Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

A hurricane visit threatened a few times in North Carolina, but one finally found us here in Connecticut. To be honest we were fairly lucky, we didn't get a ton of rain and so we were saved from any flooding. The wind was strong and crazy and after six hours of surviving it's wrath, the power flickered a few times and went out for good for six days. My poor parents picked an exciting or rather boring time to come and visit us. But they got to experience their first hurricane so I guess they'll always have that. I don't think any of us expected their trip to be a camping trip, but that's what they got. No showers, cooking over a tiny camping stove and reading by flashlight and lantern. The storm also had poor timing as far as effectively trapping us in right after my uncle passed away. We made flights out soon after we heard, but they were subsequently cancelled. Russ was a saint and watched all the children, plus worked from home, when my parents and I finally flew out four days after the storm hit. We weren't sure we were going to get off the tarmac, after sitting on it for two hours, but I think all of us practically melted in relief when we left the hurricane mess behind us.

The morning after the storm we were greeted with a couple of small trees that fell over in our yard and two huge trees, that fell in just the right way, a couple of houses down the street. I was amazed how so many people were so blessed that trees and debris fell in just the right way.

Last Saturday Russ let me be the one to go and help with some apartments that had flooded in South Norwalk. It was a Stake service project with the new Mormon Helping Hands campaign. I loved being able to get out and do some good work that seemed to be appreciated and was very much needed.

Tree Blocking Our Street

Downed Power Line

Tree Slingshot
Another Look at the Tree Blocking Our Street

Top of the Power Lines Hammocking in Other Power Lines
Additional Huge Pine Across the Street from the one in Earlier Pictures

Friday, November 9, 2012

Kim Taylor Stewart

My uncle passed away two weeks ago. He was so young and he was such a big part of my life. I've never had someone pass away unexpectedly, especially not someone whom I considered a second father. Growing up my family and his family would see each other at least four times a year, even though they lived in Washington and we lived in Utah. We would meet each other at a beach house in Capistrano and invade Disneyland, the beach, San Diego and Magic Mountain every year, in the spring. He was always there at Christmas and Independence Day. So many of our vacations were coupled with his. He let me come and spend weeks at his home in the summer. We camped together and hiked up Timpanogos and across Southern Utah. My Dad and he would talk every Sunday night and I always looked forward to his calls. I loved answering when he called, because I got to sneak in a chance to talk to him and find out when we'd get to see him and his kids next. If I didn't get to talk to him, I would shamelessly listen into their conversation to see when we'd be getting together. Every time he left, I'd ask when he was coming down again. He always laughed and I know he must have been slightly weary with how insistent I was, but it was that important to me.

 I loved being able to talk to him about everything. He is such a wise, careful, intelligent person who thought things out thoroughly and at length. I valued his opinion on everything from school, cameras, traveling and life. He had such a quick, dry wit and loved to tease. He was incredible with kids. I used to love having my uncles play and chase me and he always made me feel so important, special and loved. Watching him play with my kids and knowing how much they loved him, allowed me to go back to my own childhood all over again. Genevieve and Hannah will miss him so much. He was so smart. I swear he knew everything. When we would play Trivial Pursuit I'd always laugh and say, "We just pretend to play and instead we just watch you and Dad play."

He took the most beautiful pictures. I always loved getting his daily picture email that he would send to the family. I was able to put together the slideshow for his memorial and I will be forever grateful for all of the gorgeous pictures he took and all of the wonderful memories that will live on because of those pictures. Even in pictures where he was only behind the camera, the picture said so much about him. He loved his family fiercely and his greatest joy seemed to be when he was with them. He was incredibly loyal and would do anything for his family and forgave over and over again. He was very good with money and extremely humble. He lived in a very modest home which housed a few well-made creature comforts, but the majority of his money was carefully saved and spent on his family. After he passed away, a concerned neighbor asked Matt if he was going to be alright financially and if he'd loose the house he was living in with his dad. Kim had had that house paid off forever ago, but of course he was so quiet and unassuming, no one would know that.

I also learned at his memorial that he was an incredible dentist to the Native American people in the Okanogan area of Washington. Many patients expressed that he was the best dentist they had ever had. His co-workers, friends and patients also spoke of the kind, sweet man he was and how they never heard him say a bad word about anyone.

He helped me pick out my first camcorder, plan my adventure across Europe, introduced me to Costco, Rick Steve's and my forever obsession with all things Costco, the best traveling websites, Cananda and camping, Nakusp, Diana Krall, Dick's and White Elephant. He was such a good cook Everything I ever had that he made tasted divine. Who knew Asparagus could taste so good?  I loved knowing that he read my blog and he would occasionally tell me how much he enjoyed reading it. I hope he can still read it now.

I will miss our good talks, his wheezing laugh, his happy hiking steps, dollar movies, camping under the stars, his quiet little snore, his advice, eating good food together, traveling with the best traveling partner, Costco trips, playing board and card games, cruises, watching him read a book with his narrow reading glasses, listening to my dad and him tell stories of growing up, watching how giddy and happy my dad and he would be when they got together, seeing the roses he'd bring my Nana and watching him be the proudest best dad to his two awesome kids.

I know that everyone always says after a loss how grateful they are to know that life continues on after this one is over and that we can be with our family forever. The reason they all say these things is because they feel it now more than ever. I know that I will see him again. I feel that more strongly than I ever have. And I'm more grateful for that knowledge and for our Savior Jesus Christ, because the pain of losing someone is raw, real and terrible. The separation feels unbearable and long, but because of His sacrifice the loss and pain isn't forever. God is SO good! But man, is this life ever hard.