Well, for those of you who don't know me, this is Keith Jensen. I just learned about blogspot.com from my dear friend Paul Porter. Paul and I have known each other since April 1978.
This last Saturday, July 26th, I was up early. I went out to my garden and started to pick some raspberries. I thought, "You know, I haven't seen my good friend Paul Porter for a few months now. I wonder if he'd like to eat some raspberries and half and half with me."
With this thought in mind, I dialed Paul's number. At first I only got the answering machine, but before I finished my message Paul picked up and said he'd love to eat a bowl of raspberries with me. On the short drive from my place in Lindon to Paul's place in Pleasant Grove, I stopped by WalMart to buy some half and half. Once at Paul's place, I rang the doorbell, and he invited me in. Even though it had been quite a long time since we last visited, we felt comfortable with each other as good friends do. Paul and I were the only ones in the house at the time. We filled our bowls with fresh raspberries, sprinkled on the sugar, and poured the half and half.
Sitting side by side at the kitchen counter, I turned to Paul and said, "Well, how have things been going for you these last few months?"
Paul replied, "I guess you've heard about what happened three weeks ago."
I replied, "No. Is it good or bad news?"
To this, Paul said, "Oh, it's bad news, really bad. My brother David took his life three weeks ago."
What an unexpected thing to hear. I was shocked and saddened. When Kim and I returned from Okinawa, Japan in 1992, the first home we looked at just happened to be that of Paul's brother David. We didn't end up buying the home, but I remember that first time we met. This was my dear friend's older brother. After my mission to Japan, I found myself spending a lot of time at the Porters and got a chance to meet all the family. It was kind of like a second home to me.
And here, I'd just learned that someone I knew had felt so sad and hopeless that he'd decided to end his life. This felt so different from the times before when I'd heard about someone taking their life.
For the next three or so hours, Paul and I sat and visited. It was at this time he told me of blog.spot and how his niece Jana had started it as a family forum a few years back. Paul was kind enough to show me some of the posts. My heart was touched. He suggested that I make my own blog page and post some of my writings. And so, that's what I've been figuring out these last few hours.
This morning at work, I started to read some of the postings by family members following David's death. I hope no one minds that I sat and read your posts. I know I'm not an "official" member of the Porter family, but I do consider myself a friend. While reading, I had to get up and close my office door because the tears just started to flow. I was so touched by each of your beautiful and tender words. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for taking the time to write and for allowing me to be present as you shared. I think this is such a smart and healing thing that you are choosing to do. You all give me hope that perhaps this is something that my own family of origin might someday also do.
At this stage of my life, the person's death that has affected me the most is that of my dad. Dad passed away six years ago, and there isn't a day that passes that I don't miss him. The following is an excerpt from my journal.
Keith Jensen’s Journal Entry
Monday, March 30, 2004: It has almost been a year and eight months since dad passed away on Tuesday, August 13, 2002. I miss him and look forward to seeing him again. I have been unable to write about my last few days with dad until now. With Heavenly Father's help, I will write now. Dad passed away almost six months to the day after he started on hospice care. . . . From dad's normal weight of 167 pounds, he was down to less than 100 pounds at the time of his death. . . .
During dad's last week here in mortality he really went downhill. He never had talked much during the past several months. However, during his last week he hardly said anything at all. The last words I heard him speak were on the afternoon of Thursday, August 8th. . . .
I went to work Monday morning, August 12th. Shortly after I got to work, I got a phone call from Leslie, the Canyon Breeze administrator. She told me that dad had only a short time to live. I immediately left work and went to his bedside.
He was so small and frail. I remember sitting there holding his hand. As I write now, I can again feel the warmth of his hand in mine. He had no strength to grip, so I'd wrap his fingers around mine. I told him I was so proud of him and that he was doing so well. I told him that it was okay for him to go. And I sang hymns to him. I think I must have sung every hymn in the hymn book that I knew the tune to. I remember saying to dad: "I bet you sure are getting sick and tired listening to me sing, but you're in no condition to stop me, so I think I'll just keep singing."
I could imagine dad just about splitting a gut laughing. These few hours with just dad and me still bring me peace and comfort when I reflect back on them now. . . .
After about four hours of sleep, I got up early Tuesday morning, August 12th, and returned to dad's room. It was a little after 0400 AM when I got there. Cindy, my younger sister, was dozing in the easy chair next to his bed. Bruce, my older brother, had gone over to mom's place to try and get a few hours of sleep before he had to get back to his job in Salt Lake City that morning. Bruce departed at around 0700 AM that morning. Cindy told me that dad had been resting pretty peacefully.
Once I got there, Cindy went over to mom's place to get a few hours of sleep. I sat down in the easy chair with the lights turned off. I listened to dad's breathing. It was regular and normal sounding. He seemed to be resting really peacefully. Earlier, there had been periods when he'd stop breathing for 15 to 30 seconds, and then with a rattle, he'd inhale a ragged breath and start breathing again.
Around 0800 AM Cindy came back over. Amy, the hospice nurse, was there that morning to check on dad. Since dad had been resting so peacefully, I asked her if dad was taking a turn for the better. She informed me that this often happens shortly before someone dies. Amy took dad's vital signs and informed me that he probably had only a few more hours to live.
Around 0900 AM, Mike, another hospice worker, showed up. Mike is studying to become a medical doctor. He is the one who had bathed and shaved dad for the past weeks. He is the one who use to take dad out for walks in his wheel chair. I think dad really appreciated and loved Mike for all the kind service he rendered him.
In trying to prepare for dad's passing, I'd read a lot about the dying process. I had learned that often shortly after someone dies their bowels release. I wanted to be sure that dad had on a clean diaper before he died. So with, Mike and Amy's help, we rolled dad side to side and put a clean diaper on him. His old diaper wasn't soiled at all. As we were changing dad, I noticed his legs had become gray and mottled. I commented on this to Amy and Mike. Both said it would only be a matter of minutes now until he died.
Dad passed away a little after 1000 AM on Tuesday, August 13, 2002. He spoke no final words before he departed. In the room with him at the time of his passing were Mike, Cindy, and I. Mike and I were sitting at the foot of his bed visiting. Cindy was sitting up at the head of dad's bed. I was asking Mike about why he had decided to do hospice work. Cindy noticed something different in dad's breathing. She started to cry and said, "Oh, I think he's going."
Mike and I joined Cindy at the head of the bed. Mike took out a stethoscope and checked dad. He said you better hurry and get your mother because he's going. Cindy rushed out of the room to get mom. I stood numbly at the head of the bed with Mike and watched dad take one final breath, and then, he just left. Oh, how I wished he could come back for just one more minute and I could hold his warm hand once again. But he was gone.
Shortly after dad died, mom and Cindy returned. I got dad's false teeth and Mike helped me put them in his mouth. I got a red bandana from the top drawer of dad's dresser. I put it under his chin and tied his jaw shut by tying a knot in this bandana on top of dad's head. With the bandana knotted so, dad's body looked like Jacob Marley from Dicken's A Christmas Carol.
Mom, Cindy, and I stood together at the head of dad's bed crying. Mom said, "Let's sing him a song to send him on his way." And so through tears and laughter we sang:
"I come from Montana.
I wear a bandana.
My spurs are of silver.
My pony is gray.
While riding the ranges,
My luck never changes.
I'm saddled on old paint
At the end of our song, I pulled the sheet up over dad's head.
Dad's passing and the circumstances surrounding it have been so good for me. It has caused me to grow in ways that have been so good and necessary for me. One of my favorite scriptures has become 1 Nephi 11:16-17. Nephi is being shown a vision of the tree of life by an angel. The angel asks Nephi a question and he responds.
"And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?
"And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things."
From experiences too numerous to list here, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt--as dad would say so often when he bore his testimony--that Heavenly Father loves me personally and intimately. I know that all the experiences I have had, and all that I will yet have, "shall give /me/ experience, and shall be for /my/ good." (See D&C 122:7).
Thank you for being present as I shared a part of my story.