Gardnerville: The Valley of the Shadow of Death

I’m nesting. I think it’s because my biological clock is telling me to make babies, but according to my life schedule this may not commence until the ripe old age of 29 years old, which results in a rather confused and contradicting system, which in turn results in the coping mechanism of nesting.

Regardless, my nesting tendencies fuel my endless need for household decorations, and lately I’ve been coming across a lot of cliche crap that says “HOME, SWEET HOME” in shouty capitals.

This got me thinking (in the very unique, tangential, slightly ADHD way that I do think) that I’m not sure I would consider my home of Gardnerville, Nevada very sweet. I might lean a little more towards bittersweet if indeed my opinion was asked.

You see, just as the Sierra Mountain tops and Carson Valley we’ve come to love, small town life too boasts a variety of peaks and pits.

The peak is that if you break up with a boyfriend in second period, he tells his friend, who tells his grandma, who tells MY grandma at quilting club, who then makes my favorite rice pudding, and calls me to come over for break up consolation lunch THE SAME DAY. Because in Italian, the words sad, sympathy, and sorry all translate to, “Eat more, you’re too skinny.” Manga, manga.

The pit is two things really.

The first is that I find the use of “Gardner” in our desert town name ironic, given that it implies the presence of a garden, which would then imply the ability of the land to grow more than simply sage brush.

The second is that everybody knows everybody, in which case, any bad news to be had is inevitably in regards to a friend, family member, or friend’s family member, and it hits you in the gut every single time. Especially death.

Knowing everybody means knowing death. I calculate that on average I’ve mourned the death of a friend or family twice a year for the last 20 years of my life. This means that a) the black funeral section of my closet is constantly flourishing, and b) after 40 plus deaths, I’ve conceded to God and accepted that my life, is in fact largely about death.

And so I grew up assuming that this was how everyone had it. Needless to say, when I moved away from Nevada to the wet metropolis that is Portland, I was livid to find out that I had assumed wrong. Normal people don’t have funeral sections in their closets. Normal people know the loss of maybe one or two grandparents. Normal people bonded in middle school at the movie theaters, not while they were holding each other up during the eulogy.

Suddenly, I realized I’d been living my life accustomed to death, sitting idly by as it swept through my loved ones like the cold winter wind coming down the mountainside.  And I was pissed.

For a while, I stomped my feet at God, cursing him for taking my people away before they were ready to go. I yelled and screamed at him to give them back, beating my fists upon his door.

And then came the rain, like rain does in the Carson Valley, eclipsing the southern mountains with a violent purple that slowly moves closer and closer until the raindrops are upon you both to drown out your sorrows, and cleanse your soul.

It was then, doused by the tears of the Lord at my misplaced anger that I found I am right to fight. But my fight is not with God. My fight is in the hospital. My fight is for every patient and every patient’s family that I can help live a life different than my own. But most importantly, my fight is not out of anger. It is out of the realization that life is precious and fleeting like the smell of wet sagebrush after the rainstorm.

Psalm 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.


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