Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Carnival of Life

When I was fifteen, my stake put on an elaborate carnival of life in the cultural hall during Youth Conference.  

I was bright back then (probably because I didn't have children) and I figured out the gig rather quickly--the booths where you read scriptures and sang hymns landed you a penthouse on the top floor of Heaven, but if the booth involved music, caffeinated soda or crunchy Cheetos you could bet your bottom dollar you were on the fast track to Helk. 

It was a grand object lesson, which included lots of dry ice, disco balls and black lights, (as all grand object lessons did in the early eighties) and I decided to take a walk on the wild side first and get my tokens later!

You think you know where this is going, huh?  Well that actually wasn't an important detail so keep paying attention. 

Not even halfway through the carnival I was kidnapped.  By a stake leader.  Dressed in black. He took me to the dark and dreary cloak room at the front of the church and told me I wasn't allowed to speak to all the other poor souls who had been dragged away from the Cheetos. 

"I am the grim reaper," he said,  "and you . . . are dead."  


"But I don't want to be dead," I told him. 

"Too bad! You're dead," he told me. "Now sit down and shut your trap until this life is over."  

I was fuming.  And I wasn't about to stay dead.  I mean, what a waste of dry ice and disco balls!
While all the other dead people were sitting submissively in the dark waiting for judgement day, I busted out of spirit prison to find my friends. 

In fact I busted out of spirit prison several times to find my friends.  The poor grim reaper.  He was just trying to do his job, but I felt such an urgency to tell my friends what had happened to me and what was going down on the other side of the cloak room.  I ratted out the GR and warned my friends to stay away from the Cheetos as security chased me down time and time again and returned me to the holding tank.

Dying was the best thing that happened to me that night. 

Maybe because I wasn't ready to be silenced or maybe because I didn't get to tell anyone I was leaving, but the whole experience left a lasting impression.  

Mostly it convinced me that I am not a happy dead person and that I literally will die if I can't pipe my thoughts to the world.  

Believe me when I say as Gad as my witness, death cannot stop me from blogging my brains out. 


Just think of all the good writing material I'll have in Heaven, (especially if the whole state of Utah makes it in).  I'll change my blog title to Postcards from the Edge of the Other Side of the Cloak Room and I'll be more pop-U-lar than Glinda and the Pioneer Woman put together.

But seriously, it made me wonder if our dead loved ones feel that same sense of urgency to talk to us and tell us they miss us as much as we miss them.  Or tell us they are sorry for not taking John Mayer's advice and saying what they needed to say.  Or just tell us what's going on the other side of the cloak room?  

Four years ago, a friend, and popular ocean photographer/artist, Jon Mozo died tragically just before Valentines Day after sustaining head injuries while photographing waves at Pipeline.

At the time my daughter's choir group was raising money by selling singing telegrams and sugar cookies for V-day.  I was helping decorate the cookies with some of the other moms when we discovered that Jon had ordered a Valentine cookie/singing telegram to be delivered to his wife, Nikki that day. 

There, on a heart shaped love note, written in his own script, were sweet words of love and appreciation for his wife.   

We all had sweaty eyes that day.

What would it be like to lose your spouse and then a few days later receive a love note from him?

Nikki also found a note in his car a week later and then still later she found another note scribbled on card stock attached to a photo of Jon surfing at the break that took his life.  The note said: 

If I die today — it's fine. I've lived a good and full life. The ocean has given me so much. One day it will need to take and I will give. I have love for you all — very much so. I will always be watching over. 

Kia kaha (Be strong).

*Insert moment of haunting silence here.

I promise I won't talk about death tomorrow.  Tomorrow I'm going to tell you a heelarious story about laughing yoga. You won't want to miss it, believe me.

But since we're on the subject, can I talk about death just a little bit more?  

I don't think about death much, actually, but I'm not afraid to think about it.  And after this weekend I think I probably should think about it more. 

One of my favorite authors, Tim O'Brien, says: You're never more alive than when you're almost dead.  

In other words, when you come face to face with your mortality you can't help but carpe diem!

I once read a book called Living With the End in Mind by Erin Kramp.  She battled breast cancer for five years before she died on Halloween in 1998.  To prepare for death she decided to live.  But to live with the end in mind.  She wrote this book as a practical checklist for living life to the fullest because she says that by embracing your own mortality you live a more purposeful, peaceful and joyful life.  

The only thing I remember about the book was that Erin started making video tapes of herself talking to her children.  In the tapes she told them stories and gave them advice about boys and friends and growing up. She made tapes for them to watch on their birthdays and on Christmas and for their first dates, graduations, weddings, etc. 

How cool would that be to get to beam your loved ones back to you at the touch of a button!  

I think I'm going to go read that book again (after I bake another pie).

Oh, did you want a closing thought? 

May we each learn to seize the day (in case it's our last) and may we convince the grim reaper to let us send post cards from the edge of the other side of the cloak room.



Barbaloot said...

What a neat thing for this kids to have videos of their mom as they grow up. I hope I'm never faced with something like that, but if I am, I would definitely want to do the same.

Sandi said...

Ohhh I so remember the carnival of life! I can just see those leaders being so ticked off at you for running off and trying to be un-dead! haha. little did they know that you actually learned a great lesson that night :) They probably wanted to really make you dead for reals.
Nice post- been absent for a few days and just caught up and it has been sad around here- but in a good way if that makes sense.
LOVE LOVE LOVE the Jon Mozo photos!

The World As I See It said...

I was really moved by what you said! It made me really think about death and how I need to live each day and not worry about tomorrow or the past. Thank you for sharing!

springrose said...

I think the Carnival of Life was a huge 80's and 90's thing. Our ward did it to. I thought it was fun. But I didn't try to break out of spirit prison. I was to shy back then!
My mother in-law died from ovarian cancer before I ever met her. Our first thanksgiving we spent with her mother and sister and all of my husbands family. Her sister gave me hand stitched towls she had never used and had kept for over 30 years. I felt like I wasn't being accepted by my new family. Receiving those felt like a gift from my mother in law I had never met face to face, but I felt like I met her that day in spirit! I have had those types of experiences many times with her over the years. I think we can send "letters" from the "other side"! I am blessed by her letters!
Thanks for a great reminder, we all need to hear about our mortality once in a while!

T said...

enough eye slobber already - okay, so that was incredibly moving and the photos were beautiful! thanks!

Tiffany said...

Thanks for sharing this. You make me laugh and cry! :)

The Garden of Egan said...

Thank you for sharing that. I have sweaty eyes right now.

DeNae said...

I've had lots of opportunities to think about death and unfinished business the last month or so. This was a great post.

Melanie J said...

I hated that Carnival of Life.

Your blog the last few days has given me sweaty eyeballs. But that's not a bad thing.

val of the south said...

I too figured out the whole Carnival of Life thing and cheated my way into the Celestial Kingdom...what does that say about me?

CaJoh said...

Carnival of Live… what an amazing concept. I never heard of that before. It makes me wonder how they determine who will be kidnapped.

I think you are one of those people who have always lived life to the fullest. Just don't go changing the name of the blog without telling us first… we may think that GR kidnapped you again.

Mary said...

Interesting how the most poignant living moments in our lives, are often associated with death.

nevadanista said...

Well... so I just caught up on your last three posts and now I'm crying... but in a good way... and a sad way too. But of course this isn't the first time you've made me cry, and I'm pretty sure it won't be the last. LY

April said...

I never heard about the Carnival of Life...darn Canadians! I figured out my own carny ways...and I have decided to do it my way. It's more fun this way. Thanks for the sweaty (eye)balls. I can't handle so much soberness. I have issues. :)

Monica said...

Wow Crash every time I read a blog post of yours I find you and I have a lot in common. We knew Jon as well. Our family owns the wedding shows in Hawaii and Jon was a client and friend of the family for many years. We were very saddened when we found out he died. I didn't know about the notes to his wife though. That was very touching, beautiful post.

Emily Anne Leyland ( Art-n-Sewl) said...

Awesome post. I have chicken skin!!

I am LoW said...

I did not cry, or even come close. Cause crying is for babies. ;-)

Great post. (as always!)

But who's Glinda?