Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Live to the point of tears

When I was growing up, I got to take piano lessons from a woman who lived around the corner from me. She belonged to my church and worked at the same gym as my mom, so we were friends. She was the kind of woman who had endless energy and a love of life that seemed to radiate from every pore. She was part Hawaiian, so she had beautiful skin and an exotic look that made her not only beautiful but real. I would walk to my piano lessons with books in hand knowing that I had not practiced as much as I should have but confidently believing my sight reading skills would get me through the lesson. But as soon as I came in, she would ask me how things were going, and I found myself telling her everything that was going on, what I was thinking and feeling and what I hoped and dreamed to accomplish. Before we knew it there were only a few minutes left to have a lesson, in which time I would sometimes skillfully sight read some music and she would tell me to go home and practice. This became our typical weekly lesson. Sometimes there was more playing, but Nani taught me something more important than notes and chords and how to play Chopin. She taught me to dream and believe.

Throughout my teenage years, she was a constant through my piano lessons and then early morning seminary, a gospel study class in our church for high school kids. I saw her often, and we were friends. Her oldest daughter was the same age as my brother and drove me to school when I was a freshman. She was beautiful and everyone loved her. I wanted to be her. Nani was a cool mom who wore cool clothes, was always funny and never judged me or mothered me. She was fit and buff, and I always said I wanted to look like her when I was her age. She was a listening ear during a tumultuous and pivotal time in my life. As much as I love my mom, sometimes teenage girls don't get along with their moms. So there was Nani. She listened to me talk about my life in high school, my friends, my thoughts. She knew how I was feeling and what I was thinking and perhaps she relayed some of this information to my parents. I don't know, and it doesn't matter. I remember countless times venting about guys and how everyone in high school was immature. I don't think I stopped complaining about that even in college. But she would always confidently tell me that I was cool and beautiful and deserved the best. And I didn't just deserve it, but I would get it. She made me feel like I could do anything and that if I just believed in myself then it wasn't a matter of could but when.

When I went away to college, I only saw her when I would come home for visits. But I would always stop by and we would spend an hour or two talking about everything that was happening. Our conversation would end as it always did with her telling me how cool I was and how excited she was to see where I would end up. More than a decade has passed since I graduated from high school, and it's been almost 7 years since I finished college, which means I haven't been home much to visit with Nani. I like to think that of all the kids Nani has influenced and befriended over the years that I was her favorite. I also like to think that I was the one she knew would fly. I had adventure in my bones and a fearless heart. And I would always come back with another story to tell. I like to think that she saw something different in me when I came home last August completely in love with Cameron and excited for what our future might hold. I remember sitting in the backyard with her at my dad's 50th birthday party talking about him telling her that he was the man she would approve of. She just smiled. I like to think that she felt some sense of satisfaction and joy when she received the wedding invitation in the mail this past spring, and next to my family, she was one person I didn't want to miss when we came home after the wedding for the Open House. I like to think that when she saw me then... all grown up, living in New York, tackling every adventure, sucking the marrow out of life, living to the point of tears, feeling comfortable and confident in my own skin and now standing next to the man of my dreams that inside she knew she had been a part of it - just as much as my parents had been.

She has been a pillar of strength not only to me but to everyone who knows her. She always smiles even when life is rough. She has just as many challenges as the next guy, but you would never know it. Somehow her strength, faith and attitude of perseverance has managed to make things turn out ok and better than ok. I remember times that she faced experiences that seemed unfair to my ignorant and young eyes, and yet she handled them beautifully with grace. Perhaps that is why Grace is really her first name. She is one of the most faithful women I have ever had the pleasure to know, and she is the kind of person I always felt the Lord loved beyond measure. She is the kind of person that influences hundreds and thousands of people probably without knowing it and by just doing what she does best - being a friend.

I received a call from my mother yesterday that Nani was facing a diagnosis and surgery this week. Of all people, she didn't ever seem like someone who would have to go through something like this. But as always, she is in good spirits. There is a very large part of me that feels she will come through this just fine because she's a fighter and a survivor. She's better and stronger and smarter than cancer. But she taught me to believe and to persevere and to conquer, and so I do. And while she is thousands of miles away, she has a cheerleader on this side of the country believing and calling in all the favors I can with the Man upstairs. Heaven only knows she has probably done the same for me. Her love of life is intoxicating and contagious. She has lived to the point of tears and she will continue to do so. I believe that.


Nate and Lalani said...

I am sitting here crying after reading your tribute to Sis. Uri. I, like you am better and stronger because of her spirit and example. I didn't know that she was facing this trial in her life. However, I too feel that she is a survivor. My prayers will be added to yours and countless other I am sure on her behalf. Thank you for your words and the memories of an incredible woman that were shared.

Nicole Cave said...

I never had her for a seminary teacher...I think Ashton might have, but as I read this...before you said her name, I knew who you were talking about. I do remember her and I hope everything turns out as it is supposed to. I am sure Ashton's mom would be sad to hear this...I think they knew eachother well!!

Aaron, Lindsey, and Zander said...

Hey Nik, thanks for writing this! Keep us posted how she is doing!

Nikki said...

Hey Nikki - It's me Nikki Robison - I have finally joined the blogging world but my link on my site doesn't connect to this site - I got to it from Lindsey's. Its good that you are such a gifted writer because what you wrote about Nani was beautifully said. She is an amazing woman and I had no idea. Let me know how things turn out. Also let me know how to got on your blog.

Doug and Dawn Hardy said...

Nikki I am getting all choked up after reading this about Nani. I too think she is so amazing and am a better person for knowing her. I didn't know about this either and will be praying for her. I look forward to hearing how she does. Please let her know that she has much love and support. Thanks for taking the time to post this about her.

The Ririe's said...

You did an amazing job writing about Nani. I read it just after you posted it but never told you what a wonderful job you did. I joined the world of blogging and it has been fun to see what everyone is up to. I need to get your email address from my nikki (this is angela by the way) so that I can invite you to mine!