Friday, December 30, 2016

32nd birthday and 1st birthday

Yesterday (the 29th) was Tony's 32nd birthday and Amelia's 1st birthday. Christmas was a few days ago and tomorrow is New Year's Eve. Today also marks four weeks since Tony has passed away.

When Amelia was born at 1am on Tony's birthday last year, I knew it was because Tony wasn't going to be here on Earth physically for all the birthdays they would share in the future. This was for Amelia's sake so that as she grows she will have a special connection with her dad even if she can't remember anything about him. It also was a blessing for my family that they share a birthday; it made a day that could be difficult turned into a day where we learn to lay aside our sorrows and celebrate our sweet baby girl and her daddy!

Several people have been wanting to know how we have been doing this last month, especially recently as we have celebrated a few major holidays. As for my kids, they are doing as well as can be expected. One child has a breakdown each day, and each in their own ways, about missing their Daddy. It's interesting to see how their coping is as different as their personalities. I have one child who is trying to be a mirror-image of his father, who constantly talks about Tony and asks questions about him, while I have another who just flat out breaks down in tears completely unexpectedly. And there is a whole spectrum of coping in between that. Sweet little Sophie (4) hasn't said much about Tony passing but the day after Christmas she really struggled. As I was putting her to bed that night, she shyly ran up to me with her new toy, very upset and cried, "Daddy doesn't know that I got this for Christmas!" and then began to cry for the first time since his passing. It's like her little heart couldn't hold it in any longer.

The tender mercy of being around grieving children is that they are so loving and resilient. Yes, they're learning to cope and we have challenges that arise because of that, but it gives us (me with each child one-on-one) more opportunities to sit and hug and learn and share together. I'm glad I have them and it's more than they will ever know because they are what keep me moving forward and bring so much life to each day. They are the reason that we had a nice Christmas; their excited faces and wonder-filled eyes kept me pushing on, giving me something to look forward to as a mother.

When I'm asked how I am really doing, I'm not sure how to put into words my emotions. It's as if I am still in denial about Tony's death, even though I know it happened. During the day one of my kids will say something cute, or I look at a picture from years ago, and I think to myself "I can't wait for Tony to be home today so I can show/ tell him about this story!" And then I have to remind myself that I can't physically talk with him about that... Or about little frustrations I have... Or about upcoming plans to make... Or to just cuddle on the couch at night. I know it can't happen yet my mind still thinks he is coming home. Once in awhile (mainly at night when it's quiet and the kids are all sleeping) it will hit me that Tony is gone and the feeling only stays for a few minutes. I'm told this is a normal part of the grieving process and to enjoy staying here until the punch-in-the-stomach comes. So I will be grateful that the Lord is helping me through this process, and that He will help me through he next stages when He knows I am ready. All I can do is just keep trusting in Him and I know it will all work out.

A real difficulty I have been experiencing lately is not feeling Tony with me. I've always thought that when someone you love passes away that you will feel them close at many times, maybe not constantly but at times you need it. Now I do feel a calm rush of peace flow over my body when the waves of grief hit me and I am grateful for the Spirit's constant reassurance and companionship. But I don't feel Tony near and I keep blaming myself that I am distracting myself too much (work can do wonders for a grieving heart, so I've been doing a few projects here and there to pass the time at night). A few nights ago I was laying in bed, crying because I couldn't feel him and it has felt like so long ago that Tony died, so much that I ached to know he was close. I prayed and prayed for help to feel him near but I felt nothing. I went to sleep hoping for an answer soon.

Tonight I had a stranger teach me just what I needed to know and it really was an answer to my prayer. Her husband had passed away from brain cancer and had paralysis on one side of his body, just like Tony. When he was alive this woman used to hold her husband's paralyzed hand to which he would reply in a small frustration, "I can't feel you holding my hand and I desparetly wish I could." Her response was simple, "I know you can't feel me but I promise I am here and will stay here." After her husband passed away, she experienced the same frustrations of not feeling him near. She then remembered the hand holding story and how her husband needed to trust that she was there for him. Now it was her turn to trust that he was there for her, even if that meant she couldn't feel him near. What a beautiful example of faith and trust!

I may not feel Tony close to us right now but I know he is. Trust and faith is a constant learning process and we can't take even one day off from trying. I need to do the same with my own emotions and worries and desires: to lay my burdens at His feet and allow Him to carry me when He knows I need it. That's a beautiful and powerful part of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and when we apply this love to our life, it can heal us so much.

Lily (5) jumped in my arms tonight before bed and gave me a huge hug with one arm around my neck and her other arm clenching onto "Daddy's blanket." She kissed my cheek with her warm wet lips and (almost shouting!) exclaimed to me, "Now I can have a hug from Mommy and Daddy at the same time! Daddy is always with me!"

Yet another answer. Keep believing and keep trusting and God will take care of us.

Monday, December 12, 2016

It's gonna be okay

My children and I cannot begin to express our thanks to everyone who has been so kind to us this past year, and especially the last month. Generous love and kind words have warmed my heart and helped me to know that "It's gonna be okay." In time, I will try to thank everyone personally as things settle down but for now, please know how grateful I am to you. Tony's service was beautiful and the Spirit was very strong. I'm sure Tony was very pleased and wants you to know how much he loves you each individually, just as I do!

Many people have asked how our kiddies are handling the past 10 days. I'm amazed how much Heavenly Father sends His love to comfort them. They each have moments where they break down and sob in my arms but are still able to remain happy, loving kids. They even put on a dance performance last night and exclaimed, "I'm sure Dad loves watching this!" He did.

Losing Tony right before Christmas has its challenge that we will have our first holiday, and our favorite holiday, without his physical presence. But I am also so thankful for the season, that my kids are excited and feel the Christmas spirit even with grief in our lives. We have much to look forward to and I am grateful that Tony was able to Christmas shop with me (thank you, Amazon!) before he passed.

This song by the Piano Guys is very fitting for how I feel. Hope you enjoy watching! Also, I've attached the words I shared at Tony's funeral for those who wanted to read them.

I love you all!

There may be many of you today who are wondering why I chose to speak, I sit here myself asking why as well. Before Tony’s passing, he mentioned that he would love to have me speak at his service if he was to leave this world, and that he wanted me to talk on eternal life, and continue to share his testimony along with mine. In order to keep my best composure, I have decided to write these things out in hopes that the Spirit has guided me in best relaying what our Father in Heaven needs us to hear, and what Tony and I have learned through our trials and experiences.
The great Plan of Happiness truly is as its name proclaims: a perfect plan for us to obtain true happiness, or as I refer to as joy. Our spirits, begotten of our Heavenly parents, needed to come to mortality to receive a physical body, a family, and experiences for us to strengthen our desires for good. After passing through these things, we have the opportunity to obtain eternal life with our Creator and our Savior. There is no greater happiness or joy than in our relationship with them, for this truly is the Plan of Happiness. God knows the best and only way to give us a fullness of joy and He has provided a way for us to obtain that. As we read in Proverbs 3:5-6 we need to, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.”
All of us here today are still being tried and tested but it is not in vain, it is God’s perfect way! Only He knows what we must undergo in order to become as He is, and this plan is unique and individualized for every single child He has. Holding onto our faith, which stems from the trust we have in Him, I promise that we can all become perfected, even so that we can dwell with our Father again.  Because God sent His Son to atone for our sins and to break the bonds of physical death, we can rely on Jesus Christ to help us every step of the way.
I know this to be true because of the experiences I have had with Tony, and for the experiences I have already had this past week. With such difficult circumstances we faced, and will continue to face, there is only one way the Lord has provided a way to feel peace; that is through trusting Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Lay your burdens at their feet and live to the best you can; I promise you will see the daily miracles in your life that will begin to change your heart and fill your soul with lasting peace and happiness. God did not intend for this mortal journey to be only filled with torment and sorrows, His intent is for us to experience these things so that we can turn to Him to find and know with a surety that He loves us and will provide a way. Our Savior can heal all wounds, even the wound of my heart missing my Tony. Mosiah 14:4 reads “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…” Tony knows this to be true and so do I, without a doubt in my mind.
Because of our Savior, He not only heals our hearts and helps us find solace for our grief and worries, but He has also made it possible for us to be together again. “…God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (as we find in John 5:11).  One day, Tony’s spirit and his body will be reunited, perfected and free of any disease! He will run to our children and throw them in the air with both his arms, something he was unable to do in this life for the past eight years. And the joy does not stop there. Hand in hand, we will kneel at our Savior’s feet and thank Him for eternity, for giving us the beautiful gift of eternal life with Him and with those whom we love so dearly.
I thank my Elder Brother for helping bear the burden of the sorrows I have in this life. He has lifted my chin up so that I can look heavenward and recognize all the miracles around me.  He gives me the strength to look toward a new day and to press onward, with an increased faith in Heavenly Father. I know He will direct me in this life exactly as I need, so that I can reunited with Tony, never again to be separated. The Atonement has and will continue to strengthen and heal us, and will miraculously break the bonds of death for us all. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love us, and if we turn to them, they will always be there every step we take in our journey back to them.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Simple truths and the obituary

A good friend of Tony's shared a few thoughts with me since Tony's passing.

"Thanks to Jesus, death is a comma and not a period" (Elder Maxwell) as well as, "In order to take the mourning out of death is to take love out of life."

I thought both of these thoughts were fitting for how I have felt over the past six days. Even with all the planning that goes into a funeral, life has slowed down a bit and I've had many more quiet moments to reflect and pray.

Losing Tony temporarily in this life has been the most difficult thing I have experienced so far. And as everyone who has lost someone close due to a terminal disease has told me, even with the time you have to "prepare" and come to peace and acceptance about it, there is no way to be fully prepared for it. That is most definitely true.

I'll have time in the months to come to really dig down deep and share all the thoughts zooming through my head. But these two are some of the most important that I have continued to learn this past week:

-Because of Jesus Christ, and only because of Him, death is a comma. Without Heavenly Father's Plan of Happiness and the Atonement of Christ, we would all die and cease to exist. This life would be in vain and would have no true purpose. I know without a single doubt in my mind that Tony and I will be reunited together again as one, with our precious children and all the family we love so dearly. Even though Tony is no longer here with me physically, I will forever remain his wife and he will always be my husband, and together we will raise our children in light and truth. The gratitude I have for my Savior has increased exponentially as I recognize the hole in my heart and know that it will be pieced together again through the Atonement and the Resurrection. And how great our joy will be as Tony and I can walk hand in hand again one day and kneel at the feet of our Savior and weep with tears of gratitude. All the pain and heartache will be worth its cost, and Christ will bare more than His share for me in the many years to come. We are all so loved.

-Grief is essential to our spirits, just as much as love is. There have been moments where the grief seems unbearable, where I want to cry out in pain as I feel my chest collapsing in sorrow. That's how it feels to me, and I hate when it comes crashing in. But I am thankful for this deep emotion as it's a reminder of how deeply I love Tony, how full and enriching our marriage is, how we were really able to connect "as one" over the past decade. I would do it all over again a thousand times to be with him forever. I will welcome the grief to continue to have all this love. We will be together again, and until then, I never want to forget how Tony makes me feel as a wife, mother, and above all, a daughter of God.

Thank you to everyone who continues to reach out to my family and me. I'm overwhelmed and grateful for all the love and support, and within time, hope to respond to all the beautiful and comforting words that have been written to me. Sometimes there are no words and a hug can make all the difference. Thank you.

Here is Tony's obituary for those who are interested in information about his services this weekend:

Daryl Anthony Means, also known as Tony, age 31, of Orem, passed away on December 2, 2016 (glioblastoma brain cancer). He was born December 29, 1984, in Orem, Utah to Daryl Von Means and Sharese Thompson Means. Tony married his eternal companion, Erica Alyse Kendall Means on June 8, 2007 in the Nauvoo LDS Temple.

Tony completed his bachelor’s degree at Brigham Young University in health education and pursued a career teaching seminary for the LDS church at Orem High from 2012-2016. His passion for the gospel, his Savior and his students impacted hundreds of lives while teaching. Movies, music, camping, and anything Scottish filled his time but above all, spending his days with his family was his favorite pastime. Being a husband and father was his top priority in all he did.

Tony is survived by his wife (Erica Means) and children (Daryl Landon, Emma Alyse, Lily Kendall, Sophie Mae, Tanner Fielding, Amelia Rose, and soon to join the family, Caleb Anthony); by his father (Daryl Von Means); his sister (Lindsey Rebecca Means); his brother (Andrew Warner Means). He was proceeded in death by his mother (Sharese Thompson Means).

Funeral services will be held Saturday, December 10, 2016 at 11 a.m. in the Northridge Stake Chapel, 1660 N 200 W, Orem, Utah. A viewing for friends and family will be held Friday evening from 6 to 8 p.m. at the church as well as Saturday morning from 9-10:30 a.m. Burial will be in the Orem City Cemetery. In lieu of flowers you may donate to Huntsman Cancer Institute’s elephant and cancer research at and indicate the gift is for Dr. Schiffman’s lab in the notes section of the online donation form.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Peaceful sleep

My dear Tony passed away last night. It was peaceful, sweet, and quiet with no struggle or pain. I laid next to him in his bed for an hour before the funeral home came to take and protect his body for us. I will miss stroking his hair, rubbing his ears, holding his hands, and kissing his perfect lips, among so many other things that I hold so dear and sacred. We have a beautiful and enriching marriage together, and were blessed with seven wonderful and special children. They are all doing okay and we will make it through slowly, one step and tear at a time. Families really are forever and Tony will be waiting for us, helping guide us each day.

I'm in too much pain to write more and I can't see the screen. I'll post further arrangements once I have them planned. Today, give someone a compliment just as Tony does. Find someone who is downtrodden and lift them up.

I love you, Tony. Please keep my heart safe until we are together again.