Our Christmas

I think I thought Christmas was going to be harder than it was. 

Don't get me wrong, Christmastime was hard.

But I am not sure if Christmas day was harder. Maybe it is because I was gearing myself up for it.

At one point, I was taking the trash out of my sister home. I went through the garage and saw Steve's car.

I am not sure why, but seeing his car tugs at my heart every time I see it.

I stood there and tears began to stream down my cheeks. I thought of his beautiful wife, children, home, and the gifts his sons were able to open from him this year. And I just thought, "Oh, Steven. Look at all this beauty because of you." And while I ached for him, I was just filled with a peaceful gratitude for him and all the divinity he brought into this world.

I have included some snapshots of how we were able to remember our Steven this month that made our hearts happy and a couple other photos that I know would make his heart happy.

Tiffany put this ornament on her tree this year. It was the perfect reminder we all needed and that the birth of our Savior brings.
My favorite ornament of the year. I ache because of his absence. 
A friend of my mother's who has also lost a son gave her this ornament. 
And the most touching experience of all Christmas, Steve's boys were able to open presents from their father, even though he's been gone for three months.
Steve's sister, our sister, spent Christmas with us this year. We loved it.
Nephew Two asked if I would join him in wearing an Ugly Christmas Sweater for our celebration. I obliged. 


Dear 2014 ...

Guys, this is going to be real. 

It has been the darkest year I have ever known.

In February I became ill, leading up to my hospitalization and eventual diagnosis of autoimmune failure in March. From February 28 to September 1, I had pain every single day except for one {word to May 10th!}. Since then, I don't think it has been every day, but maybe I am so used to it now that I just don't realize it.

Amongst my toughest semester in grad school ever and autoimmune failure, I had two weeks to find a new roommate and a new place to live ... and then in those conditions, actually move for the fourth time in eight months.

In May my last living grandparent passed away.

In August, I lost my dream job of six-and-a-half years. While was able to pick up three part-time jobs, it still resulted in less time than my one full-time position and I was technically "unemployed" for three months. 

In September, two of my clients passed away. A dear friend committed suicide. And ... we unexpectedly lost our Steven. 

In October, we buried him.

In November, our family would experience additional heartache and grief that will not be detailed and that has carried over in December and I am not entirely sure how it is going to turn out.

But ... God is good.  He has sustained me and all of us through this year. And I know He will continue to sustain us all. And for that, I am eternally grateful. It is in Him that I have hope that we can keep on keeping on and find joys in the days that 2015 will bring, even though we have lost so much.


Smiles mean more than they used to ...

Before Shtev passed away, he planned a surprise trip for his boys to Disneyland.

Originally, it was just for Steve and their immediate family of four. However, after his passing, we knew Tiffany would not be able to do it alone, so with the exceptional assistance from JetBlue, I was able to transfer Steve's airline ticket into my name and the rest of the family purchased tickets on the same flight.

Ironically enough, Steve had reserved two hotel rooms at the hotel instead of just one, which ended up fitting us all perfectly.

Ironically enough, for the trip he purchased new luggage for Tiffany and the boys ... but not himself.

I had an absolute marvelous time with my family and being able to still be the recipient of Steve's thoughtfulness and tender heart.

Tiffany was able to celebrate their wedding anniversary in the same place they had spent their honeymoon 17 years ago. 

These photos are so special to me, because smiles mean more than they used to.


P.S. I fought with the formatting for far too long. Just pretend all the photos are aligned and centered. :)


"Good luck. :) I love you."

About a week after Steve went to Heaven, we were looking through his personal belongings and found a single sheet of paper he had typed for Tiffany.

The heading was, "If/when I die ..."

It then proceeded to give all of his wishes in the event of his death. Which funeral home to go to, where he would like his body to be buried, the casket he liked, where the services should be held, who would sing at the funeral, who would speak, even down to who would give the prayers.

And you know what?

Tiffany pretty much picked every single detail perfectly to his wishes without having that paper. 

There were two things that touched me particularly about that paper. 

The first was that he had wanted me to give his eulogy, which I was able to do. That, along with writing his obituary, were the two most privileged and honored things I have been able to do in this life. 

The second was what he wrote to his wife at the end of the sheet. 

"Good luck. :)  I love you."



All 10 of us

We buried our Steven on a Friday.

That following Monday, we attempted to live our new lives without him.

The boys weren't able to make it to school. Brandon and Hillary decided to stay a week longer. I made it to about two hours of work.

And somehow, we all found our way back to that sacred ground were Steve's body was buried. 

We laid out blankets and pulled out the lunches we brought.

And there we were.

All 10 of us again.


He was my Shtev ...

Today it's been eight weeks since we lost our Steven. And this is probably one of the most difficult things I have yet to share.

It's difficult because I know my writing can never do it justice.

It's difficult because it reminds me of all I have, even if temporarily, lost.

The last picture that Steven and I are in together, which would also be the last birthday of mine we'd celebrate together.
Steve is my brother-in-law. He married my older sister. But he was truly my brother. And even that title does not, cannot reflect all that he was and is to me.

Steve was my Gmail chat buddy. We chatted almost every single day.

Steve was my Aggie football buddy. Whether it was going to the games together, being able to watch the away games on TV, or just talking Aggie football, we did it. Many people have asked how my family could sit through decades of losing seasons of Aggie football. It's easy, because we sat through them together. 

Steve was my Aggie basketball buddy. These games were generally much easier to sit through than  football. ;) The minute something happened in Aggie basketball (or Aggie athletics in general), we were texting each other. The majority of all photos Steve and I have together are sitting at an Aggie athletic event. 

Steve was my Glenn Beck buddy. We met him together.

Steve shared all his favorite books with me and even let me keep some of them.

Steve was my Aggie apparel go-to man. If there was ever a sale at the university bookstore, Steve would text/email immediately so I could buy all the cute things on sale!

If I ever had a car question, I asked Steve.

If I ever had a computer question, I asked Steve.

If I ever had a internet question, I asked Steve.

If I ever had a financial question, I asked Steve.

If something ever was broken, I asked Steve to fix it. And he would.

If I ever needed furniture moved, Steve was my go-to man {he helped me move four times in eight months last year alone}.

Steve was my prank buddy. He'd pull them on me. I'd pull them on him. I actually had one planned for him ... maybe one day when I join him in Heaven I can still do it.

Steve came to every cross country and track meet of mine in the valley throughout my entire high school and collegiate running career.

While at the races, he would always take photos because he knew I wanted them for my scrapbook.

Steve could recognize my running form from blocks away.  Seriously, one time he was in a car with his co-workers. They saw a runner over two blocks away and he said, "That's Mindy." And he was right.

Steve was my softball buddy. Planning company softball was sometimes, downright awful. The only reason I did it was for him ... to be able to play with him.

Steve diligently tried to get me married. For the last 14 years he has had someone in mind. Ha! He is probably the only person on the planet I'd let even touch this topic. :)

Steve was my favorite listener.

Steve let me vent to him about Calini. 

Steve knew what Calini is.

For the last 17 years I have received flowers on Valentine's Day, from Steve.

Steve always bought the best presents {flip-flops, Aggie gear, pink things}.

Before making any and every major decision in the last 17 years, I asked Steve.

Steve was my advice-giver on everything.

Steve taught me how to be more thoughtful and selfless.

Steve {along with Tiffy} taught me what a marriage should look like.

Steve taught me how my husband should treat me.

I trusted that man and his advice completely - entirely. No matter what it was on because he would do anything to make sure my life was easier, better, happier.

He was one of my closest confidants and friends.

I miss him with every breath of my heart.

And that is who my Shtev is.



I made Nephew Two pray over a lunch I made last week.

Heaven knows if I made it, it certainly would need a blessing on it.

At the end of the blessing he prayed, "And thank you for the time we had with my dad."

That is the son Steve & Tiffany raised. That is the boy who I have never been more proud and pleased to call my nephew.

And I had never been so grateful for the 17 years we had with Steve. And I have never been so grateful for all of eternity that we will continue to have with him. 


USU Football + Steve

Friday, October 3, 2014 was the day Steve was supposed to come home from the hospital. 

In a tragic, ironic twist, it ended up being the day we buried him.

Prior to his passing, our entire family was looking forward to that day for him returning home and because it was the day our Utah State Aggies would be playing BYU in football. We had all planned on watching it together that night when Steve came home.

Even though we said our final goodbyes to Steve that day instead of welcoming him home, and while the football game became quite minuscule compared to the earlier events of the day, we chose to still watch that game together.

 Honestly, we didn't have high hopes for our football team. BYU was ranked and we had just lost our all-star quarterback {the ever-so attractive Chuckie Keeton}. Even as the game began, BYU quickly scored and if I am being honest, I thought it was going to be reflection of how the entire game would go.

However, our Aggies sure proved me wrong! Even though USU football had not won in Provo, Utah since 1978 {read as when Steve was two-years-old!!}, we came out of that game with a win!

While I don't think God cares about football {and I really don't!}, I couldn't help but think it was somehow still a tender mercy for a grieving family to find a little bit of joy on such a difficult day.

Two days following the game, something amazing was brought to our attention.

Steve's friend, Mike Bair, is the equipment manager for USU athletics {he is the one who provided us with the AWESOME tour of the USU athletic facilities last summer}. He knew how big of a fan Steve was of USU football and prior to the game, he asked the USU head football coach, Matt Wells, if he could put Steve's initials on the game balls.

Coach Wells agreed. Each team brings six game balls to use throughout the game and on each and every game ball that USU brought to Provo, SPM, Steve's intials, were written. 

After the epic win, Mike Bair then asked Coach Wells if he could keep one of the game balls ... to give to Steve's sons. Coach Wells, yet again, agreed.

Steve's sons now own the game ball from the monumental win of Utah State against a ranked Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

And, not sure how my sister feels about this, but that football has found a permanent home in her living room! Ha!

Thank you for the love, Mike Bair, Matt Wells and Utah State University! We will always remember the game against BYU that Steve played a role in winning. :) 


Big Blue + Steve

If you follow me on Instagram and Facebook, you will know that Utah State played a huge role in celebrating the life of Steve after his passing. I am finally getting around to explaining all of that for those who were curious. 

Steve not only was a graduate of USU, but he worked there for 14 years in the IT System Administration Department {that's a bunch of technical jargon to say he did computer stuff}. :) Additionally, he was huge Aggie athletics fan {like myself and the rest of our family}.

Utah State Loves Steve first began when the University Inn on campus provided rooms free of charge to anyone coming into town to celebrate Steve's life at the viewing or funeral. This was due to Steve's employment there.

It continued at the viewing as Big Blue, the university's mascot made an appearance!

This was just a kind gesture from Big Blue and the USU Spirit Squad, as Big Blue is someone our family has built a fun relationship with over the past couple of years. For Big Blue to make public appearances, he has to get permission. So we are grateful that he wanted to come and we are grateful he was granted permission to come as well.

I am pretty sure Big Blue was hesitant to show up at an event that could be so somber, but it was perfect. I am sure Steve was just laughing. And it definitely brightened up the evening of Steve's boys and his nieces and nephews that were in attendance. I couldn't help but laugh myself! Thank you, Big Blue!!!

However, the love from USU would not end there, not even close ...


Sobering Snowfall

Last week, the first snowfall graced Logan, Utah with its presence. 

In all its annual and classic majestic beauty, it was an unexpected sobering experience.

After losing Steve, our lives and the lives around us kept moving forward. We went back to work, went back to school, days have come and gone, even a new month has been embraced. 

But that first snowfall ... I suppose it flooded over me as the first physical, natural indicator that this world is going on without Steve here, at least not physically. And... that aches, for that is a world I never wanted to live in or even imagined living in

But that has become our reality ... a reality that was manifested by that first snowfall, a reality that will likely manifest itself in a myriad of avenues as our lives sojourn without him physically by our side.



There is still much left to be spoken of losing Steve. I think there always will be.

There is still much left to be spoken of the grief of losing Steve. I think there always will be.

Wild Animal Park | December 2010
But today, today I want to talk about how in the midst of our darkest days, there still is joy.

Up to now, I have shared some of the most raw and gut-wrenching experiences. In fact, everything I have shared to this point, has covered a mere four days. The first four days.

Those days were dark. Those days were a blur. Those days, time just careened. Even though his death occurred six weeks ago, what you have received from me is just those first.four.days.

And before I go further into days five, six, seven or more ... I want to give you a glimpse of where I am now, a place where JOY IS FOUND.

Grief still cloaks almost every moment, every experience. But joy has a way of floating in like an early morning fog every now and again.

Joy comes in the knowledge that we WILL see our Steven again

Most of you probably know I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a member, it is our belief that families are forever and that as you pass from this life to the next, your loved ones are waiting for you. Since Steve's passing, my mind has conjured the most beautiful and divine image I can think of ... that one day, when I too pass, I will run to that man and hug him so tight!!!! I long for that day. Because Christ overcame the grave, so did our Steven and so will we.

Joy comes because I know Steve wants me to be happy

For the last 17 years, I have always felt Steve was one of my biggest fans. It didn't matter what I was doing, he was always, always there supporting me 110%. All he ever wanted for me was to be happy and he did everything in his power to contribute to that happiness. I have a feeling that now that he is gone, that is what he is still doing. And so for him, I will be happy.

Joy comes from the goodness of others

Our family will never be able to thank the countless individuals who said {and continue to say} prayers on our behalf, sent texts/emails/FB messages/phone calls, dropped by, made meals, donations given for my sister and her family, those who mowed the lawn, those who dropped off gifts or treats, those who helped clean up my sister's yard for the winter ... The list just goes on and on.

Last week Tiffany was at the grocery store and someone saw her at the checkout. He was a friend of Steve's and he quietly said, "Please let me buy your groceries today."

Constant.experiences. of people expressing their kindness, love and support ... thank you just isn't enough. Our gratitude has no end.

A part of me went to Heaven that day with Steven ... 

And something is telling me there will always be a profound void, emptiness and ache. But, make no mistake about it ... we still find joy, just as Steve would want us to. 


I know that Steve would want me to be blogging about anything other than him. :) I know he wants me to be blogging about my old, regular, pointless things. :) And I will. I just want to get some particular experiences here first while they are so close to my heart. And then ... then I will find a way to blog the way he always wanted me to. :)


Beauty in the darkness

There is something about making the place of your loved one's body beautiful that just provides some solace to a broken heart and soul.

These were the first items to be placed by where Steve's body is placed, perfectly fitting for October and November. I couldn't love it more; Tiffany made it perfect. It gave a little heart to his body's temporary home. 


Friday, October 3, 2014

There are no words ...



Our deepest gratitude to Cali Stoddard for her friendship and her amazing talents in the beautiful photography.
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