

given from your bright and shining eyes.

Angel eyes,

now watching over us 

from heaven. 

(c) Elizabeth M Allen
Written in Honor of H Jesse Allen
by his mother

Thanks to the Utah  Lions Eye Bank, the John A Moran Eye Center and the University of Utah School of Medicine, for kind and loving support at a most difficult time.   

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

One Day Closer - Part 3

It was 8 months ago today (March 7, 2011) that Jesse passed away.  These mensaversaries can be harder than I think they will be. Here's the poem that came to me today as I was reflecting once again on that enemy - time.

One Day Closer 

Feeling like time
the enemy
was pulling your further away
from me,
my memories of you ...

the realization 
Each day - each moment,
brings me closer
one day - one moment at a time
to when I will see you,
feel you,
hear your voice,
hug you,

Until then
I pray
Let each day be blessed
with strength and Love,
fond memories
of you and our love. 
Lead me to serve
those in need.

May my life be blessed
that when I see you again,
I will hear you say ~
"Thanks Mom -
For living with Love 
for the way you honored me,
my memory,
the way you lived 
with passion and courage."

A breath, 
and I hear my heart,

That same prayer 
I humbly offer
to my Savior Jesus
Son of God.
My hope ~
That when I behold thy face
I might hear ~

"Well done,
Thou good and faithful daughter."

Each day a gift,
a chance to love and serve,
bringing us closer
to meeting once again,
those we love,
in realms above. 

(c) Elizabeth M Allen
March 7, 2011

One Day Closer - Part 2

This next poem - Life Goes On -  I wrote the first day of school.  Stefen's senior year and what was supposed to be Jesse's junior year.  I attended the assembly that morning as they were doing a little memorial for Jesse.  I got the message that I could have said something much later.  I was just too out of it I guess.  It meant a lot that they did what they did.  Mrs Anderson the principle at the time was wonderful with me - us.  Mr. Welton Jesse's debate teacher and coach spoke about Jesse and did a wonderful memorial for him.

Life Goes On 

Life goes on ~ 
or so it should 
I'm told. 

But how? 
When my world, 
turned upside down
since you left 
will never ~ can never
be quite the same,
for me,
your father,
and siblings,
those who loved you,
whose lives you touched. 

Today the first day,
back to school,
without you,
You not here.

Yeah, it was touching
and sweet,
a wonderful tribute,
a moment of silence
in memory of you.
A cheer for you,
for who you are 
and your life.

Then -- not missing a beat
as if nothing had happened
the fun and frolicking 
laughter and cheering continue --

Life goes on. 

(c) Elizabeth M Allen
August 24, 2010

Monday, March 7, 2011

One Day Closer

Three times is a charm?  I hope so!!  I've lost my post twice now.  

Today as I woke up and facing my full to do list, I found I just couldn't focus,  didn't want to do anything -- in fact here it is now 3 pm and I'm still in my nightgown ... it doesn't help that I've been working at posting my poem since this morning.  Haven't even eaten yet.  I realized that it was 8 months ago to today that Jesse passed away.  No wonder -- it's so strange how these days effect me.  Even if I don't "remember"  it seems there is always some part of me that does remember.   

As I was reflecting once again on time being the enemy a poem popped into my head.  Another gift -- that's what it feels like when a poem comes the way the poem today did ... first with the title and then as I write it just seems to flow, the words and ideas come.  The Poem I wrote today is One Day Closer --  It reminded me of,  and reread two poems I wrote back in August.  I'll share those first to keep the flow. 

First I'll share the poem "Time" that I wrote Aug 2, 2010


The healer
and the enemy.

How long have you been gone...
Away from us, 
those who mark time,
First in minuets, 
then hours and days ...
until finally 
months and years
have gone by. 
And you ~
here ~ in our minds,
age 16, July 2010
Illusions of time,
making events,
that leave their mark on us
Those, still here
more wrinkles and grey hair
more babies born
as once you were
I see you in them now,
I cherish the memories 
of caresses
holding my elbow ;) 
once annoying
leaving you
unaged ~ unchanged
timeless experiences
of you, the real you,
the timeless
unchangeable you.
Given to our timeless 
unchangeable love,
Love Eternal
Here we are
the timeless 
in mortality and time
Until we join
once again
in timlessness

(c) Elizabeth M Allen
August 2, 2010

Part One ... I'll post this in three parts ... just to be safe. :)  

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mother Mary

Dear Mary 

Mother of Jesus

I understand a tiny bit more 

Now -- 

Now that I've lost

my own,  dear son -- 

too young, too soon. 

Bitter tears 

at the thought of your loss --

Your suffering -- 

the suffering of your Son.

Terrible beyond imagination 

At least I never had to endure 

the pain of witnessing 

the suffering of my dear sweet son.

Tears fall for you 

his mother,  and for him

Our Savior

Who suffered the pain of all mankind

drops of blood from every pore 

Mocked and tortured -- body broken

for me .... for you

That once again 

We might rise  

alive -- renewed 

restored and whole 

Our sins washed clean

through Him ~ 

In Glory Risen 

Rejoicing in His great Love 

and sacrifice. 

That we might be with Him 

In heavenly realms above,

once more --  to be,

with those we hold so near and dear. 

Now in our hearts and memory.

Spirit and Body -- never to part. 

Thank you Mary,  Mother of God

for all you gave -- your suffering 

and sacrifice,  

that the Son of God 

might come. and through 

his great suffering,

the ultimate sacrifice for sin,

For all mankind -- redeemed 

to rise immortal once again.  

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I just finished this -- I wrote it tonight.  I had the opportunity to visit with the parents of one of the boys who was with Jesse when he died.  The father told me that Jesse was clutching his chest and had scratched it when he collapsed.  Ethan and Benjiimon were afraid to move or turn Jesse over, but they did when the 911 dispatcher told them to.  That was when they saw that he was clutching his chest with both hands and had scratched himself.  I didn't know that until tonight.  It has been a hard, very sad crying night for me.  I'm not sure if I completely understand the comfort in sharing -- but there is.  This is my version of what happened in the hospital the day Jesse died.  


The thought of you
There alone
Clutching at your heart, scratching your chest.
Trying desperately to stop the pain –
Futilely willing your stopped heart to beat again.
Clutching at life,
Lying there on the hard cold floor.
Your life draining away.
Me so far away –
Helpless to do anything,
To hold you, comfort you and love  you.
My dear sweet son  ~~


I'm coming – after driving for two hours – 
Your boy has died they say, we're sorry... 
"He’s not ready" they say. 
I don’t care,  “Please,  just take me to my boy!” 
I insist until finally they take us.  
I come in and find you lying there on a hard metal hospital table.  
I pull the sheet down, away from your face, now blue,
the rosy color of life drained from your face and body.
Your body, slowly growing cold. 
I lean over you, laying my head on yours and let the sobs rack my body as the pain tears through me – body and soul. 
This can’t be happening – it can’t be.  
We sob and sob, your father and I.
The mortician comes to take you away – No we can’t, we’re not ready, and Glenna and Matt aren’t even here yet.
No … we’re not ready.
After the sobs subside I lift your hand and hold it – your precious hand. 
I examine every part of it, the bracelet on your wrist, given to you by Ethan, the cut your were so proud of, received while cleaning up and playing your boyish games. 
I notice the dirt under your fingernails.  
I love this hand, your strong muscular arm, everything about it and you. I hold and examine your other hand, loving this body that served you so well for the 16 years you were with us, this body of yours, I love it and I love you.
I caress and notice every part of your head and face, your ears, memorizing you, your forehead, your lips and teeth around the tube they used to try and resuscitate you. 
I will never forget this face – this beautiful, handsome face, my son. 
I open your closed eyelids to peek at your eyes.  Your beautiful green eyes that sparkled so.   The sparkle is gone now.
The mortician is still waiting and finally leaves telling us he will come back when we are finished.  
I will not be rushed.   This is the last time I will get to really be with your body.
I play with your hair,  your hair you were so proud of,  hair the girls were so jealous of. 
I ask for scissors to cut a lock or two of your hair to remember you.  Don't worry I'll cut it from the back so no one will be able to tell. 
I caress your beard, face and hair for a long time.  I kiss your forehead and cheeks.  Kisses enough to last -- a little while at least. 
I groom you – gently scratch all the little bumps off your forehead.  I play with your beard and facial hair,  so manly, so young.
I talk to you –  “No driver’s ed for you!” I say jokingly. 
Chris and Maren bring Ethan and Benjiimon.  Ethan is wearing sun glasses to hide the fact he's been crying.  Benjiimon is keeping on a brave and somber face.  We talk and ask questions, we need to know every detail.  What happened?  We need to know. 
We talk,  we cry,  we call your brother’s and sisters,  Glenna and Matt are on their way,  we give directions the best we can.  Yes he’s dead we say.  It is unbelievable.  Glenna and Matt arrive.  We hug and sob once again as Matt and Glenna join in our caresses.
I move to your feet and legs, caressing and noticing everything about them,  the story they tell.  That bare patch on your right shin, what? a dare? a game? Who could stand to rip off the most hair with duct tape? And of course you won.  We laugh at the fun you always had.
You’re moving on you say...  A transfer, a new calling.  "Sorry I couldn’t stay a little longer I was having so much fun.  Life is great isn’t it.  I love you.  Sorry I had to leave so suddenly and unexpectedly."
We stay with your body, loving it, caressing it, memorizing it.  We can’t believe you are really leaving us.
Donation? they ask, what about tissue donation?  What? I didn’t think we could do that after death.  No, is it possible?
What would you want us to do?  Yes, you would want to help another.
OK … we’ll think about it.
It is so hard to leave.  We never want to leave – so very final. 
You will never be the same – after the autopsy and donations … so much of you will be gone. Embalming.  So final.
We turn to go and slowly start to leave, but I can’t.
I remember I have some oils in my purse.  I go get them.
I put the sweet smelling oil on your feet and legs,  your arms and hands, your face and hair.
You will smell sweet with the oils given and applied by your mother.
I love you Jesse,  I love you so very much. 
Finally I can turn and leave … reluctantly, slowly.  Leaving the body of my dear boy, Jesse.

Elizabeth M Allen