I originally intended to post part 2 of the Maine vacation post today, but I’m going to hold off a day and do it tomorrow, so that I can blog about something else.
I’ve lived in Utah for 14 years, and for a while now I’ve thought, “I should go to a ward sometime…” No, I’m not thinking of joining, but I live in this state where most folks either attend the Mormon church or did so at some point in their lives, and yet I’d never set foot inside of one.
Tangent: I have attended tours of new, yet-to-be-dedicated Mormon temples*, twice in fact. The second was just a couple of weeks ago at the new Oquirrh Mountain Temple down in Herriman, and I actually dragged the Trifecta along. I figured they’d lived all their lives in Utah, ½ the kids at their school are LDS, and yet we’d never really exposed them to much info or background about the church.
*For non-LDS/Utah readers: a ward is a regular Mormon Church; you go there every Sunday, and anyone can show up, Mormon or no. A temple is a special building for important sacraments, such as marriages, sealings, and baptisms for the dead. It’s open only to church members who are active and in good standing. But when the church builds a new temple, they open it for several weeks to the general public before dedicating it.
Nested Tangent: So on the drive from my office (where Awesome Wife dropped them off) to the temple, I thought I’d try to explain to them the basic tenets of Mormonism. Keep in mind they’ve never even attended a church service, so explaining Mormonism in 20 minutes at a grade-school level was a fairly daunting task. I started off as simply as possible (“OK, so you guys know who Jesus is, right?*”), but by the time I was explaining how Mormons believe that Jesus visited America after he did all that stuff in the Middle East, they were totally checked out… Twin B was staring out the window looking for fast food joints (I’d promised them they could pick where we ate following the tour) and I’m not sure, but I think Bird Whisperer and Twin A were playing with some Pokemon cards they’d smuggled along.
*Yes, I really said that.
Unfortunately, the tour was kind of a bust with the Trifecta. Though the church did its usual outstanding hyper-organized job of efficiently handling the hordes of visitors, there’s not a lot to actually see in a yet-to-be-dedicated temple, and only one stop (the sealing room) where someone explains what specifically happens in a given room. So while I enjoyed the tour, it was a bit dry for non-LDS 7-10 year-olds.
Special Shout-Out to LDS Readers: Some type of ongoing tie-in or explanation of the various things/places in the temple to some of the rather exciting events detailed in the BoM might make the tour more engaging for non-LDS youngsters (who lack a BoM/Primary background.) Just saying.
Anyway, I’d always thought of attending a service at a ward some Sunday, but had long procrastinated, in part because there are always a lot of other things I like to do on Sundays, but also because I always secretly dreaded having to politely fend off a couple hundred friendly Mormons welcoming the newcomer*. But I always thought someday I’d get around to going.
*Because I’m a native Northeasterner. We’re just not used to so much friendliness. It gets us all out of sorts, and then we have to spend a day or two drinking and swearing and dropping our “R”s before we feel normal again…
I never met Susan, though I saw her once. I was walking back to the office from Einstein’s or Starbucks or someplace, and Elden’s car drove past. Elden was in the passenger seat and the woman driving wore a scarf (this was during or maybe following one of Susan’s chemo periods.) Elden didn’t see me. He was facing Susan, and the two were laughing about something, in that easy way that couples who’ve been together happily for a long time do. That image always stuck in my mind, more than any of the wonderful things Elden wrote about Susan on his blog.
When I think about Elden, I often catch myself thinking, “There but for the…” well, I don’t know what… But we have strangely parallel lives. Same age, same industry, same company, same hobby. Both married to women named Susan, both with 7 year-old twins. Over the past couple of years I’ve been continually impressed by Elden’s strength and calm in facing such a difficult future.
Funerals are tough in any tradition, but Susan’s was as fine a one as I’ve been a part of. A packed church, and a service filled with speakers who loved her, and who were able to share what they loved about her and why she was so remarkable with those of us who didn’t know her, in a way that we really got it. And no speaker was more impressive, moving or inspiring than Elden himself.
I won’t try to capture what he said here. But one thing really stuck with me. He said that when he and Susan thought they had just 6 months left, they thought about what to do with their remaining time together. And they decided that what they wanted to do more than anything else was to go on living they live they’d been living, the life they’d built together.
Like probably all readers of his blog, I’ve been amazed at his- and Susan’s- determination to see something good come out of their ordeal: the creation of Team Fatty, the raising of more than half a million dollars for cancer research.
Research, research, research. I’ll admit it- sometimes it feels tough to get excited about donating money for “research.” The very nature of research is chasing down dead ends, trying things that don’t work out, in hopes of finding something that maybe, just maybe, will work out.
In contrast, many charities feel “easy” to donate to, with a quick “return on investment.” You know: for a few dollars you can help some kid in a poor country to get immunized, or have clean drinking water, or pencils for school. And these are great, easy causes to get behind*. Why should I have that latte at Starbucks when I could feed a kid for a day instead? Compared to these “metrics”, research just seems so nebulous, so intangible.
*And to be clear, you absolutely should donate money to charities that provide basic necessities and medical care to children and families in extreme poverty, for 2 reasons: First, it’s the right thing to do. Second, if there is any kind of God and/or afterlife, and you show up and you didn’t give money to help starving African kids, but you bought nice cars and bikes and Wiis and iPhones and Frappacinos, then you are absitively, posolutely going straight to hell.
But research does work. Cancer victims today- of many types of cancers- so often live longer and better than they did 30, 20, even 10 years ago, because of research.
I don’t think Good Things just cancel out Bad Things. Bad Things are still Bad, and no matter how many cancer victims Susan’s ordeal helps in future years, her cancer was- and is- a terrible thing for her family. But I posted about cancer in this blog recently, and I think it’s worth sharing a quick update on my friend “Lance.”
Gleevec is working. After a very difficult couple of weeks, Lance’s body seems to have adapted to the drug. The pain, nausea and fatigue have largely abated. And his white blood-cell count is essentially normal- or close to it.
His ordeal isn’t over; his oncologist is still working to finesse his dosage, to increase his red blood-cell count. But his prognosis looks good. 10 years ago he’d be facing death and/or a bone-marrow transplant. Today he’s probably facing watching his sons grow up, and growing old with his wife.
Research is like cold-calling or wind-pollination. It’s tough, it’s disheartening, the odds seem daunting, and it’s hard to get excited about. But every sale starts with someone picking up a phone, and every mighty oak starts as a one-out-of-million grain of pollen that somehow hits the right spot. Every cure starts with someone doing something about it. Someone getting some bucks together. Nice job, Susan & Elden, nice job.