Tribute to a Friend

“We can’t fully appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now. The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.” Russell M. Nelson

I want to share my thoughts from the last couple of days. I am so very grateful for my Savior, Jesus Christ, who gives me His strength when I have run out of my own.

Amidst the chaos that is my life right now (between packing to move and also getting ready for a 3 day event selling my flannel board stories in Bear Lake) I found out yesterday that one of my very dear friends has passed away. So I’ve been moving forward with the action that life demands but with a lot of breaking into tears moments as I grieve for myself at his loss. I just want to take a minute to pay tribute to my friend, Tom Petko, and share my top 6 things he taught me over the last 19 years of friendship.

1. You don’t have to be blood to be family. This man came into our lives and treated us as if he were an extension of our family. He treated my children, my husband and I like gold. I did what I could to reciprocate the love I always felt for him. That usually came by the way of a homecooked meal or baked goods, but it never seemed to measure up to his generosity. He and his parents always spoiled us!

2. Chasing your passion is a good thing! He opened my eyes to the sport of trap shooting, something I never knew I could love so much! He would always laugh about the fact that he and Chad made plans to shoot and I tagged along. He admitted repeatedly that he initially thought, “The ball and chain can’t just let her man have some time with the guys.” Then I asked if I could try… I always loved changing the way that man thought about things! We spent hours and hours shooting together or traveling to shoots with kids in tow to shoot little orange clay disks out of the sky and it was fabulous! He once bought me a shirt that said, “Happiness is a warm shotgun.” I fully concur with that! One of my favorite memories was a turkey shoot we attended in Weber County. We won so many turkeys together that there were some men who really wanted us disqualified from winning any more. (As Tom pointed out he probably just hated being outshot by a girl!)

3. Taking time to pursue my dreams actually makes me a better wife and mother. There were a couple of times that Chad (and my sisters) watched the kids so that I could take a road trip with Tom to go shooting. I always came back refreshed and ready to put more energy and love into my roles at home. Not only was the hobby enjoyable but Tom was such a great conversationalist! I am really going to miss our discussions!

4. You can have completely different beliefs from someone else and still respect and love them. I am a bit of a religious nut and Tom was far from it. But I honestly learned so much about myself and my beliefs from the deep conversations we had together. I knew he didn’t always agree with me, but I never for one second doubted that he respected me. He even nicknamed me the “shooting saint” because I refused to shoot on Sundays. And he would help me find the nearest church and drop me off so I could worship in my way while he “went to church” in his way (shooting).

5. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. After many years of “batching it” (as Tom called his bachelor days) Tom found love and companionship again. And though I was so glad that he was not lonely anymore, his new companion seemed to find me and my family competition for some reason. Because of this and Tom being restricted to a wheelchair, our relationship has been limited to phone calls, text messages and Christmas gift exchanges (Tom was the best gift giver I’ve ever met!) We have missed him so much over the last few years. We have missed our regular dinner dates (my kids learned a lot about patience as we would sit for hours in a “BS session” as Tom called it). We have missed his irreverent sense of humor and his hilarious way of looking at the world. We have missed his vocalized support and encouragement for us as parents. I have missed shooting with him. And I have really missed his giant teddy bear hugs!

6. Life is short. Tom was a big man! This caused complications with his knees. He was not a candidate for surgery unless he lost a certain amount of weight and being in a wheelchair eliminated the ability to lose weight through exercise. Tom had big dreams. He worked very hard for 40 years to save for retirement. He planned to travel and shoot and fish. He planned to go on safari and shoot some amazing pictures (a different kind of shooting he found a love for later in life). He planned to really live and enjoy what he called the “best years.” And so, even though I grieve for me and the fact that I will never get to have the catchup dinner he promised us once surgery restored his mobility, I mostly grieve for him and that he never got to do all those things on his bucket list that he worked so hard and saved for!

Tom was a good man! He had a huge heart! He was one of the most loving and generous men I ever knew. He was so good to me and to my family. He was our family! And he will be sorely missed. I realized as I looked for pictures of my friend that I don’t have them. But I am so grateful that I have hundreds and hundreds of memory pictures in my data bank! We made some really great memories together that I will treasure forever!

I look forward to the time when I will get to stroll along this giant of a man and catch up on all we have missed out talking about. That is going to be the grandest of all BS sessions!!!

The pedigree of your spirit can be written on a single line. You are a child of God!

Child of God

I love the verses in Romans 8 that I found for this weeks reading! I have had so many experiences where the Spirit has witnessed to my spirit that I have a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly home that is not that far away from me. There have been times I have felt it very near and other times I have felt very homesick for it. You could never convince me that these things are not in fact there.

I think as a child having an earthly father who always made me feel loved, cared for and safe allowed me to easily assign those attributes to my Heavenly Father. I recognize that some people have not been lucky enough to have the same experiences and it is harder for them to see God as their caring and loving Father. I remember when I was potty training my son I was on a forum and someone had mentioned making potty training a matter of prayer. Another person commented that she thought God had a lot better things to do with His time than to worry about our potty training efforts. Her comment made me feel so sad! I honestly believe that we are His children and He loves us. If it is important to US, it is important to HIM. I think we miss many opportunities of connection and comfort by thinking we can’t or shouldn’t go to Him with problems when we feel like He may consider them trivial.

Sometimes life’s struggles seem to interfere with our relationship with and understanding of God’s love. We think that because we have trials He must not love us. There are many different reasons for our trials, sometimes they are self-inflicted, sometimes inflicted by the agency of others, sometimes as a test of faith and endurance, and sometimes just a natural consequence of mortal life.

I heard something years ago that really helped me put things in perspective. Heavenly Father has an “I love you” plan and an “I trust you” plan. There is absolutely nothing any one of His children can do to make Him not love us anymore. His “I love you” plan is available to us all, no matter what we have done or how unworthy we may feel. This plan includes unconditional access to Him through prayer, the availability of His word, resurrection, and allowing His son to atone for each of us so we can access His forgiveness through repentance. Because He loves us, no matter what we do, He will never take these blessings away from us. God’s “I love you” plan is ALWAYS available to ALL of His children ALL of the time! On the other hand, He does not trust us all equally or even trust us personally the same all the time. We prove our ability and desire to be trusted through our actions. We gain additional blessings from above by obeying the commandments and seeking a personal relationship with Him. WE are responsible for the distance that grows between us when we are not doing the essential things to stay close to Him and show Him we are worthy of His trust. There have been far too many times in my life when I have had to face the hard truth that there were things happening in my life that had allowed this distance to grow between God and myself. Sometimes it was my direct disobedience to His laws, sometimes it was anger or a refusal to forgive another of His children, sometimes it has been simply neglect of doing the daily things He asks me to do for my own benefit. What I do know is that when I have recognized the distance and the reason, repented and turned back to Him, it has not taken long to feel the love He is ALWAYS offering.

If we are doing everything in our power to prove that we are trustworthy, then we can take comfort in the lessons from Romans 8 that point out that the trials we go through are nothing compared to what they will refine in us! And that we are never alone! Because of God’s “I love you” plan His son, Jesus Christ, will be with us every step of the way. Our suffering in this life is part of the plan. It is allowed by a loving God who wants us to stretch and grow and become our highest and best self. All things in life joyful and not so joyful will work together for our good if we love God and trust His purposes. Not only this, but He loves us so much that He also allowed His son to be sacrificed that we may have the power of the atonement to draw on and to make our sufferings easier to handle. He truly does love us!

Reading over the conference talk by Brian K.Taylor “Am I a Child of God?” I found so many parts that testified once again to my spirit that I am a child of God. I love the quote by Boyd K. Packer, “You are a child of God. He is the father of your spirit. Spiritually you are of noble birth, the offspring of the King of Heaven. Fix that truth in your mind and hold to it. However many generations in your mortal ancestry, no matter what race or people you represent, the pedigree of your spirit can be written on a single line. You are a child of God!” Satan would love to destroy your knowledge about your relationship to God. But clinging to the truth of His existence and His love for you will help you overcome the hardships in your life. There is so much power, peace and comfort that come from seeking and developing a personal relationship with Him. You can come to understand Him and His love for you, but this will not come without effort. You have to make the initial move and the investment of time and energy. Both prayer and studying the scriptures are such a powerful way to penetrate the heavens, to open a conduit between your heavenly home and yourself. I can echo Elder Taylor’s words when he says, “I have come to know God, my Father, and bear witness of the perfections, attributes, and excellency of His character.” My hope for each of you is the same as his, that you will “truly understand and cherish your noble birthright as a child of God in coming to know Him.”