|My mom and my brother, Trevor. Doesn't he look handsome?|
My very, very favorite memory of my grandmother was just over a year ago. I was having some tough physical challenges and was feeling very low. I was talking to my mom on the phone while driving (I can picture the exact spot on Buckley Road), when she said, "Oh, I meant to tell you earlier - Grandmother called me this morning. She asked how you were doing and told me that she's been praying very earnestly for you. She also put your name on the prayer roll."
That is the kind of woman my grandmother is: a woman of faith, service, and discernment. Love her so much, and while I miss her and grieve her physical presence, I feel blessed to have another guardian angel with me. I have already felt her a few times since her passing.
|Gina, if you're reading this, I love you! You are even more beautiful than I imagined!|
|Don't I have noble-looking uncles? They are noble men. I love them all so much.|
|Going along with the good-looking commenting, my cousins are SO good looking!|
|These cousins are too cute. Even though I want to smack 'em when we play Rook!|
My uncle gave my mom permission to share this, and she gave me permission. I hope you can feel your worth, as a child of God, as you read it.
After attending the funeral services of an “elect lady” several years ago, Elder Dallin H Oaks made this observation:
“A life is not a trivial thing, and its passing should not be memorialized with trivial things. A funeral service is a time to speak of powerful ideas—ideas that can appropriately stand beside the importance of life, ideas that are powerful in their influence on those who remain behind.”
I pray that I may be able to honor the life of the elect lady that was my mother by sharing principles and doctrines that can stand side by side with the powerful manner in which my mother lived her life here on earth.
A few days ago I was in my parents’ house, visiting and sharing in the celestial spirit that has been there the last few weeks of my mother’s life. My mother was often not able to make herself understood, being partially here and partially on the other side of the veil. Every so often, though, she would have moments of extreme lucidity. In one such moment, as I was seated by her side, she looked at me with her piercing blue eyes and said “Do you understand?” and then looking to the side and pursing her lips she said “I thought I did”. She was unable to tell me exactly what she was talking about. About ½ hour later she came back into lucidity and again caught my gaze and said “You understand”.
I have thought about these brief conversations and wondered to myself exactly what was so important that I understand, and what she thought she had understood but now realized she didn’t fully.
Preexistence / Divine Nature
My mother had the opportunity to serve in our young women’s organization in the Church on different occasions. After her last opportunity to serve with the 12 – 18 year old girls, the Church adopted a Young Women’s theme that all of the girls memorize and repeat. It starts out “We are daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves us, and we love Him.”
This divine nature was evident throughout my mother’s life. She comported herself as the daughter of an Eternal King. My mother taught my sisters to always be known as the gracious one. She, in turn, learned this from her mother. My mother’s graciousness was worthy of a princess and was equally shared with all with whom she came in contact.
Paul tells us:
Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
Mom knew who she was, and who each of us are. She knew that each of us lived with our Heavenly Father before coming to this plane of existence, and that this pre-mortal life was a blessed time to be emulated in our own earthly homes.
There is a spark of the divine in each of us.
Do you understand? I think she did.
Mortality Part 1
Throughout our formative years, our parents instilled with us an understanding of belief and of faith.
In James we read:
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
We learned at our parent’s knees the importance of believing in God, believing in the atonement, and believing in our potential. More importantly, our parents taught us how to develop Faith. Faith is a principle of action; it is an active verb. Belief is a passive verb. Once we truly have faith, we learned, we must act – otherwise our faith is dead.
In fact, acting in faith is one of the principle reasons we left Heavenly Fathers presence.
And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
Time and again, we watched our mother exercise faith – As she prayed for our welfare, or that of others, and then went out and acted, being an instrument in the Lord’s Hands to bless his children. My mother was not one to pray asking for the needy to be fed without taking a dinner to someone in need.
My mother taught us through example the power of the Atonement to purify. “Know ye not that ye are temples of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” asked Paul. Acting in faith, my mother helped us receive the purifying blessings of the atonement in our lives, first through baptism when we were old enough to begin exercising faith, and later through repentance and participating in the sacrament every week.
I am sure at some point in life my mother had to repent for sins of commission, although I was never aware of that need. I did witness on many occasions my mother exercise faith and repent for sins of omission. She constantly strived to be better and adopt new practices that helped her become more than what she was. She also taught us through example that the atonement can apply to everyone; that just as we desire for our sins to be “remembered no more” that we should afford the same opportunity to others.
Belief, Faith, and Repentance.
Do you understand? It appears she did.
Mortality Part 2
Part of my Mother’s faith was that she could return to live with her Heavenly Father.
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
As my sister Jennilyn mentioned, my mother not only read the scriptures, nor did she simply study them. She “treasured them up” because she understood that this was one of the few ways that she could get to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
One of my most recurrent memories of my childhood is walking into my parents’ bedroom in the old, old house in Pennsylvania, and finding my mother with her scriptures opened, treasuring up the words of eternal life. These memories have left an indelible impression on my life, as I am sure they have affected my siblings.
A second way to get to know God is through prayer. A second memory, reinforced by the frequency with which it was observed, is that of my parents kneeling together in prayer, communicating with our Heavenly Father. While my parents were sure to teach us the model of prayer, and reinforced the importance of regular prayer, the most important lesson was as they modeled the correct manner of prayer. Mother’s prayers were heartfelt supplications to her beloved Father, not vain repetitions to an amorphous being.
Another way my mother worked to get to know God is through her frequent temple worship. A temple is different than this chapel where we are gathered today. The temple is literally the “House of the Lord”. Where better to get to know someone than by visiting their house?
In the Temple we learn more of God’s plan for us, and are given the opportunity to make sacred covenants to be faithful to the commandments. The keys of the Priesthood given to Elijah, and to Peter, and others that “whatsoever they shall seal on earth shall be sealed in Heaven” are now exercised in the temple to allow family relationships to not end with death, but to continue into eternity.
In the Temple we become “saviors on Mount Zion” as Hosea prophesied, participating in the atonement by vicariously bringing the same covenant blessings to those who were unable to receive them in life.
My mother did not simply perfunctorily attend the temple – she worshipped in the temple. This worship was evidenced by her sacrifice, intent, and devotion each and every time she attended, whether as a temple worker or as a patron.
Knowing God requires treasuring up his Word, prayers of faith, and worship in His house.
Do you understand? Her life shows that she did.
Mortality Part 3
As we get to know God, we come to the realization that no matter what we do, we can never earn our way back to his presence. As President Uchtdorf taught us,
Salvation cannot be bought with the currency of obedience; it is purchased by the blood of the Son of God… Trying to understand God’s gift of grace with all our heart and mind gives us all the more reasons to love and obey our Heavenly Father with meekness and gratitude. As we walk the path of discipleship, it refines us, it improves us, it helps us to become more like Him, and it leads us back to His presence.
All of the doing in our lives is useless unless it is helping us to become more Christ-like. “Doing” is an appropriate expression of gratitude, and is also an important training for becoming. Doing without becoming is an exercise in futility and leads us to believe we are in control of our salvation.
My mother did all of the right things – and she did them because she was so grateful for “the grace which so fully [Christ] proffers [us]”. I truly believe that she comes closest of all those I know at fully acquiring the attribute of Charity. As we read about Charity all of us can imagine my mother in each of the descriptors:
And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
My mother discovered for herself a second blessing of the Atonement; Sanctification. Through heartfelt worship, and every effort on our part to develop Christ like Attributes, we are able to not only be purified, but can become “new creatures in Christ”, and through the grace of God, can one day return to His presence.
Sanctification and the Attributes of Christ.
Do you understand? Her actions indicate she did.
Certainly, those of us left behind in mortality feel the grief of loss, and have wept upon my mother’s passing. This is correct. As the scripture say:
Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die.
As we lose a loved one, certainly it is appropriate to weep for our loss. We do not weep, however for the one leaving mortality. We read:
O death, where is thy sting?
And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them
John teaches us of the universality of the resurrection:
Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
My mother not only knew this intellectually, but she knew it in her heart and in her soul. Multiple times during her last weeks on earth, I heard my father ask, tell, or remind her to make sure their mansion was prepared on the other side.
In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
The knowledge of God’s plan for us – from our premortal life in his presence to the promise of a post mortal return brings a peace and a comfort that is not found elsewhere. I could not imagine the hopelessness which we would now feel if we did not have this knowledge my mother taught us.
Death is not the end, but a return to our celestial home.
Do you understand? I know she does, now.
A few days after my mother’s lucid question and comment…”Do you understand? I thought I did.” The thought came to my mind that perhaps she was referring to a specific scripture. I texted my sister Denalee, and asked her to speak with my mother, inquiring if she had been referring to Romans 8:16–18 when she spoke with me. Denalee responded that she asked my mother if she had been referring to Romans in our conversation, and she replied “Yes, chapter 8”.
I know this scripture “by heart” but I don’t think I have truly known it in my heart.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
It is difficult to understand the reason behind suffering – especially unmerited suffering – in this life, but I believe that my mother’s knowledge of her divine parentage, her mortal purpose, and her post mortal potential helped her to understand that the sufferings of the present time paled in comparison to the glory which awaits her.
CS Lewis in his treatise “The Weight of Glory” summed up what my mother seemed to innately know:
It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.
Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.
To those of you who have felt something different while visiting my parent’s home; if you have felt a longing to feel the peace they have in their lives; to understand why she could bear with grace years of battling cancer, and still put others first;
To those who wonder if Heavenly Father is really our Father; if he loves us and cares for us; if we really lived with him before coming to earth;
To those who doubt their purpose in life, who are weighed down with suffering and cares, who doubt that the atonement can truly affect a change in their lives;
And finally to those who wonder what awaits, who doubt a post mortal existence, who despair at the loss of a loved one or an impending departure,
I invite you:
Would you like to understand the things she did?
Come and ask a member of her family; we, like her, are “ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh [us] a reason for the hope that is in [us].”