Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Clarks

Nature's first green is gold, 

Her hardest hue to hold. 

Her early leaf's a flower; 

But only so an hour. 

Then leaf subsides to leaf. 

So Eden sank to grief, 

So dawn goes down to day. 

Nothing gold can stay.
            Robert Frost

Katie and I met in The Garrens, a comedy troupe that performed sketches and improvisations weekly on BYU campus. We had been friends for just over a year, when in the fall of 1994 we started dating. By complete serendipity, we had two classes together, and though we didn’t know it at the time, one of the classes included two individuals that would become two of our favorite people ever. Chris Clark and Lisa Valentine. Now affectionately referred to as…The Clarks.

College is this huge-normous social experience, with perpetual conversations and story telling and dialogue and interchanges and meeting new people and having shared experiences… It’s this continually open channel of communication. It is its own world, sincerely. And in that inimitable little world, the four of us quickly became good, good friends.

From the fall of 1994 to the summer of 1995 the four of us seemed to be walking very similar paths. Katie and I started dating about the same time as Chris and Lisa. Things started to get more serious about the same time. All of us had similar emotions, similar interests, similar points of reference. But it was more than that. There was something very effortless about our friendships. And born out of all this was this level of trust and safety and acceptance. And genuine happiness for each other. And the hilarity. My gosh, the hilarity. So entertaining and amusing were our conversations (to us), that it became burdensome to find a break in the banter and return to our regularly scheduled reality. It usually came to an end when somebody would say something like, “Well, I’m already late for class, I better go” or “I’ve got to get up in three hours to take a test” or “I’m going to the bathroom, please don’t follow me.” And even the occasional, “You guys, seriously, shut up, ER is starting.”

We ate countless meals together, acted in several plays together, watched thousands of movies together, and created many inside jokes together. And then we all got married. (Not all four of us to each other.) Chris and Lisa were married in June of 1995, and Katie and I in August of the same summer.

And when the Craigs returned from their honeymoon just in time to start fall semester at BYU, who were the first people to see them? Yes, the Clarks. And the bonding continued.

The next two years meant more inside jokes, more eating out, more dialogues, and more similar reference points, as we started talking about having babies and having lives after college. Lisa performed in The Garrens with us. We’d all go to Chris’ plays. Sundays always seemed to be our days to either go for walks around Provo, or to eat dinner, take communal naps on the Clarks Futon, and wake up in time to watch The Simpsons.

In the summer of 1997 we all four simultaneously finished BYU. (Please note I did not say all of us graduated at this time. But we were done with school in that we would no longer be attending classes, this we were sure of.)  The Clarks weren’t sure what exactly they were going to do, but they were going to do it in Provo. And the Craigs were equally unsure about what they were going to do…but they had the impression it was going to be outside of Utah.

It was while sitting in the Clarks living room one night, discussing these very issues, that I noticed a wooden dish rack, painted green, that Lisa had made and hung over their kitchen sink. On it, she had written out the words to the Robert Frost poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay. I had read the poem a number of times before, but it became very personal and bittersweet to me in that moment.

In the eternal sense of things, of course, those things that are the most golden do stay. Our marriages, our families, eternal truths, testimonies, our relationships with others.  But in this mortal life, there are these golden moments, these golden periods of time. And they don’t stay.  

Your kids won’t always be able to crawl up on your lap and pull your arms around them. Your parents won’t always be able to jump in a car and drive to your house when you have something exciting happening. You won’t always have a newborn to walk to sleep. You won’t always be on a small Hawaiian island as a newlywed. And you won’t always be able to live next door to some of your most cherished friends.

When the Clarks visited us this weekend, all those feelings came back. How heartbreaking it is to know that we can’t walk over to the Clarks to borrow a cup of “Please tell me you TiVo-ed The Office last night because we totally missed it.” And how comforting it is to know that while it is no longer the mid-90s, our friendship is just as gold as it was, and shows no signs of ever fading. 

*Editor's Note:
I had written this tribute to our friends, the Clarks, some months back. I didn’t intend to post it as a blog, but rather, keep it as a personal note. But the timing is such that I wanted to pay tribute to them.

Chris’ sister, Stephanie, and her husband, Christian were in a plane crash on Saturday, August 16th. You may have heard this story, as it has been widely told in the blogworld, and the focus of some attention in the news as well.

Stephanie and Christian are alive, and at this point, have shown enough improvement that they are not even considered trauma patients anymore. However, they have extensive burns and will remain in induced comas for months, while they heal.

If you are interested in reading the story you can follow it on the blog of Chris and Stephanie’s sister, Courtney. She keeps it up to date. She is also, in my opinion, a wonderful writer.

So are Chris and Lisa, if you would like to read their blogs. I find them some of the funniest people I know, and regarding this specific experience; I believe they are approaching it with an incredible balance of love, patience, and faith.

If you read their blogs, you will find links to ways you can help – donations, auctions, prayers, fasting. It is overwhelming the support this family is receiving.