Monday, October 17, 2011

Lives to Word By

When I was a freshman at Arizona State I lived with Bill, Jennifer, and Andrew Hall. My family had recently moved to Utah and I wanted to save for my mission to Brazil. So I took advantage of the Hall's goodwill and moved in. Plus I had a nice deal going with ASU (free school with a stipend).

The Halls are my second family, so I can't really say I grew any closer during my freshman year. I had lived over there for 18 years as is. Another year was nothing new. However, Bill quickly found out I was particular about two things: homework and sleep. If either my homework or sleep routine were violated, life was rough. When I wasn't slaving away on essays or counting my sheep, I was usually hanging with the Halls. We had a great year. It was a memorable year in history, the year of the twin towers attack, the D-backs World Series, the beginning of the Afghan war. It was a year of mission calls and friends starting to talk marriage. A lot of change. But I was able to note something I wasn't expecting: Jennifer's work ethic.

It's not that I did not know Jennifer worked hard, it's just that I didn't pay attention to it. Like a word you learn and suddenly begin hearing everywhere, as soon as I learned how hard Jennifer works, I noticed it everywhere. In a year of living in her home, I caught her sleeping a total of two-and-a-half times. The half time was when she was doing this pseudo-slide off the couch, downstairs. She reached the ground before she reached REM, so it counts as a half. She had just finished hooking up Andrew's CF treatment at 5:00 AM and I was leaving early to school to witness the rare event of Jennifer pausing for a break.

Jennifer works crazy hours. She is a professional caterer, working as many as four receptions a week. She teaches swimming lessons in her pool to all the kids and their kids in Mesa. She works actively in the church. She cooks homemade meals nightly. She is constantly running errands for family and friends. And she is never too busy for people. When a client comes over to discuss a reception, she will spend over half-an-hour just shooting the breeze and getting to know the person and their family. Her product at receptions and swimming lessons is more than time, it's love. And that's why people keep coming back for her swimming and catering.

I'm again staying with the Halls this month as I work at St. Joseph's hospital in Phoenix. I haven't seen Jennifer sleeping yet in two weeks. Though she once told me, "I'm going to bed," a phrase I never heard her speak before. This past weekend she pulled off something that would have made my legs fall off. She catered a reception Friday night for over 400 people. She directed a staff of ten, paid them all, sent them home, cleaned up, went home, and began packing for the next day's reception in Sedona, AZ. At around 12:45 am she began making her shopping list for her 7am trip to stores. I was tired and went to bed. Then next thing I heard was her footsteps upstairs at 5:30 am. She had an appointment with her running buddy. They are running a half-marathon in two weeks. After that she was off shopping. She came home, cut up veggies, made two sauces at the same time while listening to me jabber mindlessly, and finished packing her trailer. The amazing thing about those sauces was she had to quadruple the portions, doing the math for the different sauces in her head. By 10:30 she was off to Sedona. I stayed back to study, and re-attach my legs that had fallen off while helping at the previous night's reception.

At Sedona she had to improv as grills went out, the trailer didn't fit, and her cell phone stopped working. Once more unto the breach she went, and she came home victorious, early Sunday morning. When I talked to her Sunday evening, her voice was tired and hoarse, the effects of two straight days of giving directions beginning to show. I went to bed and today saw her in the afternoon. She was giving me an update on the day even though she was late for a service project for a girl she helps with cerebral palsy. Then her daughter called, who she stopped to help. Then she told me her dear friend had passed away this morning from a heart attack, her tired voice beginning to break as she began to cry. I couldn't help but think: God bless you Jennifer for all you do and are.

A while ago she once told me, "If I ever stop I'll break." We were running on the beach at Santa Monica at the time. She was talking about more than running. She was talking about life. Thanks Jennifer, for showing me that whatever we do, we give our best, because anything less is "to sacrifice the gift" (Prefontaine).

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