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Lately, because of something that happened to a former colleague, I've been thinking a great deal about the tragedies that are too much a part of life. Each time I've considered blogging about this, I've found myself absolutely unable to do so. Oddly, the fact that it's the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is the only thing that has enabled me to attempt this blog entry; I started writing thinking I was going to blog about something more distant, but ended up tackling something that, in all honesty, I still don't feel able to adequately discuss.

Although I try to look at all the positive things that happen in the world, sometimes the flip side, the side where people are cruel and dangerous and commit unspeakable acts, can't be ignored. During the first week after Jen's death, I felt this need to understand how her ex-boyfriend could ever do such a thing to someone he supposedly loved. I kept wanting a newspaper to publish a long article about who this person was and how his life had led him to such a horrible act. No such article has been published yet. I spent last weekend in San Francisco and forced myself to stop scanning internet news sites to find out more about Jen's murder. I also thought a lot about this need for an explanation--and realized that I probably wouldn't ever understand how this man could do what he did . . . no newspaper article could ever account for how someone could take the life of another.

So I'm left in mourning over the ugliness that human beings can perpetrate. I'm not celebrating Jen's life here--that would resonate too much of closure and I feel like she should still be alive making a difference in the lives of those she encounters. I'm also not typing the name of the man who killed her--I'm too angry about the fact that their names will be linked in almost any story written about Jen. There's no happy ending to this story, only sadness for a life which ended too early, too violently, and too undeservedly.


I found out this morning that a dear friend, Manuel Sousa, just passed away. He lived in Setubal, Portugal, had a wife and two daughters, and was just 44 years old. I met Manuel when he was 17 and I was 21. He was a beautiful young man who had such deep sincerity, warmth, and joie de vivre. What a loss.

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Two years ago: I blogged about my friends Chuck Rhodes and Sandy Godfrey Wallentine. Chuck died in his early 20's; Sandy in her late 30's. A year and a half ago, my friend Roger Nelson also died. All three were close friends at one point in my life, people that I still miss.

One year ago: I was in Bergen and Stavanger having a difficult weekend for a variety of reasons which I won't blog about now. But after spending last year telling Norwegian students about the Day of the Dead quite frequently, it only seems fitting that this year Day of the Dead should take on special significance.

This year: I went to my friend Alex's house for a Day of the Dead celebration. All day I thought about my grandfather who died at age 98 two and a half years ago. At Alex's house, we piled pictures and mementos on altars in honor of our loved ones. We ate food that had significance in the lives of our loved ones. Alex made tamales from his mother's recipe. John brought "funeral potatoes," a Mormon mix of potatoes and cheese common at funerals in Utah. I brought Snickers bars, my grandpa's favorite candy. After he got diabetes and could no longer eat Snickers, he still had a bag of them in his room to share with his visitors. Someone brought pate, another brought spaghetti. The people we had lost came up in conversation all night. In a private moment, John and I both admitted to each other that it had been a teary day.

Altar with my Grandfather's picture and his favorite candy
Altar for my Grandfather

Today I found out that someone I knew years ago, Dan Foote, died last week. He was too young to go . . . and I've felt on edge all day thinking about him and what he meant in my life.

I don't know how to end this post, except to say that over the last few months I've felt more grateful to be alive than I have perhaps ever. I want to live life to its fullest, so that whenever I pass on, I'll have no regrets.

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Some of my earliest memories are of visiting my grandpa and grandma on their farm in Cornish, Utah. My dad tells stories about thinning sugar beets, but my memories revolve around alfalfa and cows. I liked watching Grandpa and Dad herd the confused and recalcitrant cows into the milking area. The milkers were strange looking contraptions with rubber tubes that attached to the udders then squeezed rhythmically as the milk fell into the metal container below. Grandpa would then pour the fresh milk into a large vat in which the milk swirled around, stirred by a metal paddle. Every so often, he'd give us a ladle of milk fresh from the vat . . . or we'd drink the creamy milk as we ate my grandmother's banana nut bread. Grandpa, dressed in his pinstriped overalls, was also an expert at "pitching kanuch," at least I think that's what he called shoveling up the cow's excrement. He was a small man but a hard worker.

In later years, I watched my grandfather at my grandmother's side as her health failed due to Alzheimer's. Grandpa sold the farm and moved into Logan, so he could visit her each day at Sunshine Terrace. I remember how lovingly he interacted with his wife, whom he had known since childhood, even though she no longer recognized him. Still, the residue of their love must have left some trace, as Grandma responded to him so positively. At times, Grandpa missed her so much that he would silently weep as he sat beside her bed. I suppose these images will always typify love for me.

After grandma passed away, my grandfather spent a number of years living on his own in his little house in Logan, Utah. When I was in town, it was always enjoyable to visit him and hear his stories--Godfreys are great story tellers and laughers. My grandfather's gentle kindness always characterized our interactions.

More recently, he'd been living in an assisted living center. Every so often, I'd go to the center to eat lunch with him. He had a table full of friends that he liked to eat with . . . but when I visited, he'd forego that pleasure to sit with my parents and I. More regularly, we would visit him in his room and tell stories. I'd ask him about farming and he'd describe tractors and hard work. He'd tell stories about his youth, the depression, the childhood of my father, and his career as the school bus driver in Cache County. He'd offer me the chocolate that he could no longer eat because of diabetes.

My grandfather's life was full of simple pleasures and joys: pride in his children, the satisfaction of work well done, the love that he felt for his family and friends, the faith that was such an important part of his identity. My life is richer for having loved and been loved by him.