Saturday, June 29, 2013

What I Learned on Harkers Island About My Grandpa & My Family

Written From the Porch of my 2nd cousin's, the Morrises, Home in Straights...
Right over the bridge from Harkers Island, North Carolina.
June 2013

A sweet time of overwhelming love and joy.

In the church Relief Society room I sat and felt at home, 
a temple-like setting with many who came before me that are still on this side of the veil.
They knew and loved my Grandpa.
The man that treated me like I was his only grandchild although he had many,
Even in the middle of his workday.
“Minta Jones, I love your bones!” he said as he squatted down with his arms out for me to run into.
He looked so much like my dad, only with black glasses, more gray and white hairs, a bit tougher skin and a few more wrinkles.

He died here, on Harkers Island, in ‘94, when I was 9 years old.
Since then he’s been the man I love to hear stories about.
On the car ride home from Harkers Island to Straights, Joella, my dad's cousin, kindly related some of her memories of him. 
She said that when he visited the island his eyes would light up as he talked about his grandkids that were back in Seattle.
Most everyone stayed on the island, actually. 
Grandpa was the daring exception who transplanted himself creating roots and a legacy in the West.  My dad says it was the missionaries who baptized him Mormon that convinced him to go to BYU and marry a Mormon girl.  

Joella went on and said she could tell us grandkids were the apple of his eye and his pride and joy.  To hear those words from someone I look up to and that remembers him well meant so much me.  To hear her talk about him with a vivid memory and get a first-hand witness of his love for me- for us- was touching and I had to hide my emotions.

Then, she told me about that day.
That horrible day when Grandpa's earthly life came to a sudden end, leaving many behind.
People all over the island could hear the explosion, she said.  Traffic stopped for the ambulance and the name on the truck confirmed her fear.  Someone else was driving Grandpa’s car behind the ambulance.  What had happened, they thought?

One tragic accident after another here, it doesn’t seem fair.
Many years before this my grandpa's little brother, who my dad was named after, died of Leukemia at age 8.  Dad says his Grandpa was never the same afterwards, so sad about losing his boy he became even quieter.
Then, following my Grandpa's accident, Uncle Mike died in a car accident. My dad says that his Uncle Mike was shy, an artist, a fisherman, and so good with his hands he used them to make boats.  He loved his grandchildren so much that even though they were little boys, when he opened his boat-making company he named it Hancock & Grandson's.  My dad's pretty sure those grandson's run it now.  My dad also says that when his Uncle Mike hugged and kissed him, it felt like his own dad.  I realized it's the same with my Uncle Mike for me.

Then Grandma died in a car accident.  My dad loved his Grandma and felt so much affection from her. "My Deeny, my leetle Deeny," he can remember her saying, and, "You are the prettiest little thing ever in this world." It's funny how that affection and praise carries on because I don't think a day passed growing up that my dad didn't say he loved me and that I was "as cute as a bug in a rug" which now I clearly understand is a compliment. :)
Shortly after Grandma Margarette's death, Grandpa Charlie Hancock passed and everyone's almost positive he died of a broken heart.
The day my Grandpa died I felt it too, thousands of miles away.  
I felt the explosion, the rush of fear and confusion, the deep sadness.  
Minta, my aunt, was crying at the table and my dad yelled and collapsed in the other room. 
I couldn’t stop crying for days.

That sadness stayed with me until he came to me in a dream.  With all of his grand-kids on his lap at once he looked down at me and said, “Minta, I want you to know that I love you and that I’m OK.”  I could go to school now and not cry in class.  The dream was meant to comfort me and anyone else who believed.

Those faces were his.
Sister, June, Bill.  They carried his skin, his face shape, his nose, his hair color, his blood.

Why do some go so early?  
Only for the ones that loved them to get tired, wrinkled, grey-white and more sad about being left behind.

“It should have been me.” “Why wasn’t it me that died?”

Oh, the comfort that is waiting for those that are left behind, comfort from the Master and author of all that is good and beautiful in their lives.
Oh, the sweet peace and rest that they deserve.

What will he be like when we see him again?  
Will he be close to our Heavenly father?  Will he want to bring us to him?
Will he want us to kneel with him before our Elder Brother who has made possible the sweet reunion?

The water is sweet, warm and salty, the sand soft and heated.
The grass is thick and strong and the trees rise high above the houses.
What did he love about this island?

Is it the connectedness of all his neighbors? Or, maybe, the family names on so many road signs.  Part of it had to have been the boats that symbolized plentiful food and breezy rides. 
I bet it was the comforts of long-lost memories from drawled voices heavy as boat anchors to his heart.

He loved me, and he loved this island.

He left me pieces of him in all the people and places of Harkers Island.

But, he is in more than that.

I know that because he came to me in my dream and made it the last night I wet my pillow with tears because I missed him.

He loves me and I know he longs to be with me again.

He must long to be with all of us.

I’m so glad I know he’s already with many people that he loves… like his mom and dad, his brothers and many more that came before him.

Learning about him, his family and where he came from gives me deeper reason to follow their examples.

A few ways I can do that is to love and cling to family.  To tell Sarah, and all of my family, that I love them and why I do. 
If I hug tightly and wrestle on the floor with the little ones I’d be honoring their example. 
Family was number one to them all.  I hope to always have the same priorities.

They worked hard and always provided for each other.  They weathered storms of nature and of persecution like we can read about in Uncle Joel’s book.

I am because they were and I can be as great as they were if I keep learning about who they were and why they lived like they lived.

I’m so excited to see the faces of my family at our reunion in a couple weeks and know the same blood that runs through them runs through me and ran through our beloved Grandpa, his parents, siblings, and their children.

Family is a wonderful thing and this visit to Harkers Island only intensified my feelings towards the one I was sent to.

I ultimately thank my Father in Heaven, whose Spiritual DNA I believe carry, for putting me in the Hancock family and having such a beautiful plan with families at its center.

A Little Background to the Essay

My almost 2 year-old, Sarah and I arrived to at New Bern, North Carolina Saturday evening and the Morris’ greeted us and drove us home to Straights.  The next day we went to church and then Joel and Susan’s for lunch and then to my Grandma Hancock’s home.

At church I was overwhelmed with love and gratitude- the Spirit of our Father in Heaven- during the Sacrament and Relief Society Meetings.  I have to thank the nursery, specifically Lauren Hancock (my second cousin-in-law) for watching my little one so I could go to Relief Society. In every face I felt a connection to my Grandpa Hancock whom I loved so strongly as a child.  I wanted to talk to each of them, hug them and hear about their lives and possibly memories that have of my Grandpa.  I did get to hug and speak with some of them and I’m so grateful for the opportunity I had to feel so connected to my Hancock side.  The feelings I experienced in the Harkers Island Ward building were comparable to what I experience in the temple- love, joy, faith, strength and hope.  I believe that is because I was touched by the Spirit of Elijah.  My heart was turned to my fathers (to my father’s father to be specific) and I think his heart and that of his family in that ward were turned to me, his grand-child.  For those reading this that aren’t familiar with our faith or temples, that Spirit of Elijah is the same Spirit that resides in our temples because of the nature of the work we do there.  We connect ourselves forever to our ancestors and our descendants.
Here’s what I wrote the Monday following that Special Sabbath I was blessed to enjoy mid June on Harkers Island, North Carolina.

Another Important Note of Thanks

The Morris Family, James and Joella and their 4 wonderful kids, were so incredibly welcoming and treated us so much like family.  Yes, I know, we are family.  But, we're second cousins and we rarely see each other so some might say that's just an excuse for a free place to stay.  Well, let me tell you I have vivid memories of meeting each of my second cousins when I was little and idolizing them ever since.  They were good-looking, fun, family and lived in a cool place where my Grandpa once lived.  
Now, more than 20 years later and with a child of my own, it was so relieving to feel at home there and that is all thanks to the Morris family. 
Joel and Susan also welcomed us and fed us whenever we could go by, and I sincerely appreciated that, also.
I can't tell you how much it meant for me to feel welcomed and loved by you, thank you so much!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Light Inside


I walk outside and the sun hurts my eyes.  I have to walk to the mailbox with them half closed but my head still hurts from the bright pavement I look down on.
My apple tastes cool and I’m grateful for the natural sugars it gives my blood.  Why  am I down?
Would the sun not be so bright if I were lighter inside?
How come it takes me so long to walk outside?
A pool a walk away.
A TV mounted to the wall.
Food in our pantry and friends on the screen.
That’s what this is... a dimmer.
Light pushes, slams, forces its way into my body and the darkness is overwhelmed.  
I wish it lasted,
A relationship that I can touch means almost nothing but those that are out of reach I long to be touching.
Is this his biggest trick in the book, make good things seem empty?
Because when I feel like this it’s the bad things that I want to do so I can be full- eat, watch, read, skim, stalk, envy, wish, self-hate, embarrassed, sad.
Am I giving life to death when I write the truth or would it be more dangerous to cover the pain with dishes, laundry, fake smiles and empty words.

It’s crazy. The things that keep me alive are all things I can’t even see. Well, one of them I can.
She is here because of me and the man I chose.
She helps me forget the darkness I dread will return.
Her needs come first and my selfishness drowns in her bubble bath.
I can work, smile and laugh sincerely when she’s around.

But, it doesn’t seem right.  To put my whole life in her hands.  I must be able to face this world and on my own two feet stand.
I’m grateful for the reprieve but I promise- for her, him and mostly for me- to use my time to find the ground and welcome the bright pavement more and more.
And, someday I know that when I walk outside my head won’t hurt from squinting because the brightness will match the light inside of me.