03 September 2019

Leap of Faith

Lizard was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of Parkinson's a year ago last month. We celebrated our 14th anniversary back in July (and I told everyone we're Colorado's newest 14er!!!), and I reminded him of our "bucket list" promises we made to each other back when he was diagnosed.

His goal was to finish the 14ers, if he can. He might not be able to. But I will do everything I can to support him if he is able to do the dangerous ones safely.

My goal was for him to take me to the temple while he is still alive and still has all his senses instead of making me wait until a year after he dies. He was not a member of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I've sort of been on a 14-year mission, trying to teach him and trying be a good example.

We both promised last year we would try to help each other accomplish our goals.

In July of this year, I told Lizard the coolest 15-year anniversary gift he could give me next year would be to take me to the temple so we can be sealed for time and all eternity. When we got married 14 years ago, it was "until death do we part." My then-bishop performed the ceremony, but we couldn't be married in the temple because Lizard was not a church member. Back when he was first diagnosed, his reaction to taking me to the temple before he dies was, "Do I have to do it right now?" So I knew he was thinking about it. It was just a rather large mountain of a commitment for him at the time, especially given all the medical stuff he's had to go through in the last 18 or 19 months.

This year, when I brought up our bucket lists again, he said, "You deserve to be sealed in the temple. Why don't you go ahead and set up the missionary discussions again."

So I did. I typically try to go to the Denver Temple on Tuesday nights if I can get off work in time, but the temple is closed right now until October for renovations. The Fort Collins Temple is too far for me to get there before it closes on a work night. Even if I do get off in time. So I thought Tuesday nights might be perfect for missionary discussions. We've been meeting with the missionaries and different members of my church ward ever since, and Lizard's gone to church with me every single week since then.

Sitting still for an hour or two each Sunday (as well as an hour each Tuesday) is very difficult for Lizard because of his tremors and restless legs. So going to church isn't the easiest thing for him. But he gave it his best shot every single week. I couldn't believe the commitment! It was amazing!!!

Two days after we talked about starting up the missionary discussions again, it was Saturday, and I wanted to shoot the sunrise. I'd planned to go to Hildebrand Ranch, which we had just recently discovered. Even though it was going to be over 90 degrees that day, I put on a pair of very stiff jeans because Hildebrand is rattlesnake territory. I took off to shoot the sunrise and let Lizard sleep because he has such difficulty sleeping. He was sleeping soundly, and I didn't want to wake him.

I shot the sunrise, then came home to water the garden. I was in the backyard, feeding the birds and getting ready to pick up the hose to water the raised bed gardens Lizard built for me. I'd been standing there about five or so minutes, just watching the birds, and when I leaned over to pick up the hose, a rattlesnake reared up!!! He was right next to my feet, and I never saw him until he rattled! I didn't get bit. But it certainly scared the daylights out of me. I think I must have jumped about 30 feet high! I started screaming, "Oh, this is bad! This is bad! This is bad!" I kept looking down at my jeans and my arm, fully expecting to see blood, but it never came. Lizard slept right through my excitement!!!

The snake eventually started slithering under the chicken wire Lizard had put around the raised bed garden this year to keep the bunnies from eating my flowers. The other two raised bed gardens have onions and oregano, and those fragrant greens seems to keep the deer and bunnies away. But man, do critters love my flower garden!!! In fact, I didn't know it at the time, but there was a mama bunny on the other side of the raised bed garden, waiting for me to move so she could jump back in and tend to her babies she'd put in a den beneath my peonies and dahlias. I think the babies are what the snake wanted. But all I could think was to keep my eyes on it and not move within striking distance again.

Rattlesnakes can strike the length of their bodies. That means stay double the distance of their length away from them. This snake was now between me and the door to my house. It could have gone for my bare arm; I was wearing a T-shirt. I don't think it would have gotten through my jeans, and so I'm still here, alive and kicking.

When the snake got stuck trying to slither under the chicken wire, I finally ran in to wake Lizard. My adrenaline was still flowing in extremely healthy doses, and I was shouting and scared. My behavior really rattled Lizard because he had been out cold, and I woke him with a huge shock. It took a few minutes for him to get his bearings.

When he began thinking coherently, he grabbed the shovel and went outside to decapitate our little friend. We try to relocate rattlesnakes when we can, but this guy was super angry (he wasn't that big, so he may have been a youngster, inexperienced, and way full of toxins). We have tiny kids on both sides of our house. We couldn't take a chance the snake might make it into a neighbor's yard and bite one of the little ones. Plus, he was really tangled up in the chicken wire and really expressing serious emotion with that rattle on the end of his tail. (Mama bunny was back inside the raised bed garden at this point.)

Lizard killed the rattler in two strikes, and we dug him out and disposed of the body, being careful not to expose ourselves to a strike, because snakes actually can still bite after they are dead. I was still so rattled. Literally. Pun or not. I sat down on the couch in the living room and just kept saying over and over, "I can't believe I wore jeans today! I can't believe I wore jeans today!"

When I began to calm down, I told Lizard that Heavenly Father had protected me by inspiring me to wear jeans for my sunrise photos. It had been high 90s, and I had been wearing shorts when I didn't have to work. If I had been wearing shorts, the rattler could have gotten my ankle but good. My screams would not have awoken Lizard. The worst thing you can do when you get bit is panic, which rushes the blood straight to your heart. So a good lesson for me on preparedness... Stay calm. Keep your senses about you. Use what you've learned in CPR certification over the last 25 years. Lizard and I talked about that for a few minutes.

Then I said, just off the top of my head, "Good thing I'm wearing my garments!"

Lizard looked straight at me and said, "You're probably right. It is your guard suit that protected you." (That's what he's always called my modest temple underwear. Either that or "magic underwear.")

I didn't really think too much of it at the time, probably because I was still in shock for another day or so. We had our first missionary discussion (for about the 11th time) the following Tuesday. I told the missionaries and our ward mission leader about the rattlesnake experience, and we used the adventure in the lesson. I thought it was most effective.

The next weekend, I was right here, at my computer, typing in my journal, when Lizard came running from the basement to tell me he needed my help right away. It had been raining heavily after several months of drought, and I thought our basement must be flooding again. Oh, how I didn't want to spend the whole Sunday night bailing water again!!! We've had to do that three times since we bought the house ten years ago, and Lizard thought he had it fixed the last time. I was near tears at the prospect of bailing all night again and having to go to work Monday morning.

Lizard told me a baby bunny had fallen into the window well and was trapped. I was so relieved the basement wasn't flooding!!! I went downstairs with Lizard to see the bunny, and it was pretty still. We didn't know how long it had been there, so it probably was starving and thirsty. It had been very hot again that day. We didn't know if the baby bunny was hurt. We had to do something.

I put on the thickest gloves I own and told Lizard I was going to open the window and try to give the bunny some water so it would trust me, then try to pick it up so I could move it outside, if it seemed like it still had any life in it. Lizard was very worried it would bite me and give me rabies.

I gently opened the window, and that darned bunny leapt over my shoulder and into the basement, completely over my shoulder, six feet or better!!! We spent the next two hours chasing it through the basement until it finally ran out of energy. Still wearing those thick, soft, fuzzy gloves, I gently picked it up and put it in the front yard with a shallow container of milk right next to it.

The tiny baby didn't move for a few minutes. I thought it must have brain damage from the fall and that huge leap of faith. But then it noticed the flowers in my garden, and promptly began chewing on some. It hopped around a bit and ate a couple more flowers, then hopped back toward the backyard, back into the danger of falling into the window well again but probably also where Mama was.

We were pretty wired and couldn't go right to sleep, so we just talked about the bunny and its leap of faith. It had no idea what it was jumping into or whether it was going to live, but freedom meant that much to it. Being captive made the risk worthwhile.

The following Tuesday, the missionaries challenged Lizard to baptism. I had heard this at least ten times before, and my heart sort of sank because I expected the answer would be the same... "Not at this time."

But he said yes. I had to do a double-take to make sure I heard it properly. The missionaries were staring wide-eyed. He said yes!!!

We started planning the baptism, and I fully expected Lizard might chicken out after a few days, but he became stronger in his desire.

In the final week's lesson, we talked about him saying yes after so many years of saying no, and the missionaries asked what changed Lizard's mind. He said first of all, he wanted to be sealed to me, and he knew he couldn't do that without being baptized. Then he said the rattlesnake scare had really opened up his mind to the protection I've been receiving because I wear my temple garments. He added the baby bunny taught him to take a leap of faith. He said he still had doubts about Joseph Smith the night he said yes, but that he decided he needed to take his own leap of faith, and he has grown stronger and stronger ever since. He still isn't 100% convinced about the entire Joseph Smith story, but his faith is inspiring me and everyone who hears our story.

On August 31, my brothers came from New Mexico and California to perform the baptism and confirmation. In one year, Lizard and I will be able to go to the temple to be sealed for time and all eternity.

There is not a happier girl in the whole world right now!


  1. Wow. I never knew they could still bite when they are dead. Would have sent me running away too. Things that can kill me aren't my favorite in nature haha I would have thought about rabies with the bunny too. But hey, both showed him the way and now together you can forever be.

    1. Thank you, Pat! I still have to pinch myself every now and then to make sure it's real. I can't believe it sometimes, but I am SO thankful!!!


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