My story told from my dads view: Part 3

This is NOT Jennifer….this is Jennifer’s Dad.  This is the last of three blog posts Jennifer has let me do.  You can read part 1 HERE and part 2 HERE.

As I was going through some old pictures recently I was reminded, in pictorial format, of the events of the last year.  Some are tender, some are thrilling, but this is my attempt to share some of my memories through mostly pictures that I found on my computer.

As I mentioned in the last post, we were all excited when finally, the babies were born!!!

Everett and Marshal, April 11, 2018, Utah Valley Regional Medical Center

Jennifer started her recovery after one vaginal and one c-section baby.  It was odd to be with Justin and Jennifer for a time. There were days Justin was the more healthy of the two.  Jennifer was certain that she would never be able to walk again without pain and that the swelling wouldn’t go down in her legs. She was frustrated that she needed so much help to take care of the boys. But, she started the process none-the-less!

For a time in May and June of 2018 Justin was well enough to get up the stairs at my sister’s house and spend a great deal of time in the back yard.  During these times he and I would talk about…well…everything.  For those of you who may have heard my remarks at Justin’s funeral, you heard me reference the times Justin and I talked about why bad things happen to good people.  These were those times, and it was in settings just like the one pictured here. 

Justin and Rulon talking one spring morning in 2018 in Yvonne and David Peterson’s backyard.  You can see Big Rock Canyon and Little Rock Canyon in the background.  Those were the mountains I climbed continuously as a boy.

Starting to raise babies became our primary focus for a time, and everyone pitched in, including Justin.  It is almost hard to remember back that far now.  But, in May and June of 2018 Justin was doing so much better we started to think about the future, and about he and Jennifer raising their boys.

Everett and Marshal….or…Marshal and Everett June 2018…have no idea which

One of the things I remember about cancer was that we always had milestones.  Things we could work for and feel satisfied about.  Some of those milestones included things as simple as just getting up and walking down the hall and back.  Some were a bit more difficult, but a bit more satisfying, like getting up the stairs and into the hot tub.  One of the big goals that Justin and Jennifer had was getting into a car and driving up the canyon for a picnic. 

Justin and Jennifer with the boys on what turned out to be their first and last picnic together.

On Father’s day weekend 2018 we were able to make that a reality.  When we went up the canyon that day it was another step in what we hoped would be Justin getting stronger and stronger.  I suppose in all of our hearts we knew that was impossible, but the alternative was to simply give up and quit.  So, facing those two choices, Jennifer and Justin chose the former and it gave us some very memorable times. 

This trip started out to be a trip up the canyon.  Now, it will be one of the most meaningful and memorable few hours of our entire mortal existence.  What a wonderful day and a wonderful opportunity.  Reminds me to never let a moment go by.  What if we would have just decided to stay home that day?

The next milestone was birthday dinner at Tocano’s at University Mall in Orem, Utah.  Justin loved eating there, and on this day, his appetite was back.  He ate a ton, and it was fun to see.  Not sure he felt so good after that, but on this day, at this time, he enjoyed the food he loved.

Justin, Jennifer, Whitney (our niece, nanny, confidant, supporter, superwoman) and Linda.

Justin’s birthday was on June 26.  He was feeling pretty well comparatively.  His lab work was getting better and better, he was a bit stronger, and we were admittedly more optimistic than we had been.  Linda and I even felt like the situation was stable enough that we went back to Minneapolis the first of July and we started to think with Justin and Jennifer and Justin’s parents about what the longer-term living arrangements would be. 

We were home in Minneapolis for just a few days in July when we got a frantic call from Jennifer that Justin had become unresponsive.  He had been in a great deal of pain the night before, but he and I shared texts together and looked forward to the next great meal.  And then he was gone. 

Just like that.  We rushed to Utah to be with Jennifer.  My only memory of that day was when we walked in to see Jennifer for the first time and she cried out in pain.  I could have lived forever and ever never having heard a child cry in so much pain as that.  May it never happen again.  I felt so bad for her.  I felt so bad for Lynette and Mitch.  I just felt so bad. (Jennifer wrote a blog post about the day of the funeral, you can read more about that HERE.)

Justin’s burial, Dillon Eldridge and Matt Hanks in front.

Every night I went to bed I would spend the night having a horrible nightmare that Justin had died and that Jennifer was alone.  Then, I would wake up and realize that it was not a nightmare.  That happened every single night for months.  I couldn’t imagine what Jennifer’s nights were like.  I couldn’t imagine what Lynette and Mitch’s (Justin’s parents) nights were like. 

While this was clearly the most-hard on Jennifer and tore her heart out, I have to believe that it was the second-most-hard on Lynette.  I can’t even imagine.  But, we had to go on.  Again, what were the options?  So, Jennifer started the process of being a single mother as well as she could be.

Jennifer with Everett a few days after the funeral

The times after the funeral left us all with some dark feelings and sad thoughts.  However, I chose to remember the happier times.  The times when Justin and Jennifer were, well, Justin and Jennifer!! 

Colorado Wedding and Event Photography


With Justin gone I realized that we were now entering into a year of “firsts.”  I have since learned this is a common realization for people in a situation like this, but what we found out was that eventually it would come time to have your holiday without Justin or your first trip without Justin. 

For our family, our first “first” was Jennifer’s birthday.  We had gone to our home in Estes Park, Colorado to stay for a while and to work on recovery.  But, for whatever tender mercy we were authorized, Jennifer’s best friends were able to come with her and be with her.  I love those girls…more than I suspect they will ever know.  I will NEVER forget what they did!!

Jennifer’s first birthday party without Justin.  Not sure why we made her carry her own cake!

And with that, the “first” year had started.  We enjoyed the chance to be in Colorado, and started to feel how much a difference it made to not have cancer around.  It is a terrible, terrible disease, and only when it is gone can you begin to appreciate just how terrible it is.

Boys diligently looked after by their caring cousin Adelyn
Admiring the fishing pond where they will certainly spend their youth!

We were finally able to get to Minnesota and begin our life there.  What many of you know is that I have 4 brothers.  Most of you know three of them, Dennis, Darrell and Newell.  The one you don’t know is Shmuel Reznikovich in Haifa, Israel.  We are never quite sure how he ended up in Haifa and I ended up in the states, but we are sure we are brothers. lol  That is why a visit from Shmuel’s daughter Yael, (one of Jennifer’s closes friends) was so meaningful. 

Everett, Jennifer, Marshal and Yael at Mall of America, October 2018

Jennifer’s sister’s also played such a crucial role getting her to this point.  They dropped everything and were in the hospital, at the delivery, tending babies…everything.  Can’t imagine what we would have done without them.  A visit for a week from Yael was yet an additional God-send.  And, it resulted in yet another “first.”  The “first’ visit to Mall of America!

As we planned for the year of “firsts” we started right off planning for a distraction during Jennifer and Justin’s “first” wedding anniversary apart.  But, that was not until May.  Still, any distraction was a good distraction and with a trip to Brisbane scheduled for a meeting of the International Hospital Federation, Jennifer was able to come and we stopped off in New Zealand.  A welcome distraction.

Rulon and Jennifer in Hobbiton, with the Party Tree behind us.  October 2018

First Halloween at Minnesota Zoo

First Halloween at Minnesota Zoo

First of many, many walks with Bompa (that would be me ) around Lake Harriett, fall 2018

First pumpkin patch

Our first Minnesota winter together…and it was a doozy!!  (notice relics from the New Zealand trip on the boys! )

First sledding trip. 

First family trip.  With their big cousin Brooks.  February 2019

First day at the beach…not sure they liked that.

As I mentioned earlier, in late summer 2018 we started planning to be distracted on Jennifer and Justin’s “first” wedding anniversary in May 2019.  Our solution was to do a “bucket list” trip, and for Jennifer, that was Tokyo Disney!  She has this thing about visiting all the parks around the world.  I won’t bore you with all the pictures as I suspect you have seen her and/or Catherine’s Instagram posts from the trip.  (You can see her blog post about that trip HERE.) I will just say, that was a great idea.  So glad we thought to do something to afford her to think of something else and to be occupied with family.

During the year I have seen life start to move on.  The happiness of having those two boys in our home has consumed us.  I remember as a young father when I would come downstairs and step on a Barbie doll or a cat toy or blow dryer and I would get so angry.  I would think “why on earth can’t we keep this darn stuff off the floor??”  

Now, as a much older and I would like to think wiser grandfather I come downstairs in the morning and I step on a toy truck that hurts just as much as did the Barbie, and my heart is filled with happiness and love…just to think that they are there.  My entire perspective has changed as I pick up the tiny truck and kiss it!  I wish I could go back 30 years and change my perspective then…I suspect I would have been a much better father and husband. 

Growing up, and learning the piano.  Can’t hang around Linda long without that!

In truth, I have spent a great deal of time feeling guilty and even sought professional advice on the topic.  My mind goes back to a year ago and how horrible it was to see Justin and Jennifer.  I remember Justin’s pain and Jennifer’s soul wrenching cry.  But now, I see the joy that I get from having time with Jennifer and these two boys and I feel very, very guilty. 

And so, as the “first” year since Justin passed comes to a close, my thoughts have turned again to how horrible it was last year at this time, and how much today is the exact polar opposite.  I am working through my guilt, because having such access to my family is life changing.

How could I feel such joy out of where there was such indescribable sadness?  Should I feel so much joy?  Does this make me an unfeeling or callous person?  Is that normal?  The feelings of guilt have been real and meaningful to me.  But, even now, when I see the boys interacting, developing their friendship and growing, I feel so happy…and a bit guilty…

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Rulon and the twins on Lake Harriett, June 2019


  1. This was truly beautiful to read… Praying that this guilt you still feel to fade away, and at some point, to disappear… They’re blessed to have you. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with the rest of us.

  2. What a powerful story thank you for sharing your perspective as dad and grandpa. Sending care to your whole family.

  3. What a beautiful story. Jennifer’s story can become a movie and it will be the most beautiful one.
    You are a great father and grandfather. The boys need your love and that’s why you feel so much joy around them.

  4. The love of a parent is beyond words that sometimes can’t be explained. This was such a beautiful tribute to your son in law and daughter, the love you have for both of them. Don’t ever feel guilty, you are a remarkable human being. This post will someday be a gift to those two precious boys. May god continue to bless you and your family.

  5. I felt every word in my heart as I read this. Jennifer’s story has really moved me down to my core. I can’t imagine her life but you all being there for her is amazing.

  6. I can’t even imagine the pain and loss you have all felt. May those precious boys continue to bring you all so much joy.

  7. Impossible to imagine the pain you all had to go through and even more impossible to understand the grief that followed. Very sad but yet very inspiring story. And don´t ever feel guilty about being happy again. You did all you could and by being here for your daughter and your grandchildren you are doing right by Justin.

  8. What an incredible story and feeling ! From Paris FRANCE where I am from, I am following your daughter’s journey I am impressed by everything : the way Justin and all family both sides have been fighting against cancer and have been standing together, trying to make life stronger. All if you have been there for them before an now. We can really feel this strenght and I am sure Justin where he is now can feel it too. It is also this strenght which is helping your daughter to recovering and believing on sunny days, and which will give Everett and Marshall the power to do and access to every thing they want in their lives. They will know that family support is the basis of an happy life. I wishyou all the best ! (Sorry for my english my native langage is french and I am not practising english on my job)

  9. Wow! Thank you for sharing your story, what a blessing that you guys have had each other through it all. I cannot even begin to comprehend the amount of courage it took Jennifer to become pregnant with everything else going on and what a blessing it has turned out to be. You are all a true inspiration and an example of courage and love. Sending you love and hugs from Canada, maybe sometime the boys will travel here.

  10. This post had me crying. The year of firsts is so painful. I lost my 19 year old son 6 years ago. The year of firsts was so hard on me and my oldest son. He and his brother were 19 months apart. They looked a lot a like and everyone would ask if they were twins. They sure acted like it. The hardest thing this past 6 years was watching my son hurt and not being able to make that better. You are such a blessing to your daughter and what you wrote will bless those boys more than you know. Do not feel guilty for being joyful. God blesses us with joy and happiness and it gets us through the tough times. You and your family will forever ne in my thoughts and prayers.

  11. So cute, brought me to tears . The most wonderful story . Forgive me God if I have ever been ungrateful for any thing or anyone in my life 🧡

  12. Thank you for sharing this. I’m grateful to have stumbled upon this story and how both families adjusted their lives to help their loved ones. Truly, an awe inspiring stories. Live and fly high! Lots of love from Malaysia.

  13. Omg! So beautiful and yet every word was felt! I’m my eyes your great father and grandfather. I think that guilt needs to disappear as you are here for a reason. Your grandson need a father figure and god chose you. I’m sure Justin would have been a Great dad. But sir god chose you to help raise them and that amazing. I pray everyone is healing. I lost my mother and my late 20s due to health issues. I had my first child in 2020 and man I cried caused I needed my mom. It didn’t happen that way but I made it through.

  14. This story brought tears to my eyes and I felt so bad for the tough journey young Jennifer and Justin had to undergo. Your family has been exemplary in setting up an atmosphere of love, compassion, and moral courage for the couple and also for the two little boys. I pray to the divine universe to give you all closure from this episode and help you to eventually come out of the guilt. May God bless you and your entire family. I was myself going through the stress of a job hunt last one month. After reading this story I learned to become more grateful for all I have. I will always keep you and others who are in similar situations in my prayers. God bless you!

  15. My heart goes out to you all, YOU ALL ARE STRONG. I couldn’t even begin to put myself in your shoes… this blog post is heart wrenching & so heart felt.
    My thoughts are with you all.

  16. Thank you for sharing your heart – your entire family. Loss is so painful, but it’s the strength of people like yourself who do in fact bind us together in knowing we’re not alone. Praying for your family this morning.

  17. I just finished reading this blog. The emotions you are feeling is the understanding that life is so very very precious and but also fragile. . . And the guilt comes from knowing that you are alive and your son in law isn’t. All very human and understandable emotions. You and your family have done everything possible to make a horribly tragic situation, bearable. Your daughter and grandkids are so lucky.

  18. I’m Brazilian and i met the blog by chance. Today, June 2, 2022 I am reading this whole trajectory of strength, faith and courage and being moved by each sentence. Jennifer is really an amazing woman and had at her side a great man, Justin, who fought bravely. Reading their trajectory from your perspective, Rulon, is so touching. Thank you so much for sharing so much truth, so much love, so much overcoming. Sorry for the mistakes, my English sucks. God be with all of you.

  19. I just so happened to see a video of Jen’s on IG and began reading about her journey as I looked through all of her pictures. My husband, 43 years old, was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer just 3 months ago, so her story hits so close to home. Reading your blog entries, as a family member looking in, is very moving. Thank you for sharing your story … although none of us want to have to share a story like this, in doing so you never know how it will help others going through similar situations feel like they are are not alone. I pray that one day, Cancer will be a thing of the past. Prayers for your family as you continue on with your journey and thank you for sharing. ❤️

  20. Thank you so much for sharing such a wonderful story. You are a great person, father, father in-law and grandfather. To be By your son in-laws side while he was going through so much meant everything! Also to be there with your daughter. Your grandsons are so lucky to have you. The love you have for your family is so sweet. I hope your guilt will fade away. I know Justin is looking down, smiling as he watches you give all the love to your grandson and daughter. Praying for your family to continue to stay strong, healthy and happy.

  21. Wow. So much sadness and happiness in your dad’s words. Never did I think when I woke up this morning in some inconsequential pity party about something that it would change to a short period of ugly crying over a family I’ve never met because of crossing paths with your TikTok page which led me to your blog, and then to your dad’s post. I’ve always Ed God can use even the darkest of times to bring glory and light. That is definitely what I see in the sadness and grief of what Justin endured so that he could witness, not just one, but two sons come behind him and be such a gift to you to carry on his legacy.

  22. A sad beautiful story. How lucky is Jennifer and the boys to have so much love and support and to be able to read this.

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