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!!!

Gratitude Challenge Day 5: Compliment Genuinely and Generously

A number of years ago I was listening to an audio tape on which the speaker was explaining how the brain cannot tell the difference between negative thoughts directed at someone else and those directed at selves. If this is true about negativity then it is also true about positivity. The more that we think thoughts of appreciation and love the better we will feel. And if thinking them is good, then speaking them out loud is even better. In applying this concept the wonderful thing about a compliment is that it lifts us just as much as it lifts the person receiving it.
Now, I know that this might be hard for some people, especially if they did not grow up with this kind of environment in their home. But just because it is hard does not mean it is not worth doing. We can all learn to do things we have not done before or even how to get over the awkwardness of doing things that make us feel uncomfortable. The more we do it, the more comfortable it will become. This progress can be identified as what I have learned is called the stages of competency.
The first stage in the stages of competency is unconscious incompetency, or not knowing that you cannot do something. Stage two is conscious incompetency, or knowing that you cannot do something. The third stage is conscious competency, or being able to do something if you concentrate very hard. The final stage, or stage of mastery, is called unconscious competency, meaning that you have done something long enough that you are competent without thinking about it. We went through these stages when we learned how to walk and now we walk around as unconscious of the way to do it as we are of how to breathe. Every single time we learn a new thing we go through these same stages. I like the idea of being aware of where I am in the progression with new things I am learning. It helps me remember that I cannot compare my stage 2 to someone else’s stage 4. I am a work in progress with that particular thing, just like they were once a stage 2 as well.
So my challenge for you today is to be consciously competent whether you are comfortable giving compliments or not. Take the time to notice people around you, how they look, what they say, what they do and genuinely compliment them on something positive you notice. They will feel a lift in their day and so will you.
Our Savior has told us that when we do kind things for those around us, it is like we are doing it for Him. So take a moment and be conscious of what you are doing for those around you and treat them the way you would treat Jesus if He were standing in their shoes.
1 Peter 4:
8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
9 Use hospitality one to another without grudging.
Song: Let it Start with Me by No Other Name

Today’s Challenge:

Day 5 Challenge Video by Oléa:

Day 16: Jesus Saw Their Faith

Mark 2:

1 And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.
2 And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.
3 And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.

4 And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.
5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.
6 But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,
7 Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?
8 And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?
9 Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?
10 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,)
11 I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.
12 And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.

This story of friendship is so beautiful to me!  I love that these friends didn’t just pray for their friend but acted in his behalf.  They carried him to find Jesus.  And when the way got rough, they didn’t turn around and go home, they tore the roof apart to get their friend the help he needed. It was their faith and their actions powered by that faith that got their friend where he needed to be to have his life changed for the better.  I have been blessed with some amazing friends throughout my life.  Friends that have laughed with me, cried with me, stood by me during my darkest times, lifted me with their words, and shown their love through acts of service and sacrifice. I have been blessed with friends that would tear a roof apart for me.  I feel truly humbled by their love and their loyalty!  Their friendship means the world to me!  The way they are makes me want to be a better friend, and not just to them but to everyone.  If you have those kinds of friends be sure to thank God for them.  If you don’t, be that kind of friend to those around you.  You never know what your acts of friendship may mean to someone who needs it.  Your sincere acts of love just might allow a miracle to happen in your own life.

Song: Circle of Friends

Talk:

Friendship: A Gospel Principle
http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1999/04/friendship-a-gospel-principle?lang=eng

Soul Searching Question:

How can you show faith on behalf of your friends? How can you show friendship towards someone in need?

Day 11: Go and Do Likewise

Luke 10:

25 ¶ And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?
30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

This parable illustrates so perfectly yesterday’s topic of not judging. We are to love all people, and not just in thought but also in action, as shown in this beautiful story!

As a child, my parents’ best friends were not of our faith and I loved them dearly! I think at a young age I recognized a tradition of exclusion in our culture and fought against it.

Please note, I know this is not a point of doctrine in my church, as noted in the talk I am sharing in this post, but rather fear in or traditions practiced by individual members.

My husband is not an active member of my faith and I was grateful to raise my children in a neighborhood where I didn’t feel like my kids were ostracized because of the other parents’ perception of my husband’s decisions. But I think this experience also made me, and by extension my children, more aware of others who felt left out and we tried harder to be good friends and neighbors to all.

Song:

Do Something

Talk:

Doctrine of Inclusion

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2001/10/doctrine-of-inclusion?lang=eng

Day 10: He Ate with Publicans and Sinners

Matthew 9:

9 ¶ And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.
10 ¶ And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.
11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?
12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Matthew, also known as Levi, was a publican. Publicans were detested by the Jews at that time because they were the tax collectors and had a reputation of adding their own greedy motives to the amount they collected. They also worked with the Romans, who the Jews looked at as their oppressors.

What I love about Matthew is that, just like the fishermen, as soon as Jesus called for him to follow, he left everything and went with the Master. I love that the Lord looks on our hearts and does not judge us by what the rest of the world thinks of us. Christ loved and extended a merciful hand to EVERYONE! Some accepted His offer and followed Him and others didn’t, but He offered it freely to all. He never shied away from someone because the rest of the world saw them as unworthy.

Song:

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

Article:

The largest demographic in the area where I live is the one mentioned in this article. But I believe her words apply to every one of us no matter where we live or what groups we may belong to.

http://www.ldsliving.com/A-Letter-to-Mormons-Mom-of-Another-Faith-Shares-Powerful-Message-to-Members/s/86092?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=social_button

I’m grateful for this woman’s courage and hope her message touches many hearts!!
I want to follow the doctrine of the Church I belong to, which tells me to be inclusive and loving to ALL God’s children! It is tradition and fear that separates us, not God or His teachings. I think we could all put more effort into awareness of those around us and the abundance they have to offer or lives!

Talk/Video:

Judging Others? Stop It!

https://www.lds.org/youth/video/stop-judging-others?lang=eng

How can you do better at not allowing other people’s opinions or your own fears to influence the way you treat people in your life? How can you follow Christ’s example and offer love instead of judgment?