Ten years ago today, I got a phone call that changed my world. For better or worse? That's all a matter of opinion. And for me, that depends on my day and mood.
I was sitting at a small brown desk, in my black skirt and button up shirt. Studying. Both of my companions were sitting at the kitchen table engrossed in their early morning scripture study. The phone rang. We all looked up, startled. Because this is a very odd time for us to be receiving a call. My senior companion gets up to answer the phone. Before she gets to it, I say, "It's for me." I knew. I can't explain it. I just knew. And I knew it was bad.
My companion hands me the phone. It's the little old lady at the Mission Office. She tells me that my cousin passed away yesterday. I started pestering her with questions. NONE, of which, she could answer. I tell her that I'm going to call home. She stammers, "oh.....oh......okay." I hang up.
I knew it. It had been weeks coming. I had told my Mission President months ago that someone was going to go. He told me I had nothing to worry about. By doing this, he was telling me that my feelings/intuition/spiritual revelation or whatever you want to call it, meant nothing. NOTHING!! And he was wrong.
The next few weeks were terrible. I couldn't concentrate during personal or companion study. I couldn't go out and preach to people. I stood in one person's doorway, let them get to me, yelled at them, realized what I was doing, then just turned and walked away. All while my companion was left, dumbfounded at the door. I wouldn't tract after that. Something had to be done.
The only person worth trusting and listening to was my companion. She saved me. She let me know that everything would be okay. That our Mission President was being an ass and a coward for not addressing his obvious lack of revelation/spiritual guidance concerning me and my situation. His lack of care. She helped me find the courage to do what my heart and mind had been telling me since I got off the MTC bus at the SLC airport. Be Strong. Be Yourself. Be Confident. Listen to your soul. GO HOME.
I went home. I went home with all the emotional baggage expected from someone who had just discovered the true order of Men and Women in my church. I learned that the organization was more important than the individual members, that women are not really taken seriously, and that standing up for myself would leave me vulnerable to personal attacks from within the church.
Mostly I learned to stand up. In a community that keeps the status quo at all costs, I stood. Timid at first, but I was up. Confidence, strength, and gumption all grew over time and kept me standing. My thirst for honesty and truth combined with my conviction for equality helped my feet move me to a place of true happiness and love.
This year was the first year I could mourn my cousins passing without anger. There was so much tied to that one phone call that I never truly grieved. This past year has been one of grieving. Grieving for his soul taken too soon. Grieving for our bond that I miss. He was funny, charismatic, and fiercely loyal. He looked out for me when I was a freshman coming up to the High School. He was even proud to acknowledge that we were related. My protector. He came to all of my Softball games. (yes, I know his girlfriend was on my team, but he was still there.) He took me out on the freeway for the first time when I was 16 when no one else wanted to take me. He was my closest cousin. He was my friend. I am truly blessed to have known him.
Not one day goes by that I don't think about my cousin. I miss him. I wish he was here. And before now, his death was tied to me recognizing all the terrible aspects of my religious life. I must acknowledge the significance of that phone call on that horrible day. The peace and joy I have found are a direct result of the call. And I can finally separate the two instances. I can happily remember my cousin and his beautiful life. It's not tied to my 10 years of struggle through the trenches of LDS policy and culture anymore. They finally stand on their own.
Big things happen on 10 year anniversaries. This anniversary gives me peace. It gives me a piece of happiness back that I thought was stripped from me. It gives me that ability to say good-bye and remember the joy of the days that were.
Good-bye, Dave. I Love You.