As I was thinking about what to post today, I found myself getting very sentimental. The more I thought about the mothers in my life, the more intertwined and complicated it became. So I decided to just dig in, and write about the most important women in my life. As life goes on, the list keeps growing.
Since this is personal, and about my family, it is very possible that this might not interest you. I completely understand, and am OK with that. I just needed to write it down, for myself, and my family.
Since it is Mother’s Day, I’ll start with my mom.
Marlene has been gone since Christmastime, 1999, and it feels like a long time now. One day she was out shopping with her sister, and came home with some pain in her abdomen. A few days later she had passed away from a blood clot at 65 years of age. We were all caught off-guard, and still feel the void.
Marlene was a force of nature: Wildly creative, so very talented, and protective of her family with the ferocity of a lioness. (Moms who have spent their lives raising a special-needs child have a special understand of that ferocity.)
She also struggled with her health. I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t fighting some sort of medical battle. In her latter years, she was afflicted with osteoporosis that caused not only constant damage, but chronic pain. She suffered. One day, after she was gone, I asked my Dad how she managed to seem so positive, even with all the pain and affliction. He explained it this way:
“Everyday, your mother and I would get up and make a conscious decision to be happy. Some days it was almost impossible, but we refused to let our circumstances dictate our happiness.”
And that is what she did. She lived to serve, and care for other people. I remember one time when my mother had just gotten out of the hospital, a sister in the ward came by to bring her some flowers. But my Mom wasn’t there – she was out taking dinner to a family in the ward.
She had a quote in a frame on her desk which read: “Jesus is coming, look busy.”
When something significant happens in my life – for good or ill – I still think “I need to tell Mom about this.” I miss her, especially on Mother’s Day, and celebrate her today.
Yes, I am aware that I write about my EC a lot. That’s probably because she’s my favorite thing in life.
I chose this picture because of the circumstances surrounding its capture. My EC and I were in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, surrounded by glorious art – paintings, sculpture, including Michelangelo’s renowned Pieta. So much to see, so much history to soak in.
But in the midst of it all, rather than paying attention to the tour guide, I found myself watching my sweetheart as she made her way through the Basilica. (I found watching her to be more fascinating.) At one point, I decided to take a picture of her, without her knowing it. At the very moment I snapped the photo, she looked up at me.
She could very well hate this picture, but I love it. I feel like it captures the softness, the gentleness that commands her life. She melts me. We are a study in contrasts, and she, the better side of the spectrum. I don’t know if it is because our five children have been bathed by her gentleness their entire lives, but they all have emerged as gentle, caring people.
Watching her now flex those same muscles as a grandmother is a beautiful thing to witness.
For 34 years we have been through so much together – Illness, injury, miscarriage, deaths, financial and spiritual crisis, the births and raising of five children, the loss of all four of our parents. and the expected ups and downs of life, as well as the unexpected. I wish I could trade in all the time spent in doctor’s offices and hospital waiting rooms for the same amount of time on an exotic beach somewhere.
Her support for me as a provider, a father, and a priesthood holder has been unwavering, and the faith she has in me helps me to step up to merit her trust. I expect that our kids would feel the same way.
My love for her strengthens my theology. I cannot believe that a loving God would allow such bonds to be established here in mortality, only to have them blown apart for eternity by death. More simply put, heaven would not be heaven without my Chrissie by my side.
What a gift! When Chrissie was pregnant with our firstborn, I openly admitted that I wanted a girl to start things out right. I was sure right about that. Our Emily somehow set strong patterns for her four brothers to follow, and we are all blessed because of her.
Emily has more time flexing her motherhood muscles than most anyone I know – she teaches English to High School students. She loves them – and they love her. She is willing to share her time, and her heart, with them. She understands that she has a unique opportunity to help shape these youth’s lives at what can be a very vulnerable age, and she takes that responsibility very, very seriously.
I am in awe of her abilities and talents. She was the first child who forced me to appreciate something I had not really thought about: There is a certain joy in accepting the beauty of watching your child exceed your own grasp. And she has, in so many ways. (Yes, you can quote me on that.)
Well traveled, well read, funny, beautiful, both savvy and intelligent. I miss the days of lying on the couch listening to her play the piano. Her music brightens our home, but not as much as her laughter.
But, this Mothers Day is extra special for her. She is currently great with child, with her first baby due in June! It truly sucks to be expecting in the time of plague, and it has added a lot of stress to the pregnancy – not knowing how things will roll when it comes time to deliver. But baby doesn’t care, and will be here soon.
She is so prepared for this, and will be a wonderful mother. It has been really fun watching her and her mother draw closer as they bond over shared experiences.
My big sister was always there for me. Growing up had its share of challenges: There were periods of my childhood where my parents were focused on my older brother’s struggles, or my mother’s health. The difficulty of those times was blunted by the presence of my sister – she was always there for me. We are two years apart – close enough for us to be able to do things together, but far enough apart that she could boss me around – because that’s what big sisters are for!
I am first to admit that I gave it back to her by constant teasing, if not torture. And yes, it is true she has broken objects over my head before, but I probably deserved it.
One of the blessings of having the sister that I did is that she was, and is, an achiever. She excelled in everything she did – she was forever bringing home trophies or certificates for her latest accomplishments. Her efforts helped me understand possibilities and set expectations. Always has. Always will.
One of the sweetest memories I have of my sister is the last day of her mission in Chile, she got permission to come visit me in my mission (also Chile) before she went home. For one day, we went into people’s homes and taught the gospel together, in Spanish.
Susie has also stepped in a filled a void for my children – all of the grandparents are already gone. My sister has taken on much of that role as hostess and “keeper of the traditions.” My mother would be proud.
She has four children of her own, two grandsons, and another on the way.
The thing about Sue is that she is, perhaps, the strongest person I know. She has been knocked down again and again by disappointment and hardship of the most personal kind, but she is so resilient and so faithful that she stands up, dusts herself off, and keeps moving forward. My admiration of her knows no bounds.
Chrissie will be surprised to see my mother-in-law on my list, but it is where she belongs. First, she birthed and raised the little girl who would one day become my Eternal Companion. That right there is worthy of high praise. But not only that, she raised her well, with a strong sense of faith, of heritage, and of self.
LaVelta was also a Family History freak, which presents a great irony for me. I remember countless times sitting around the kitchen table while she rambled on about some ancestor’s ancestor. My eyes would roll back in my head as I would wish that the phone would ring, or that a meteor would land in the back yard.
Here we are, many years past her death, and I am the one who is now obsessed with family history. I am not sure if she is laughing hysterically on the other side of the veil, or if she is the one nudging me. Or both.
My Three Bonus Daughters, Mallory, Madi and Kailey
As a father of four boys, one of my greatest hopes is the they will all marry women that will be the right fit for them. I hope that they can move through this life with a companion that helps them be better and helps them find joy, now and eternally. I want them to feel even a fraction of what I feel towards their mom.
So far, so good.
Three of my sons managed to hit the spousal lottery and marry women who are perfect for them. They are all very different from each other, but they are all, truly, wonderful. Mallory, Madi and Kailey all have one thing in common: They are GOOD. You see it in their faces and in the way they live their lives.
There is always trepidation as a parent that your child will marry an idiot, and it will blow up their lives. Thankfully, I feel that all of my children have married people who compliment their lives and will help them make a legitimate run for exaltation.
Mallory and Madi are both adorable mothers themselves. I love watching them with their kids, who, coincidentally, are the most adorable grandchildren on the planet. Mallory has her hands full with the busiest, cutest pair of redheads you’ll ever meet. Madi is due with a baby girl next month, to join their two-year-old boy. Until then, Kailey is the newest addition to our family, and we couldn’t be happier.
To the women in my life, living here or in the next life: I love you, I cherish you, and I thank my Heavenly Father for your influence and love.
Happy Mother’s Day!
(Also, writing this post was a very satisfying experience and helped increase my gratitude. I suggest you give it a try.)
Note: If you are a long time reader, this post might seem familiar. This is an update of a post from five years ago, but a lot has happened in our family since then.