As we celebrate Memorial Day this month, I would like to give my thanks to those who serve in the military and their families, as well as condolences to those who have lost loved ones in service. It’s a beautiful time to honor them and the ultimate sacrifice that they have made.
I often think of my friend, Jennie Taylor, who is now a widow. Her husband, North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor, was a major in the US Army National Guard. He answered the call to serve his country in Afghanistan where he was killed, leaving Jennie and their seven children behind. Brent was a friend of mine through our public service experiences. Just before he was killed, he posted on Facebook about the people in Afghanistan being able to vote. He showed a photo of a long line of people waiting to do so. What a profound reminder of the liberties and freedoms we have been given here in the United States and why we have amazing people like Brent to help protect us and those freedoms.
For those of you who are grieving as you remember your loved ones. I have a small understanding of the loss and grief that comes from saying goodbye.
On Sept 11, 2011, my husband and I were hustling our kids to bed when I heard a knock at my front door. I opened the door to see my brother, Mike, and his wife, Karyn, standing on my porch. They came in the house and Mike told me how mom and dad were driving down to St George, there was a bad storm and they were in a car accident, “Mom is dead and dad is in the hospital,” he muttered. I cried out, “But I still need a mom.”
After visiting each of our siblings to deliver the news, and making the terrible call to tell my mom’s mother that her oldest daughter had passed, Mike and I drove down to St George to be with our dad.
Wow – it was like I was punched in the gut. My mom was 57 years old and in great health. She had 11 grandchildren. It was a difficult first few years and I still think of her and miss her all the time.
Three years after losing mom, my youngest brother, Isaac, and his wife and two year old daughter decided to move to China to teach English and have an adventure. Isaac got food poisoning and because of the medication he was taking, combined with the dehydration, he landed in the hospital and eventually went into a coma. In this Chinese hospital, family members only could visit their loved one and speak to healthcare providers during one 30 minute time period each day. It was grueling for Isaac’s wife, Candalyn. My dad and Chinese-speaking brother were able to secure emergency visas to go over and assist. While there they got word that Isaac would never fully recover and would be brain dead. The family made the difficult decision to let him go.
Losing two of my six original family members has been hard. We miss mom and Isaac desperately. But there are interesting blessings that come from hard situations. We now have a bonus mom (that’s what we call our stepmom) and her two wonderful sons and their families who have joined our Winder family. Several years after Isaac’s death, his wife Candalyn was able to earn her masters degree and found a wonderful man to marry, Jason, who we’ve also welcomed into our family. They even had a new baby a few weeks ago.
Our family gets together for an adult date night and family dinner with all the kids once per month. We sometimes can’t explain how we are all related in simple terms, but we love each other and provide support for each other. We all know loss and we find ways to help each other. Though some days are hard, and we desperately miss the loved ones who have passed, we find ways to see the rainbows and silver linings of life.
As a Salt Lake County Council member, I often see people who have difficulties in their life – health challenges, poverty, childhood trauma, mental health, homelessness and heartache. It’s hard to see so much sadness. Sometimes life doesn’t seem fair. I also get a chance to see the wonderful people in this community who serve others. People reaching out, often to complete strangers, to lighten their load, people who give of themselves so unselfishly. It is heartwarming to know there are so many good people out there. Thank you for all of you who serve and help your fellowmen. As I’ve mourned the loss of loved ones, and some days have been buried with overwhelming grief, I’ve found reprieve by looking outside myself and finding ways to serve. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
As we celebrate Memorial Day, I am grateful for our military men and women who serve so that we have the incredible freedoms that we do. I’m also grateful for my family members who have passed on. May you have sweet experiences as you remember your loved ones and cherish happy memories.
Aimee Winder Newton has been serving on the Salt Lake County Council since January 2014. She is the current chair of the council. Her district encompasses Murray, Taylorsville, West Valley City and West Jordan, and a small portion of South Salt Lake and Millcreek... [read more]
|Aimee Winder Newton||
aimee winder newton: County Council district 3