Sunday, May 20, 2012

Friends Who Refused to Let Me Fall

My brother died soon after my Senior year of high school began.  I was 17.  He was 15.  He fell off a cliff overlooking Snow Canyon State Park. That was the beginning of the darkest year of my family's life.

Today in Sunday School we reviewed when the prophet Alma asks the people if they "are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life" (Alma 18:9).

The teacher then asked if we had any stories to tell about people who had mourned with and comforted us.  I thought of my friends during my Senior year of high school.  They were a gift from God and carried me through my grief.

The day after Zach died, there was a knock on the front door.  I opened it to see all my friends from Seminary Council - Brother Bushman, Laura, Akayleia, Cortney, and Wesley - standing on the front porch.  I immediately started sobbing and they all put their arms around me, held me, and prayed with me.

A week after Zach died, Akayleia and Tiffany picked me up and took me to the Homecoming football game.  I don't remember who won the game, but I remember my friends put my hoodie over my head so no one would recognize me.  They snuck me in and we sat on the opposing side where the bleachers were practically empty.  Some friends who knew I was there came and joined us.  I wish I could remember everyone who came over.

Jolene came to my house as soon as I told her Zach had died.  She stayed with me the whole day and came back every time I needed her, whether I asked her to or not.  A few days after his death, Jolene, Rosie, and Melissa even made me laugh so hard that I peed my pants. Then I had to hug Rosie's grandma who kept whispering, "I'm so sorry" while trying to sneak downstairs to change my wet pants! They gave me some Huggies a few days later as a joke that started my laughing all over again.  It felt so good to laugh.

Robyn came up to my house many times. She always listened to me.  She understood when I didn't feel or act like myself during debate class. She and Wes and I sat in his car outside my house and listened to the song "From Where You Are" by Josh Groban. I cried and didn't feel embarrassed.

Wes and Robyn and Laura W. took me to Outback Steakhouse for dinner, just so I could get out of the house.

When I could not get out of bed, Akayleia sat on my bed and read a book to me and rubbed my back.

Everyone in Seminary signed giant cards for me with encouraging messages and compliments.  It helped to know so many people cared about me.

Everyone on RASK Council signed a book for me.  I still have it upstairs on the book shelf.

I broke down once during a Seminary lesson about how families can be forever.  I left the room and shut myself in the seminary council office and sobbed on the floor. Brother Bushman and Wes came in to check on me.  Wes and I then ditched school and he took me to Chili's for lunch.

Another late night I was having panic attacks.  I called Laura, but she was out with Austin.  Her mom took a message and I eventually fell asleep.  Around midnight, the phone rang.  It was Laura calling me back.  I fell apart again when I answered, and she said a prayer for me over the phone. I felt peace once again.

Even after months had passed, my friends did not forget about me.  One Saturday Heidi, Michael, Laura, Austin, and some other friends stopped by my house.  They were on their way to Pine Valley to go sledding and play in the snow.  They picked me up and off we went. It meant so much to me to be included.

I received condolence cards in the mail from high school people I barely knew, but who still cared about me. My entire AP Spanish class, mostly filled with Mexican people I barely knew, even made me cards! I later dropped that class, but kept the cards.

How does someone "mourn with those that mourn" and "comfort those that stand in need of comfort"?  Simply by being a friend. By offering dinner, a laugh, a phone call, a card, a break, or whatever else is needed rather than saying, "Call me if you need help with anything."  Because, really, who actually calls when they need help with anything? I know there are more friends who helped me whose stories I am forgetting and I am sorry. Much of that time is a blur. I made it through my senior year because I had friends who refused to let me fall. Alma would have been proud.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Cherishing our Role as Mothers

Motherhood has been on my mind lately.  Sometimes my role as a mother seems insignificant to the rest of the world.  Sometimes it seems insignicant to my children.  Sometimes it seems insignificant to me.

This month my husband graduated with his Masters in Education.  I helped him every step of the way.  We have both invested a great amount of time and money these past few years into his education, but he was the only one to walk across the graduation stage while I sat in the crowd, pregnant and entertaining our restless daughters and applauding him.  It didn't seem quite fair.

This experience caused me to critically think about my role as a wife and mother. My conclusion after much prayer and thought is this:
At this point in time, I need to be at home with my children.  I need to support my husband as he supports our family.  My role is anything but insignificant! I am the heart of this family. I am the glue that holds us together. Not to mention, they'd live on cold cereal without me! Although society may not value my role as a wife and mother, my husband and kids and Heavenly Father sure do! And that is all that matters.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said it this way,
"Do the best you can through these years, but whatever else you do, cherish that role that is so uniquely yours and for which heaven itself sends angels to watch over you and your little ones...Remember, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven" (Eccl. 3:1) Mothers, we acknowledge and esteem your faith in every footstep. Please know that it is worth it then, now, and forever."

Elder Holland also quoted from a letter a young mother sent to him. Her words are my words: “Through the thick and the thin of this, and through the occasional tears of it all, I know deep down inside I am doing God’s work. I know that in my motherhood I am in an eternal partnership with Him. I am deeply moved that God finds His ultimate purpose and meaning in being a parent" (Because She is a Mother, April 1997).

Last night was my first performance as a member of our area's Heritage Choir. I look forward to our practices every week because singing in the tabernacle, surrounded by fellow singers, brings me joy. It was our Mother's Day concert, which means the songs we have been practicing the past few weeks have been about how special and important mothers are. These songs have also helped me.

As I sang, I gazed at my husband and daughters in the audience.  This time, it was my turn on the stage while he sat entertaining our restless daughters and applauding me. I realized in that moment what I forgotten with his graduation: we are a team.  I help him, he helps me.  His accomplishments are mine; mine are his.  We raise our children as husband and wife, side my side as equal helpmeets.  Our roles are designed differently, yet perfectly complementary. I realize this is a great blessing that not everyone enjoys and I feel more grateful for it.  My resentment was replaced by joy and gratitude for my role as a wife and mother.  I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Whether we are working moms or full-time homemakers, whether we are single moms or have husbands helping us, whether we make homemade pizza or throw a frozen pizza in the oven, whether our closets are cluttered or perfectly organized, whether we have one child or eight children or even no children but mother those around us - we are irreplaceable and must "cherish the role that is so uniquely ours."