Sunday, May 14, 2017

Full Talk Given at Mom's Funeral in February 2001

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Family and Friends,

Over the past few days, I’ve been reading through the many letters that my mother sent me over the years, particularly the thick stack she sent me while I lived and worked for two years as a missionary in Japan.  I also read through her most recent journal – an amalgam of letters to various family members and friends interspersed with reflections on life and family.   They are precious to me – because they reflect the kind of person my mother was, and they are, for the time being, some of the few, tangible reminders of her that we have to hold onto.      

* * * *

Nearly ten years ago, my mother wrote in a letter to me the following description of her life.  If you listen carefully to the words, she might as well be speaking to each of us here today, telling us that she is grateful for the life that she was able to live, and reassuring us that everything is okay: 

September 3, 1991.  Life is very good for me, Tim.  I love each child born to us.  I have a wonderful husband.  The Gospel has filled my life with purpose and joy, and I always have twelve or more things waiting for me to do that I really enjoy doing.  I feel so grateful for education, for modern conveniences that have freed me from drudgery, and for the endless beauty of the earth.  I hope life is good in the same way for you and for each of your brothers and sisters.  I am very glad that to be alive and to have lived.  I have felt the direction and comfort of the Lord along the way.  I have an assurance of truth that carries me through difficulties.  What more could life give anyone? 

Mom was never bored with life – never.  Growing up, she was always dabbling in something:  toll painting, Spanish Classes, gardening, cheesemaking, and various and sundry experiments in self-sufficiency.  As a child, I got up in the cold to milk goats, I shoveled manure, weeded in the garden – all of us children did -- not because there was any pressing economic need, but because Mom wanted to build “character” and teach self-sufficiency. 

My mother loved living, growing things.  She loved animals of all kinds.  We’ve had dogs ranging from a Chihuahua to a St. Bernard, countless cats, goats, ducks, chickens, geese -- even guinea hens.  She dreamed of retiring to a farm in the country where she could raise Merino sheep.  Her gardens were her pride and joy—not for any aesthetic reason but because they burst with life and bounty.  She spent roughly six months a year – from October to March – getting the soil just perfect:  adding compost and manure and pitchforking it in until you’d sink deep into the soil with each step.  Then, when spring arrived, she would plant her seeds and sit back to watch the fireworks.

My most vivid memories of my mother involve her doing things, because Mom was all about doing.  Forget planning or organizing, Mom just wanted to go out and do it, whatever it was:  touring about Amish country, picking up seashells on the beach, making fudge on a heavy marble slab, cooking meals for someone, digging in her garden--whatever need arose, or, when she had a minute to spare, whatever struck her fancy.

In a letter to my Grandmother, dated October 23, 1997, she wrote the following:

Dear Mom:  The other day I was wondering what impact I would have on my children.  I decided that really the only impact I can have is the same as the impact others have had on me.  It is never what people preach about, is it?  Each person's legacy comes from the things that person has loved and given his or her life to.  Those loves leave an indelible impression.

My mother’s loves have left an indelible impression on her family and all those who knew her well. 

I begin with her love of nature.  Mother often began her letters by talking about the weather.  But these were not your run-of-the-mill “it’s rainy here”  kind of fillers; rather, they were poetic expressions of the changing seasons and the miracle of life and creation.

October 8, 1990.  Dear Tim:  This is a beautiful morning.  I walked Katie to school and enjoyed every second of it.  Huge mushrooms were growing under the evergreens alongside the path—as big as Katie’s head.  At first, I thought they were little bird baths placed there by someone, because they formed cups about the size of a bird bath.  The colors are getting brighter everyday in the maples and sweet gum trees, and the grasses are still green.  Poison ivy is especially beautiful right now.  We live in a sea of it.  . . .

I’ve been thinking this morning about how good it has always felt to me to go outside.  I don’t think I’ve changed in all the years.  If I can play outside, everything gets better fast.  If there’s nothing great to look at on the ground, the sky is always interesting.  The trees are wonderful, dead or alive.  Every grass, every weed presents wonderful patterns, interesting designs.  Every bug is Star Wars material.

Mom had a wonderful eye for nature:  she loved toads and toadstools, bats and beetles, mice and mushrooms – you name it.  She had a particular gift for noticing things that others would pass by, and describing things in a way that reflected a keen sense of observation.  

July 22, 1996.  Dear Peter:  Dad introduced me to “toad talk” the other night.  You know those toads that live in the window well?  Dad turned the basement light on for them.  Two were standing side by side on their hind legs looking in the window, arm in arm, looking very human and making toad sounds--one an almost imperceptible bass, and the other chirping a little like a hen.  They didn’t seem to mind that we were watching.

June 22, 1999.  Dear Jim and Cheryl:  My dream right now--only a dream--is to create a pond in that sink hole out back.  Glenn, of course, thinks I am crazy.  We wouldn't have to do much digging.  It gets deeper every year.  . . .  Think of it!  We could have our own bullfrogs and toads galore!  Some of my little piano students told me they had bullfrogs in their back yard.  I didn't believe them until I went over to Dunloggin to see.  They certainly do!  Their big problem with the small pond they created is that as soon as their goldfish get big, a great blue heron flies down for supper.  They are trying a fake white egret to scare him off, but I don't think he'll be fooled.  The goldfish are growing fat again.

Mom loved little creatures, and was particularly fond of field mice and squirrels.  After my Dad found two white-footed field mice cowering in an aluminum garbage can in the garage, my mother took them over to show Paula Burr and her son, who were living next door.  The mice had taken shelter in a little plastic scoop in the bottom of the can.

December 2, 1996.  Dear Peter:  I showed the mice to Paula and her little boy by lifting up the plastic scoop and walking out onto the driveway.  They were frightened at first and hid their eyes, curling up in two quivering brown balls.  Then they became lively and looked as though they would jump out onto the driveway.  I was afraid a crow would scoop them up, so I tried to keep them in the cup as I bent down toward the ground.  One jumped out into a pile of leaves, but the other started up my arm.  I could feel him on the back of my hand all soft and warm.  I told him not to run up my arm, but he did anyway--and then onto my back and up my neck and into my hair.  When I put my head down to the ground, he finally jumped off into the leaves.  I think they knew we didn’t mean to hurt them.  Little Patrick (age four) got a big bang out of the whole thing.  I was still in my nightgown, shivering in my bare feet. 

While I was away in college, my mother found an injured baby squirrel and nursed it back to health. 

September 5, 1993.  Dear Tim:  We have a new baby at home.  For the first few days we called it Samuel Moroni Hawkes, but my brother Alan told me it had better be Samantha.  So, Samantha it is.  Cocoa [our cat] found a squirrel that had obviously fallen from its nest in one of the trees in the neighborhood.  I heard its pathetic cry.  When it cried the second time, I couldn’t stand it and ran out to see what it was.  Cocoa had bitten it, and it had an abrasion on its tummy.  I was sure it would die, so I wrapped it up and put it in a quiet corner of my bedroom.  At bedtime, I found it still alive and wished it would go peacefully.  As we were falling asleep, it made a pathetic sound like a nuzzling pup.  Dad said, “Mary Jane, it’s hungry.  You’ve got to feed that thing.”  I was doubtful that food would do anything but kill it, but I got up and fixed baby pablum with honey and a little canola oil.  I expected it to be dead by morning.  Instead, it was ravenous.  I went to the pet store and bought milk for newborn puppies.  It smells like liquid vitamins, but it seems to have done the trick.  So far, so good. … It’s wounds seem to be healing without infection.  Amazing. 

Eventually, Samantha became a part of the family.  My mother described the bittersweet occasion of releasing her into the wild in a subsequent letter to a family friend.

October 6, 1993.  Dear Wendy:  Our little squirrel has just spent its fourth night outside in a tree somewhere.  So, this year, I dread owls and winter.  After six years of living here, I heard two owls in the early morning darkness.  I woke from a sound sleep when I heard them.  I keep checking the squirrel nests in the trees and wondering how that pile of dry leaves can keep a little thing like our squirrel warm and dry.  It became such a darling pet before we took it outside.  We watched it pull its tail up like a blanket over its face.  We watched it yawn and stretch in the morning.  It even lifted its arm to be scratched underneath when we scratched its tummy.  The first three days we put it outside, it came to us again at night to sleep inside.  Finally, it didn't return . . . . 

Mother was a nurturer.  She loved babies, and puppies, and helping things grow.  She loved all creatures – great and small – unless, of course, they were eating her garden.

July 21, 1995.  I had a beautiful clump of squash growing on the corner of the garden until some wild animal came in the night and nibbled away all the youngest and greenest leaves and quite a few of the blossoms.  I think it was a wood chuck.  It also ate most of the pole beans that had begun to climb in the other garden.  This morning, I bought 4 lbs of dried blood and scattered it around all the plants in hopes that the wild rabbits would have nightmares when they smelled it and leave our plants alone.

May 28, 1999.  Dear Ben:  I love the crow shooter Peter set up for me.  He fixed up a cardboard roll that is as thick as wood.  It is perfect for shooting bottle rockets. The rockets I am shooting now don't whistle, but the crows get the message just the same.  They are staying away much better.  Trouble is, yesterday morning I got up at 6 a.m. and aimed my bottle rocket out the [sliding glass door].  When it shot off, a slight breeze coming in from the deck blew some black powder onto my nightgown and set it on fire.  I now have a nice hole in my yellow gown.  Luckily, I looked down in time to put out the flames.  Also luckily, it wasn't a terrifically flammable material, or I wouldn't be laughing about this story.

Mom was never afraid to laugh at herself.  She recounted the following story in her journal after a trip to Swallow Creek Falls in Western Maryland

July 8, 1996.  Some little boy on the trail in front of me at Swallow Falls was kicking up his heels, jumping around and making his parents nervous.  They were trying to restrain him, but he kicked up to eye level and crowed, "Say goodbye to you!"  Dad and I laughed and talked about how thin we would be if we kept that active.  I used to be able to kick high like that, so I said, "Say goodbye to you!" and kicked my right foot up high.  Trouble was, my left sandal slipped in the gravel and nothing held me up.  I went down on my petussi right on a big pointed rock in the path.  . . .  Couldn't get up for a while.  I felt disconnected from my body somehow--like I was looking out of a box that had rolled down a hill--and I couldn't stop laughing.  . . .  My bottom still hurts, but I was lucky.  I could have cracked my head on that rock.  Then it really would have been "Say goodbye to you!"

On a somewhat different note, my father lived in fear of my mother’s “little” projects.  They always took three times as long and cost five times as much as she expected.  Here’s her effort to sell Jennie on a major expansion of an existing project:

March 1, 1997.  Dear Jennie:  [T]he shower is still torn out, but I woke up this morning with wonderful plans for remodeling the whole bathroom.  Dad is terrified.  All I need is a crowbar.  You will love this bathroom.  It will add to the value of the whole house!  It's similar to the kitchen remodel--Take out walls.  Let in light and air.  Add a tub and tiled floor.  We can do it.  We watched a video on doing the floor.  Easy.  It just takes work and time and not that much money. 

As many of you know, my mother loved music, and this love, as with most her loves, was described in her letters and journals.

Today, July 19, 1993, is a beautiful summer day, warm and humid.  I have just baked some cookie bars, whole wheat and raisin, brown sugar and almonds, and the house is filled with the aroma.  Katie and her friend Sherrie are upstairs trying on my make up and perfume and having a wonderful time.  Peter, Josh and a boy from France are playing on the trampoline and squirting each other with a hose, Paddy running around their feet hopefully, begging them to throw the ball.  I have been listening to Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, a brazen, irreverent, wonderful, inspiring musical account of the story of Joseph sold into Egypt.  I feel it would offend my mother, but it makes me laugh and cry and want to dance and dream of the coming of Zion.

This next entry also reflects a love of music, but more importantly, her love for my sister Jennie. 

November 27, 2000.  Dear Jennie:  Yesterday, as I was driving home from church, strings came on the radio.  I realized how long it has been since I have heard some great strings, and a wave of longing flooded over me.  I never dreamed I would have a daughter who could play like you do.  When you went away to college, it was as though someone precious had died.  I missed the music and all the musical connections.  I didn’t want to say that, because it almost sounds like music and you are one and the same.  It was just an additional bereavement along with your empty room, your empty desk and bulletin board.  I miss you, Jennie, and the soul of you I feel in your music.

Everyone knows that my mother loved her family.  She loved each child – all eight of us – unconditionally, and valued each for our particular strengths and personalities.

October 31, 1991.  Dear Nate & Tim:   I’m glad to have such children.  I love the way you help and encourage one another.  You’ll know someday the joy that comes into a parent’s heart when there’s love at home.  I could imagine no better group in the same family.  We compliment one another and no two are alike.  Toleration for differences could be better, but I do think we’re learning to love one another for who were are.

December 2, 1996.  Dear Peter:   As the years have gone by, Christmas has taken on new and deeper meanings.  At this stage, of course, the significance of the Savior’s birth and atonement grows in me.  I’m getting older.  It means more and more as our family grows, as my love grows for your father and my own parents and for you children, and as I see the lives and personalities of my children unfold.  For me, the most enduring part of Christmas as we celebrate it is in the sacred carols.  They carry the joy and awe of his birth.  I also cherish the sweet feelings I have toward all the family as I try to think of things that would delight each one---and the pain that accompanies knowing I can’t give every delight.  Mixed into that is the memory of Christmases past--mostly the feeling of gathering near the tree with loved ones, playing games, enjoying gifts, listening to sweet music, enjoying life together.
As I think of all the sweet babies that have come into our home--their precious personalities and the fun we have had, it almost overwhelms me.  I can hardly imagine such rich blessings.  Now I see them being repeated in grandchildren.

She loved her grandchildren.  She found them endlessly amusing and loved to watch their little personalities unfold.  In her eyes, they could do no wrong, and she spoiled them without the slightest remorse.  She appreciated each of them as individuals, for their respective strengths.  My children were always so thrilled to visit “Gam-ma’s house.”  It meant jumping on the trampoline, helping Grandma in the garden, playing on the tire swing in the basement, and basically just hanging out with Grandma, who seemed to have endless amounts of time to spend with them and gave them her full love and attention. 
She also loved our Dad.

October 28, 1990.  Dear Tim:  It has meant the world to me to be married to your Dad.  I don’t think you kids have a clear picture of the way I feel about him.  We disagree on many small things, and we approach simple tasks in a totally different ways.  He is so much more careful and thorough than I am.  I am always impatient to get going and to get done and don’t always take careful planning into the program.  (Somewhere between the two of us is the truth.)  But where it counts—in the things that mean most—in our foundation, our testimony of the Gospel, our method of dealing with other people, our love for you kids, we are perfectly united.  More than love and even more than perfect unity, we have complete trust in each other.

Although it required great effort and placed incredible demands on her time, my mother loved teaching early morning seminary.  She took it as a challenge to try and teach spiritual truths to young people in a way they could understand.  She thought long and hard about her lessons, and she agonized about her students, particularly when she saw them struggling with tragedies and difficulties in their young lives.  

One time, mother was trying to illustrate how Jesus must feel when we turn our backs on him and reject his love and sacrifice.  She staged an exchange between her and Katie, who was a student in the class, in which Katie took a beautiful cake that my mother had prepared for her and threw it into a trash can.  My mother reported in her journal:

There was stone silence in the room when she chucked the cake in the trash.  . . .  I asked the kids how they felt when Katie threw the cake away.  “No cake,” was the reply.  “Waste.”  “Sad.”  Then I asked, “How would it have been if I had given everything for Katie—even my life—and she acted that way?  Then I retrieved the cake from the clean liner that I had placed in trash can.  Miraculously, it was unbroken.  I told them we were lucky to be able to retrieve the gift.  It was still there.  I frosted it while we talked and then sliced it up for them.  It worked better than I had expected, except for one boy who mumbled while he was eating his cake, “Katie shouldn’t EVER treat her mother like that.”

One hallmark of my mother’s life was her deep and abiding faith.  In her journal she returns to this theme time and time again.

January 1997.  To me this whole process is the greatest evidence for eternal life:  Why the journey--the lives of struggle and learning, always arriving at wisdom after the experience--coming to know how to run the plays when the game has ended and often after we’ve lost the game???  It only makes sense if there is more.  There is no evidence in nature of futility.  Everything has function and purpose.  Should our hard-won understanding be wasted when our bodies decay?  No!  This has to be just what we are taught it is:  preparation for more and more and more.  That’s what Christmas means to me.  I believe the story.  It’s far crazier than a Star Wars fantasy, but I believe it.  

May 4, 1998.  Dear Nathan:  [The] idea of testimony once seemed complicated to me and now seems much simpler.   Sometimes, it seems as simple as gratitude--the ability to acknowledge divine purpose and order in all creation with a full and thankful heart--the joy of being alive, running, swimming, seeing, hearing, loving--the joy of seashells and stones, of colored fruit from the brown earth--rainbows in the air.

January 4, 1999.  The Lord has provided so much for us.  In our abundance, we have become thoughtless--even offensive.  . . .   It seems to me we have two duties: to remember the source of our blessings and to share them.

Finally, I want to share with you some of my mother’s thoughts on the resurrection – thoughts that have been a great comfort to me as I’ve struggled to come to terms with my mother’s sudden death.

The first journal entry describes some of the final days Mom spent with her own mother, who died of cancer roughly two years ago.  Mom was able to travel to Utah for the final few weeks of grandmother’s life and to care for her up until she died.  Not surprisingly, during that period, my mother reflected on fundamental questions of life, death, and the promise of resurrection. 

March 24, 1999.  I gave Mama’s little skeleton a backrub just before bed one night, and when I knelt for my prayer, the contours of her wasted body seemed to be still under my hands.  I was heart broken and searching for comfort.  I thanked the Lord for the atonement.  I’ve studied it so many times, thought about it occasionally, but don’t remember ever wanting it to be a reality more than I did as I thought about Mama’s precious body wasting away a few feet from me.  As I prayed those words of gratitude, I was enveloped in that feeling best described as flames of fire.  Delicious warmth filled every part of my being.  I felt enveloped and engulfed in flames.  They lingered but not long enough for me.  I would have liked to have kept that feeling with me.  Those feelings are what I have come to regard as the Comforter, or Holy Spirit. 

Later, after the ordeal of Mama’s physical death, the cold questions crept into my mind:  What if it’s all a story?  What if this death is really all there is? What if all that was my mother has come to a final end?  What a leaden, miserable feeling it was.  Thankfully, it was brief.

In retrospect, those two strong memories make an easy choice for me.  I know which of them to believe.  One of them is death, and the other is life.  One is cold, and the other is warm.  One is false, and the other is true!  I believe in the atonement.    I believe in resurrection.  I believe in eternal life!  I thank the Lord!  I have been sweetly and personally comforted.   May the Lord help me to keep that truth and comfort in my life.  

The last journal entry that I wish to share with you comes from a letter sent to one of my mother’s closest friends, attempting to comfort her after the tragic deaths of her two young children.  Little did mother know that her letter would eventually comfort her own children as they struggled to come to grips with her own tragic death.  The quote comes from the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

God ha[s] revealed His Son from the heavens and the doctrine of the resurrection also; and we have a knowledge that those we bury here God will bring up again, clothed upon and quickened by the Spirit of the great God; and what mattereth it whether we lay them down . . . when we can keep them no longer?  Let these truths sink down in our hearts, that we may even here begin to enjoy that which shall be in full hereafter.

I am so grateful for the knowledge I have, that though my mother’s body goes to the grave, her spirit lives on still, and some day, sooner or later, I will see her and embrace her again.  In the meantime, I take comfort and draw strength from the precious memories that I have of her.  Though I miss her dearly, I am so grateful for the time I had to spend with her, that she was able to touch and bless our lives in so many ways. 

We love you, Mom.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Reflections on Faith

I've been re-reading excerpts from my mother's letters, and this one caught my attention on a Sunday morning. Such wisdom here. I've excerpted the last paragraph before, but wanted to share more of the full letter now. Italicized emphasis is mine; everything else is in the original. P.S. Just noticed that Katie shared excerpts from the exact same letter a little more a year ago. Reposting anyway, and adding part of a journal entry from roughly the same time. --Tim

May 4, 1997

[T]estimony--and faith--are not as complicated or as mystical as we sometimes consider them.  Faith is simply hope.  It isn’t based on a sign from heaven.  If we have a sign or absolute evidence of any kind, faith is unnecessary. 

* * * *

Testimony is bound up with our inner desires.  First, we must desire to believe, even if we are plagued with unbelief.  We have a perfect example of this in the New Testament when a distraught father came to the Lord with his afflicted son, hoping he could be healed.  Jesus said to him, ”If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”  And the father answered, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)  The Lord apparently filled the gap in the father’s unbelief and healed his son.  Desire was the basic requirement.  

* * * *

I am sure that if you continue to place yourself in a position where you might receive the influence of the spirit and if you keep yourself away from places where you know you could never find the spirit, you will gain a testimony of the gospel that is sufficient for you.  We are all different.  Your testimony, though it comes from the same source, will not be exactly the same as someone else’s.  We all perceive individually.  From my experience, we are given what we can understand and what we are willing to receive.  And what we are given is difficult, if not impossible, to describe.  When you hear others bearing their “testimony,” it may or may not have meaning for you.  My Dad’s experience has been far different from mine.  He caused me to doubt once because he supposed my experiences needed to be exactly like his.  (And some people claim to have never had a doubt in their lives!!)  The principles are unchanging, but the manifestation of truth has as many different means as there are people on earth.

This idea of testimony once seemed complicated to me and now seems much simpler.  Sometimes, it seems as simple as gratitude--the ability to acknowledge divine purpose and order in all creation with a full and thankful heart--the joy of being alive, running, swimming, seeing, hearing, loving--the joy of seashells and stones, of colored fruit from the brown earth--rainbows in the air.

January 1997

I feel sure the temple endowment is meant for every single person who lives on the earth.  It comes from a divine source.  I have felt divine power and inspiration come to me as I have searched for our ancestors, so that they may receive these sealing blessings.

We take it on faith as the children of Israel were required to take the rites and performances given to them on faith.  In the performance of these sacred rites, we will eventually be blessed with the meaning.  Way before the atonement, they were acting it out with all of its intricacies, never guessing why.  It is all highly symbolic, but the symbolism is divine (far greater than Melville’s--which nearly drove me nuts in graduate school.  He is so far above my intellect.  God is so much above his.)  The temple endowment is like our lives.  We experience the performance but miss the meaning, yet we are surrounded with meaning all the way.  Almost always, it is only in looking back that we are able to see the whole picture and understand the whys.  I am sure that is the way with the temple.  The worthiness requirement is also something that none of us can meet at the beginning.  The whole thing is a process--a beginning--a very sacred journey.  We are pilgrims, each of us, doing this for ourselves, learning about ourselves, as we are involved with others.

To me this whole process is the greatest evidence for eternal life:  Why the journey--the lives of struggle and learning, always arriving at wisdom after the experience--coming to know how to run the plays when the game has ended and often after we’ve lost the game???  It only makes sense if there is more.  There is no evidence in nature of futility.  Everything has function and purpose.  Should our hard-won understanding be wasted when our bodies decay?  No!  This has to be just what we are taught it is:  preparation for more and more and more.  That’s what Christmas means to me.  I believe the story.  It’s far crazier than a Star Wars fantasy, but I believe it. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Weakness & Growth

I often think of this journal post by my mama when I'm feeling down about about my weaknesses.  I think we may even be inclined to question God when we struggle with intense weakness and trial in ourselves or our family members.  I am grateful to have her reflections to read now when she is physically far from me to remind me of the wisdom she would share with me if she were here.  While this post is about Ben, it could've been about any of us.

"Ben feels defective--that he is different from other people--unable. We are all defective in one way or another--suffering from depression, less ability to organize than others, more struggles with the public than others, for whatever reasons. All of us have to deal with these defects. All of us are handicapped in some area. Not all handicaps are visible. We have all received wounds that are hidden. It is how we deal with our defects and handicaps that makes the difference. We can give up and act disabled, or we can struggle to overcome them.

This is expressed in the Book of Mormon scripture:

“I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27)

 We could have been created without weakness. Then where would be the growth?"

I posted this video on facebook yesterday and it seems to fit so well with this post, so I thought I could share it here too.  The sentiment is the same.

Monday, February 11, 2013


Thinking of mom today and the talk I gave in church a couple of weeks ago came to mind. I can't believe that we've been without her now for 12 years. I love having her thoughts and perspectives on different topics, both gospel related and otherwise, through her journal. This is one of my favorites, and such a beautiful way to explain what sometimes can be thought of as a complex topic--testimony. Love and miss you mom.

   "We are all different. Your testimony, though it comes from the same source, will not be exactly the same as someone else’s. We all perceive individually. From my experience, we are given what we can understand and what we are willing to receive. And what we are given is difficult, if not impossible, to describe. When you hear others bearing their “testimony,” it may or may not have meaning for you...The principles are unchanging, but the manifestation of truth has as many different means as there are people on earth...This idea of testimony once seemed complicated to me and now seems much simpler. Sometimes, it seems as simple as gratitude--the ability to acknowledge divine purpose and order in all creation with a full and thankful heart--the joy of being alive, running, swimming, seeing, hearing, loving--the joy of seashells and stones, of colored fruit from the brown earth--rainbows in the air.”

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pioneer Thoughts

It's been a long time since anything has been posted here and I've had mom on my mind the past several days. I was asked to prepare a talk for church on the pioneers yesterday and immediately thought of a letter from mom that I have treasured since her death. I came across it after she had died and have always felt that it was meant more for me now, than when it was written. It seems so fitting--much like several other letters that have been posted. It was written to me to be read on my experience with pioneer trek (a mini reinactment of what the pioneers experienced--handcarts, clothing, food etc...) that I went on when I was 14. I will always treasure the words that she wrote to me here.

July 8, 1997 Dear Katie,

Today was blistering hot and dry, and I am wondering how you'll be when you get this letter. The weather can be brutal. I know you are strong, but you are still my daughter. I will always be concerned for your comfort and safety. I am praying for you.

Katie, I am so grateful for you, for your sweet presence in our home, your gentle and diligent ways. I am sorry for the times I doubt your generosity with your friends. With me, you are helpful and kind. That is your nature, and I am sure it will go wherever you go as long as you live. Although this trek experience is physically difficult, it is similar to some of the social difficulties you have already faced and will continue to face. You have placed your hand on the cart (so to speak) when you took upon yourself the name of Jesus Christ and pledged to “mourn with those who mourn and bear one another’s burdens that they may be light.” This is the baptismal covenant. Once we pledge to be his daughters, we must never take our hands from the cart. The work we pledge to do is the work of loving and pulling our share of the load wherever we are. It is His work, because He loves all. We are his hands on earth.

I wish I were a more perfect example. If I were, maybe your brothers would all understand my love and their full worth.

I am grateful, Katie, for your faithfulness to right and good, and for your courageous choices and willingness to accept some of the harder choices we have forced upon you. I hope you know that my deepest desire is your happiness--your lasting, deep and all encompassing happiness. I want you to know all the joys that I have known and even more. So far, you are well on the way.

I feel blessed to have given you birth. I know through the Holy Ghost and repeated sacred assurances that you were sent to us as a special blessing. I knew before you were born that the Lord was giving me two more of what I had lost. I just didn't realize it would be daughters! How blessed we are. You have been both comfort and joy to me. I love your company--have never felt the need to "escape" as some mothers do. I look forward to the time when both of us will meet the ancestors we have done temple work for. I am sure we will love them as I love you. I know families are forever.

See you soon, Sweetheart.



Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Book of Remembrance

I'm in need of a project, and came across my stash of Mom's letters to me the other day. I'm going to type some of them up, to organize them, and so Jeremy and my kids can get to know Mom a little better. I'd like to share some of my favorite passages. The following is from a letter she wrote when I was 11 and put into my Book of Remembrance. Her insight (a prompting?) is uncanny, and my faith in eternal families is renewed each time I read her words:

"...You were born at an emotionally difficult time for me. Just when childbearing had become a triumph and a joy, Peter was a difficult birth and an emergency cesarean section. His birth left me weak. Sarah died 6 weeks later, and scarcely a year after that you were born -- again by cesarean section. Your big brother Matt was not happy with us, and we were not happy with him.

"... Before you were born I was sitting alone in fast meeting feeling sad over the loss of little Sarah and lonely. Dad was home with the boys, and I was enjoying the meeting in peace. A set of twins was blessed that day. I thought as they were taken to the front of the congregation, "What could be more beautiful than a baby -- unless it is two babies. How wonderful!" As that thought passed through my mind, the witness of the Holy Ghost filled me whole body. I thought it meant that I was going to have twins. I asked the Lord again later at home if I were going to have twins, and again that feeling went through my whole being. Strange, the doctor even had been telling me I would have twins. Later -- much later, I learned that the Lord was actually telling me to rejoice, that I would have two more babies -- that the loss I felt would be taken away. I never dreamed I would have two little girls in the place of the little girl we lost, but the Lord told me so before you were born.

"...Dear Jennie, I hope when the time comes for you to bear your first child that I am near and that I am strong. My mother has been such a strength to me through the years. She has known how best to help me and exactly how I was feeling. Such a wonderful companion she has been. I long to be that for you. Should I not be able to be by your side for some reason, little daughter, please know that my thoughts and prayers and my whole soul will be with you -- not only in your motherhood, but in all your life's work. Remember, love and life are eternal. No catastrophe of this life can wipe them out. Those blessings have been sealed upon us in the Holy Temple of the Lord if we are faithful and worthy of them. You were born under that sacred temple covenant, and you are ours forever if we live for it. I loved you before you were born, I love you now, and I always will.

All my love,


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Happy Birthday

Mom was born 68 years ago today. Coincidentally, in the last week, I've come across two things that have reminded me of a few of the reasons why she was so fun. I've enjoyed reminiscing. The first is a cookbook, The Tasha Tudor Cookbook, I have on my bookshelf I was mistakenly remembering was hers, passed on to me. I opened it a few days ago and found this dedication:

"February 4, 1998

To Jennie on the day of her sophomore recital. This book reflects life's deep joys -- family, beauty, and love. We hope it lasts longer than flowers.

Love, Mom and Dad.

PS Keep it away from the kitchen."

If you want to spend an afternoon with Mom, go pick up a copy of this book at the library or the bookstore. Every little thing about it helped me remember all the little things I loved about Mom. I know she loved Tasha Tudor. Now I think she and Mom are kindred spirits like the world rarely sees. The illustrations (painted by Tasha herself) are all of rosy-cheeked, tousled-haired, bare-footed children, or food, or barnyard animals. From recipes calling for a chicken carcass (zero waste) to instructions like these: "Don't drain the pan; cook it right in the drippings. I can feel cholestrol-intimidated people squirming in horror. However, once a year will not hurt you, and life is too short not to enjoy a few treats," I'm reminded of Mom so much I have to chuckle.

The second reminder of Mom is a magazine called, appropriately, Mary Jane's Farm. I have no idea how I got a copy, addressed to me by name here at my new address, but if you're the one that sent it to me, Thank You! I enjoyed it very much. The subtitle of the magazine reads as follows: "Food as Celebration/ Passionate Gardening / Nostalgic Crafts and Stitchery; The Everyday Organic Lifestyle Magazine." Aside from the stitchery, Mom to a T, without cracking the cover. My favorite article in Mom's honor is titled, "Be an 'Entre-maure': Just because it doesn't glitter doesn't mean it isn't gold." Ha! Hilarious.

If you haven't yet reminisced about Mary Jane yet today and felt happy for the legacy she left us, I hope this helps. I usually feel sad Mom's not here. Sometimes I'm mad. But today I'm just happy I got to know her. Love you, Mom.