Saturday, August 31, 2013

Eric Anderson

It's obvious I fell off the bandwagon on my New Years Resolution of writing monthly gratitude letters.

Tonight, I'm picking that resolution back up, to honor the most amazing man I have ever had the pleasure to call a friend.

Eric Anderson and I met my second year at USU. He lived next door to me, and we became inseparable friends from the very beginning.

Eric died on the first day of classes this semester, while riding his bike on campus.

I had no idea this had happened. When I got to class Tuesday morning, we briefly talked about the accident up at USU, where a guy ran into a rope while riding his bike down a hill and it killed him. Being nursing students, we talked about the physiological means to dying on impact, and we emptily voiced our hopes that the family was alright.

I can still remember the absolute anguish I felt when my old roommate, Brianna, called me and told me that the nameless boy who died the day before was Eric. The first second I was frozen in shock. I had just seen him post a witty quote on Facebook just a few days before. He had just liked my new profile picture on Sunday. Then, it sunk in, and I fell to the floor. In reality, I slid down the side of a row of lockers and crammed myself into a small space between the lockers and the wall. All I remember was the loud sob that escaped my lungs, while Brianna sat on the phone saying nothing. I hung up with her in-between sobs, and I tucked my head to my knees and cried.

Of course, practically everyone in the nursing program saw this happen in the hallway, because we were all on a quick break to stretch our legs. Immediately my professor was crouched on the ground next to me, asking what had happened. I managed to croak out that the boy we had been talking about just hours ago was my dearest, closest friend. I was ushered to my feet, my bags magically appeared in my hands, and my program director escorted me to the grief councilor on campus. I'm sure he meant well, but he did nothing to calm the pain inside my heart. I eventually got myself home to my empty apartment, and I cried harder and harder as memory after memory of Eric floated through my mind.

His funeral was today. It was beautiful and peaceful and healing. The Eric that I knew and loved looked nothing like the Eric lying in the casket, but his old dingy trumpet lay across his lap and I completely lost my composure when I saw it. Eric and his marching band trumpet. He had so many adventures with that old thing; it felt so right to see him lying there with it in his hands. I have never been to a funeral that had as much laughter as Eric's did. He was such a wonderful, funny guy. It was impossible to see him and not smile. He was my daily dose of laughter. His family was wonderful, and they immediately recognized me from a picture Eric and I had just taken in July, before my trip to Australia. They lovingly called me Eric's Ice Cream Friend, and it made my heart soar.

I tell this next part of the story with solemnity and seriousness. This part is sacred and special to me, and it has been integral to my healing process. Eric's father spoke during the funeral, and he said that Eric was likely going around to each person in the room and giving them a hug from Heaven. I thought it was an accurate and beautiful idea which fit Eric perfectly. He continued speaking, and a few minutes later, I closed my eyes and lowered my head. Upon closing my eyes, I saw Eric crouched in front of me, wearing all white, with a beautiful, kind and reassuring smile on his face. He looked me in the eyes, and placed a hand on my knee. I opened my eyes to stare into the space where I had just seen him, and an overwhelming peace settled on my heart. It was his way of telling me he was safe and happy in Heaven.

So, Eric, here is my gratitude letter to you, because I want you to know how much you meant to me.

Dear Eric,

My life has been made infinitely better by having you in it. I am truly lucky to have known you, and to have had a special place in your heart. How can I express all the love I have for you? I truly don't think it is possible, but I take comfort in knowing that with your new vantage point in Heaven, you can clearly see for yourself how much I cared for you. All my memories of you are incredibly important to me, now that you have moved on to the next part of your life. I will miss your humor, and all your witty posts on Facebook. I will miss you 'liking' my pictures, and calling me your wife. My heart aches when I think of the rest of my life without you in it, but I am comforted by the knowledge that you are watching out for me and rooting for me to succeed.

You always cared so deeply about the people in your life. I always felt important around you, and I was always so excited to tell people I knew you personally. The world has lost one of it's most selfless members, and there is such a big part of me that wishes everyone could have known you. I know that their lives would have been made better by it. I know you are now busy making Heaven a happier and brighter place, and I am sure there's a trumpet and marching band that have been waiting for you to show up since the day you left Heaven the first time.

It is obvious that you were a prized son of God. So much so, that He couldn't stand to be in Heaven one more day without you. I take comfort in the knowledge that when Heavenly Father decides to bring me back home, you will be waiting with Him to give me a huge hug. I look forward to that hug so much.

I will always dwell on our last text message conversation. We were trying to make plans to meet up again before winter, but our busy schedules weren't matching up well at all. You said we absolutely had to meet up at least once before I moved to Florida, or to another country, or whatever it took to fulfill my dreams. I laughed and replied that you were acting like I was dying and that you would never see me again. You laughed too and said that you would always find ways to see me, regardless of where life took me.

Oh, Eric, if I had only known. I think back to that hug you gave me before we left Brianna's wedding reception. It was so warm and loving, and we just stood in the parking lot, locked in a hug for minutes. I've never hugged a person for so long before in my life. Did you know? Did you know Heavenly Father was going to be calling you back home just a few months later?

The last time I saw you in person was our low key miniature golf date in July. You were so determined to give me my birthday present, so I made sure to find an open weekend to drive home to see you. We golfed for hours and made fun of each other, and eventually found our way back to your car out front. With excitement in your eyes, you pulled out a cooler from your trunk and handed me my own container of Aggie Blue Mint ice cream which you had driven down all the way from Logan (a two hour drive). We sat on the grass and ate our ice cream, and excitedly shouted "Airplane!" every time we spotted one on it's way to the Salt Lake International Airport. I was so excited for my trip to Australia that most of the conversation focused on me. But he sat there smiling, and we laughed and talked in the parking lot for at least two more hours.

Eventually you took me home, and I wish I could go back in time to hug you tighter and longer. It was a quick hug goodbye, because if someone would have told me then that you would pass away almost exactly a month later, well, I would have laughed in their face.

Eric, I am honored to have been your "wife" on Earth. Even though the nicknames of husband and wife started as jokes, I was so lucky that they took on a life of their own, leading us to care for each other more deeply than we likely would have if the nicknames hadn't existed. I thank my roommates for bestowing the titles of mom and dad on us that year at USU, because it lead to a close and lasting friendship between the two of us. I am so happy that I was able to fill that role of wife for you, even though it held no legal standing. I am thrilled yet slightly jealous to hand that title over to the woman in Heaven who has no doubt captured your heart. I am sure she's been waiting for you to show up for quite some time now, and I hope she loves you even more than I loved you.

You were always so supportive of my nursing education. You never missed an opportunity to encourage me in my tests, or reassure me that the hard parts would eventually pass. You knew I would be an amazing nurse on the days that I sincerely doubted myself. Thank you for your support, Eric. It meant the world to me.

I have decided to dedicate this last year of nursing school in honor of you. I know that even though you can't physically reassure me of my abilities, I have no doubt that you will find ways to reassure me spiritually to get me through this year.

So here's to you Eric. This last year of school is 100% in your honor. I hope I'll do you proud.

All my love

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sydney, Australia

After a completely awesome day at the Australia Zoo, I boarded my flight to Sydney, a little worried about the hostel I had chosen to spend my next two nights in. This leg of the trip was going to be me completely on my own, and I won't lie... I was excited, but way more nervous than anything else. The flight was good and I sat on my own little isle, and I spent my time reviewing the directions to my hostel and praying that I would have just as much as an amazing time in Sydney as I had in Brisbane and Melbourne.

We landed right as the sun went down, so I was a little concerned about finding my place. I took the subway under the airport to the Queens Cross terminal and walked up to the street, completely unsure which direction I needed to go.

double decker subway train!

Thankfully a kind Aussie saw my confusion and lead me in the right direction. He was pretty impressed that I was in Australia alone, all the way from the States. I checked into my hostel, Chiliblue Backpackers and lugged my bags up three flights of stairs to my room. There, waiting for me was a huge German guy lounging on his bunk, and a shirtless Austrian dude lying on his. So I turned a little red and introduced myself, trying to look as unembarrassed as possible. There was one bed left, and it happened to be a queen size, so I was super worried some person would check in during the middle of the night and get in bed with me.

Needless to say, I did not sleep too well that night. Not to mention my sunburn from the beach was killing me at the same time.

I woke up in time for the free breakfast provided by the hostel, and quickly snarfed down the eggs and toast they were serving. I attempted a shower, but the water never got warm so I vetoed that idea. The shower was just this little room with a door that locked. Same with the toilet.

So I finished getting ready and I headed out to join up with a free tour of Sydney, so I could see all the sights with a native, like i was used to.

A shot of my room door, just for remembering sake
It took me forever to figure out my map, so I was really glad I left at 9:20 to meet up with the tour at 10:30. The girl running the tour was very nice and chatty, and she knew where Utah was right away! We started on the tour and she pointed out all the awesome buildings because she's an architecture major and loves the little details, which made me very happy.

Old churches are wedged between modern buildings.
It's pretty awesome looking.

A really cool architechural part of Sydney's history is the word Eternity written all over the city. A drunk guy heard his first sermon a few years after Sydney was settled, and the word Eternity really stuck out to him, so he learned to spell it, and wrote it everywhere he could. Bell towers have Eternity engraved on them, sidewalks, chairs and even a church bell got their tags. This cement square was at the base of a very pretty waterfall, and it was the best picture of all the Eternities I could get.

The largest shopping area in Sydney is the Queen Victoria Mall, and outside the building is this statue of Queen Victoria's favorite dog. Get this. It talks if you wave at it.

With all the expanding of Sydney, a lot of bird species died out and moved away once their trees were cut down. This alleyway has dozens of bird cages hanging from wires, and there is audio of birds chirping playing quietly. In the sidewalk. there are bricks with each species carved into them. It's like the "sorry we killed your habitat" exposition.

Sydney has a lot of statues througout the city that are replicas and 'sister statues' of others in other countries. The man reading the paper can also be found somewhere in England, and somewhere in the States. The doughnut ring things can also be found in Scotland.

She took us into the immigration building to show us the coolest map of Sydney. it's a scale replica of the city, set under the plexiglass floor. Unfortunately lighting was too sucky to take a picture of the entire thing, but I found the Opera House and took a picture of it.

We had been on the tour for about 2.5 hours by this point, and I was ready to finally see the Opera House. We stopped for a tidbit session with this bridge in the distance, and she started talking about how you could pay hundreds of dollars to hike that thing and get beautiful views of the Opera House. So I got excited, looking around for the majestic white building that I had first laid eyes on in Finding Nemo.

I'm serious. Finding Nemo is what put Australia on my list of places to go as a kid.  I wanted to see the shiny white building for myself.

So we continued on, and walked up a crapload of steps to a viewing platform. And there it was.

I just stood there for minutes that seemed like hours, just in awe that I was finally gazing at the Sydney Opera House with my very own eyes.

It is absolutely beautiful, with the sun shining off the peaks and glittering into the water.

The tour ended there, so I tipped her my last 4 dollars in coins and sat and stared at the building for a little longer. Finally I felt a little creepy and got up to wander around the city myself.

I spent about 3 hours in the coolest art museum I've ever toured, and it was free! Yes!

After spending the day looking at sights, I got myself some sushi rolls at the Queen Victoria mall and once it was dark I headed back to my hostel.

Will I ever stay in a hostel again? Not if I'm alone I won't! I luckily got moved to a different bed that night, so I wasn't worried some stranger would get in bed with me, so I slept a lot better night two.

I woke up on the 22nd and ate my last breakfast in Australia. I attempted a shower again, and gave up when the water was still ice cold. I got dressed, packed up my bags, locked everything shut and checked out of my room. I took the subway back to the airport and before I knew it, I was boarding my flight back home.

So I'm home, and I am so grateful to my friends for hosting me for such a long time! I had the absolute time of my life, and I can not express how thankful I am for my friends Naomi, Connor, Jordan, Melissa and Sharleen. I miss you guys already!

I am so incredibly lucky to have such adventure in my life!