The Molecules of Eternity

Time is a slippery thing. Sometimes it feels like I magically slip into the spaces of silence that exist in between the beats of real time, but inevitably I always fall back into sync with reality. Last Wednesday was just one of those days. Work was really slow and I slipped in and out a few times – remembering last Summer. Remembering Grandma Karrie.

Last Summer,  I was the pre-toddler  camp counselor at Woods Creek Montessori in Lexington, Virginia. I thought I had it hard with those squirmy little ones, but it amazes me how much I miss them. JJ and I used to live in the basement apartment of my sister in law’s house and we babysat our nephews and niece pretty regularly, so between Montessori, babysitting, and church, I sometimes felt like my whole life was washing sticky little fingers and helping little people balance on the potty.

Exactly one year ago on Wednesday, I remember being at work and getting the kids ready for nap time. I was doing the lunch dishes, when I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. My hands were soapy, but I didn’t have to look to know what it said. I somehow immediately knew that Grandma had passed. I had struggled to grasp the harsh reality of bone marrow cancer all Summer, but at that moment, surrounded by pre-nap time chaos, with little Foster tugging on my pant leg and soapy dishes in my hands, I felt peace. I knew Grandma was no longer in pain.

Earlier that week, I remember feeling so helpless and sad that I impulsively went on a run in spite of the ominous dark sky.  About a half a mile in, it sprinkled for a few seconds and then the sky split in half and dumped an ocean of rain in my path. Oh Virginia. I took refuge on a bench under a huge tree near Waddell Elementary school. Completely soaked to the bone, I laid on my back and cried. Rather than shelter me from the storm, the tree’s leaves just quivered and sobbed with me.

In preparing for a Sunday School lesson on adversity last week, I was reading in The Truth, The Way, The Life by BH Roberts. In a section called The Problem of Evil, he refers to John Fiske’s great treatise on the “Mystery of Evil” (1899).  Sometimes you think you understand a concept your whole life until someone explains it to you or writes it so eloquently that you realize you never truly understood that concept until you read their words. I have always understood that “there must needs be opposition in all things”, but I loved this explanation of the existence of evil:

 “It is an undeniable fact that we cannot know anything whatever, except as contrasted with something else. The contrast may be bold and sharp, or it may dwindle into a slight discrimination, but it must be there. If the figures on your canvas are indistinguishable from the background, there is surely no picture to be seen. Some element of unlikeness, some germ of antagonism, some chance for discrimination is essential to every act of knowing. It is not a superficial but a fundamental truth, that if there were no color but red it would be exactly the same thing as if there were no color at all…

And in just the same way it follows that, without knowing that which is morally evil, we could not possibly recognize that which is morally good. Of these antagonistic correlatives, the one is unthinkable in the absence of the other. In a sinless and painless world, human conduct might possess more outward marks of perfection than any saint ever dreamed of; but the moral element would be lacking; the goodness would have no significance in our conscious life…

We do not find that evil has been interpolated into the universe from without; we find that, on the contrary, it is an indispensable part of the dramatic whole.”

God didn’t create evil. Evil is an eternal thing and as such, we cannot comprehend it. Elder Holland says that if you pour oil into a finite vessel, it’s not the oil’s fault if the vessel cannot hold it all. I have no idea why cancer exists, but I know that when my grandma passed, she didn’t simply cease to exist. Her spirit is still very much alive.

When I was little I remember my Grandma explaining to me that one way she knew God loved us was the fact that He gave us such a variety of delicious foods to eat. He could have just given us wheat and water, but the world is full of thousands of tastes, textures, and colors. She said every time you taste something delicious, that’s God’s way of saying, “I love you.”

The last project she worked on before the cancer really set in was a wedding gift for me – a quilt with my wedding colors that she and my aunt Kolleen stitched for me and a book of hand written recipes color coded according to types of food and days of the week. I remember the day I got it in the mail in Virginia. I made chicken enchiladas that night and JJ said it was the best thing I had ever made. (Soon after I discovered that I could add cream cheese to just about anything and I would get that same reaction out of him.)

In the back of the recipe book was a little drawing that I assumed one of my younger cousins had drawn. However, upon reading the letter she included with the book, I found out that the drawing was mine from when I was little. I’d been helping her cook dinner one night and drew this picture for her. She kept it all these years.

I have so many memories of playing at Grandma Karrie’s house growing up. I never had to knock to go in her front door. There were always cousins and food everywhere. Sliding down the stairs in sleeping bags, playing “orphans” down by the creek. (Why do all little kids think this is fun?) Riding four wheelers, playing hide and seek in the cornfield, swimming at Millsite Reservoir, getting ice cream from the Grub Box, and running through sprinklers. Sometimes I got to stay at her house on a school night and she would french braid my hair before school the next morning. It was always a party at Grandma’s house. And every grandkid thought they were her favorite.

Every Summer, we would have the “Grandchildren Party” which was no ordinary party, I’ll have you know. This was the best party of the entire Summer! It was what every grandkid looked forward to all year.

 We camped out in Grandma’s front yard…

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Went on pony rides…

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Made T-shirts…

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Went to Millsite…

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Cracked open pinatas (usually in sombreros)…

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And set off our own fireworks on the desert

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I remember one summer, Jordy, Grandma, Uncle Merril, and I went on a horseback ride on the mountain and then cooked tin foil dinners over a fire.

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Neal A Maxwell said, “Moments are the molecules that make up eternity.” Here’s some snapshots of moments I always want to remember:

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Grandma, Grandpa, and all my mom’s siblings (Summer of 2009)

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Candid shot of Grandma at Jessi’s wedding (2010)

Baby Britt and Grandma Behling

My baby blessing (1990)

Brittany and Grandma Behling

Me and Grandma (Around 1992)

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Cousins at Millsite (Around 1997)

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Grandma and Grandpa’s first visit to Virginia (2002)

Mathew, Britt, Kirsten and Jessi

Cousins on the mountain

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My family at Grandma’s funeral (2012)

In a letter she wrote me before she passed, Grandma said, ” You can know that I’ll be close by on your days of sorrow and your days of happiness.” I never heard my Grandma say an unkind word her entire life. I am so grateful for the time I got to spend with her on this earth and for the powerful example she has always been to me. She was the most loving and generous person I have ever known and I look forward to the day I get to hug her again.

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