The year following my husbands death was one I will never forget. It was filled with sadness and grieving, but something else really stands out in my mind. The kindness was unbelievable. People gave and gave and gave and never asked for anything back. I will never be able to pay back the good deeds that were done for me and my children- it was completely overwhelming!
First of all when my husband was missing as a hiker in the desert, hundreds of you helped look for him. I heard story after story of people who traveled across counties and states to help us search. One family on the news said they were in SLC on vacation, had never heard of us before, but went to search for Jay instead of sight seeing. Who does that?! Many. For two whole days in 103 degree weather you were there for us until he was found. I could have never done this search by myself or even with my family- it would have taken weeks or months or I may have never found him. It wasn’t the end I thought would happen, but it gave me closure and helped me stop wondering where he was and if he was suffering.
If this was the only thing that showed me how giving people are, I would be incredibly grateful. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. My neighbors brought me dinner 2-3 times a week for a year. Unbelievable! That is close to 150 meals. Meals that I didn’t have to figure out, buy and cook. The community raised money for my children’s college fund that has already been put to use- given anonymously. Things were given to me from people I didn’t even know. I was given massages, healthcare, and athletic memberships. My neighbor who owns a landscape company took care of my yard for a year. Other neighbors stopped by with treats, stuffed animals, baskets of fun and goodies for the kids. Friends came by with my favorite foods in hope that I would eat. Cards, flowers, books, crafts, and so much more were dropped off at our doorstep. WOW.
Then came the holidays. Christmas was going to be awful I thought… until… a friend of a friend decided that their corporation was going to give our family the Christmas we could only dream of. They called me and asked what each of my 6 kids liked. Yes, even my oldest who was serving a mission in Sweden. This helped me more than I can ever explain. I did have the financial means to give my kids Christmas, but this year I needed much more than this. I did not have the energy to even think what to give them. I did not have the desire to go in public– I didn’t want to completely lose it in Target. I did not have the stamina or strength to shop for hours. I did not want to make all of these decisions alone. My heart was still so raw- even after 6 months. It was like trying to patch a wide open bleeding wound with mini bandaids. The miracle came. I didn’t have to worry about a thing. I still bought a few presents so I could give them something from me, but the trauma of Christmas subsided. Christmas morning was unbelievable. Gifts everywhere. Tears everywhere- but happy ones. Incredible thoughtfulness in each gift. They even gave me a whole bunch of presents and that hadn’t even crossed my mind. This was truly a Christmas I will never forget. For sure a Christmas my children will never forget.
Our Christmas card was “2008 turned our world upside down.” But those around us filled me with joy.
I sit here in tears still today, over 6 years later, with my heart full of gratitude. People are good. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. My life and the lives of my sweet children were touched by your goodness and love. I know it was not always easy to give, but I promise from the receiving end it touched us. I haven’t been on the receiving end much in my life and I liked it that way, but I really did need you this time. Nothing went unnoticed and I will be forever grateful. When I had nothing you raised me up and lifted me.
My new husband Matt, who is a widower, has this same amazing story of people who were so willing to give to him and his children. Matt and I will never be able to repay this abundant debt of thoughtfulness back. But we are willing to try to give back to our community and this world that filled our sad hearts with joy. We have started a company called Natural High Productions to lift the hearts of others. We have been where others are now; hearts gaping open in pain, and we want to give hope. It will get better. You will be happy again. You will be stronger because of what you are going through. Please join us on the journey of life and look for the good.
My kids have found something they can do for kids who have lost a parent- make them a baby blanket. It’s a simple way to give comfort from one child to another.
We also Have Bags Of Love which is a bag filled with toys for kids that we take to the Children’s Hospitals near us and the Homeless Shelters. Each year we do about 500 bags at Christmas time and do more at other times of the year. It’s one of our favorite family traditions!