Thursday, August 23, 2012


There’s a book called Seven Choices for Success and Significance by Dr. Nido R. Qubein.  In this book he defines success as secular and significance as spiritual.    He says, “Success focuses on three Fs:  fans, fame, and fortune.  It focuses on tasks and goals.  Significance also focuses on three Fs:  faith, family and friends.  Significance focuses on purpose:  Why am I here?  What do I do with the talents, experiences and skills that I have?  How can I make the world a better place?  How do I plant seeds of greatness in the lives of those around me?  How do I make an impact in the circles of influence where I find or place myself?”
With that in mind he says we can choose success (temporal) and significance (spiritual).  To choose both we must be a strategic thinker and must do the following things:  

1. Have a clear vision of what we want to accomplish.
2.  Develop a solid strategy that answers three questions:  Who or what am I today? Who do I want to become? How do I get there?
3. Employ practical systems to achieve the goals 
4. Commit to consistent execution because in consistency, success emerges.  This is one that the Prophet  Alma, in the Book of Mormon, has taught: “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass.”
Dr. Qubein then tells us how to implement our strategic plan for success with his three Ds:
                                  Decide what you want to achieve
                                  Determine the first step to getting what you want
                                  Do the first thing that will start you moving toward your goal.

I think Buddy illustrated these principles in his life. He committed two years of his life to serving an honorable mission for the Savior, Jesus Christ.  He wanted a loving wife, who lives the gospel and would marry him for time and all eternity.  They found each other.  He wanted to be able to provide for a family.  So he worked multiple jobs while going to school, which would enable him to provide for them.  He trusted in the Lord and willingly served in positions in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in whatever capacity he was asked.  He spent as much time as he could with his growing family and cried over them, with them, and rejoiced at the great blessing they are in his life.  He loved to tell the stories of their daily lives.  He was pleased and laughed freely at the things they did.  This is how we knew he had joy.  They are the jewels in his crown and he is proud of each of them and wants them to rise from the ashes of the refiner’s fire to achieve all the Father has to offer each of them.  

As the patriarch of his family he influences them even now, encourages them, laughs with them, feels their sorrow, but he sees the entire picture now, from where he is.  He holds them dear and knows they will make a significant difference in the lives of many because they will focus on their faith in being together forever because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and promises made to each of us by that sacrifice.  Our very existence is based on becoming a together forever family and lifting our friends by sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with them so they can live again with our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ and have their families forever through covenants they make in the temple.

Mortality is a drop in the bucket of eternity.  Success is part of our temporal sphere.  Buddy was a success because he chose those things that bring temporal happiness to all those with whom he associated.  He achieved spiritual significance because of the choices he made to seek eternal life through obedience to the laws of God and through the covenants and promises he made in the temple.  He put on the whole armor of God and marched through life fearlessly.  He did this with humility--not wanting to bring attention to himself.  On his Buddy Run Shirt Heather described three characteristics of him:  Perseverance, Determination, and Humility.  The first letter of each word is PH.D.  He never received a PH.D from a university, but those three characteristics are greater than any degree that can be conferred by a university.  The crown of glory reserved for him will be one he will wear with pride when it is bestowed upon him.  That crown will be his family.  He was asked to leave them here for a greater purpose, that we have not been privileged to see.  I wish every hour we could know why he had to be snatched from us.  I guess each of us will wonder that all of our lives.

I heard him preach the gospel to a man when we picked him up from his mission.  Buddy spoke with sincerity and with conviction and the truth always is felt by the spirit within us.  I felt great joy in seeing the change from boy to manhood that his mission brought to him.  He was serious about what he had committed to do in those two years.  I knew he would continue on the path we started him on and he would bring great joy into our lives continually.

 I speak now as a mother who has lost a son in this life.  I know the pain of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as she watched her son killed by those who did not feel the love, the hope, and promise our Lord offered to them.  I know the depths of despair and hurt that reached to the core of her being.  She endured all that was asked of her in this life and so I am determined to do as generations upon generations of mothers have done before me, for I am not alone in belonging to the club of mothers who have buried their adult children.  I did not bury an infant or young child.  But the pain is acute regardless of the age.  A mother loves with her whole being.  The love a woman feels for the father of her children is not measurable by man.  But the love for the child they bring forth together is significantly multiplied.  It is spiritual in all ways.  This is one reason we are taught to not take procreation lightly, that the power to procreate is sacred and should be guarded and only used within the bonds of marriage. Having children in our lives is the greatest gift we are given in this life. It is significant.  So when a child is lost to death prematurely, the father and mother lose a significant part of themselves. Because we lose them, a part of us is taken with them and we yearn to have them back so we can feel whole again. 

Would I resign my role in life as wife and mother so I would never feel this pain?  Never.  Buddy was a gift to us.  He was only ours for a short while.  Each child is loaned to us to teach us to love, to learn how to nurture, to learn joy, to train up in the way they should go, to teach us sorrow, faith, hope, etc. and to give all of ourselves to them.  It will never be enough time as long as we are mortal.

This is not a blog of sorrow, but will be one for sharing the journey of healing.  We cannot dwell on all the things we will not get to do with our son, husband, father, and brother. Nor can those who read this.  We must begin each day focused on significance.  For Heather she is here to raise her children and she has a great talent for rearing strong children.  They are kind, smart, talented, and obedient.  I have seen her plant the seeds of greatness in each of their lives with infinite love and patience.  She has great joy and rejoicing in her posterity and that will grow as they grow and add others to our family.  She helps them realize their dreams and never discourages them from trying new things so they come to know where their talents are.   I hope she will come to realize she can do all that is asked of her.  She has been prepared to move forward in her life.  I have seen phenomenal growth in her in the time we have been able to call her daughter.  From girlhood to womanhood, she has grown into a person committed to significance within her sphere.  We love the woman she is and look forward to seeing the final product one day as she stands next to her beloved and brings each of their children to stand in the unbroken chain that is our eternal family.  

No one else is responsible for our success or our joy.  We must search for it ourselves.  We must “live life from the inside out.”  Significance, which is our ultimate goal, comes from the things we do for ourselves to strengthen us so we can move forward. They seem so simple:  we feed our spirit through prayer and scripture study and by renewing our baptismal covenant each week by partaking of the sacrament and participating in gospel discussions.  Regular temple attendance will bring us closer to those we have "lost."  They are not really lost, but just not visible to us.  We feed our physical body with the things that will make us strong enough to face the challenges that lie ahead and we exercise regularly so we will not be weary.  These are simple things, but as Alma taught, "By small and simple things are great things brought to pass."

Today is another day to become significant in the lives of those we meet.  We will always mourn for the ones we have lost.  But we must live here and earn our crown of glory.  I am eternally grateful for my son.  I have struggled with knowing how to move forward.  I know that writing of my joy is the best way to do that.  Share with me how you have healed.  Together we can find joy to sustain us until we are reunited with all those we love who have passed through the veil.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tragedy Strikes

The shock left us reeling.  We were unprepared for the loss of our only son--a grown man with a lovely adoring wife and four children, whom he loved so dearly.  Hearts stopped beating.  Lives were fractured.  As the mom, heart-broken hardly covers the gamut of emotions that assailed me that day.  I heard the cries of sorrow from my daughter-in-law as she had to tell me of the tragedy.  I heard the anguished cries of my husband, and each of my daughters as one by one I gave them the horrible news that our son had been killed.

The word killed means so many things to so many people and the word died for me seems less traumatic.  Killed signifies the life has been taken by someone who lives on earth with us.  For me to die means our Father in Heaven called the person home.  Died seems easier to accept because Father gave us life and he can take our life.  To be killed means the life was snuffed out by someone who has no right to take a life.

In an automobile accident a life may be lost because it was just that--an accident, meaning a misfortune or mishap and perhaps the person was negligent and life was lost as a result of their personal negligence.  But when I hear the word killed, I think deprived of life by the negligence of another or by a premeditated planned action. Our son was most definitely deprived of his life through no fault of his own.  So he did not just die.  He was most definitely killed.  I guess I should tell what happened and why I am another heart-broken mom.

Our son was born 14 May 1975 in Huntsville, Alabama.  He was our youngest child and joined two older sisters.  We named him Walter Garrison Hopkins, IV.  It was a legacy we were proud of--a fourth generation of Hopkins men with strong moral values, which included devotion to family.  We were absolutely sure this baby would carry this name proudly and he did.  I wanted to call our son by his middle name.  My husband had been called Gary by his family and that was a short form of the middle name.  So we could not repeat that name without having mass confusion.  But I thought Garrison was a manly name and had determined to call him that. After all a garrison in the beginning meant a treasure.  He certainly was a treasure to his parents.  My husband came in the morning after his birth and asked if I would mind if we called him Buddy.  I was not in love with the name Buddy, but when he said, "I would like to call him Buddy because he will be my little buddy."   He would be his father's comrade, his friend, his chum. Melted my heart and I thought a man should call his only son what he wanted.    It is not unusual to give a nickname to kids. After all, we were both "southerners."  So Buddy he became.  It was years later that we learned that Walter G. Hopkins, Jr, my father-in-law, was called Buddy as a little boy.  I knew he had been called Bud by his family, but it did not occur to either of us that he had been Buddy also.

Our son was born with bilaterally club feet.  My husband had wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and had planned a career in the army.  It was not in his cards to do so as he was born with bilaterally club feet as well.  One of the blessings I saw with having a son with club feet was he would never be sent to war.  His feet would keep him from serving, except under extreme circumstances and then perhaps he would be in a desk job away from enemy lines.  I try to find the blessings in the circumstances of life.  There usually are many if we take the time to search for them.

I could write about what we went through to correct his club feet, but it does not fit in well with the story of Buddy's death. But perhaps at some later time, I will go back to his growing up years and tell of all of the obstacles our son overcame.  He also had a flexor deformity in his hands which never caused him pain or any particular difficulty.  Children born with physical disabilities always find ways to compensate as they have not known anything but what they have at birth.  What seems abnormal to us is their normal.

If you had told me a few years ago that Buddy would die jogging, I would have laughed you off the planet.  I know how much his feet and ankles hurt him, although he never complained about his pain.  You knew he hurt because he had so little flexibility in his ankles and feet and so when he walked he clumped, like he had lead in his shoes.  If he went up or down a staircase, you could hear him as there was no way he could walk delicately. He had small feet for such a large man.

But jogging was a way for him to control his weight and he had set a goal to run the Dallas Rock'n Roll Marathon in December of 2012.  He had run the half marathon and he was determined to show his children what you can do in life if you persevere and are determined.  His normal routine leading up to the tragedy was to get up early and run before work, which is what he was doing the morning he was KILLED!  It normally took him about 10 minutes of walking to become limber enough to run.  We could do a whole list of "if onlys," but it would not change the outcome.  Without that part of his routine, he would never have been still jogging.  So there is the only if only I will interject.

He was only a few blocks from home when he was hit from behind by a truck--the victim of a hit and run. The man who was responsible for his death, it appears, was about 40 miles from his home.  We will never know why he was driving in the Sendera Ranch neighborhood, a bedroom community in Haslet, Texas, where our son lived with his wife and 4 young children.  But the man veered across the two lane road and off the road where our son was jogging the last leg of his workout before turning onto the road that would take him back to his home.  Our son was jogging facing traffic and was not actually on the road, but off the road.  He seemed to have been doing exactly what he should have been doing and could not have caused the accident.  In an instant he was hit from behind and it appears he was killed instantly as he was struck by the truck and our family now lives without our beloved son, brother, husband, and father.  A good man deprived of his life by another, who was not in control of his body and his truck.  We have been led to believe the man responsible was high on something.  There was no apparent reason for him to be in that neighborhood at all.

I am not sure I have the details correct in the next part of the story and perhaps I will need to edit the story as I send it to my daughter-in-law to confirm the details.  I was numb with shock when I was told this part and I am still trying to wrap my brain around what occurred at 5:45 am the 21st of June 2012.  Our daughter-in-law got up to get ready for work herself.  She went to her computer to check her face book before getting into the shower.  On the Sendera Ranch face book was a posting that a man had been killed by a hit and run driver that morning while he was jogging.  Heather realized Buddy had not kissed her good-bye before leaving for work, which he would have done.  She ran to the front of the house and saw his car was still there and she called work and found he had not shown up or called in.  Then the wheels of horror begin to spin.  She called the police to see if the person had been identified and she felt in her gut it was Buddy.  They said he had no identification on him and could give her no information.  Indeed his wallet was still had home.

When she called me at about 7:10 Flagstaff, Arizona time I heard in her voice something was terribly wrong. I said, "Heather, what is it?"  She said, "Mom, there's been an accident."  My response was, "How bad is the accident?"  I expected a car crash, a trip to the hospital, a broken leg.  The chilling words that followed was not on my radar. "Buddy's been killed."  I felt my heart shatter into fragments and I repeated her words aloud and then I heard behind me my husband's heart shattering.  Then there was the calling of each daughter to hear their screams of anguish as their hearts broke and shattered.  I would like to get the screams to stop in my head.  This was the most awful moment of my entire life.  I heard the screams of each member of my family as we became fractured one by one.  It is hard to heal from a tragedy of this magnitude because as a family we love so deeply.

People ask me how I am doing.  My reaction is, "I feel as if I am suffocating at times.  I feel as if I have been kicked in the gut--unable to breathe.  My heart feels as if it weighs 900 pounds at times."  There is no end to the list I could give them.  Sometimes I want to lay in the floor and kick my feet and pound my fists.  Other times I want to drive my car into a wall as I don't think it could hurt any more, but I know that is not a solution.  I would only hurt my family more.

I cannot express adequately what it is to hold a baby in your arms and feel that you could die of joy and then 37 years, 1 month, and 1 week later feel as if the joy you have had is gone and will never return as long as you are in this life.  The young mother who held her son and adored him from the top of his head to the soles of his tiny crooked feet died the day she was told her son was killed.  The Rosemary who walks in her home is changed forever on so many levels.  Perhaps some of the changes were needed.  I am not convinced any mother should ever have to outlive her children, regardless of the changes they need to make in their life.