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Monthly Archives: February 2009

Grief Connects Us with Our Humanity

Four years ago today, we buried my father.

He died on February 12, 2005 of cancer at the relatively young age of 57. Earlier that week, I wrote his obituary, worked to organize the funeral program and helped my mom pick out a grave site, headstone and casket. The day of the viewing, we helped dress his lifeless body in his burial clothing. It was a season of intense emotions, tender feelings.

Two Sundays ago I visited his grave with my family and we took pictures, sang one of Dad’s favorite hymns and said a prayer. Then, on the actual anniversary of his death, February 12, I returned to the cemetery with my mom and brother Dan. This time was different. We stood quietly at the headstone under an umbrella to avoid the falling snow. We reminisced a bit about Kent’s life and its impact on our lives. My mom asked me to pray and I thanked God for my dad’s amazing life. I then said something that surprised me somewhat. I thanked Him for the grief that we were feeling at that moment. As I struggled to speak with tears streaking down my cheeks, I was thanking the Lord for the grief that I felt.

Ever since, I have been reflecting on these questions: Isn’t grief a negative emotion, something you try hard to get over? Aren’t we supposed to move on? Does grief equal despair? Does my grief somehow mean that my faith is not strong or that my hope in a glorious reunion on resurrection morning falters?

Truth be told, I grieve every day for the loss of my dad. That doesn’t mean I’m not a happy person or that I dwell on it constantly. It doesn’t mean I don’t live and love life to the fullest. But I do feel a sense of loss every day. My grief connects me to my dad; it helps me remember him. And while emotions aren’t nearly as raw as they were four years ago as we were preparing for his funeral, they surface often. And it hurts. It also feels good. That’s the paradox: the pain is welcome in some ways. It reminds me of the powerful feelings of love and loyalty I had / have for my father. It encourages me to think about his life and to remember his influence on me. The longing for an eventual reunion with him makes we want to live a better life, not only to honor my dad’s legacy, but to be worthy of a joyful reunion in the next life. So I embrace my grief because it is part of me now. I also embrace the wonderful memories that we shared. Finally, I embrace my faith in the power of Jesus Christ whose sacrifice overcame both sin and death. What are your thoughts on grief?

 Last year, I wrote the following on my blog near his death anniversary:

“Kent was a loving father and a good provider. He was also very much in love with my mother. He set a great example for all his children as a man who loved the Lord, who was totally committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I miss him dearly. I miss being able to call him on the phone and talk about the latest gadget (he would have loved the iPhone) or politics. Although I take great comfort in my firm belief that families are forever, I still wish every day that he were here with me. I wish he could be here to grow old alongside my sweet mother. But it was not to be…”

Here’s a little look back at his life through some video clips. He bears his witness of the gospel at the end of the video.

Miss you Dad!!

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2009 in Spirituality

 

Disneyworld: Animal Kingdom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the newest theme park at Disneyworld, having opened in 1998. Robin and I just missed its opening the last time we were in Florida, so we were excited to return to see it. Since this park closes at 5:00 p.m., we were anxious to see as much as we could see. We ended up going back for a second day because we liked so much. The weather was warm and sunny on both days (finally) and the park was new and exciting for all of us. The park boasts a wide variety of unique animals, tons of amazing vegetation and some really cool themed areas that make you feel you’re in an African village or an Asian town in the Himalayas.

Big Rides
“Expedition Everest” is the coolest ride at the park by far. In my book, it ranks in the Top Three for all of Disneyworld. We got to ride it a number of times over the two days we spent at the park. It is a thrill ride based on a mountain theme, kind of like the Matterhorn in Disneyland. However, this coaster actually has you going backwards in the dark of the mountain, which is a really interesting sensation. It also has some very  interesting special effects featuring an angry Yeti.

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Another fun ride is called Dinosaur, formerly known as “Countdown to Extinction.” It is similar in its ride technology to the “Indiana Jones Ride” at Disneyland, but it features a Jurassic adventure with dinosaurs chasing you through a dark landscape with meteors pelting the ground all around you. Other cool attractions were the Kilimanjaro Safari and the Kali River Falls in which we got very wet despite the ponchos we were wearing.

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Great Shows
Probably the best part of the Animal Kingdom were the shows. “Finding Nemo: The Musical” was spectacular (see Robin’s post for more details) and the “Festival of the Lion King” was also extremely entertaining. We also enjoyed the “Wonders of Flight” bird show, “It’s Tough to be a Bug,” a 3-D show in a theater underneath the park’s iconic “Tree of Life,” and a beautifully costumed parade that afternoon.

Animal Kingdom is a wonderful park. Here are a few more pictures.

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Posted by on February 17, 2009 in Trips

 

Disneyworld: Hollywood Studios

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Formerly known as, Disney-MGM Studios, this is the third theme park built at Disneyworld in Florida in 1989. We were there on Thursday, January 22 and had a great time. Interestingly, the day we were there, I would say that at least 1/3 of the visitors were Brazilian. It was really fun to hear Portuguese all day long. I even struck up conversations with several people who couldn’t really understand why an American knew Portuguese. (The answer: 2 years on a Mormon mission in Sao Paulo, Brazil in the early 90s.)

Anyway, here are some highlights of our visit to the park, which was three weeks ago today. (Time flies!)

Big Rides
The Rock and Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith is a really fun indoor coaster which accelerates you from zero to 60 in just a couple of seconds at the beginning. There are loops, twists and turns as you zip along a track to the music of Aerosmith blasting in your ears. Definitely a lot of fun.

The Tower of Terror is the other “big” ride at Hollywood Studios. It’s a thrill ride that involves the sensation of an elevator free-falling inside the elevator shaft, mixed with some spooky Twilight Zone images, sounds and music. We actually persuaded four-year-old Lily to go on it since she met the height requirements. She was really pretty brave and said she liked it, but when we wanted to go again, she wouldn’t hear of it!

tower_of_terror

Big Shows
The best part about the park had to be the shows. We saw two stage shows based on “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast” which were good, although Robin and I had seen them both when we went 11 years ago and not much had changed. The two stunt shows are really wonderful. The Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular recreated several moments from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and had a lot of satisfying explosions, fight scenes and guys falling from roofs. This one was also there 11 years ago, but it was still fun to watch again.

Introduced in 2005, the “Lights! Motors! Action! Extreme Stunt Show” (sponsored by Brawny paper towels – how random?)  was excellent. Stunt drivers manuvered their cars around a set and recreated some thrilling chase scenes with the good guy driving red car and the bad guys in black cars giving chase. We sat in a huge stadium to watch this show and it was a real highlight of the day.

Fantasmic!
The reason we went to this park on Thursday was to see “Fantasmic!” which is only performed twice a week in the winter. Consequently, the park was much busier throughout the day because people came on that day in order to see the show in the evening. It was so busy that they ended up filling the regular show and having to add a second show. It was quite cold, we were tired from a long day at the park and the line to get in was long and boring. But it was WELL worth it. It was the best show of the entire trip. The amazing set is surrounded by water in the 10,000 seat stadium and the show combines dazzling water and video effects, pyrotechnics and live action sequences involving boats, a massive snake and dragon. Our hero, Mickey Mouse, confronts some of Disney’s most sinister villains and some great battles ensue. Words cannot adequately describe it. We all still laugh when we think about a giant snake trying to eat Mickey and Lily yelled: “Run Mickey, run! No, not that way Mickey, the other way!”

All things considered, we had a great time at this theme park. Here are a couple more pics!

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Posted by on February 12, 2009 in Trips

 

Disneyworld: Magic Kingdom

On Wednesday, January 22, we visited the Magic Kingdom at Disneyworld near Orlando, Florida. The Magic Kingdom is basically “Disneyland East” as the layout and the rides are VERY similar to its more familiar and older brother in Anaheim. We actually went to Disneyworld back in 2005, just about one month after my father passed away. Strange as it may sound, it was a fun way to remember my dad shortly after his death since he and my mom took us kids to Disneyland a number of times. In 2006, we took the kids further south to Legoland and Seaworld, but then scored some free tickets for a day to Disneyland and California Adventure from a guest at the resort where we were staying, so we had to extend our vacation for a day to take advantage of it.

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Anyway, having taken our kids to Disneyland twice in the past four years, Parley and Brianna were pretty familiar with the Magic Kingdom already. For Lily, however, it was a totally new experience since she was so young the last time we went. We arrived shortly after opening and had a very full day. Here’s a list of the attractions we visited.

Dumbo’s Flight (Lily’s favorite)
Cinderella Carousel
Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Snow White’s Scary Forrest (I always laugh at that name)
it’s a small world (yes, they don’t capitalize the words, for obvious reasons)
Haunted Mansion (classic ride, always fun)
Splash Mountain (at least five good drops)
Big Thunder Mountain (very fast, very fun, Lily even enjoyed it)
Pirates of the Caribbean (they’ve added Jack Sparrow from the movies)
Jungle Cruise (same cruise, same cheesey jokes and puns)
Alladin’s Carpets (very similar to Dumbo)
Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse (still a classic walk-through attraction)
Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management
Teacups
Space Mountain
Carousel of Progress (cheesy and dated, but still fun and nostalgic)
Stitch’s Escape
Buzz Lightyear
Tomorrowland Transit Authority
Astro Orbiter
Moster’s Inc. Laugh Floor (great new interactive comedy show)
Mickey and Minnie’s Houses in Toontown
Goofy’s Barnstormer (kiddie rollercoaster, not too exciting)
Walt Disney World Railroad (from Toontown to Frontierland)
Peter Pan’s Flight
Ariel’s Grotto (Robin and girls got to see arial up close and personal while Parley and I rode Big Thunder Mountain a couple more times!)

Whew! It was a very busy day. It was also a very cold day in Central Florida, but at least the sun was shining and the crowds were relatively light. How else could we have done all of the things listed above? I once went to Disneyland when we went on a total of six rides, since the average wait time was 45 to 90 minutes — and that’s miserable. At the Magic Kingdom, I think the longest we had to wait was about 15 minutes. Not bad! We walked right on to Splash Mountain — twice.

Best ride at the Magic Kingdom? It still has to be Space Mountain. All of us agreed on that. It’s so fast, so exciting and so unpredictable (how could it not be, you’re riding in almost complete darkness). We loved and got to ride it twice. (Parley and Brianna rode it four times due to the child swap with Lily.)

The “Wishes” show at the end of the day was also a real treat. We sat right in front of Cinderella Castle and really enjoyed this multimedia presentation. The fireworks timed to the powerful music were spectacular. And Tinkerbell actually flew from the top of the castle out into the night sky by using a very long zip line (this must have been pretty scary and cold for the actress who played Peter Pan’s pixie friend).

There were not too many other “shows” at the Magic Kingdom, but that’s okay. There was PLENTY to do. We saw several shows the next day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but I’ll wait to post about that next time. Until then, “may all your dreams come true.”

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2009 in Trips