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Diana – A Valentine’s Day Tale

dianaself

She was born on a backroad
Near the coast of Californ’
She grew up in a 32 van
Livin’ on the road with no place to call her own
‘Cause her daddy was a singer in a band
She courted a young man
He asked her to marry
He promised what she’d never known before
He built her a cabin with a kitchen and a garden
And he whispered as he walked her to the door
Darlin’ welcome home
 
Chorus
Welcome Home, Welcome Home
It’s been a long time comin’
It’s good to have a place to call your own
Welcome Home, Welcome Home
It’s been a long time comin’
It’s good to finally have you comin’ home
Welcome home

I first heard the opening stanza of this song on the day I first met Diana.  She and I had been playing solo gigs at local places around town, and we had each expressed to our friend Jana that we were interested in teaming up with someone as a duo.  Jana gave us each the other’s phone number, and Diana and I agreed to meet at Anderson-Foothill Library in Salt Lake City.  I was fashionably late, having had a difficult time getting away from work, but she was unperturbed.  I would soon learn that was part of her nature.  We sat on the lawn for about an hour, playing our songs for each other.  She played her own song, “Welcome Home”.  I added a simple but well-timed hammer-off-hammer-on lick and sang a few harmonies, and Shiloh Rising was born.  There was no real chemistry that first day, but it was an encouraging start, and we parted saying, “Well, we’ll see what happens.”

Prairie Storm

Prairie Storm

What “happened” was one of the two great miracles of my life (the other being my baptism into the Lord’s Kingdom).  The chemistry that was undetectable on that first day soon flowered as I learned to trust, then appreciate, then love and cherish this sweet woman.  Her gentle nature helped me feel totally at ease around her, accepted for who I was.  That was a novelty for me at that time of my life – a breath of fresh air, actually.  It didn’t take long, of course, to find out that she treated everyone that way.  We began to practice together, adding song after song to our repertoire – many originals, a few favorite covers; a little folk, a little bluegrass, a little country – all nice, gentle, melodic songs.  Soon, we were playing gigs (we opened every performance with “Welcome Home”), getting more and more comfortable, until comfort turned to love.

We were married on April 2, 1998 in a very low-key ceremony attended by a few friends (including matchmaker Jana and her brother Doug) and the bishopric of our new ward.  The wedding was beautiful in its simplicity and sincerity.  We wrote our own vows – vows which we still exchange each year.  I don’t know how we knew it was right, but we did.  I guess that’s one of the great mysteries of life.  I’ve heard it said many times, “When it’s right, you know it”.  It’s impossible to explain how that might work, but our experience confirms that it does.  Yes, it was right, and we just knew it.

Now to all there’s a season, and a time for everything
And a purpose for some things to be
She wanted a family, but time was so unkind
To the two hearts who so wanted to be three.
She waited the summers, she waited the winters,
She waited when the autumn leaves were gold
Then finally a baby, a sweet little daughter,
And they whispered as they took her through the door,
“Darlin’ welcome home.”

This post, then, is my valentine to my precious wife and eternal companion, Diana.  I’ve never known someone so smart, so talented and yet so humble.  Actually, I’ve just never met someone so humble.  When I first met her, it was obvious that she wrote, played and sang some very nice folk-style music, but she also made fine-art dolls and pewter-faced bears.  She was (is) a seamstress, an artist and a walking encyclopedia on pop music of the 50’s and 60’s.  Not long after we married, she “tired” of making the dolls and took up painting.  Her first pastel effort was absolutely stunning – a picture of a young father with his daughter sitting on his shoulders.  She called it “The Parade”.  Hundreds of paintings later, her body of work is sweet, comfortable, and happy.  My absolute favorite, “Tres Amigos”, finally found a home in Boulder,Utah this past September.  It is a whimsical painting of three smiling donkeys who are clearly sharing some inside joke – a painting that one can’t help but smile at; a painting that simply warms one from the inside.  You can view a sampling of her other work here.

Tres Amigos

Tres Amigos

The Parade

The Parade

Yes, Diana is an extremely talented woman, and it’s a joy to watch her work so effortlessly to create art that sings the joy and beauty of her soul.  And that – the beauty of her soul – is what I would really like to celebrate this Valentine’s day.

Quite frankly, I’ve never known a person who is so free of guile.  Diana’s spirit is just pure and, in many ways, fearless.  It takes courage to be vulnerable, and Diana is always vulnerable.  She doesn’t know how to be any other way.  She never gets angry.  If someone does or says something that hurts her feelings, she just cries as if in shock at any manifestation of a spirit of contention.  She’s never built up the spiritual and emotional callouses that most of us develop as we learn to protect ourselves from the pains of living.  One might think that she hasn’t suffered, but one would be wrong; yet she remains as open and trusting as anyone ever was.  Sometimes I glimpse her spirit, and it is the spirit of a child – an eternally wise, humble, courageous child.  I could definitely picture her spirit sitting on the Savior’s knee as He teaches mysteries far too precious for adults to comprehend.

Diana laughs easily.  She has a quick, unassuming wit, but she’s never, ever mean.  She never laughs at someone else’s expense.  Her laugh is real, sincere…perfect.  Yes, it’s a perfect laugh because it is so transparent and gleeful.

The first time I ever saw your laughter
Break loose inside and tumble out to me
My heart knew it had found what it was after
And it came…so easily
And you should know.
Green Eyes – Kate Wolf
Through the Glass, Darkly

Through the Glass, Darkly

Sometimes she laughs at things that are so stupid that I personally just roll my eyes, because I’m far too cool to laugh at something so childish or cliché, but Diana’s never too cool for laughter.  Nope, she still laughs; that real, sincere…perfect laugh.  She exudes joy, and this gives me joy.

I’ll never forget the day a few years ago when I surprised her in the living room.  There’s a song from 1962 called “Pink Shoe Laces” (written by Mickie Grant, recorded by Dodie Stevens).  The chorus goes:

Tan shoes and pink shoe laces
A polka dot vest and man, oh, man
Tan shoes and pink shoe laces
A big panama with a purple hat band

As I walked into the room, I saw my then 55-year-old wife dancing like a teenager, bouncing joyously in rhythm to the music.  As she saw me, she looked quite sheepish, as if she had been caught in some guilty pleasure, but she didn’t stop dancing, and she didn’t stop smiling.  She was having fun.  She was having joy.  This gave me joy.

I guess, ultimately, Diana is joy.  This world has the capability of sucking joy right out of good people.  Diana refuses to surrender hers.  Then, because she has enough and to spare, she shares that joy with the world – through her art, through her music, through her kindness, and occasionally through sheer capriciousness.  The world is a more joyous place because of my wife.

There was a commercial a few years ago –a commercial for some kind of jewelry – where a classically handsome actor was shown spinning slowly by himself in some European square, his arms outspread, declaring to the world at the top of his lungs, “I love this woman!”  After 17 years with Diana, not a day goes by that I don’t find my spirit spinning slowly, happily, gratefully – declaring out loud to the world at the top of my inner voice, “I love this woman!”  Except in my version, I sometimes can’t keep myself from laughing.  My joy just kind of tumbles out that way once it starts to overflow; and it overflows a lot.

Moon Over Kolob Reservoir

Moon Over Kolob Reservoir

Well, life is a question, and the answer’s hard to see
Why she had to live the golden years alone,
She wanted her family, but time stayed on her side,
As she waited for the day they’d call her home.
‘Cause she buried her father, she buried her daughter,
She laid her darlin’ in the grave so cold,
Then finally her passing, where a young man came to meet her,
And he whispered as she came through heaven’s door,
Darlin’ welcome home
 
Chorus
Welcome Home, Welcome Home
It’s been a long time comin’
It’s good to have a place to call your own
Welcome Home, Welcome Home
It’s been a long time comin’
It’s good to finally have you comin’ home
Welcome home

Thank you, sweetie, for loving me.   If I could have my way, we would exit this world together (Remember Thelma and Louise?), because I really don’t want to be here without you, and I can’t bear the thought of leaving you behind.  My home is with you, but we’re not quite there yet.  I look forward to the day – a day that will come – when we will stand, hand-in-hand, before our Savior and you will hear, for the final time, “Darlin’ welcome home”.

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