As I struggle to condense my thoughts and feelings I have for the most influential person in my life into this short amount of time, I wonder what I should speak about. There are the good times- childhood memories of amusement parks, barbeques, and her proud smile when we accomplished a goal. There was her amazing cooking and baking. There are the later times, after we grew up, when all the kids were together, sharing stories and having a laugh, like this past Christmas. There were the late night talks, just me and her; tender conversations that seemed to bond us deeper than before. There were the weeks she would stay with me after giving birth- how lovingly she would care for me, in a way only a mother can, since she is the only one who could understand. There were the daily phone calls, just checking on me. Baby blessings, temple attendance, cards in the mail, caring words… all these things make me smile, but I wonder, what is her greatest legacy?
As I contemplate this I am drawn to the bleaker side of my feelings. Why her? How can I say goodbye when I feel like I barely scratched the surface of what I could have learned from her? How do I overcome the pain, the bitterness, and anger? How can I ever forget the weeping of my 8 year old as she cries, “Grandma, I don’t want you to die!”? Who will I call when I give birth in September, when she was always my first call? How can I overcome this emptiness in my heart from watching her take her last breath? What am I supposed to do now?
These are all questions that I have faced this week. But I realize that I am one of the lucky ones, because I had a wonderful mother who gave me the answer a long time ago- an answer to all those questions; an answer that covers all pain and strife; an answer that allows us to live with hope of a better tomorrow as we heal from earthly wounds. My mother’s life was a testament of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the love that He has for each one of us. She overcame trial after trial, healed from wounds that would have killed a lesser woman. And then she helped others do the same- sharing her wisdom and her strength to raise up the weary and downtrodden.
I have heard that the pain will never fully go away. I believe that. But I also believe that as I strive to exemplify my mother’s best characteristics- her undaunted faith, her selfless service, her thirst for gospel knowledge, and her extreme stubbornness- that I, and anyone else who cares to try, can also endure this life- and not just endure, but endure it well. Endure it with a smile, and a plate of chocolate chip cookies.
My mother knew and believed in the Plan of Salvation, or the Plan of Happiness. She knew that we all came here for a purpose- to gain a physical body, learn how to make good decisions, overcome the temptations of Satan, and develop spiritual strength. She always knew that death was part of that plan, for it was the only way to return to our Heavenly Father. She also knew that this life was not the end. She knew when she left this life that she wouldn’t be sitting on a cloud somewhere playing the harp, or the organ in her case. No, she knew that with her unending energy on the other side- with no more physical pain or sickness to hinder her, that she would continue what she started on this earth- caring for her children, grandchildren, and loved ones, spending time with the family that is already on the other side with her, and carrying out whatever her Lord and Savior asked of her. Knowing Mom, she is already hard at work- or at least playing with her grandchildren that are not yet born.
Because of her unyielding faith in this plan, Mom never looked back. I know that she was sad sometimes; I know that many times it hurt. But she believed so much that she never turned her back on her Savior. She accepted His plan and tried her best to carry out His wishes to the best of her ability- and without even knowing it, she inspired so many of you with her amazing character.
Mom once was asked to describe me in a Young Women’s activity and she told the following story. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head this week, so I want to tell it, knowing that it describes her so much better.
“There once was a man who was asleep one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and the Saviour appeared to him.
The Lord told him He had a work for him to do, and showed him a large rock explaining that he was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, and for many days he toiled from sunup to sundown; his shoulder set squarely against the cold massive surface of the rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling his whole day had been spent in vain. The man had the impression the task was impossible and that he was an unworthy servant because he wasn't moving the massive stone.
These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man and he started to ease up in his efforts. ``Why kill myself?'' he thought. ``I'll just put in my time putting forth just the minimum of effort and that will be good enough.'' And this he planned on doing, except instead he decided to take his troubles to the Lord.
``Lord,'' he said, ``I have labored hard and long in Your service, putting forth all my strength to do that which You have asked of me. Yet after all this time, I have not even budged that rock even half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?''
To this the Lord responded compassionately, ``My friend, when long ago I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you to push against the rock with all your strength and that you have done. But never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. At least not by yourself. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed, ready to quit. But is this really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled; your back sinewed and brown. Your hands are calloused from constant pressure and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your ability now far surpasses that which you used to have. Yet still, you haven't succeeded in moving the rock; and you come to Me now with a heavy heart and your strength spent. I, my friend will move the rock. Your calling was to be obedient and push, and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom, and this you have done.''
My Mom did not die with great wealth. She did not have many belongings. She was burdened by pain and sickness the last 3 years of her life. Heck, she doesn’t even have perfect kids. But my mother NEVER stopped pushing the rock that was given her. She never gave up, even when it was painful, embarrassing, or seemingly hopeless. And what she gained is far greater than earthly possessions or titles. She has 5 children who know that she loves them and who love her back fiercely. She had friends who would travel great and small distances to see her, and who think the world of her. She has grandchildren who are devastated to lose her, but know without a doubt that she is alive with Jesus, and seem to realize that that is enough. She has great knowledge of her Savior and of His Gospel, which she carried with her to the next life while her jewelry stayed behind. And more than anything she had an unbreakable faith, forged in the fires of tribulation, that the Lord will acknowledge, and give her a title in heaven greater than any bestowed on earth.
I bear my testimony that Jesus Christ lives. He died for us that we might live with Him and the Father when we live this life. He carried our burdens in Gethsemane and on the cross so that He could succor His people in their time of need. I know that He hears our prayers. I know that He has a plan for each of us. Above all, I know that He loves us. I know these things ultimately because I have felt the Holy Spirit bear witness of them. But I also know them because my mother knew them, and she taught them to me and her other children. And that just might be her greatest legacy in this life.