Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In Loving Memory of Simon Martin Auras

 In Loving Memory: Simon Martin Auras
April 10, 2003 - October 9, 2014
Click HERE to help the Auras family with funeral expenses

(written Tuesday: October 14)

Dear Michael and Johanna,

Since receiving word of your beloved son's passing, my broken heart and disbelieving thoughts have been centered on your family. It would be easy to write paragraphs detailing my grief, but my personal feelings would pale in both depth and understanding in comparison to the horrifying heartache that is suddenly yours to carry. With that being said, it is my great hope that the heavenly peace and comfort that surrounds your family likewise surpasses my understanding. Per Michael's request, I want to share with you the memories and love I have for Simon and your family with the hope it will bring you a smile.

First of all, I apologize that I can not articulate my thoughts in German. As I said so often that summer we shared together, "Ich spreche kein Deutch!" (I speak zero German!). One of my favorite memories, that I suddenly want to share, involves Johanna because one thing is for certain: Simon would not have been the amazing person that he is without the love of his incredible Mother.

Johanna's kindness was immediate as she included me in her circle of friends despite my inability to communicate. I remember being hit with jet lag the first time we went out with her friends. My second post on this blog offers a few details from that night. Johanna said from day one that she didn't speak English. However, it soon became clear that wasn't entirely true! Michael, Andrew and I would be having a funny conversation in English and suddenly, Johanna would join in laughing! Her laughter was a signal that she understood us well. It gave me confidence that I could ask her questions and go to her for help, which I did a lot.

In fact, I'm jumping ahead completely, it was Johanna who confirmed the news that I was pregnant with Henry. The pregnancy test I took simply read: "schwanger." There was no plus or minus sign or a pair of pink lines to clearly indicate I was expecting. So there I sat, staring at the word "schwanger," completely clueless! Was this even a pregnancy test? I'll never forget that morning, or her smile, when I burst outside to the front garden we shared. She was watering her plants as the hopeful and obnoxious excited foreigner (me), who was still in her pajamas mind you, approached with the pregnancy test in hand. Andrew was at work. In fact, I had bought the test behind his back. I hadn't had the patience to wait "a few more days" as he'd requested. Her face lit up with a smile. She nodded her head and happily said,

"Good job Ellie!" Her crazy American friend proceeded to jump up and down like a small child discovering their prized wish on Christmas morning.

 Andrew and I weren't hoping to expand our family while we were in Germany. That had not been in our plans originally. Things changed when we met the Auras family and their six children; specifically four year old twins: Simon and Jakob.
Simon and Jakob, May 2007

At that time Eliza was our, cherished beyond words, only child. In our eyes, she was perfect in every way. Sigh! Watching her interact with Simon and Jakob brought about a sudden change in my heart.

If I remember correctly, in the summer of 2007, the six Auras children ranged in age from four to ten. They were a tight knit, energetic bunch comprised of five boys and one {darling} girl. Eliza soon took to the twins. They became her daily playmates. At our house we have a giant sandbox. This is because the Auras family had a giant sandbox in their yard. We soon learned (and loved) that their sandbox was a regular gathering place for their children and neighbors. They lovingly welcomed Eliza into the mix. Their yard, or garden, was always a bright and happy place. I have fond memories of their tree house, hammock, sandbox, playing bad mitten and taking Eliza for a dip in their inflatable swimming pool. It was also in their garden where Eliza would learn to walk.

In addition to being their next door neighbors, we traveled with the Auras family frequently. They guided us to spectacular sights like Neuschwanstein and Koenigsee. They also showed us quiet, yet equally beautiful, hillsides where we'd take our families for a Sunday afternoon walk. Spending that much time together, we had the opportunity to watch the Auras children, and their parents, interact often.
 Our visit to Berchtesgaden and Koenigsee - click here
Simon and I chill in the back seat while on a road trip

It would be fair to assume that there would be loud, crazy and chaotic moments. Children don't always get along. They throw tantrums and get hurt. There are tears; an endless supply at times. We saw all these things. However, if you look at the size of our family now, you'd see that the positives we saw of having a big, close family had the greater influence!
 Familien Auras 2007

Without even trying, Johanna dispelled the myth that a Mother doesn't have enough time or energy to love and pay attention to so many small children. Big brother Jeremiah is only a year (or so) older than the twins. I'd observe as Johanna loved and supported each one of her kids. Its true, however, that her work never ended. Johanna was never idle. From sun up to sun down she was serving her family; never complaining. She showed me that you can have incredible work ethic and still take time to have fun! When it was time to relax and socialize, she would laugh and make jokes. She made time to be with her husband and friends. She is down to earth, spiritually in tune, loves her children fiercely and doesn't pay attention to the frivolous things of the world. I grew to admire her quickly. I admired how she worked with great energy and how she loved her busy, growing family. It wasn't long before I realized that I wanted Eliza to have a sibling to squabble, tease and play with. And I hoped that someday I'd achieve the same balance she beautifully demonstrated.
 Johanna and her twins picking strawberries
Jakob and Simon, June 2014

I didn't understand much German, but Simon had two little phrases that I repeatedly heard and therefore understood. The first was, "Vo ist Eliza?!" Forever in my brain, Simon and Jakob are four years old. In my minds eye, I see them on our front porch asking, "Where is Eliza?" It tickled me that they wanted her for a playmate. She was only one year old. And let's be honest, she didn't have much to bring to the table at that point; but they loved her anyway. I was looking through photos the other day and noticed that on that sad, dark day when we returned to the Munich airport for our flight home, it was Simon who pushed Eliza through the airport. My thoughts on leaving Germany can be found here and here.
Eliza loved Simon

Remembering how the twins would sometimes walk in our home without knocking, I have to say that it wasn't a huge problem other than it would sometimes scare me! I remember being upstairs one morning and hearing someone using the bathroom downstairs. Andrew was at work and Eliza wore diapers.

"Who is in my house?!" I wondered. Freaked out, I walked down the stairs. Turning toward the bathroom, I see Simon flushing the toilet! Noticing me, he waved, offered a friendly, "Hello!" and then headed back outside to play.

The second phrase or question that will forever tie Simon to my heart is, "Ich will ein eis haben!" which means, I think, "I want an ice cream (or Popsicle)!" Whether we were  away on an outing or Simon was finished helping his Mama in the yard, a sweet ice cream treat was always on his mind! He would ask for his treat over and over again... determined to win that Popsicle. All children like ice cream and Popsicles, but Simon LOVED them. At least his four year old self did!

Since that time, we've watched our beloved neighbors grow up through pictures. Thank you social media! I've loved interacting with the older children on Facebook and often wonder how much of that summer they remember. It truly was a lifetime highlight for both Andrew and me. Michael travels to Utah for work which has provided my children with the opportunity to get to know and love him. What a blessing this is! In fact, whenever Lottie sees his picture, she calls him the "Candy Man" because he brings us treats from Germany! We have enjoyed hearing about his family during these visits and long to take a return trip back to visit and know them again.

When the news came of Simon's passing, my heart broke and frustration grew as circumstances would not permit us to physically be there with our friends. We explained to our children what happened and they are sharing in our sadness and in praying and fasting for them. Saturday night, after putting the kids to bed, Andrew and I sat together on our couch. At that moment, I became unglued. I started to sob as I spoke out loud the feelings of my heart to Andrew. I was upset, confused and sad. Eliza could hear my words and my sobs from her bedroom upstairs. It's because of her that I share this experience.

In the middle of my ugly Mom cry, she tip-toed to where we sat and delivered a sweet note to me that I want to share with Michael and Johanna in hopes that it will bring them a piece of comfort as it did for me.
"Dear Mom, I'm so sorry
you are sad. I feel the same exact way. 
I said a prayer to help you feel better.
Simon was so kind, sweet, and nice that 
God just had to send him to tell him good job.
We will all be resurrected so Michael can see
Simon again. I love you! Love, Eliza"
The promise of the resurrection is real. I have a testimony of the sealing power that binds families together on earth for time and all eternity in God's holy temples. I find solace in knowing that the Auras family shares these same convictions. Michael, who was the branch president while we lived there, now serves as the Stake President for the entire Munich area. That is a big responsibility and takes a tremendous amount of his time and energy.

I have wondered time and time again why the Lord calls home these precious children when they are so beloved and cherished, needed and wanted, here on Earth. I don't understand it at all. Why, when Michael is giving so much to the Lord was Simon called away? Michael's faith, I know, is stronger than mine but the thought that has recently come into my head is that these members of his Stake, his flock that he presides over, know and love him and his family. His family will have the attention, love and prayers of all those members whom he serves. My heart isn't the only one that is broken. We only shared one summer with Simon. Why were so lucky to come to know this family, Andrew and I have often wondered aloud. We don't know why we were blessed with such a great and lasting bond of friendship, but hope that it continues to last and grow.

Michael and Johanna, we love you. We ache for you and your children. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

With love,

Ali, Andrew and family

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